Cultivation Phase


Cultivation phase

This phase can last several years as the mentoring partner develops competences as a result of career and psychosocial support from the mentor. The mentor feels proud of the help he has been able to give to the emerging leader’s personal and professional development.

The mentoring functions peak as learning accrues to both mentor and protégé. The champion gains valuable knowledge from the mentor while the mentor gains loyalty and support, as well as a sense of well-being from being able to pass on knowledge to the next generation. It is important at this stage for mentors to realise that a mentoring relationship is a platform for learning and therefore the mentor should not view himself as the sole repository of knowledge and wisdom. Mentors need to be open to learn from their charges. Information and learning flows in both directions in a mentoring relationship. Jack Welch introduced the concept of reverse mentoring when he requested senior GE executives to be mentored by young technological savvy managers and learn the ropes of technology.

In the following section I describe four ways of developing self-efficacy –(a belief that I can cause my dreams to come to pass) These are all influenced by the mentor. A wise mentor knows how to use these different ways to create mentoring interventions depending on the need and situation at hand. These are all useful within the cultivation phase of mentorship.

a) Mastery Experiences

I know that I have what it takes to win because I have been through some experiences in the past where I put in sustained effort and won, despite significant challenges. My successes build a strong belief in my efficacy while failures undermine it. The challenges you conquer and master build your self-esteem and confidence to do greater things. David on facing Goliath, relied on his past mastery experiences and said, “I have mastered the lion. I have mastered the bear. The God who helped me master these will help me master you Goliath”. The things you have conquered in life give you confidence to take on more challenges. Those mastery experiences give tenacity and confidence to go for more. But if you have been defeated, you are afraid to take on more challenges.  Once beaten, twice shy – they say.

This is where the mentor comes in. A mentor says, “I want this person to win. I want to build his self-efficacy. I will give him small challenges. As he wins those small challenges his ego rises, his self esteem improves.” The mentor then ups the stakes – expanding them a little bit further step by step. In other words I don’t allow them to go and attack Goliath without having a few wins under their belt. I am strategically helping them to win one battle at a time and it builds their confidence and self-efficacy.

Cynthia is a dental therapist in our practice. Her first job was as dental hygienist in an Orthodontic Practice. She moved away from clinical procedures she is supposed to perform and for ten years worked as a hygienist. But dental hygienists do not have much work in Zimbabwe. She was no longer employable as a dental therapist because she had lost her clinical skills. At a personal level she had also lost her confidence to handle clinical procedures. So when I offered her a job as a therapist she was scared due to low self-efficacy. She had not practiced as a therapist since graduation – she had forgotten how to do it. Then I offered her work as a hygienist, which she accepted. Gradually I gave her some clinical work thus stretching her. Initially I set her up to win by giving her simple cases which she handled easily. Each small win increased her mastery experiences until she was confident. Now I can leave the practice under her care. We increased her mastery experiences and now she has the confidence to do more challenging things. As a mentor you increase the success rate of your mentoring partner on minor things. It builds her self-esteem and self-efficacy through mastery experiences and she goes for more. You can also assist her handle challenging complex tasks, one bite at a time to increase the likelihood of success and hence increase self-efficacy.

b) Observational Learning

I have seen others who are like me persist in their efforts and win, therefore I say to myself, “If they could do it, so can I”. Basically it means that competent mentors transmit knowledge, skills and strategies for managing the demands that are placed on the protégé by life’s challenges. Observational learning simply means, “I am observing somebody who is competent as they role model what they want me to do”. As I observe them I notice they are human like me. I learn from them and say to myself if someone who is as human as I am can do it then I can do it also.  The Bible says “for Elijah was a man of like passions as we are”. What the Bible means is that if this man who is as human as yourself could do it, so can you.  When you hear a testimony you say he is just human like me and he achieved it and so can I.  That’s observational learning.

Seeing people like yourself succeed by sustained effort raises your belief in your own ability to succeed – that’s why you need to associate with go-getters. Observational learning implies that the mentor allows the protégé to learn from the mentor’s experiences. Deliberately include your protégé in some of your challenging tasks and let them see you win. They will learn from your successes, which builds their sense of self-efficacy. Mentors should also expose their charges to biographies of successful people who serve as sources for vicarious learning.

My banker friend and hero, Jeff Mzwimbi stood against a massive challenge when the government illegally took over his bank, Royal Bank and amalgamated it into ZABG[1]. Many other bankers faced with similar threats quit the country for fear of a selectively partial legal system. But Jeff challenged the government in court and persevered after so much persecution. I believe that his ability to withstand the bullying tactics of the ruling authorities was rooted in a sense of self-efficacy which he developed when he worked with Strive Masiyiwa, founding Group CEO of Econet -the giant Zimbabwean based telecommunications network company. Masiiwa fought a four year legal battle against government for the licensing of his telecommunications company. Through vicarious learning Mzwimbi said if Masiyiwa, a man of like passions like me, can withstand these bullying tactics, so can I. It is my firm belief that Jeff’s resolve to fight for his dream came from his association with Strive. That is the power of observational learning to build self-efficacy. It can therefore be said that Strive nurtured Jeff into a persevering champion that would fight for his dream. Because of that determination now five years later Jeff and his team have been assured the return of their assets and they are ready to relaunch Royal Bank.

c) Social Persuasion.

