Saturday, May 9, 2015

Why mentoring pays off

In my very first job as a boilermaker-welding apprentice, I learnt the tricks of the trade from a variety of different people. One tradesman, Rob, was an exemplar of best practice, so I attached myself to him to make sure I learned from the very best.

When Rob did a job, nothing but perfect was acceptable.

Our first job together was to build a circular ore bin 20 feet in diameter and about eight feet high. We had to put 8' by 4' sheets of mild steel through a roller to get the right curvature to fit the circle, bevel the edges that were to be welded, lift them into place using a crane and then tack them (with small welding runs) so that we could begin welding them completely.

I was impressed when everything fitted nicely with an absolute minimum of hammering or bending. Rob certainly knew how to make products from metal. Everywhere you measured the diameter of the ore bin, it was exactly 20 feet.

As well as an on-the-job trainer, Rob was also a mentor. If I ran into problems with staff, equipment, and even personal issues, he was there to advise,

Later, while undergoing military service, I had another mentor. It was he who convinced me to improve my education which I did, later completing high school and a Master's degree, two Bachelors degrees, and several other tertiary qualifications.

Without this mentor, I may have left the Air Force and spent the rest of my working life as a boilermaker-welder instead of an adult educator and human resources specialist.

Later, as a middle and senior manager, I mentored less experienced staff whom I thought had the capacity for development.

Mentoring paid off for me because:

  1. Developing rapport with junior staff helped increase morale
  2. I could identify systemic and other issues within the organisations that were impeding progress
  3. The people whom I mentored felt wanted, important to the organisation and contributed better than some others for whom it was just a job to fill in eight hours per day
  4. While sharing ideas with mentorees, I learnt things too, which meant that we all developed
  5. Most of those whom I mentored became long-term friends
While some organisations have formal mentoring programs, many don't. If your organisation doesn't have a formal program, there is no reason why it cannot be done informally.

The benefits of mentoring for everyone are well worth making the effort.

What do you think?

Robin

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