Change is upon us, and we no longer doubt that it has become the way of life in our decade and beyond. In the real world, change occurs only when people embrace it, champion it, and have the courage to move onto uncharted paths. Successful change is about discovery and resistance, and attending to the needs of the people who are an integral element of the process.
Mentoring As Support for Change
Effective mentoring is a powerful way to address people’s needs during change, thus reducing resistance, and opening the path for the new desired future.
Mentoring Competencies That Support Growth
The ability to guide people through successful change is linked to specific mentoring competencies.
Successful mentoring relationships act as vehicles that enable people to develop the new behaviors that are necessary for change. These relationships are based on simple, but powerful principles:
• Mutual trust, developed as a result of mutual respect;
• Commitment to growth and discovery, through support and challenge;
• Openness to give and receive help and feedback;
• Commitment to action and results, the ability to make it happen.
Examples of Mentoring Help during Change
Each phase of transition offers different mentoring challenges. The following examples illustrate how mentoring behaviors can be tailored to meet specific needs.
Phase 1. Optimism
Early in the change process people may have an unrealistic view of what is required. Mentoring can provide a direction that keeps people on an even keel, and helps them understand the full impact of what is needed during change.
The mentor accomplishes this by asking good questions that help people identify their individual reactions to the change. This questioning process looks at both positive and negative aspects of the change, and helps identify future needs. By also sharing his/her own experiences with change, the mentor makes the change experience real and possible.
Phase 2 – Pessimism
As change begins to take shape, support and understanding of emotions are essential. As people experience the difficulties associated with change, they start questioning and doubting the process.
The mentor’s role is to open the doors to possibilities, and to help people explore and understand their feelings. This phase involves taking risks in the mentoring relationship. Open and honest feedback can help people look at their own behavior, and help develop increased trust through genuine caring and mutual respect.
Phase 3 – Resistance
This is a powerful phase, and the energy generated here needs to be channeled into creative ways that lead to buy-in for the change. People’s reactions can take various forms, and the dominant theme is an unwillingness to embrace the change. Fighting resistance is not productive.
The major role of the mentor in this stage is to listen, and to help people recognize their reasons for the resistance. The key mentoring behaviors are a combination of support and challenge that shows respect for the person’s position, but at the same time provides growth-oriented feedback that can help him or her move beyond resistance. The mentor does not see resistance as a negative, but as an opportunity to better understand the real impact of change on people an the organization. Some of the most creative solutions for problems have been generated from resistance.
Phase 4 – Acceptance and Commitment
In this phase, there is a great deal of positive energy and commitment to the future, as people are starting to believe in the process and feel a part of it.
Here, the role of the mentor is to empower people to move to action that will sustain the change, and to help people reflect on the various steps of the journey. Change is a dynamic process, and learning from past experiences increases people’s ability to better deal with future changes. The mentor plays a key role in enabling people to formulate and commit to action plans for making the transformation work. The ability to celebrate success, and the insight to recognize both individual and group contributions are other key behaviors that contribute to the success of change.
By Tiza Pyle
Tiza Pyle is a senior consultant at Perrone-Ambrose Associates Inc. in Illinois. Copyright 2003 by the International Mentoring Association.
Reprinted from the International Mentoring Association, www.mentoring-association-org.
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