Mentors Matter

by Ronnie Thomson, Corporate Ombuds, Halliburton
IOA Board of Directors

What comes to mind when you think of a mentor? Perhaps someone who is your role model, teacher, and positive influencer for your continued growth and development. My guess is that you may count many mentors over your career or for some of us, our careers. So how do mentors matter? I propose mentors matter in the following important roles:

First, an effective mentor serves as a guide. Ideally, she has the experience in your profession and will help you navigate your way. What kinds of obstacles might you encounter? What remedies and resources exist when those obstacles appear? She’s been there and done that and can encourage you along your path.

Secondly, your mentor is a confidant — someone with whom you can admit what you do not know. He’s the person who will listen to your fears and encourage you when you admit your lack of confidence. He helps you be your true self and you show him what’s behind your facade. He may encourage you to admit when you are wrong, or have made a mistake, and helps you hold your ego together when it’s cracked. He may employ humor and lightheartedness as a reminder to not take yourself too seriously.

Specifically for the organizational ombuds professional, the role of an IOA mentor is anchored in our oral traditions. We complete Foundations of the Organizational Ombudsman, and perhaps conquer higher level trainings thereafter…maybe even become a certified mediator, sleep with the IOA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, yet we don’t know what we don’t know. For those who have been practicing by the IOA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice for many years and have attended the Annual Conference on a regular basis, much learning has been gained through dialogue with the pioneers who paved our way. For seasoned IOA mentors, we often read a particular Standard and recall Mary Rowe or Ella Wheaten, or even Chuck Howard explaining its purpose and intent. Many a session on the actual practice of independence, neutrality and impartiality, confidentiality, and informality provided the “ah-ha” moments that we continue to explore and unpack with fellow practitioners.  To practice to the highest level of professionalism and integrity, we rely upon stories that are not written in order to learn and grow in this still young niche of the conflict management/dispute resolution profession. Much like ancient cultures, we pass along a huge amount of knowledge through dialogue and ponderings, exchanging knowledge for wisdom. And that’s another key role of a mentor, wise leader. Like Mr. Miyagi in the movie The Karate Kid, mentors help with the small routines of our practice that enable sound habits to prepare us for the higher-risk issues that may lurk in the future. Mentors teach us helpful disciplines that we may not even notice without their careful eyes and ears.

The invitation for you is to continue the dialogue. How do mentors matter?

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