Monday, June 20, 2016

Mentoring: The Origin and Meaning

The word mentor is an example of the way in which the great works of literature live on without our knowing it. The story of Mentor comes from Homer's Odyssey. Odysseus, king of Ithaca, fights in the Trojan War and entrusts the care of his household to Mentor, who serves as teacher and overseer of Odysseus' son, Telemachus.

After the war, Odysseus is condemned to wander vainly for ten years in his attempt to return home. In time, Telemachus, now grown, ventures in search of his father. Athena, Goddess of War and patroness of the arts and industry, assumes the form of Mentor and accompanies Telemachus on his quest. Father and son reunite and cast down would-be usurpers of Odysseus' throne and Telemachus's birthright.

The word Mentor evolved to mean trusted advisor, friend, teacher and wise person. Mentoring is a fundamental form of human development where one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person. Today mentors provide expertise to less experienced individuals to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks. In many different arenas people have benefited from being part of a mentoring relationship.

Mentoring is a process that always involves communication and is relationship based, but its precise definition is elusive. The focus of mentoring is to develop the whole person and so the techniques are broad and require wisdom in order to be used appropriately. The two types of mentoring are natural mentoring and planned mentoring. Natural mentoring occurs through friendship, collegiality, teaching, coaching, and counseling. In contrast, planned mentoring occurs through structured programs in which mentors and participants are selected and matched through formal processes.

The mentor has a deep personal interest, personally involved—a friend who cares about you and your long term development. Mentoring is a power free, two-way mutually beneficial relationship. Mentors are facilitators and teachers allowing the partners to discover their own direction.

Mentoring is an essential component in Lean manufacturing and the transformation from traditional thinking. Toyota's mentoring process,(loosely called Senpai and Kohai, which is Japanese for senior and junior), is one of the best ways to foster Lean Thinking up and down the organizational structure. This is the process undertaken by Toyota as it helps its suppliers improve their own production. A close equivalent to Toyota's mentoring process is the concept of "Lean Sensei," which encourages companies, organizations, and teams to seek experts, who can provide advice and coaching.

How has mentoring helped you and your organization on the Lean journey? Share your mentoring story like that from it's origin and meaning.

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