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Mentoring for Professional Development and Leadership Succession

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    “Begin with an end in mind” is the second habit featured in the book of seven habits of highly effective people by Covey (2000). I have always wanted to be a lecturer but have never taken the linear route to do so. This is due to my belief and values of how I would like to live through life. Being unconventional, I believe in living through experiences and learning beyond the textbooks. I am an advocate of the “Growth mindset” by Dweck (2007) and practice it when driving towards my personal goals.

    Being a young academia and not holding a leadership role has allowed me to think ahead of my role as a lecturer in my team at work as well as a mentor to the students under my care. I reflected on topics raised in class as well as through readings as a protégé to gain awareness. As what Professor Lim always mention in class, ‘It is how you make them feel’ – has impacted and caused me to review my personal philosophy of ‘ believing in the process and celebrating the outcomes’ in mentorship.

    In this assignment, I will share my self-reflection and self-realization in the course of this mentorship module. Lastly, I would highlight the improvements for practice in work, my pursuit of my master’s certification and my personal life.

    Having a philosophy is important to guide one’s practice in mentorship. It will allow both mentor and protégé to find purpose in the relationship as well as in the process. The article by Yeap et al. (2005) shared the underlying meaning, actions, purpose of a mentor despite various authors using numerous “labels” to signify the works of this nurturing figure. The class revisited the idea later in the semester with the label “sponsor” as mentioned in the article by Ibarra et al. (2010). Regardless of the name we choose to use to call the individual, the essential part of this relationship is to have both mentor and protégé be empowered in the process of building this mutually beneficial relationship. This is further supported by the article whereby Yeap et al. (2005) mentioned that successful mentoring illuminates the essence of the Latin word “educare”, which means to lead out or bring up.

    Mentor-protégé relationships are known to not only benefit the individuals involved but also the organization (Yeap et al., 2005). During the interaction, protégé can lean on mentors for advice. In return, protégés can inform mentors of newly acquired theoretical knowledge and associated applications (Walker et al. 1993, as cited in Lim & Low, 2004). The company would then be able to benefit from this working relationship. However, the process of matching this relationship is seldom being explored.

    I am personally process-driven rather than outcome-driven. Therefore, I concur with the article by Yeap et al. (2005) on the importance of matching individuals with similar goals and values in a mentor-protégé relationship. I believe that a successful relationship starts with the intrinsic motivation in individuals to help one another. The receiver must have the awareness of what is beneficial for him or her while the giver has to feel socially responsible to impart the right knowledge and values to help their follower succeed. Secondly, it is important to consider the right match in personality and an individual’s personal preference when selecting a match for one another. Organizations may give individuals the autonomy to select their mentors. This freedom of choice has to be given with no judgement from senior management on who is eligible and capable to do so. We have discussed in class how some mentors are not ‘fit’ to be mentors. Sometimes, I do feel that there are two sides to a coin to this statement. We might be too judgemental on other’s capabilities.

    Protégés must have the self-awareness to select mentors who are deemed right for them to succeed in the role or job. Individuals must be empowered to come forth with their interest to form this match. Studies have seemed to suggest that both mentors and proteges prefer the informal process of matching individuals (Chao, Waltz & Garner, 1993; Noe, 1988; Scandura & Siegel, 1995, as cited in Scandura, 1998). This links back to what I shared and presented on the 10th of October on the changes I would like to make to the current mentoring programme at my workplace (see Appendix A). I am paired formally with a senior peer coach to pass a facilitation certification for contract renewal. However, she is quite busy with her work and will be travelling in November for a month. She also fractured her arm last month. Under this circumstance, I would suggest to management that we should consider allowing me to have more autonomy to decide on how I would like to proceed in successfully clearing my facilitation certification. This would also give me more accountability in career planning, a value I believe the organization would like employees to have. However, the organization might not agree to this arrangement. Therefore, I might approach my peer coach for her understanding as I lean on others for support. I believe that open communication and taking initiative to progress in my own development is important in the process of growth.

    Mentoring requires interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. A mentor might be genuine with their intentions. However, the execution of their intentions might not be well received. This could be due to the message not being bought across appropriately or the receiver took the message personally and out of context. The mentor would perhaps have to take a step back to reflect and engage accordingly and mentee will also have to understand the intention of the mentor. It takes two to clap and sometimes it is the chemistry that doesn’t allow this match to happen. Therefore, the failure of the relationship is not due to the technicalities in forming the relationship but rather the softer skills required for this relationship to work. Perhaps, when considering a match, we should follow a facilitated mentoring approach to balance out the stifling effect of structure and not losing the human relationship aspect in the pairing process (Murray, 2001, as cited in Yeap et al., 2005).

    I reflect on my relationship with my master’s supervisor upon reading the article by Ibarra et al. (2010). One of the issues raised by the article accentuates the need for a woman to fight with mentors to be viewed as ready for the next role. I relate to this as I am currently facing issues with my master’s supervisor though he is a person of influence in the teaching faculty in NIE. My supervisor has commented on my lack of commitment and focus on completing my master’s programme which led me to feel incompetent earlier this semester. Perhaps being a female protégé has made him utilize a transactional approach when guiding me. It has made me feel that he does not empathize with my work and family commitments as well as a personal pursuit to obtain a masters degree. However, I took a step back to understand where he is coming from and his good intentions. I hope he does take the initiative to do so as well. I will be deferring one semester to refocus myself before moving ahead. In class, we mention that ‘it is okie to waste time now than to waste more time later’ and this is where I realize it is time to hit the pause button to refocus.

