by Phoebe Atkinson
“When you approach every relationship as an opportunity to learn and an opportunity to help, you create the potential for ‘mentoring moments.’”
—Belle Rose Ragins
For the last few decades, researchers from the field of positive organizational scholarship (POS) have been focusing on positive relationships at work and how they impact our sense of self and well-being. Scholars have contributed to this discussion by specifically studying the influence that mentoring relationships have on the development of positive connections and enhanced performance.
With the complexities of today’s changing career contexts and work environments, many new approaches have been brought forward. Research now reveals that growth and development are maximized when we are intentional about having a “mentoring mindset” and creating a network of developmental relationships—a so-called “developmental network.” Such networks are fostered when we adopt a mentoring mindset, in which every relationship is seen as an opportunity to learn.
Having a mentoring mindset and creating a developmental network mean proactively seeking mentoring from a wide variety of developmental relationships—seeking out mentors as co-learners. This moves us from the traditional concept of a “mentor as expert” to a developmental network model of mentoring, in which individuals are co-learners. It’s kind of like having a personal board of directors. As Kathy E. Kram and Monica C. Higgins put it in “A New Mindset on Mentoring,” “The fundamental nature of mentoring has been transformed.”
POS scholars have coined the term “high-quality connections” to describe life-enhancing micro-moments—small, uplifting interactions. Such interactions are implicit in developmental mentoring relationships. This approach is characterized by mutual learning, with both partners gaining knowledge, a sense of empowerment, increased zest, and a desire for more connection. Mentoring scholars emphasize that, in such relationships, both individuals benefit.
Over the years that WBI has been offering the Certificate in Positive Psychology course, (now the Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology (CiWPP)), many developmental networks have taken shape as positive relationships and learning partnerships have formed. Students and alumni support each other both within and outside of CiWPP and other WBI courses, creating multiple opportunities to come together for the purpose of mutual learning.
Later this week, we welcome another cohort at the CiWPP immersion. Peers will be working one-on-one and in small-group settings. Throughout the year, they will share their knowledge and act as sources of learning and support for each other.
I encourage everyone to build a developmental network, in whatever context serves you (school, work, parenting, etc.). As we continue to develop ourselves and support each other, we create ongoing opportunities for mentoring moments and developmental relationships.
Phoebe Atkinson, LCSW-R, delivers executive leadership programs and co-facilitates an ongoing program at Rutgers University Institute for Women’s Leadership. She is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW-R) and a board-certified trainer, educator, and practitioner in psychodrama, sociometry, and group psychotherapy.