The Zen of Mentor Development

Zen of Mentoring

Zen of Mentoring

In the book, Enabling Knowledge Creation, Krogh, Ichijo, and Nonaka (2000) write that professionals need to grow proportionally in two areas,

The authors go beyond what Drefus and Drefus (1986) call competent behavior, for rather than just assuming responsibility for the outcome of their actions, a professional's expertise now has to also be equated with social responsibility by demonstrating to others the link between action and outcome and help them learn the necessary methods for caring out the same actions.

While some professionals will naturally take on the both roles, others will require help with the additional responsibility. This is where the organization has to provide support as people cannot be thrust into a mentorship role, especially when they do not have the skills because bad mentoring may be worse than none at all (Ragins, Cotton, Miller, 2000). Thus, the need for identify and transferring skills that will enable the mentor to perform.

Mentoring Traits, Styles, and Focus

Some of the basic qualifications for mentoring are (DeSimone, Werner, 2012; Krogh, et al. 2000):

In addition, a mentor:

Whew! That's quite a bit of involvement for a mentor. This involvement is why it is hard to train someone to be a mentor and to find good mentors. How do you train someone to care about another person? How do you make it a corporate policy that every supervisor, manager, and executive will be assigned an employee to mentor when he or she might not recognize that specialness that they can work with and develop?

On the other side of the coin—how do you advise someone to search around and find someone who will take them under their wing as if they were auditioning to be adopted?

Guidelines for a Mentoring Program

teaching others to mentor (istock photo)

During a retreat, special function, workshops, or similar meeting where you have the majority of supervisors, managers, and executives gathered, have an informal session on mentorship. It should not be too hard to find someone in the upper echelons of your company that has been a mentor or has had someone mentor them. Most people who have reached the top have had a mentor . . . and they in turn will want to pay back their dues. After a small briefing on what a mentor is, have one or more persons tell a story of how being a mentor has helped:

Also, have someone tell a story of how a mentor has helped their own career to succeed. And let it be known that being a mentor is endorsed by the organization's top leaders and how they see it as being a great benefit to the company.

Give pointers (if possible a workshop, learning session, etc.) on being a mentor:

Next Steps

Mentoring Resources

Return to the Leadership Training and Development Outline


Drefus, H.L., Drefus, S.E. (1986). Mind over Machine. New York: Macmillan.

DeSimone, R.L., Werner, J.M., Harris, D.M. (2012). Human Resource Development. Mason, OH: South-Western College Pub.

Krogh, G.V., Ichijo, K., Nonaka, I. (2000). Enabling Knowledge Creation: How to Unlock the Mystery of Tacit Knowledge and Release the Power of Innovation. New York: Oxford Press.

Ragins, B.R., Cotton, J.L., Miller, J.S. (2000). Marginal mentoring: The effects of type of mentor, quality of relationship, and program design on work and career attitudes. Academy of Management Journal. 43(6), 1177-1194.