In Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’ in ancient Greece, Mentor was a trusted friend and adviser of the king of Ithaca, Odysseus.
An aged Mentor was tasked to raise and teach Odysseus’ young son Telemachus, and protect Odysseus’ palace and wife Penelope, while Odysseus was leading his army in the infamous Trojan War for more than a decade (and then another decade after the war). Odysseus was intriguingly inside the famous and legendary Trojan Horse.
While Mentor raised Telemachus from an infant to an adult man, he was largely unsuccessful in guiding Telemachus and protecting Penelope from the long line of courting nobles looking for her to re-marry (and deny Telemachus of his birthright) for the long duration of Odysseus’ absence. Fortunately for Odysseus and his family, the goddess Athena disguised herself as a wise version of Mentor. As a de facto Mentor, Athena guided Telemachus to help return his long-lost father Odysseus back to his throne in Ithaca and encouraged Telemachus to forcibly remove all his mother’s courters.
SO HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO MENTORING IN THE MODERN-DAY MINING INDUSTRY?
Today the fundamentals of mentoring haven’t changed that much and we use Mentor as a name to mean, “a wise and trusted counsellor or teacher” or to mentor someone to mean, “to give them help and advice over a period of time, especially help and advice related to their job.” A proverb usually considered to be of African origin says,
“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”
Currently numbers of professionals entering the mining industry are dwindling and it is important that as an industry we develop the younger generation. It is the responsibility of the more experienced in the mining industry to offer their time as Mentors by giving back to the mining industry (and hopefully learn a thing or two themselves by doing so). Mentors can offer guidance and coaching, goal setting, access to networks, development pathways, answering questions and sharing experiences.
The importance of experience as a Mentor in the mining industry cannot be overstated. Mentors cannot give what they do not have. A well-balanced Mentor will be able to share both their professional and personal experiences. Young mining professionals are often a good match to be mentored by older experienced mine foremen who have progressed through the operating ranks and done everything. In this case the Mentees seek the older miner’s vast experience in so many different areas and learn from their behaviour in varied high-pressure environments in managing people and resources. An experienced Mentor can discern the best option between either answering the Mentee or leading the Mentee towards their own solution. Professional mentoring is a different experience in that it is absent of the obligations of a supervisor-relationship and, although it can at times follow a similar dynamic, the Mentee can be led towards their own solution but at the end is not bound to follow through on any advice from the Mentor.
My personal experience and I suspect that of many other mining professionals is wasted opportunities of youth trying to navigate alone through the professional wilderness. The easy excuse is a lack of opportunity or access to suitable contacts, but a determination to complete the journey alone may be closer to the mark. Some consider that seeking guidance when you need help is a weakness and dents your pride, though fortunately modern society does a great job in promoting that seeking guidance is indeed a strength. It is when we do have an excellent Mentor that we appreciate the folly of going alone.
The most important qualities for engaged mentoring are trust and respect.
Trust allows the Mentee and Mentor to be able to communicate freely and gives them the ability to talk confidentially without fear of exposure or reprimand. Mentees are able to ask questions that they are concerned may be silly questions or bring up sensitive topics without making themselves feel exposed or vulnerable.
Respect each way relies on how each party conducts themselves inside and outside the connection, and the Mentor’s reputation and how the Mentor’s interactions with others are perceived are important in establishing respect. The Mentee must be able to trust and respect the Mentor before presenting any issues to the mentoring relationship.
It is time well spent building up the relationship personally beforehand by sharing a meal or spending time together to build up trust and respect before the mentoring commences.
I recently had the privilege of joining, leading, and mentoring a team of young intelligent, energetic and enthusiastic remote mining professionals. There had been a previous significant gap of suitable management guidance and mentoring due to inexperience, vacancies, and turnover, a situation many of you will know well. The team was initially wary and less open. And it took some time, relationship building, perseverance, and mentoring meetings to be able to gain their deep trust. Mutual respect was gained in the workplace and in our formal mentoring meetings, but importantly also outside of the supervisor-relationship after work hours and offsite.
The result (of which mentoring played a key part) was amazing professional development and personal growth of the team, including each team member being promoted and a record employee retention rate of that team, and for the Mentor professional and personal development and satisfaction of contributing to the Mentees’ development and growth. Some of these mentoring relationships are ongoing after going separate ways through mentoring meetings and receiving regular communication for career advice and assistance.
Some of these mentoring relationships are ongoing after going separate ways through mentoring meetings and receiving regular communication for career advice and assistance.
Looking back at the origin of Mentor reminds us that the Mentor of a mentoring relationship is not just as Mentor. It was not Mentor who eventually guided Telemachus.
A Mentor also needs to be like Athena in disguise, the Greek goddess associated with wisdom, handicraft, and warfare, and the divine counsellor to Odysseus.
Enable Advisory has a core value of ‘It Takes a Village’ and we genuinely seek and value input from others, because it helps us deliver better outcomes, which fits into our mentoring model.
Enable Advisory staff have real-world experience that we love to share as Mentors and Mentees. Our real-world experience – covering many aspects of the resource industry, from C-level management through to operations, technical, and commercial – helps us drive successful outcomes for our clients. Our experience covers underground and surface mining in both the metalliferous and coal sectors and comes from both senior owner and contractor roles.
With experience in many countries including Australia, North and South America, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, and Papua New Guinea we are comfortable working in a broad range of markets. And we love to share our experience and our experiences.