Picture this. The Joker is hatching a dastardly plan to put all of Gotham city’s residents under a poisonous gas cloud. Batman is currently tied up in a basement with some heavies keeping guard over him.
It’s all up to Robin. Think of your training Robin, think……What would Batman do??
Although this scenario is complete fiction (made up by yours truly, sorry DC Comics!), there might be some parallels with your own work experiences. Ever been thrown in at the deep end, with your boss away or unavailable? I know I have.
And it’s usually not the most comfortable experience (although as a psychologist the fate of an entire city is usually not in my hands). The one thing we can rely on in such situations is our training, and the advice and support given to us by experienced colleagues or supervisors.
Mentoring/coaching is one effective method of such knowledge sharing in the workplace, and recent research has shown significant benefits in developing a strong mentoring relationship with an experienced other. A Batman to your Robin, if you like.
Of course, there are variables at play here that influence how effective the mentoring/coaching relationship will be. In particular, I’d like to highlight two factors – personality and emotional intelligence – that can have a big impact on the development process, and could impact what Robin does next…..
Our personality and behavioural preferences can influence how we prefer to work, learn and live. Turban and colleagues (2017) recently found that personality can impact people’s career success, and that both having a mentor, as well as strong organisational knowledge, also contribute to this success.
As you might expect, people who are more person-focused and direct tend to seek out helpful mentoring relationships, which in turn helps them develop their knowledge, and subsequently influences their career success. However, Turban and co also found that people who are more task-focused and indirect also benefitted from mentoring, because they were able to develop their social influencing skills through the mentoring relationship.
Interestingly, the authors also found that those who were mentored tended to experience more promotions and increased income. So there’s some motivation!
Personality is (somewhat) adaptable
In previous years, there was a strong assumption that personalities were consistent and unchangeable, in other words, a fairly static trait. However, more recently, the idea of a ‘state-like’ personality has become popular, with the understanding that people can usually adapt their personality somewhat to the context in which they find themselves. And some of our adaptations can improve our performance.
In general, though, personalities remain reasonably consistent. This means that personality profiles – which take a snapshot of a person’s preferences at a particular point in time – can be a great basis for understanding our own personalities and developing them further. They’re also useful for recruitment, to help identify behavioural preferences and gain an in-depth understanding of candidates before making a hiring decision. And they’re great for guiding coaching and mentoring discussions with existing employees and taking their individual differences into account.
Let’s look at an example using the Karate Kid and Mr Miyagi.
The Karate Kid completes a development version of the Revelian Behavioural Profile (RBP-D) and it shows that his personality profile is heavily weighted towards ‘SC’, meaning he has a high level of Steadiness and Compliance. This means he prefers to work in a structured environment, likes to know plans in advance and is quite detail focused.
So when mentoring the Karate Kid, it might be apt for Mr Miyagi to give him plenty of notice about when and where to meet, and perhaps have an agenda set out before the meeting so that he is comfortable. Also it would be helpful for Mr Miyagi to ensure that the Kid’s uniform is washed at a high temperature to keep it pearly white. 🙂
Alongside personality, Emotional Intelligence (EI) is another distinct consideration when hiring and developing employees.
EI is defined by John Mayer and Peter Salovey as “the ability to engage in sophisticated information processing about one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to use this information as a guide to thinking and behaviour”. Research has linked EI to successful leaders and supervisors, and effective teams.
Emotional Intelligence helps people to perceive and understand emotions, use emotions effectively and manage them to reach their potential. Although conceptualised as an ability in this case, EI can be developed to some extent, most notably through comprehensive mentoring and coaching.
Let’s take another mentor/ mentee situation – Luke Skywalker and Yoda.
Luke is enthusiastic about his new role as a Jedi, but is somewhat confused about the behavioural responses he has received from his new workmates Han Solo and Chewbacca. Luke completes an employee development version of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Assessment (also known as the MSCEIT-D). He then discusses his suggested areas for development with Yoda (in Luke’s case, perceiving others’ emotions and facilitating thought).
They both work out a development plan together which includes reflection, feedback from others and experimenting with new techniques. Luke then goes on to lead a successful resistance against the Empire.
So overall, it can be incredibly useful to consider individual differences when coaching or mentoring a new recruit or existing employee. We should consider personality preferences when communicating with individuals and considering development opportunities for them. Additionally, having insight into a person’s EI can help with the mentoring process and help the person realise their potential at work.
Especially when a city is at stake and in the hands of an evil madman.
Now Robin…..what will you do??
Craig Gillies is a registered psychologist and he joined Revelian whilst completing a Masters of Organisational Psychology at Griffith University.
During his time at Revelian, Craig has been involved in a number of internal and external projects including an engagement survey, employee training, psychometric assessment, client and candidate support, and the construction and validation of a game-based assessment. Craig has also had experience in a variety of roles, including external consultancy (in government and corporate settings), smoking cessation counseling, and research work. His research interests include the role of positive psychology in the workplace (and in life in general), engagement and resilience at work. Craig is also passionate about employee/candidate wellbeing and is an advocate of Motivational Interviewing as a method of facilitating behaviour change.