Interview to Maria Luisa de Miguel, expert in mentoring

1.- In Spain, you are the mentoring’s pioneer and you have been practicing professionally in this field. So, what does it bring you?

When I started working on mentoring in 2002 it was the results given what surprised me. I trained a team of 25 mentors to work for 4 years with approximately 250 novice entrepreneurs and in terms of business progress the results and valuation of the participants were excellent. More than 80% of those businesses grew up over the 4 years that the project lasted.

Furthermore, the mentors were enthusiastic about their role; in fact, as a result of this project they were involved in two other similar ones that we developed together with the Government of the Principality of Asturias in 2008 and 2009.

I believe that mentoring works because of the fact that it is based on something essentially human, learning through one’s own experience and that of others, conversation, learning together, sharing experiences, livings and extracting knowledge and ideas through them.

Mentoring brings mental clarity; reduces the feeling of isolation and loneliness in which many young entrepreneurs, businessmen and businesswomen are; make decisions with greater security and trust, being able to contrast ideas, broaden points of view and know other ways of doing.

2.- Mentoring is trendy, but many different activities are called like this. How would you define mentoring? What is essential in mentoring?

Mentoring has existed since the human being appeared on earth, because as Michael Tomasello ―co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology― already said, the virtuosity of learning from experience is that it allows us to save both time and effort, as well as avoid risks, taking advantage of the pre-existing knowledge and skills of other members of our species, in addition to their own. Since ancient times we learn by doing, observing and listening to others.

Mentoring is learning from experience through a reflective conversation, which guides the mentor, so that the menteeturns the experience into learning and uses it to make better decisions and get better results in the field of practice, activity or knowledge on which it is working.

The essential thing in mentoring is to know how to listen in depth and ask good questions in order to understand the personality of the person you accompany as a mentor, his desires, his needs, where his handicaps are to obtain the results he wants to and help him make good decisions to achieve them. 

3.- There are many mentoring programs. What are the keys to the success of a mentoring program?

The first thing is to be clear about the objective of what you want to achieve and assess whether a mentoring program can contribute significantly to it. The aim will always be depending on who the menteesare, the people you want to help, encourage, promote and benefit. From both variables, menteesand objective, the next thing is to choose the mentors well, who will have to be the most suitable to help these people and achieve the aim of the program. The way how these mentors are selected is based on their experience, career, results and network of contacts in the field in which menteesoperate. If they are entrepreneurs or business owners, then the mentors will have to be from the business world, have undertaken, have had a company or currently have it, stand out for their results and skills to have achieved success in their field. Aside from this, mentors must have skills to know how to guide others, empathy, listening, assertiveness, strategic thinking, good conversationalists, and so on. Wisdom is one of the qualities of a good mentor.

However, I think that it is essential to train mentors in the methodology of mentoring, because one thing is having experience, contacts and certain skills, and another one is knowing how to guide learning, change and development processes, which is what mentoring focuses on to improve reflective, executive, planning, decision-making and relational skills.

The figure of the program coordinator (mentoring manager) is also a central element of the success of a program as it is the one who provides support to the mentors, to the mentees, follows up on the mentoring processes and makes sure that everything works properly by providing the additional resources that are necessary for it.

4.- What skills and competences should a good mentor have?

Before skills and competences, the mentor must have a motivation to develop others, to share his time, his experience, his knowledge, his resources, his wisdom with another person so that he can boost his career, his business, and his life.

A mentor is characterized by having wisdom, which is a competence that gives you life and is closely linked to reflection on the daily experience to turn it into learning in an agile and effective way. Mentors are good conversationalists with themselves, they stand out for the quality of their thinking when it comes to learning, finding solutions, setting goals and drawing action plans to achieve them, making decisions, improving their self-knowledge and that of others through daily experience.

I would say that a mentor is characterized by good emotional, relational, conversational and executive intelligence, as well as good doses of both creativity and strategic thinking.

5.- How do you help to develop these skills and competences in Mentoring School?

Our Integral Generative Mentoring methodology, as I explain in my last book “Mentoring, a learning model for personal and organizational excellence” Ediciones Pirámide 2019, is based mainly on the development of relational and conversational intelligence working out all the skills which compose it. Apart from increasing the level of self-knowledge and empathy of mentors because they are the key to be able to guide others well in their processes of learning, change and development.

We have different trainings in which we teach our methodology; from introductory courses to mentoring to the International Certification in Mentoring that enables you to practice as a certified professional mentor. Moreover, we supervise mentoring processes in order to improve the performance of the mentoring role. In the organizations, we work with on-demand programs to train organizational mentors whose function is to develop their employees’ talent.

In all cases, our trainings have a high practical content, because mentoring is learning from experience, so in addition to numerous role playing about real mentoring sessions, we include mentoring practices. Our students have to carry out real mentoring processes that we supervise, both individually and in groups.

Another trait of our School is that we do not teach from theory; all our trainees are professional and accredited mentors with a large number of hours and mentoring processes behind them.

6.- The slogan of Autoocupació is “I am what I want to be. What about you?

Not only I believe that I am, but also I dedicate myself precisely to mentoring so that others can be. My vital purpose is to help everyone be who they want to be, and feel fulfilled and happy doing it.


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