LZ: It has been almost 12 years since publication of the first edition. While good mentoring practice remains firmly learner-centered, we know exponentially more about it than ever before and the conditions that influence and promote it. For example, we have learned that adult learning is more than a cognitive process; it is a multidimensional phenomenon. There are more edges into our understanding - complexities of the brain, multiple types of intelligence, and our emotional selves. The bottom line is that our understanding of adult learning theory has become deeper and wider and more critical and robust.
MM: In the second edition you created a whole new section about "context." What is it and why is it so important?
LZ: All mentoring is embedded in context. Context determines how we perceive reality, what we see as possible and achievable. We each bring our contextually-derived "difference filters" (the multiple differences that define who we are - cultural, intergenerational, sexual identity, gender, and race) to the relationship. Mentors need to be aware of the conditions, circumstances, the contributing forces (the multiple contexts) that affect them and their mentoring partners because they impact how we connect, interact and learn from one another.
The spaces and places in which mentoring partners convene, connect, communicate, and learn add another layer of context to the mentoring relationship. Virtual mentoring connections (social networking, email, Skype, etc.) and other multiple mentoring configurations offer new ways to create and enhance positive mentoring relationships, beyond the traditional face-to-face/one mentor-one mentee model.
MM: Why do you continue to put such emphasis on preparation?
LZ: Self-awareness (understanding our own motivations, our strengths and challenges) is the key to getting ready to mentor. Consciously setting aside the time needed to prepare yourself for a new mentoring relationship ensures a more satisfying and productive mentoring experience. The fact of the matter is that most people are either unprepared or underprepared when they make the decision to become a mentor.
MM: You seem to focus a lot on conversation in the book.
LZ: Conversation keeps the lines of communication and connection open and engages the mentee as an active partner in his or her own learning. Conversation needs to be front and center throughout a relationship or else mentoring becomes a transaction. The agreements and ground rules that grow out of this conversation define the process and work of the relationship. They become tools for staying on track and moving mentoring forward.
MM: You've expanded the work of the third phase of the mentoring relationship (Enabling Growth: Facilitating Learning) into two chapters in your new book. Why?
LZ: It is the longest of the four predictable phases and the work phase of the relationship. It is the phase in which you get the most traction on the learning and the relationship. Enabling Growth is also the phase when the relationship is most likely to derail if it is not kept on a steady course. I wanted to devote more space to feedback and to what mentors need to do to set the stage, give feedback and model asking for feedback.
MM: You've expanded and reorganized the chapter on coming to closure. What is different?
LZ: Coming to closure should be a mutually satisfying learning experience. More often than not, mentoring relationships just fizzle out. Closure protocols and processes need to be built in from the very beginning. I've included more closure conversations and exercises for mentors to reflect on their own learning.
MM: What books on mentoring are you reading right now?
LZ: Sharon Daloz Parks anchors her discussion of mentoring in the rich dynamic of developmental theory and raises big questions and worthy dreams for mentor and mentee alike in her book Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Emerging Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith. Her second edition is even better than the first one.
LZ: George Lakey offers a step by step process guide in how to design and facilitate effective learning experiences for diverse learners. If you are engaged in group mentoring you I am sure you will find this book Facilitating Group Learning: Strategies for Success with Adult Learners of particular interest. I know I have.
LZ: Conversation is critical to mentoring. In his book Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms, Stephen Brookfield addresses a particular kind of conversation, discussion, as a way of teaching, and manages to do it by melding theory and practice by providing creative and stimulating exercises.