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mentor—A guide, a wise friend and counsellor. In Homer’s Odyssey, Mentor was an old friend of Odysseus to whom the latter entrusted his home and his son Telemachus. The goddess Minerva assumed the form of Mentor to help Telemachus in his search for Odysseus who had left Ithaca for Troy.

A mentor:

  • avoids playing certain roles—e.g. the role of psychologist—which, at first glance, might appear to be part of a mentor’s job description;
  • is very careful not to wade in with lots of advice;
  • helps the mentee to come up with his or her own answers;
  • avoids being a ‘rescuer’ as it will not help the mentee in the long run if the mentor takes over.

mentoring and coaching are very similar activities. The only real difference is that the coach focuses on building the coachee’s ability to accomplish specific tasks, whereas the mentor has a wider perspective. The mentor typically has a longer-term relationship with the mentee, or is a counsellor on a broader range of issues at any given time.

Seven types of mentor assistance that are particularly helpful in encouraging mental growth:

To: Do:
Help a person shift her or his mental context. Motivate the person.
Listen when the mentee has a problem. Identify and verify the mentee’s feelings. Provide a listening ear, without a judgmental response. Explore options if appropriate.
Provide appropriate information when needed. Provide compassionate feedback. mentors also provide access to privileged and authorized information.
Encourage exploration of options. grow the mentee.
Delegate authority and tasks or give permission. Apply the skill will matrix.
Confront negative intentions or behaviors effectively. Provide compassionate feedback.
Provide a role model and lead by example. Create opportunities for working together, where needed skills can be demonstrated and assimilated. Consider master apprentice and pair develop the task at hand.

Source: The Tao of Coaching by Max Landsberg