Thursday, March 1, 2012

Performance Improvement Tip of the Day: SMART Mentoring

We hear a lot about "mentoring" in the context of management, networking, and career development. The idea of mentoring is to establish a close relationship, usually one-to-one, between someone with wisdom or expertise in a particular area and another seeking insight and professional development in that area.

This construct is particularly useful in the performance improvement arena. Through the one-on-one, relationship oriented approach, performance improvement experts can effectively guide those who are at more incipient stages of expertise. True to the mentoring construct, the experts don't take on the task of performance improvement themselves, rather they help their mentees to become familiar with performance improvement concepts and tools, understand how all of the components support each other, and assemble the "performance improvement engine" for themselves. When done within the setting of an "active project", with the mentor's gentle guidance and support in the background, the learning is made more poignant and effective.

Mentoring is also desirable from a structural sense - rather than consulting per se - because the mentee is always responsible for the project, and over time can function without the support of the mentor. In contrast to training, mentoring is generally more focused on the one-to-one relationship and, therefore, highly individualized to the mentee's needs. This further enhances the value of the process, and is more likely to result in successful activation, knowledge transfer, and performance improvement outcomes.

S - Support rather than lead
M - Make it individualized
A - Active project involvement
R - Relationship-based
T - Transfer of knowledge and wisdom

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