By Kirsten M. Poulsen
Leadership of the future – and of today – is based on the knowledge-based society and the job, career and labour market trends that we are currently witnessing. The focus is on competencies and on balancing work and private life. Individuals in the labour market possess extensive and unique knowledge, and today’s managers can no longer keep up their role as the foremost experts in the organisation. Employees are less loyal to their company and more loyal to the task and project at hand. People want to realise their ambitions and stage-manage themselves. They are very interested in understanding themselves and their own motivation.
Being a manager today therefore requires courage, strength and clarity concerning the value individual managers can add to their work.
We believe that in the future – and today – managers must have a better understanding of employees’ need for self-management. This means that managers must develop their skills for facilitating rather than practicing their managerial role through authority and power.
As a concept, facilitation has not been applied extensively in connection with leadership and management but today facilitation covers the role of manager to a larger extent.
Facilitation focuses on the group and on the individual’s role and behavior in the group. Facilitation means making something easy – which means the manager’s role is to support, guide, challenge and impart knowledge to the team so that the team can handle more of the work independently within the given framework. The manager’s role is therefore to be a catalyst for the team’s work; a person who pays attention to the team’s morale at work and intervenes before the pressure becomes too great or the team derails. The manager’s role is naturally still to ensure that goals are achieved but by facilitating greater ownership for the goals so that the manager can support, develop and delegate more (naturally with situational leadership in mind).
The mentor role is largely a facilitator role. A role in which mentors apply their experience and skills to help mentees to develop, and the role of mentor is therefore excellent training for developing leadership competencies.
Mentoring contributes to developing future leadership
The core of mentoring, which is built on the dialogue between two people, always encourages personal reflection and development – regardless of the purpose of the programme. This provides scope for achieving greater understanding of the dynamics of human relationships, being better at observing, analyzing and understanding feelings and behaviour in individuals themselves and in others, and creating the basis for better leadership and management – of themselves and others.
The role of mentor encourages people to practice efficient communication, active listening, questioning techniques, feedback, etc. It also adds a unique dimension to the “training”, which takes place in a situation where the other person with the mentor role does not have authority and power over the other person – the mentee. The role of manager has an intrinsic power that always influences the relationship between the manager and employee. The authority of the mentor role lies exclusively in the mutual respect that develops in cooperation between mentors and mentees, which means that mentors must develop and apply new skills to challenge, support and influence mentees.
Managers need this dimension of facilitation in their leadership to provide scope for skilled employees who both can and want to do things themselves, and to ensure that all the employees’ experience and competencies are actually utilised.
Mentees who experience good mentors and good results from mentoring are also inspired to be good managers, whether or not they are currently in a leadership or management position. Experiencing good dialogue and working with a good discussion partner who takes time to pass on knowledge and time to simply listen and pay attention is an experience that accompanies mentees throughout their lives. It influences their way of working in the future – and their expectations and attitudes towards the essence of good leadership.
Extract from The Mentor+Guide to Mentoring Programmes, 2012, KMP+ Forlag