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The workplace in 2014 - So you want to be a Mentor?
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 01/06/2014

Mentor You have heard the word around the workplace before. Some have whispered it while others have said the word “mentor” out loud telling everybody it has already made a big difference in how they see the job, do the job and benefit from the job with greater satisfaction and learning. Most endeavors benefit from mentorship and law enforcement is certainly one of the most effective work environments where mentors or tenured employees can guide and encourage new and veteran employees into a new direction.

Mentorship is more than just learning about the job expectations or dynamics how to execute your duties and responsibilities in a more effective technique. It is a way to shape new dynamics or thinking patterns and may fulfill career desires and expectations and create hopes and dreams of creating new prospective boundaries and aspirations.

Mentoring works – it is a process that has been established as a successful program or concept that is certainly not new but oddly enough, not used often enough to allow roots to grow solidly and self-development to flourish with successful results.

Originally designed to counsel or guide the younger persons in schools and vocational training settings it has been elevated to become a useful tool in occupational management development or executive administrative circles and help those that have taken an interest in the job, the company and the challenges facing them in the future. Once only thought of as a tool to teach there have been a growing interest in people who have recognized the tremendous power of teaching or shaping and guiding others through the public and private sectors and now identified to be more than just a strong shoulder to lean on.

So let’s put together a tool box or kit for the correctional employee embarked in a most challenging job market and profession. Let us put a successful mentoring program together that can withstand the practical and impractical elements of prison work and apply them in a logical and sensible manner.

There should be main components supported by lesser components that can be adjusted for specific job duties or responsibilities. The actual mentoring process can either process or interaction can be set up for a day to day operation in both the public and private sector. Collective assessments and tracking can create alerts to fine tune or adjust shaping or implementing better ideas or suggestions to fit the need or practices addressed.

Some may not need daily intervention or counseling thus an intermittent schedule can be made to address those expectations at definitive time lines identified to be appropriate and reasonable while at the same time building and improving the program for building the most effective process one can possibly create in the workplace.

There are at least 5 types of mentoring programs you can offer or shape in your workplace. Remember to keep it practical, cost effective and structured for open communications and feedback at all times.
  • Traditional One-to-One Mentoring. - One-to-one mentoring places one adult in a relationship with another. . At a minimum, the mentor and mentee should meet regularly at least four hours per month for at least a year. There are exceptions—such as in specific task-based mentoring, which coincides with the timeline—and other types of special mentoring initiatives. In such special circumstances, mentees need to know from the outset how long they can expect the relationship to last so they can adjust their expectations accordingly.
  • Group Mentoring. - Group mentoring involves one adult mentor forming a relationship with a group of up to four people. The mentor assumes the role of leader and makes a commitment to meet regularly with the group over a long period of time. Most interaction is guided by the session structure, which includes time for personal sharing.
  • The sponsoring mentoring program might specify certain activities that the group must participate in, or in some cases the mentor may choose or design appropriate activities. Some group mentoring activities may be intended as teaching exercises, while others may simply be for fun be it tactical training, strategic thinking or problem solving.
  • Team Mentoring. - Team mentoring involves several adults working with small groups of people, with work ratio no greater than one to four.
  • Peer Mentoring. - Peer mentoring provides an opportunity a new employee to develop a guiding, teaching relationship with another person. Usually the mentoring program specifies activities that are curriculum-based. For example, a newly hired officer might be tutored by veteran officer pre-selected for his or her expertise and experience. These two may exchange information or guidance through reading or engaging in other skill-building activities on site and scheduled so it does not infringe on primary duties. These veteran mentors serve as positive role models. They will provide ongoing support and close supervision. Usually in a peer mentoring relationship, the mentor and the mentee meet frequently over the course of a predetermined time frame or schedule.
  • E-mentoring (also known as online mentoring, or telementoring). - E-mentoring connects one adult with no more than two other persons. The pair communicate with the mentor via the Internet at least once a week over a period of six months to a year. Some programs arrange two or three face-to-face meetings, one of which is a kickoff event. Often the mentor serves as a guide or advisor in career-related areas; for example, helping the mentee complete a work related project or discussing future career options.
No mentor building program is going to be successful without administrative buy in or aggressive endorsement of its presence and importance. Neglected at often times are the needs to attach some kind of budget attached to provide the participants with reasonable instruments or materials. How it gets funded and how it is managed is very important.

Finally selecting the mentors and identifying the recruited mentees is an important link and equally important is the manner they are collectively tracked and assessed as time goes on and mentors are ensuring these mentees are adequately or sufficiently trained, guided or counseled. Last but not least is a feedback format that allows all mentors to be rated by the mentee and promote or assess the level of effectiveness these mentoring relationships are working.

References: http://www.mentoring.org/downloads/mentoring_413.pdf

Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

Other articles by ToersBijns:


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