Two years ago I participated in a mentor program in which I was matched with an executive from a consumer products company. As the mentee I was expected to set goals, initiate meetings and follow through with different activities and exercises he suggested. That relationship was priceless to me. At the time, I couldn’t articulate why but after attending an Organizational Development Network meeting this morning on mentoring I get it. I may have put a lot into the relationship to keep it going but my mentor gave just as much back. He coached me on critical thinking – a topic none of my courses in business, communication or leadership courses addressed.
I’ve found two values in mentoring. The first is using the mentor as a sounding board to help clarify my ideas. Just talking with a mentor can force me to examine my ideas, make certain I am communicating effectively and that I did not miss anything. You can get that kind of mentoring from a peer who gives sound feedback. The second aspect, which I wasn’t able to articulate until now, is what I got from my seasoned, senior coach. His knowledge and experience helped me develop my critical thinking skills. What made it so powerful was that he challenged me with different and well-thought-out perspectives.
While the peer mentoring helps with specific situations, I now realize that mentoring from my executive helped refine my skills in understanding assumptions, analytically thinking about alternatives and drawing better conclusions. All of these, of course are basic to critical thinking. Even when I was not aware of it he helped me develop a richer approach to understanding the problem.
I’ve seen a handful of articles recently about business schools falling short on teaching essential skills like critical thinking. I’m optimistic that this will change. But what if you’ve already graduated and have a job (or are job hunting) without being taught critical thinking? Luckily, there are assessments like the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal and training options out there. Mentorships are another tool you can utilize for practicing those skills!Image Source Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Elizabeth Pauker-Silva