University Experts Share Mentoring Skills with Partners of Judges

by Mary F. Moyer

The Ohio Judicial Family Network (OJFN) Mentor Program was initiated in October 2000 to offer role-related support and psychosocial support to the spouses of newly elected and appointed judges. The mentors, partners of experienced judges, are matched with mentees using the following criteria: gender, community size (urban or rural) and court jurisdiction.

To enhance the skills of the mentors, Leslie M. Fine, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Marketing, Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University, and Judith B. Fountain, Director, The Women’s Place, OSU, facilitated a three-hour training.

Leslie Fine presented “Mentoring: Paying Back and Paying Forward.” She stated that mentoring is not counseling, coaching or supervision. “A mentor is someone with experience related to the role who is willing to share that experience with someone new in the role.”

Mentoring is not counseling. A counselor is a person who has a set of objective listening skills and uses those skills to allow the person being counseled to come to his/her own decision. In a mentoring relationship, the mentor shares experiences and personal opinions with the mentee who uses that information in the decision-making process. The mentor might say, “This is what I wish I had done when I first got into this.”

Mentoring is broader than coaching which is skill-based training without an emotional component. Mentoring may involve some coaching, but there is also a responsibility to engage in a caring relationship.

Mentoring is not supervision. The mentor does not tell the mentee if he/she is doing well. There is no evaluation component. The mentor offers advice and support and shares experiences.

Leslie Fine stated that the two key categories of mentoring are role-related and psychosocial. Role-related activities are specifically related to situations that a person encounters in his/her role. Psychosocial functions offer caring support and friendship to someone who is new in a role.

Judith Fountain facilitated large and small group discussions related to the components of mentoring. She offered guidelines to accomplish the mentor’s basic goal: help the mentee deal with issues in a non-emotional way. Rather than responding immediately, she suggested a mentor 1) stop; 2) step back; 3) detach; and 4) analyze. To clarify that the mentor understands the mentee’s issue, she suggested the following questions be asked:

  • Do I have enough information from the mentee to identify and understand the issue?
  • Do I understand how the issue relates to judicial family life?
  • Have I detached myself emotionally while analyzing the issue?
  • Which facts will be helpful to the mentee
  • Have I provided the mentee with resources that are appropriate to the issue?

At the conclusion of the mentor training and based on the experience, the mentors developed the following documents and program plan:

  • “Mentor Attitudes, Attributes and Skills” and “Mentor Qualities” were written.
  • The mentees will be assigned to mentors based on an “arranged marriage” model (assigned by third person who matches mentee and mentor based on specific criteria) versus a “dating” model (mentee selects mentor after spending time with all those available to mentor) due to the short timeframe available in which to make the match.
  • The “official” mentoring period will be twelve months with the knowledge, that for some, a friendship may follow.
  • If, at any time, a mentee is not comfortable with his/her assigned mentor, the Supreme Court program staff member will reassign the mentee. Each mentor/mentee team will do an evaluation after six months.
  • The OJFN Steering Committee chair, the mentor and the Supreme Court program staff member will write to each spouse of a new judge upon the judge’s election or appointment to the bench and welcome her/him to the judicial family.
  • The mentor will contact the mentee no less than quarterly.
  • The Supreme Court staff member will provide a quarterly informational piece (e.g., article, newsletter) to the mentors to be forwarded to the mentees
  • There will be a minimum of two educational programs for judicial spouses focusing on judicial family life issues.
  • There will be a Mentor Program evaluation completed after nine months, and the data will be used to revise the program for the following year