Abstract: Brad Johnson is associate professor of psychology in the Department of Leadership, Ethics and Law at the U.S. Naval Academy and has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary. Charles Ridley is professor in counseling psychology at Indiana University and specializes in multicultural assessment, counseling, training and organizational counseling and therapeutic change. He was also Johnson’s graduate school mentor. The book is a careful, concise, and practical examination of all that is involved in mentoring. Each chapter begins with a case study, followed by a discussion and the “key components” for the chapter. The book concludes with a number of references and a good index.
Johnson, W. Brad and Charles R. Ridley. 2004. Elements of mentoring. NY: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-6401-7. 146pp. $21.95 hardcover.
What Excellent Mentors Do: Matters of Skill
- Select your proteges carefully
You can’t mentor everyone, but beginning informally is often more effective than expecting formal arrangements, which are often broken. Decide on the maximum number you can mentor and know their qualities and interests. Be aware of mentor burnout and honestly consider your motivation for mentoring.
- Know your proteges
Label their talents and strengths and communicate them; Acknowledge fears and weaknesses; Above all spend time with them and see mentoring as a relationship.
- Expect excellence (and nothing else) [But see chapter 25]
Communicate high expectation and model excellence; Demonstrate confidence and do not endorse perfection as a legitimate goal.
- Affirm, affirm, affirm, and then affirm some more
Regularly affirm and instill confidence; Endorse their dreams and gently shed light on unrealistic aspirations; Affirm even in the case of short–term failure.
- Provide sponsorship
Discern their dreams and consider opportunities to fulfill the dreams; Use you status and influence to help them gain entry to groups and experiences; Have them serve at times as your emissary.
- Be a teacher and a coach
Give direct and explicit instructions; Demonstrate professional skills and seize opportunities for training and instruction through storytelling and metaphors; Help them respect organization politics; Gradually decrease your direct teaching.
- Encourage and support
Understand that what is fundamental in mentoring and encouragement may not be easy to practice, but look for opportunities and be genuine, consistent and accepting.
- Offer counsel in difficult times
Explore and listen to any difficulties: Be aware of feelings and refer to a professional when there are emotional disturbances.
- Protect when necessary
There will be career–inhibiting as well as personal and political attacks; Respond calmly and use protection sparingly and never bully.
- Stimulate growth with challenging assignments
Deliberately challenge with assignments, but to not exceed capabilities; Help to manage anxiety when there are new challenges.
- Give proteges exposure and protect their visibility
Draw attention to their achievements; Create opportunities by promoting interface with influential stakeholders; Be sure achievements are visible within the organization.
- Nurture creativity
Encourage innovations by providing a safe haven and model innovation and creative excitement.
- Provide correction – even when painful
Confront inhibiting attitudes: Address unprofessional or unethical behavior; Confront personal distress and work habits; Appropriate confrontation will build trust.
- Narrate growth and development
Note small gains and milestones and narrate developments and achievements; Note professional journey to strengthen the mentorship bond.
- Self–disclose when appropriate
Disclose personal experiences to help teach and mentor; Model humility and offer examples of coping and not mastery; Self–disclose only for their benefit.
- Accept increasing friendship and mutuality
Gradual validate your relationships; Communicate enjoyment of friendship and respect the relationship in terms of traditional hierarchy.
- Teach faceting
Model a multifaceted lifestyle; Inquire of family and community relationships; Encourage experimentation with new specialties and innovations.
- Be an intentional model
Provide invitations to participate in professional life because such learning is often through observation; Require increasing participation and engagement; Model humility and health and integration of personal and professional roles.
- Display dependability
Follow through on commitments; Provide feedback, don’t overreact and refuse to cut corners when allocating time to protege.
Traits of Excellent Mentors: Matters of Style and Personality
- Exude warmth
An attitude of friendliness, approachability and kindness; Consistent expressions of sincere interest and positive regard.
- Listen actively
Drop other activities and identify overt and covert meanings: Ensure congruence in interest and attention and reflect on concerns.
- Show unconditional regard
Unconditionally in the sense of being good and believable: Accept them in non–possessive caring: Demonstrate through commitment of time and resources; Be nonjudgmental and understanding.
- Tolerate idealization
Remember idealization turns to identification, which is crucial for professional identity development.
- Embrace humor
Laugh at yourself and help them to take selves less seriously; Mix work and laughter but avoid using humor to trivialize matters important to them.
- Do not expect perfection
Excellence without perfection; Discern dysfunctional nature of perfectionist attitudes and beliefs and avoid impressions that perfection is required; Be an example of imperfect excellence.
