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SharePointless One man's experience with Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies
After re-introducing my blog, the real topic I wanted to expound upon this evening is mentorship and its importance to both personal and professional development. First I would like to define mentorship in my own words and then distinguish it from simply teaching. I would define mentorship as a collaborative learning process, whereby one individual provides guidance, leadership, and knowledge to someone of lesser knowledge and/or experience for the common good of both individuals. Teaching is simply conveying a message or technique previously unfamiliar to the pupil. Many books and scholarly essays have been written on this topic in the past, so I’ll keep it brief and just discuss what I’ve learned from the school of hard knocks.
When I think of the people who have mentored me over the years, my mother and father certainly stand out. They taught me a lot of things, like how to walk and talk, to ride a bike, to balance a checkbook (busted, I can’t remember the last time I actually did that). But they also mentored me, instilling a sense of consistent values and attitudes that have served as my moral compass and made me feel guilty when I knew I was screwing up. The reverend at my church was a mentor, providing consistent reinforcement of a set of guiding principles over time. Most of my football and shooting coaches were mentors, others just teachers. And then I had the good fortune to have some good senior-level people in my field take me under their wings and help me develop over time.
So, allow me to list out some bullets about what mentorship means to me.
What mentorship is:
·         Constructive
·         Two-way. A mentor cannot possibly just dump information on his protégé. The protégé has to ask the right questions, for which the mentor may or may not have answers. Then the protégé must make the conscious decision what advice to use, and what to discard. And all these things have to be OK with both parties.
·         Always positive. Even criticism should be constructive. Don’t tell me I’m wrong. Challenge me to surmise why and what to do about it on my own, and be ready to help me figure it out if I struggle. Over the course of my entire lifetime, including my time in team sports (including a full football scholarship to a Division I college), I have always seen far better long-term results from positive reinforcement and constructive criticism. That’s not to say some people, including me, don’t need a swift kick in the rear now and them to wake them up. It is merely to say the long term results are better when positive channels are used.
·         Challenging and inspires one to apply critical thinking to figure out the how’s and why’s
·         Long-term
This is an important place to distinguish between leadership and mentorship, as well. We’ve already defined mentorship. I like my Marine Corps Staff Sergeant buddy’s definition of leadership the best: “Leadership is getting people to do what you want/need them to do. Effective leadership is getting people to do what you want/need them to do because they’re convinced it’s what they want to do.” Keep in mind this is a guy I've known since 1st grade. We took different paths after high school, and he has led ~20+ men into a hostile country, entirely responsible for their lives and well-being. Right or wrong, his definition certainly has more credibility with me than just about any other I've ever heard.
What mentorship is not:
·         Unhealthy or counterproductive in any way.
·         Indentured servitude. When I was first interviewing for jobs as I prepared to graduate from college in 1998, I actually interviewed at a financial services company who paired each new hire with a “mentor”. The protégé’s job was to make the mentor rich. The mentor’s job was to throw the protégé enough table scraps to keep him from quitting. Believe it or not, this program had won several awards (Hmmm, "Espy", "Grammy", "Emmy", "GREEDY"... Greedy fits rght in.) By now I might be wealthier if I had gone to work for that company, but I’m damn glad I didn’t!
·         Short-term
There was a catalyst for this entry. This morning I attended a breakfast event hosted by the Greater Richmond Technology Council, at which I saw and interacted with a couple of individuals who I would also consider mentors, and who have helped become successful through their guidance, constructive criticism, and belief that I had potential. Thank you.
Posted on Friday, September 12, 2008 10:22 PM Non-SharePoint | Back to top

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Comments on this post: Mentorship Part I

# re: Mentorship Part I
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I have had mentors several times during my career. I probably wouldn't have made it without it. It can't be mandated by management it just happens or it doesn't. A mentor knows all your weaknesses so without trust that they won't rat out your weaknesses the mentoree won't ask the questions they really need to know. A mentor also sees potential in the person that others may not recognize to they have some risk involved also. My first supervisor in I.T. knew told me I did not have enough experience but hired me anyway because I seemed driven to succeed. He told me all the basics I needed to know in order to become a good programmer. I respected his opinion and applied his advice. No that I am in my 40s I hope I can also mentor a person starting out in the profession. We have to stick together where would Luke be without Yoda.
Left by denise tinsley on Sep 14, 2008 4:00 PM

# re: Mentorship Part I
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thx but i dont understand the Mentorship Part I????
Left by troubledelerection on Jun 23, 2011 4:30 AM

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