What do mentors do? Part 2 in a series

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Rik Nemanick
Rik Nemanick, a Washington University adjunct instructor, wrote this for the Olin Blog. He is the author of The Mentor’s Way: Eight Rules for Bringing Out the Best in Others and is leading an upcoming daylong workshop on mentoring and leader development at Olin. This is the second in a series of Olin Blog posts on mentoring. Check out part one if you missed it.
This blog post continues my discussion about mentoring as a vehicle to extend and enhance learning. The series of posts is based on interviews with six alumni from the School of Engineering and Olin Business School who have been mentors for students at Washington University. In my prior blog post on mentoring, I brought together their ideas to build a definition of what a mentor was. In this post, I explore what mentors do to help bring out the best in others.
One of the reasons mentors are so powerful is because they are adaptable. A good mentor can adapt to the goals and learning styles of the protégé by pulling the right tool out of the mentor’s toolkit (a point I make in the seventh rule of mentoring, Fill the Toolkit). I was reminded of this point in several of the interviews.
For example, Scarlett Lee Foster, EMBA ‘00, said her “most powerful experiences as a mentor came after I retired, working with students at Washington University in the business school. My role was to listen, advise, assist, connect, and support.” But, she added that her own mentor, a vice chairman of her company, “was a sounding board, and a voice of experience and reason in times good and bad.”
Dante Cannarozzi, BSAS ‘01/MSCS ‘03, noted how he flexes his mentoring style based on his protégé’s needs: “For those people in a similar technical background, I’ve discussed technical issues (usual …

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