    In Republic Polytechnic, lecturers are known as facilitators to the student population. We believe in the culture of facilitated learning than the traditional top-down approach in teaching. However, a change in label does not change an organization or societal culture. I am not at the management level but I believe in doing my part to contribute to the change. Upon reflection, I have adopted an approach this semester in my teaching to allow students to take part in decision-making processes for their learning. I am currently heading a final year module as a module chair and encourage my associate lecturers to follow suit in teaching students beyond the lesson objective. In class, I allow my students to share their thoughts and to formulate their ideology in the topics raised in class. As they are the next generation of sports practitioners, I believe that facilitating their thought process is more important than focusing on the theoretical lessons so that they will be able to think out of the box and be creative in their future coaching practices.

    In my five hundred words write up for lesson 6 e-learning session (see Appendix B), I shared how my organization does not assume the stereotypical role and provide employees with equal opportunity. Moreover, I have teammates who are informal mentors to me whom I can turn to for advice and help. This form of informal mentoring allows active networking to improve on-the-job practices through unstructured relationships at work (Lim & Low, 2004). Moreover, it allows people to practice relationship skills to bring about positive interactions in not just solely in the individuals involved in the relationship but also in the organization (Lim & Low, 2004).

    I have a male colleague whom I am close to in terms of support and advice. I do agree that there are complexities in managing the internal and external relations in a cross-gender relationship as mention in the article by Kram (1985). However, rather than fearing for the outcome of the relationship, illicit maturity from both individuals as well as from colleagues to build upon this working relationship that will eventually contribute to organization success. Misconceptions occur when one does not portray clear intentions. This can also lead to psycho-social and vocational dysfunctional aspect in mentoring. Eventually, it will lead to a termination of the relationship or an increase in negative outcomes in both the protégé and mentor (Scandura, 1998). This links to the initial sharing of ‘how it makes them feel’. With the cultural context in Singapore, it is important to send clear messages about any relationship between a male and female colleague. We must do our part to contribute to a working environment that does not condemn a relationship that is nothing more than a good fit as a mentor and protégé between two individuals. In this area, I do feel that I am lucky to be in an environment that is encouraging and non-toxic. Moving ahead, I intend to continue to reach out to senior staff members of both genders to guide me as I believe that we should not limit ourselves because of fear of being scrutinized by others. Hopefully through this, I will be a role model to others to follow suit.

    Reading the article on Mentoring Millennials by Meister and Willyerd (2010), I agree that work is a part of life and I am constantly seeking a purpose in things that I do and is personally fulfilling. I am a millennial, born in 1990. I have recently become aware that I am high in trait anxiety when I am unable to control the outcome of my work. In response, I do tell myself to take a step back, lower my expectations and allow myself to make some mistakes in life. I am a perfectionist and feel personally responsible when things do not go as expected especially for the students under my care. I do enjoy informal reverse mentoring in my workplace, but not for a job promotion. Instead, I see it as an opportunity for self-improvement. Reverse mentoring allow you to understand why senior management makes decisions as such. I enjoy the process of learning and improving and investing in my capabilities.

    Change starts from us as individuals and mentoring relationships can be adopted to create a culture of entrepreneurial learning or innovative values (Lewis, 2000; Turner, 2000, as cited in Lim & Low, 2004). Taking a course on mentoring has created more self-awareness to practice my relationship skills as a mentor and a protégé. In particular, skillsets that have been explored in the reading by Zachary & Fischler (2009) whereby mentors should practice the art of reflection, facilitation, listening and feedback. I always do believe that technical skills can be easily taught and learnt. But the development of interpersonal skills is dependent on an individual’s willingness to work on it. As successful mentorship requires constant interaction between both parties, it is important to find a good fit for both parties to ensure a positive outcome of the pairing for the individual and organization.

    References

    1. Covey. S. R. (2013). The 7 Habits of Highlight Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York, United States: Simon & Schuster
    2. Dweck, C. S. (2007) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York, United States: Ballantine Books.
    3. Ibarra, H., Carter, N. M., Silva, C. (2010). Why men still get more promotions than woman. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.
    4. Kram, K. E. (1985). Complexities of cross-gender relationships. In Mentoring at Work Developmental Relationships in Organizational Life (pp.105-132). Lanham, MD, England: University Press of America.
    5. Lim L. H. & Low G. T. (2004) Relevance and significance of relationships: The Singapore experience in mentoring. International Studies in Education Administration, 32(3), 34-43.
    6. Meister, J. C. & Willyerd, K. (2010). Mentoring millennials. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.
    7. Scandura, T. A. (1998). Dysfunctional Mentoring Relationships and Outcomes. Journal of Management, 24(3), 449-467.
    8. Yeap, L. L., Myint, S. K., Lim, L. H. & Low, G. T. (2005). Empowering through mentoring. In To Empower, Be empowered (pp. 149-158). Singapore: McGraw-Hill Education.
    9. Zachary, L. J. & Fischler, L. A. (2009). Making the transition from mentee to mentor. In The Mentee’s Guide: Making Mentoring Work for You (pp. 113-129). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

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