From seed to fruit
As an avid gardener, my dad (who passed away today) always passionately taught me about respecting the growth of the humble seed to fruit. Take for instance the everyday tomato plant.
The priority is to prepare the soil with the greatest of nutrients to ensure that the seed is given a warm welcome. Strategically placed in the pathway of ample light and air and nurtured with the right amount of water, the seed commences its transformation journey. Guided by bamboo stakes, the tomato plant grows into its tallest self with vines of fruit that chefs can only dream of.
Quality mentoring is no different. When we commit to and nurture the personal and professional development of the people in our care with open-ended questions, a listening ear, and nuggets of wisdom, we set the stage for an exponential growth process. What we also do is invite a new schema of awareness and self-confidence that purports reflection on different ways of being, doing, and relating.
However, like the good old tomato plant, if we do not have the right stake to guide the growth of the plant with its bearing fruit, issues may arise. That is why selecting quality mentors is a serious business. An ineffective mentor has the potential to destroy a mentee in several ways. A toxic mentor is someone who exudes manipulative traits and uses these to gaslight mentees; a dumper is someone who places their mentee in overwhelmingly difficult situations and leaves them to sort challenges out for themselves and of course, there are the blockers and the destroyers who seek to prevent mentees from success by restricting opportunities and destroying their self-esteem (Sanyal cited in Clutterbuck 2017, p. 146).
My Ph.D. research highlights that mentors need to want to be mentors. They need to be trained; in fact, even the best leader needs to receive guidance about how to be an effective mentor. So, if you are truly motivated to mentor someone or you are thinking about asking someone to be a mentor, consider your (or their) capacity to be relational, your knowledge, skills, and understanding, the workplace context and culture, and your commitment. You may also consider a quality mentoring program that is mutually reciprocal, with clear boundaries based on trust.
So, I ask you, how ready are you to be an effective mentor?