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Action Learning And ‘Triple Loop’ Learning


A fascinating, lengthy and scholarly article in Continuing Professional Development Issue 3 1999, takes us "towards an understanding of how mentoring supports learning".

Many organisations are turning to mentoring as a way of supporting the continuing professional development of managers, often relying on little more than common sense and anecdotal evidence in setting up mentoring initiatives. This article reports the preliminary findings of research into the dynamics of mentoring relationships, with a particular interest in how the match between mentor and mentee influences learning for both parties and for the organisation. It is based on an analysis of in-depth interviews with mentors and mentees in the utility organisation Scottish Hydro-Electric. Key findings are that mentoring can lead to the development of skills where training courses often fail and that similarities in learning style between mentor and mentee can speed up the development of the relationship but that contrasts in learning style may actually lead to more powerful learning. It is also shown how mentoring has had an impact on the organisation as well as individuals. There are implications for anyone setting up mentoring schemes or embarking on a mentoring relationship and for researchers in the field of mentoring.

The conclusions - though presented as tentative and a basis for further research - were:
1. Developmental mentoring is best conducted outside of the line relationship
2. Mentors should display enthusiasm, listening skills, give of their time, be open as well as use lateral thinking and should challenge the mentee
3. Objectives of the mentee and mentor should be openly discussed at the start and when the relationship is coming to an end this should also be discussed in a spirit of openness.
4. Informal and neutral locations for meeting should be considered especially where there are large status differentials
5. Ideally values should be compatible between mentor and mentee
6. Ideally seek to match based on different learning styles but some common ground will help rapport building
7. Encourage mentors to think about what they might want from the relationship in terms of learning
8. Mentoring may help motivate mentees to apply and develop new skills
9. Mentoring provides a good opportunity to develop insights into the behaviour of others as well as self-insight.
10. Consider what the organisation seeks to gain from setting up mentoring.


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