In every walk of life, mentors play an important role in shaping lives and destiny of the counterpart known as mentees. The term “mentor” is sometimes interchangeably used by various synonyms like advisor / counsellor / guide / coach, etc. Notwithstanding the semantics, mentoring plays a crucial in shaping not only individuals but through them the charter of entities / business organizations.
Let us try to understand the concept of mentoring and its applicability for elderly people in the context of a family & its growth.
Mentor and His / Her Role:
The word mentor is often used in context of a professional or business organization. Mentors here are expected to play the role of catalysts to guide / inspire juniors (mentees) to realize their potential and work effectively. Mentors are not the direct reporting bosses as reporting relationships between a boss and his / her junior may not allow the former to act as an effective mentor. While mentors are sufficiently senior to mentees, they are thus not direct bosses but working in different departments in the same organization. For example, Vice President of Marketing Department may be the mentor of a newly recruited officer in HR Department.
Since there is no reporting relationship, the mentee can express his / her opinion / views freely with mentor. Mentor is also expected to make the mentee comfortable and make him / her grow in the organization through parallel support / guidance and also enabling mentee to explore his / her potential. Process of mentoring involves meeting of mentor and mentee either in person or over other means. In some organizations, there is a structured format of interaction between mentors and mentees to make it more effective.
Qualities of a Mentor:
Every senior person working in an organization cannot be a successful mentor. There are 5 Essential Es that are often associated with a successful mentor. These include:
1. Experience: A mentor has to carry rich & varied experience. This is crucial for guiding others as wealth of knowledge leads to wisdom and thus allows matured guidance to the mentee.
2. Expertise: A mentor may have experience but may not have required expertise. This means he / she may not be in possession of the tools / techniques to guide a new generation person. This comes out of practice or external training intervention.
3. Eloquence: For mentoring to be successful, one of the essential qualifications needed is persuasive / inspirational communication skills of the mentor. This is needed to convince the mentee that he / she is in right hands.
4. Empathy: Before giving any counselling / advice, mentor has to always look from perspective of mentee and therefore, mentoring requires mentor to be empathetic.
5. Egoless: There has to be sensible and logical interaction between a mentor and mentee. This requires that mentor has always to interact from adult ego state to the adult ego state of the mentee.
Role of Elderly as Family Mentor:
If one looks at the role a mentor plays in the life of a mentee and thereby in the journey of an organization, it is obvious that it is equally applicable in family set up where the elders are mentors, junior members of the family are mentees and family is equivalent to a running organization. And the elders are best suited to play role of mentors as they do not have direct controlling role of the new generation members and have wide experience to guide next generations through their wise advice / counselling.
However, the above experiment can only succeed if the elderly is in possession of the 5E essential requirements. Here comes the problem. In many cases we see that elders try assume direct responsibility / authority. It automatically results in communication from Parent Ego state (domineering sate) ordering / directing. In the process, empathy is lost. And counselling becomes a persuasive dictate: a serious failure in mentoring.
The above not only cause breakdown of mentoring system but also gives rise to conflict and subsequent family disintegration. Therefore, to save unity and culture of unified family, it is necessary that the elders migrate to the role of mentors than the role of rulers. By being mentors, they can still be influencers and save the family values and take it forward for posterity.
Elders in family are ideally poised to play role as mentors rather than direct boss. In this role, they will not only be able to influence family decisions but also keep it intact. This is the best thing that can happen in a family setting: elders utilizing their enabling influence not directly but indirectly by being mentors and families prospering by remaining united.
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