“The ultimate leader is not afraid to develop people to the point they surpass him or her in knowledge and ability.” -Fred A. Manske, Jr.
The word, ‘mentor’, has been defined in various ways. Homer described a mentor as a “wise and trusted counselor, a guide and teacher.” Advocate and scholar, Bernice Sandler said that a “mentor coaches, teaches, advises, supports, guides and helps the mentees achieve their goals…furthers his or her charges’ personal and professional identities…teaches both how to get things done, and what not to do.”
Mentoring relationships can range from a formal, paid interaction to an informal dialogue among friends. Some relationships are prescribed between senior and junior faculty or between an experienced tradesman and his/her protégé. Most mentoring relationships, however, are informal connections between colleagues with similar interests. Chances are you have been mentored at some point in your life. Perhaps, you have also been a mentor.
The value of mentoring is well recognized. Mentors help mentees navigate new challenges and develop new skills and knowledge. Many times, mentors can help others avoid costly mistakes and even accelerate their career path. Mentoring within agriculture is not a new concept. There are currently mentoring programs focused in agriculture in almost every state in the nation, as well as, several national efforts. Programs are designed for academic faculty, students and beginning farmers and ranchers.
Could you serve as a formal or informal mentor? Consider these characteristics of an effective mentor.
- Develop mutual trust and respect
- Possess job–specific knowledge and are willing to learn new skills
- Lead successful and progressive careers
- Network effectively
- Maintain confidentiality
- Listen actively both to what is being said and how it is being said
- Ask open, supportive questions and provide constructive feedback
- Answer questions honestly, candidly and without judgment
- Help the mentoring partner solve his or her own problem
- Focus on the mentoring partner’s development, not their own
- Maintain accessibility and devote time to developing others
Learn more about mentor skill development and mentoring programs around the nation in the resources below.
Mentor Skill Development
“Make something of yourself. Try your best to get to the top, if that’s where you want to go, but know that the more people you try to take with you, the faster you’ll get there and the longer you’ll stay there.”- James A. Autry
Top 10 Qualities of a Good Mentor:
Guidelines and Resources for Mentors:
Mentor/Trainee Quiz for Administrators:
Mentor: Expanding the World of Quality Mentoring:
Mentoring: An Essential Leadership Skill:
What Does it Take to be a Good Mentor?
Tips to a Successful Mentor-Mentee Relationship
Mentoring for Producers/Educators
“People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy.” –Oliver Goldsmith
University of Arkansas-Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program:
For On Farm Mentors:
Mentoring in Extension:
Oklahoma Farmers & Ranchers Association Mentoring Program: