We interviewed Ines O'Donovan who is the Director at Alamundo International Research Institute for Mentoring, Coaching & Leadership, Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching; and PhD Researcher, Lancaster University Management School.
MM: I know that you are passionate about mentoring. How did that passion develop? Did you have a very special mentor that ignited it?
IO: I have always been very interested in helping other people and myself in a 'natural' way. I don't know if that was the start of it but even as a child I was looking for plans and approaches to healing and developing people. At that stage it was my mother who guided me. But the real passion surfaced when I had my well-being business. It is such a wonderful feeling to see that you can make a difference to people's lives. And when the opportunity arose to build up a mentoring program for the Cote d'Azur chapter of the European Professional Women's Network in 2005, I embraced this opportunity and did not only develop this regional program but also created a European mentoring program so that all members could benefit. Mentoring is really the most 'natural' way to help others to advance.
MM: What makes mentoring so very compelling to you that you have dedicated your professional life to it?
IO: It is such an amazing feeling to guide and help people to fulfill their own potential. What I find quite fascinating is that people often don't even realize their own potential. So when you guide them along the way they often become and achieve more than they ever dreamed of. Nothing can replace this feeling of almost motherly pride that your mentee has 'made it'.
MM: What mentoring trends are you observing?
IO: Over the last years mentoring has won significant importance. You can see this in organizations that increasingly recognize the value of mentoring for the development of their leaders and employees, for knowledge sharing, innovation and more. But also entrepreneurs are becoming more aware that by having one or several mentors they can build up and advance their business much more quickly than without a mentor. This has proliferated an industry of mentoring specialists and we see similar pictures across other industries as well. We can see for instance that non-profit organizations are increasingly creating mentoring programs to help their members.
Another trend I have been observing is the move towards more professional mentoring. It is no longer enough to just match a mentor and mentee and hope that the results will be outstanding. Those organizations with outstanding results make sure that the appropriate mentoring structure is set up, that mentoring is aligned with other organizational strategies and approaches, that an appropriate budget is allocated and that support is provided to all involved including a training of mentors, mentees, Mentoring Angels and mentoring project leaders. This also means that at least some of the tools and techniques that used to be exclusively utilized by coaches are increasingly finding their way into mentoring.
MM: How would you assess the current status of mentoring research? What is it that researchers are looking to learn?
IO: Even though mentoring research has been around for quite a while, we can observe an increase in the interest of conducting research. One topic that is of great interest to researchers and practitioners is the impact of mentoring. Another is the Self in Mentoring and Coaching. Since these two are based on a high quality relationship it is continuously researched, however there are also new paths that researchers go. In the book 'Developing Mentoring & Coaching Research and Practice' that David Megginson and I had edited together last summer, Jane Cordell, a deaf coach and mentor, reflected for instance on mentoring and coaching people with disabilities and how others can apply those learnings. In one of our recent articles in the IJMC Cheryll Adams and Emily Joan Slaven used the musical fugue to interpret their mentoring journey.
The ultimate goal of mentoring research is to understand better when and how mentoring works best, which is also the goal of Alamundo.
MM: We talked about mentoring as it links to leadership. Can you say more about that?
IO: I have just finished writing up my PhD, in which I had looked at the relationship between a leader's behavior and the engagement of the team members. One of the behaviors I found to be most effective in creating and maintaining a high engagement is mentoring. I am a strong believer that mentoring needs to be part of any leader's behavioral portfolio. While it might not be the right behavior to use in all situations, think for instance about an emergency where you have no time to consult and guide, research has shown that a leader who uses mentoring creates a more open and innovative climate in the team or organization and helps people to perform at their best. People tend to be happier with their job and not look for opportunities elsewhere.
Mentoring is not only linked to leadership by the leader using mentoring in his daily work. You can of course also look at mentoring from the perspective of aiding leader and leadership development. The distinction between those two is important as mentoring develops the leader as a person and can provide opportunities to climb the corporate ladder by getting sponsored. Mentoring for leadership development on the other side focuses on increasing a leader's skills, for instance effectively directing followers, providing them with a vision and way forward, giving them the opportunity to think outside the box, creating networks and network connections enabling innovation and progress. A topic I recently became involved in is Women on Board. We want to understand how mentoring has helped board members to develop the appropriate skills and to gain the visibility to be considered as board member. And what/if there is a difference between men and women.
MM: Tell us a little bit about your organization, its mission and the work that you do. Who might be interested in becoming a part of it and how do they go about "joining"?
IO: My whole life revolves around mentoring. So it should not be surprising that I am involved in three organizations that address mentoring from different perspectives.
First is DiaMento. DiaMento is a global mentoring network that brings together mentors and mentees from all over the world so that they can learn from each other and develop themselves further. The misconception that it is only the mentee who learns is a myth. In a good mentoring relationship both learn. At the moment we are working offline but will soon have an online platform that will help mentors and mentees to find each other and form mentoring relationships. Anybody who would like to give their dream a boost and take responsibility for their own development can contact me via e-mail.
The second organization that I lead is Alamundo. The International Research Institute for Mentoring, Coaching and Leadership. As many organizations are struggling to set up or run mentoring programs we want to understand what really works and what doesn't. We provide organizations with access to best practices. Organizations that understand better what the best practices are and who want to join our research program, can contact me by sending me an e-mail.
The third organization that I am involved in is the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). The EMCC is a non-profit organization that exists to develop, promote and set expectations of best practice in mentoring and coaching across Europe and beyond, for the benefit of society. We work together with other organizations like the International Coach Federation (ICF) to develop standards that ensure a high quality of any mentoring and coaching activities. I am the Editor-in-Chief for EMCC's International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching (IJMC), which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. The IJMC is a journal from and for coaches, mentors, researchers, human resource professionals and training institutes across the world. We publish the latest knowledge about mentoring and coaching research and practice. Individuals, coaches and mentors interested in joining the EMCC can go to the EMCC website to find out more about a membership. For those interested in the journal, either because they want to read the articles or because they want to see their own articles published in the journal can visit the EMCC journal page or send me an email.
MM: What mentoring books are you reading now?
IO: Believe it or not, I am actually just reading Lois Zachary's book 'The Mentor's Guide'. The other book I am reading is Eugene Sadler-Smith's 'The Intuitive Mind'. While this book is not strictly speaking about mentoring, it is fascinating to see how much of it can be related to Mentoring.