When we consider the term mentoring, our first thoughts often stray to words such as one to one learning, in-situ learning or protégé’ learning. However, research tells us that mentoring is becoming a far wider tool to help to develop people within business, education, sport, and health care.
Within sport, there’s an increasing amount of evidence as to how working in a relationship with a peer, a trusted and respected person or ‘other’ may enhance our reflection and personal development. Also, how mentoring as a two-way learning dyad, is becoming much more popular.
However, what about inclusive mentoring? In a truly inclusive society, we would all benefit from the richness and interaction unencumbered inclusion brings - ensuring that the skill sets, talents, and opinions of any historically unrepresented members of our business, club, team, or group are truly heard. For every person and every voice to be included, this must become a priority.
If we’re to engage in mentoring for diversity and inclusion, we need to ensure that both parties embrace the concept of mutual learning and growth.
Mentoring for diversity and inclusion not only gives everyone a chance to be heard, a voice in the crowd, but done correctly, an inclusive and valued voice at the table of development. For example, being in a developmental mentoring relationship that agrees from the outset mutual feedback on the use of inclusive language, will help generate trust, understanding and honesty.
One of the most important outcomes in any successful mentoring relationship is a boost in self-worth, the feeling that your input is valued, and this is a fundamental base in mentoring for diversity and inclusion with everyone being truly valued and respected.
There may be some initial trepidation when embarking on mentoring within the diversity and inclusion space. However, as Clutterbuck (2012) states, difference is positioned within the (mentoring) relationship as a resource of learning, rather than as a problem or something to be avoided.
Some tips when mentoring with an inclusive focus.
- At the start, build rapport and confidence – focus, common interests, shared values. Make an effort to know each other in this context. Be empathetic; avoid stereotypes and assumptions, walk, talk, and learn.
- As the relationship and understanding develops, think about what you have in common that may help broker discussions to help; for example, values around football – coaching players. Asking open questions will help.
- Be aware of your own bias. Are you making unfounded judgments based on difference? If you’re the mentor, use this opportunity to learn and grow yourself and learn to manage the behaviours that will make you both uncomfortable. Ask for clarity on language, engage in a conversation where you’ll both respect each other’s learning – and honesty.
- Fundamentally, have a mindset of: what can I learn from this person, what can we learn from each other, what can we accomplish together?
Embrace difference, any difference may stand out to us, and for that very reason, understanding that we and the world need this difference is progress to true inclusion. Use difference to teach others, use difference to broaden horizons and broaden opinions.
Finally, don’t think, mentoring for diversity, or for inclusion? They’re merely different lenses. True diversity is what we're wanting to achieve. Inclusion is the means to us getting there, together.
Using a footballing analogy, no one likes to see anyone sitting for extended periods on the side-lines, so we need to develop and foster environments that ensure that absolutely everyone who wants to play, gets to play. Inclusive mentoring is one way to help us achieve this.