Fostering relationships that enable and sustain collaboration and inquiry requires building trust about both technical competencies and each person’s interest in dialogue.
Therefore, two contexts require special attention. First, when newcomers come onboard to the team, they may or may not be familiar with the general organizational context or the specific working conditions. This requires thinking through how they are brought on board (“onboarding”). Second, when a performance gap is identified, in-service coaching and mentoring may be considered, especially if stopping work is not a possibility or the gap covers tacit knowledge that is not taught formally.
Although coaching and mentoring require specialized skills, most of us recognize that the mentoring and support we receive helps develop our capabilities. Having received support, we are also willing to provide it, with or without institutional support. When we identify a gap in knowledge, skills or experience in a new colleague, how do we provide support to address this? When and how do we mentor colleagues?
Yet, like other dimensions of informal learning, mentoring may no longer be assumed to “just happen”. Despite our recognition of its importance, it is seldom included in formal tools such as job descriptions or performance reviews that are supposed to identify competencies, experience and achievements. This needs to change.
Photo: Benjamin West, Calypso’s Reception of Telemachus and Mentor (Daniel Reinberg/flickr.com)