It is not easy for people to navigate their way through the maze of the business environment.
There is always a way but sometimes the path is unclear.
If you look at your career or life now wouldn’t it have been nice to have had a little bit more information or direction before you made the decisions you did or the direction you took.
One of the most productive, cost effective, under-used development tool to navigate this maze for individuals is mentorship.
People get confused on what mentorship is.
Mentorship is not about someone showing you the mechanics on how you get through the maze.
Mentorship is a relationship between a mentor and mentee that is intended to help develop the mentee’s thinking and perspective so that it enhances their decision making as they navigate the maze.
A productive mentorship relationship can be the beacon of light that guides an individual through the intricacies of surviving and thriving in a work maze.
I’ll come back to the maze analogy shortly.
Early in my career I did not have a mentor (at least a formal one).
As I look back that is one piece that I know would have helped me develop quicker than I did.
However, I did have the opportunity to formally mentor many individuals.
This extremely positive experience solidified my belief that mentoring is a critical development tool that all organizations should have if they value their employees.
In my experience, mentoring programs provide at least 7 benefits to the organization and to the employees.
Benefits of Mentorship Programs:
- Retain and attract top talent. Good people are hard to find and hard to keep. Companies need to continue to find ways to provide more learning opportunities for their employees and the good employees look for companies that provide this developmental opportunity.
- Cost effective. The cost of losing top talent far outweighs the time committed to mentorship.
- Provides a broader perspective. We are all guilty of operating in silos and mentorships can give a mentee a far more rounded and informed perspective which results in better decisions.
- Stronger business results. It is a known fact that engaged employees produce better results.
- Easier access to information. There is so much about a company that can be learned in a conversation. Especially from a person who looks through a wider lens than you.
- Recognition. The fact that anyone is selected to be a mentor or a mentee can be very motivating and rewarding.
- Positive people culture. Continuously implementing people development programs shows a commitment and investment in employees.
The ideal situation in an organization has a formal mentorship program.
Formal mentorship programs should have the following clearly outlined:
- Selection criteria for both mentors and mentees
- Role of the mentee
- Role of the mentor
- Proposed structure for meetings
- Recommendation for frequency of meetings (i.e. 1hr each month)
- Confidentiality commitment
Not everyone can have a formal mentor and not everyone can be or should be a mentor.
Title does not give you the right to be a mentor.
Selecting mentors is just as important as selecting who gets a mentor.
Qualities of a Great Mentor:
- Truly wants to be a mentor.
- Believes in the talent management process.
- Comes with credibility and is able to draw on their experiences and provide insights.
- Proven listeners.
- They are genuine and they care.
The pairing of the mentee and mentor is critical.
The relationship needs to be a “safe zone” for the mentee and trust plays a key element in the success.
Mentors do not have to have exactly the same career path as the mentee and should in fact be from a different department.
The relationship is not built on the technical aspect of how to do a job and therefore the mentor only needs to understand the mentee’s role vs the details of how to do that role.
The relationship is built on the dialogue that comes from the mentee presenting questions or scenarios and looking to a mentor to provide a perspective.
A great mentor listens to these questions and scenarios and then asks the mentee what their take is or what action should be taken.
This allows the mentor to endorse the direction that a mentee would take or provide other options that they might want to think about.
Using their experience, the mentor can ask thoughtful questions that may help the mentee look at a situation a bit differently and therefore come up with potentially a different conclusion.
Topics can range from career planning, dealing with difficult situations, relationships, corporate politics or even work/life balance.
The topics are not limited but they should be focused on the areas that a mentee needs to develop.
Not every company has a formal mentoring program (which I think they should!).
That should not prevent anyone from seeking out an informal mentor relationship.
It is important to seek out your manager’s support.
Your manager should have good insight as to who would be a good fit based on the criteria above.
In my mind, it shows good initiative if an employee is seeking a mentor relationship to assist in their development.
Let’s go back to the maze analogy.
Mentoring does not provide a clear path to the end of the maze.
Mentoring provides an experienced perspective of how to effectively navigate through the maze.
It allows you to lift yourself up and look at the maze from a higher level which gives you a different perspective that can allow you to plot another course or to course correct where necessary.
Overall, mentoring should be a great experience for both the mentor and mentee.
For the mentor it is a chance to give back and be part of an individual’s personal development who will ideally be the future of the company.
For the mentee it is an opportunity to tap into a wealth of knowledge and experience that can’t be learned in manuals.
Many very successful people point to their mentor or mentors as one of the main contributors to their success in business or in life.
Take control, get a mentor because it can be aMAZing!!
Photo Courtesy of Tim Green