Mentoring is one of the most significant steps a leader can take to build an employee or potential employee’s current and future organizational value.
Most seasoned leaders hold a warm place in their hearts for the one or two people who pushed them to grow-up professionally. Mentors give logic to organizational values and protocols. They share their networks and perhaps most importantly, they unveil the unwritten rules of the game—those components of organizational success necessary for effective navigation through the environment.
By helping the protégé to understand and deal with the more subjective aspects of corporate life, wisdom is groomed into the young executive who learns how to sway the opinion of a particular decision-maker; how to deal effectively with a feuding cross-functional team; how to ask for a raise, how to know when it’s time to make a career move. Over time, this process yields discernment, leadership skills and influence. But let’s not sentimentalize the pairing of the mentor and his or her charge. Both parties should give considerable thought to what a successful mentoring relationship entails.
Mentors should consider, am I ready to mentor? While most people are flattered to be asked to become a mentor, it’s not an appointment for which everyone is suited. The checklist below offers an honest assessment of one’s readiness to commit to the role.
“Does the mentor have the time?” Effective mentoring has more to do with the quality of time than the number of hours spent. While needs will vary based on the nature of the support to be rendered, it takes time to build trust, provide coaching and to share wisdom.
“Does the mentor have genuine interest?” The mentor must hold a personal value for talent development. Effectiveness comes through the capacity to provide both information and inspiration non-possessively.
“Is the mentor prepared to serve?” The job typically comes with no formal authority. The mentor must let the protégé make his or her own decisions and live with the consequences. That’s a natural, necessary and difficult component of helping the individual to develop personal responsibility and confidence.
On the other side of the coin, protégés should consider, am I mentor-ready? Because so much is on the line for the business – namely productivity and profitability – and for mentors personally – time, energy and reputation – it’s appropriate to expect certain attributes to be demonstrably in place.
The checklist below describes the three distinctive qualities that in-house mentors look for in the people they sponsor.
“Does the protégé love the work?” The mentor wants to know the individual is prepared to make a long-term commitment to the company. This is not only a matter of pride and loyalty, it’s a matter of ROI.
“Does the protégé display emotional control?” If the individual cracks under the strain of deadlines and challenging problems, the mentor assumes s/he does not have sufficient stamina to withstand the rigors of corporate life at upper levels.
“Is the protégé cut out for leadership?” The protégé must learn and follow the unwritten rules of the game if promotion is expected. Becoming good at the socio-political process is what converts a high performer into a high potential.