The second strategic imperative I recently suggested to the membership of the American Choral Directors Association toward reshaping our work in the 21st century is the imperative of generativity, or mentoring in the choral profession. We must transmit not only the “how” of what we do, but most importantly, the “why”. Scholarship over the last twenty years has sought to define the process of mentoring. A distillation of the words making up these definitions outlines the intentions and desirable outcomes of mentor and protégé:
“The term ‘mentor’ refers to a more senior person who takes an interest in sponsorship of the career of a more junior person.”
(Smith, Howard, & Harrington, 2005)
“Mentoring relationships facilitate junior colleagues’ (protégés) professional development and career progress.”
These definitions offer the two primary characters involved in the mentoring relationship.
“Mentoring: a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)”. (Bozeman and Feeney, 2007)
This definition is the most comprehensive of those found in serious scholarship on the subject. It inserts the key descriptors as well as outcomes desired in the mentoring process. This definition identifies and describes the mentor and protégé, and offers the environment of their relationship.
“Mentoring is defined as a developmental relationship that involves organizational members of unequal status or, less frequently, peers”.
“Mentoring is a developmental relationship typically occurring between senior and junior individuals in organizations.” (McManus & Russell, 1997)
These two short definitions add the keyword “developmental”, which offers a clue to the organic nature of the organizational members involved in the mentoring relationship.
“Mentoring is an intense long-term relationship between a senior, more experienced individual (the mentor) and a more junior, less experienced individual (the protégé).” (Eby & Allen, 2002)
In this definition, “long-term” is added as a description further defining the earlier term of a “sustained period of time.”
“Mentors provide young adults with career-enhancing functions, such as sponsorship, coaching, facilitating exposure and visibility, and offering challenging work or protection, all of which help the younger person to establish a role in the organization, learn the ropes, and prepare for advancement.” (Kram & Isabella, 1985)
This pragmatic definition focuses on the deliverables for the protégé, particularly those of career enhancement and advancement within an organization.
“The mentor is usually a senior, experienced employee who serves as a role model, provides support, direction, and feedback to the younger employee regarding career plans and inter-personal development, and increases the visibility of the protégé to decision-makers in the organization who may influence career opportunities.” (Noe, 1988, p. 458)
“A mentor is a person who oversees the career and development of another person, usually junior, through teaching, counseling, providing psychological support, protecting, and at times promoting or sponsoring. The mentor may perform any or all of the above functions during the mentor relationship.”
Introduced in these definitions is the concept of the mentor as “role model” and the role model’s contribution to the protégé’s “inter-personal development” and “psychological support”.
“Traditionally, mentors are defined as individuals with advanced experience and knowledge who are committed to providing upward mobility and support to protégés careers.” (Ragins, 1997)
“We define mentors as ‘individuals with advanced experience and knowledge who are committed to providing upward support and mobility to their protégés’ careers’.” (Singh, Bains, & Vinnicombe, 2002)
The verb giving power and an added definition to one characteristic of the mentor is the term “committed”. This implies that becoming a mentor is something of a calling to individuals who take on this task.
“A mentor is generally defined as a higher-ranking, influential individual in your work environment who has advanced experience and knowledge and is committed to providing upward mobility and support to your career. Your mentor may or may not be in your organization and s/he may or may not be your immediate supervisor.” (Ragins, Cotton, & Miller, 2000)
This definition expands the boundaries of mentoring beyond the same organization, and beyond the parameter of one’s supervisor.
“We conceptualized supervisory mentoring as a transformational activity involving a mutual commitment by mentor and protégé to the latter’s long-term development, as a personal, extra organizational investment in the protégé by the mentor, and as the changing of the protégé by the mentor, accomplished by the sharing of values, knowledge, experience, and so forth.” (Scandura & Schriesheim, 1994)
The important addition in this definition is the word “transformational”, along with the addition of the skill and knowledge set transferred from mentor to protégé to include the “sharing of values.”
“This study focuses on a more formal type of relationship between a senior member of an organization and a novice, in part, to address the growing emphasis organizations are placing on formal types of mentoring in the socialization and career development of many professionals.”
(Young & Perrewe, 2000)
In this definition, “formal” arenas are added to the possibilities of mentorship. The point of this definition is to state that organizations have officially recognized the importance of mentoring, and now value it enough to bring the process into a formal relationship.
The academic study of the psychosocial arena of mentoring is in relative early stages for a phenomenon that has taken place, in one form or another, since the first cave dweller passed lessons on to succeeding generations of cave dwellers. In addition to the strategic imperative of collaboration, I believe we must renew our efforts at mentoring a new generation of choral leaders in order to amplify the important work of choral music education and performance in the 21st century.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.