When someone who has credibility in my eyes tells me that he believes that I can make it. This raises my belief that I have what it takes to succeed. This is the power of the affirming words of role models, coaches and parents. A mentor can affirm his protégé so as to build his self-image and self-efficacy. When a credible mentor says to you “I know you can do it”, it gives you confidence.

The reason you are reading this book is that when Dr John Stanko[2] heard me present a seminar on this topic, he challenged me to publish it as a book. He persuaded me that it was world class. You can imagine the impact the affirmation of a respected author like him had on my self-efficacy. I was thinking, “If Dr. John believes that it’s publishable then I can do it.” That affirmation encouraged me to persevere as I worked through the writing and publishing process. That is the power of social persuasion. And the affirmation did not have to be completely true. After all it is a matter of perception. The confidence and affirmation of a credible mentor builds your self-efficacy.

I had an employee who constantly made silly mistakes.  One day she performed well on a complicated treatment. I sat down and wrote her a note that said, “I appreciate and like you because you do an excellent job – like you did on this patient”. She was chuffed. She went around showing everybody and telling them, “I did not think he recognizes my effort. I thought I was useless”. From that day her attitude to work and her performance improved dramatically because I affirmed her on what she did well.

Many times as bosses we spend our time giving negative feed back, criticizing, and talking about the bad things they do until people come to a point where they think “I never do any thing right”. Then they quit trying. But you must deliberately look at the good things that a person does and affirm them on that. When you do that you build their sense of self worth and enhance their willingness to extend themselves on your behalf.

One of the most powerful demonstrations of social persuasion in a mentoring relationship happened to my friend Matt Wazara recently. As Matt was completing his specialization course in surgery, his pastor’s wife was diagnosed with a condition that required complex surgery in RSA[3]. He accompanied them down to Cape Town. His pastor and his wife then made a special request to the RSA specialists to allow Matt to assist in the surgical procedure. His mentor trusted him with his wife’s life. This was a powerful vote of confidence in their protégé and a powerful booster of self-efficacy for Matt. Ordinarily he would not have been allowed to assist in cases outside Zimbabwe without a special license. Chances are he would never have had an opportunity to assist these highly qualified surgeons in a highly complex treatment. After a successful surgical operation, the RSA surgeons were so impressed by Dr Wazara that they asked him to assist in the next surgical procedure which was an open heart surgery. Matt was elated. This is a once in a lifetime operation for any surgery student. In this one act his mentor had affirmed him as well as strategically positioned him for a stretch in his career. No doubt Matt went into that theatre thinking, if my mentor thinks I can do it – then I sure can. This big hearted gesture of affirmation and social persuasion by his mentor re-defined Matt as a surgeon. His career is unlikely to ever be the same again. In fact the experiences he had will be a reference point in his pursuit of reforming healthcare delivery systems in Zimbabwe and beyond.

d) My physical or emotional state influences my perceived self-efficacy. Therefore by reducing stress and improving my physical state, I increase my self-efficacy. Mentors through offering a shoulder to cry on and assisting their protégés during crisis, release the stress and emotional baggage they carry thereby increasing their self-efficacy. Well-known author and motivational lecturer, Milton Kamwendo recently lost Esther, his lovely wife, unexpectedly. It was indeed a difficult time for him. At the graveside his mentor Doug Mamvura gave a moving speech in honour of Esther’s home-going. Doug not only stood with Milton during those dark hours but also covered the gap in Milton’s weekly Sunday Mail column to give a powerful eulogy for Esther as well as positively affirm Milton. No doubt those words and actions of affirmation from Milton’s mentor reduced the stress while increasing his self-efficacy. I have no doubt that Milton is a stronger man for it. What a mentor!


[1] ZABG- Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group – was formed on the basis of the Troubled Banking Act allegedly to salvage so-called “troubled banks”

[2] Dr Stanko is the founder of PurposeQuest International

[3] RSA- Republic of South Africa

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4 thoughts on “Cultivation Phase”

  1. Hey Doc you just corrected me very nicely there! I have a team “ripe” for mentoring, mainly first timers in the job market. I occasionally forget this and so instead of giving them small challengies for them to build their esteem I have unwittingly been pushing them and I am sure doing more damage than good! Ouch! Love these updates, when I see things I am doing right as I read your articles I am motivated to correct the ooops places! Thanks Doc

    1. Dear Busi. Excited that you are making use of the material. You have always been a great people person. May your legacy outlast the generations as you continue to develop people. Keep up the great work.

  2. This is really powerfull, i have a testimony that identifies with this, i have had mentors at every stage of my life from the time i left high school, one thing i have learnt is that to be mentored, you need to be humble and willing to learn, focus and the right attitude are critical ingredients, one thing i have learnt from Celebration Ministries is involvement is key to my call, my supervisor calls it active learning.
    Thank you Doc

    1. Barrack I am sure that the presence of mentors in your life has accelerated your pace towards the fulfilment of purpose. One wise man once said, “pay any price to stay in the presence of greatness.”

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