Mentoring

Few weeks ago Débora Alcântara asked entrepreneurs here at Linkedin what person would they choose as a mentor if they could pick anyone in the world. I was flattered to be cited among mentors such as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Simon Sinek, Walt Disney and Luiza Helena Trajano.

People who know me knows that I like terms clearly defined, so here’s the Wikipedia definition of mentoring:

Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé or the mentee)”.

From the above definition it’s clear the unidirectional nature of mentoring, i.e., knowledge flows from “the mentor” to “the mentee”.

I’ve been providing and receiving mentorship during my entire career. Even when I was a student I provided and received mentorship. I guess one receives mentorship since she is born. Since the beginning of my career I had the opportunity to provide mentorship to the people I lead and most recently I’ve been asked to mentor entrepreneurs and product managers to help them in the next steps of their endeavours. It makes me very happy to know that I can be of help to someone by sharing my experience.

However, my mentoring experience have shown me that Wikipedia’s definition is somewhat incomplete. Wikipedia defines mentoring as transmission of knowledge. My understanding is that mentoring is more than a transmission of knowledge. Mentorship is an exchange of knowledge. Even considering that one of the people involved in the mentoring process is more experienced in a certain aspect, topic or area, the other person may be experienced and knowledgeable in other related aspect, topic or area that can bring new insights. Or the other person may use her newness to the theme being mentored to bring a new aspect to light that the mentor didn’t notice.

So next time you are in a mentoring situation, especially if you are in a mentor position, think about it as an exchange of knowledge, social capital, and psychosocial support relevant, useful, and valuable both to mentee and mentor. I have the impression you’ll enjoy even more your next mentoring session.

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