Creative commentary plus crafty composition

The May issue of Toastmaster magazine includes a pair of articles concerning mentoring.  An endeavour with seemingly altruistic overtones (especially from the mentor’s perspective), in practice both the mentor and the mentee should benefit from the relationship.

Why does the relationship become established? Because the mentor and mentee believe the former has some degree of expertise or wisdom to help guide the mentee to develop their own skills along the same or a similar path to that of the mentor.  It is an opportunity for the former to share their knowledge and perspective, the latter to grow with some radiant steering. Both parties enhance their development of communication skills as well as relating personally.  The more the mentee improves, the more satisfaction the mentor feels.  It’s a win/win situation.

The articles note that the role of the mentor focuses on acting as a conscientious beacon, hopefully not too prominently, with a main goal to encourage the mentee to ‘learn to do it for him/herself’.  There are obviously time-saving, perhaps cost-saving, advantages for the mentee in being exposed to the experience of the mentor.  The latter’s role is not the same as that of a manager, as the mentor should be creating “a relationship grounded in independence”.   Mentors should help mentees explore issues, via honest and positive guidance, including both critique and praise.

There is plenty of opportunity in Toastmasters for mentoring, and this theme is constantly emphasized in the organization. That said, in anecdotal practice, fruitful execution can be more illusory or protracted than expected.

Take personal and colleague experiences in my own Toastmasters club.  While, in accordance with training principles from this international organization, we have over the years spoken frequently about the importance of this area with our members, taking advantage of what the mentoring relationship has to offer has historically had muted success.  Perhaps we haven’t been as persistent in club discussions as we could have been.  But when we do have them, the level of mutual interest subscribes almost exclusively to new members (although this club year I do have a loose mentor relationship with another experienced member).  Moreover, while we are diligent in assigning mentors to new members, those relationships seem continuously destined to limited impact – usually due to one or both parties having schedule issues, be they lifestyle or work-related.  An additional difficulty comes from new members being initially enthusiastic, but not long after starting finding reasons not to attend meetings, thus impacting the mentor/mentee relationship.  I’ve had this situation myself.  It’s not like there’s an issue of fault, it’s more that the priorities, usually from the mentee side, shift away from maximizing the speaking and leadership development benefits.  Too bad, but ours is a voluntary organization, and so we try the best we can with what we have.

How relationships flourish or not is part of life.

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