What the Goddess Athena Can Teach Us About Mentoring

Posted on August 25, 2017

In Homer’s Odyssey, Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom disguises herself as an old friend of Odysseus, named ‘Mentor’, so that she could impart wisdom and courage to the young prince Telemachus (Odysseus’ son). Athena leads Telemachus to the inner knowledge which dwells within him, and gives Odysseus a vision of something larger than himself, something that he must strive to do for those in his sphere of influence (mythicjourneys.com).

This mythical tale from ancient Greece is an archetypal story about mentoring: a powerful tool for enhancing personal and profession growth, increasingly used in business today.

Mentoring is a developmental partnership between two people normally working in a similar field/ sharing similar experiences, and is based on mutual respect, empathy, and trust (MentorSet.com). In the same way that Athena guides Telemachus and Odysseus, the mentor’s role is to to support the mentee by listening, sharing their knowledge and experience, providing different perspectives and offering feedback to help the mentee progress in their career. As a result, the mentee gains new skills, knowledge, connections, ideas and approaches to their professional journey- receiving insights from someone who’s “been there”.

Forbes published an article at the beginning of this year in which it was stated that:

“Having a great mentor is a key factor to improving employee engagement among millennials. Millennials planning to stay with their employer for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%).”
(forbes.com Make 2017 The Year To Get Serious About Mentoring).

And in 2016 mentorcloud.com published the following: “Millennials place training, mentoring, and flexible work arrangements as priorities above financial benefits… mentoring is well and above their preferred way of learning…75% see mentorship as crucial to their success” (See Millennial Employee Lifecycle: Part One on their website).

Today ‘Mentor’ has evolved to take on the meaning: trusted advisor, friend, teacher and wise person and has an important role to play in organisations, across all levels. There are many examples of mentoring relationships among business giants, for example: Steve Jobs mentored Mark Zuckerberg; Oprah Winfrey was mentored by celebrated author and poet, the late Maya Angelou, Fashion designer Christian Dior mentored fellow haute couture designer Yves St. Laurent (see The Chronicle of Evidence Based Mentoring).

At Redwood and Co. we consider mentoring as both a powerful approach to developing leadership capabilities, as well as a way to encourage collaborative, creative and authentic learning between peers in and across teams, leading to an increase in engagement and success that benefits the whole landscape of an organisation.

For more information on #LearningCreativelyCrafted and our bespoke creative learning experiences visit www.redwoodandco.com

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