- Attend to interpersonal cues
Demonstrate emotional self–awareness; Model a range of appropriate emotions, such as kindness, and understand emotional states of proteges.
- Be trustworthy
With consistency, reliability and integrity; Keep promises and adhere to professional and organizational codes; Confront problems and mistakes but maintain confidence in disclosures (and protect them).
- Respect values
Don’t pretend to be value neutral; Recognize and respect value differences and discuss them when appropriate.
- Do not stoop to jealousy
It undermines mentoring and results from fear and insecurity; Encourage autonomy and celebrate success; Encourage secondary mentorships for growth.
Arranging the Mentor–Protege Relationship: Matters of Beginning
- Carefully consider the “match”
Select from those you know informally; Personality, communications style, personal values and career interests are especially important; Find those with more drive and ambition than you have.
- Clarify expectations
Have them do the same and revisit expectations periodically, especially in terms of frequency of contact, mentor rules and performances.
- Define relationship boundaries
Respect any such boundaries and limit them on basis of context and new roles; Refuse to allow a mentorship to become romantic or sexual.
- Consider protege relationship style
They bring their own style, so let it guide you in your approach to mentoring.
- Describe potential benefits and risks
Be open and transparent, discussing both benefits and risks.
- Be sensitive to gender
Discuss openly and ask how they view the same; Note risks in cross–sex mentorships; Take steps to avoid inappropriate behavior.
- Be sensitive to race and ethnicity
Discuss openly and on basis of experiences. Same–race mentorships may invite or involve greater scrutiny.
- Plan for change at the outset
Understand phases and plan for growth so that increments can be recognized and honored: Accept emotional side of reparation and ending.
- Schedule periodic reviews or evaluations
Have a review plan and evaluation dependent upon career goals; Gradually decrease reviews but evaluate outcomes over time.
Knowing Thyself as a Mentor: Matters of Integrity
- Consider the consequences of being a mentor
Recognize and accept costs and benefits in work and external relationships; Increase awareness of motivations to mentor, including those that are self–serving.
- Practice self–care
Balance between personal and professional life; Say “no” to excessive demands at work and follow through on commitments to family, friends and proteges; Limit time devoted to work.
- Be productive
Be active in your field; Evaluate reasons for any drops in your productivity.
- Make sure you are competent
Work at developing your skills; Evaluate your experiences, expertise and confidence level before serving as a mentor; Determine specific skills for your work.
- Hold yourself accountable
Ensure honesty, consistency and integrity; Honor commitments; Confer with a trusted colleague about your work as a mentor; Avoid exploitation.
- Respect the power of attraction
Maintain self–awareness; Seek collegial consultation if there are problems and remember that romantic involvement is a breach of professional boundaries and will not help the protege.
- Accept the burden of power
Recognize that they benefit from our organizational credibility and respect and power differential; Act solely for their benefit and use power to encourage and support but not to exploit.
- Practice humility
Be transparent in terms of your own faults and weaknesses; Admit limitations and mistakes; Appreciate your own strengths and accomplishments, but not to gratify self.
- Never exploit proteges
They may be vulnerable to some extent so be aware of overt and subtle temptations to exploit.
When Things Go Wrong: Matters of Restoration
- Above all, do no harm
Put their development before your own; Treat with dignity, respect and compassion.
- Slow down the process
Do not respond to problems or conflict quickly or with anger or acts of revenge; Examine any dysfunctions and have solutions that serve their best interests.
- Tell the truth
Give honest and constructive feedback and work with any relationship or performance issues immediately; Be direct and forthright but always do this carefully.
- Seek consultation
From a trusted colleague with good judgment, discretion and ethical commitment; Respect privacy and identity.
- Document carefully
To assure good practice and protect yourself; Provides records of goals, expectations, achievements and concerns; Use for corrective feedback and, if necessary, restoration of relationships.
- Dispute your irrational thinking
Recognize irrational demands, such as harshly evaluating, exaggerating, or failing to tolerate frustration; Disclose any irrational thinking and laugh at yourself; Correct your own self–defeating thinking [Sounds like Robert Schuller or Joel Osteen].
Welcoming Change and Saying Goodbye: Matters of Closure
- Welcome change and growth
Growth will affect relationships–independence and different views; Welcome and even highlight evidences of independence.
- Accept endings
Work hard at them and transitions; Initiate and accept such changes because they are inevitable and are indicative of mentorship success.
- Find helpful ways to say goodbye
Explicitly acknowledge and arrange specific ways of carrying out the ending relationship, including lessons learned from them.
- Mentor as a way of life
Make it a common component and recognize the rewards associated with mentoring.
Karl Franklin February 27, 2008