Men Mentoring Women- 8 Healthy Boundaries in the Age of #MeToo

adminMentoring, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

By Julie Kantor. Originally published 11-30-2018 on Catalyst.org (MARC site) and in the Huffington Post.

Oh, No. Not Matt Lauer! Did Russell Simmons just step down#MeToo continues and seems like a slow-motion movie that plays on and on. There is a toxic vibe in the air in Hollywood, Wall Street, on Capitol Hill, weary HR executives abound. According to an ABC News- Washington Post poll, over 33 million U.S. women have been sexually harassed and 14 million abused in work-related incidents.

In the past year, I have had several companies ask if I could do a special session for high-level male employees and managers on mentoring women.

As I reflect, I have been very fortunate in my life to have phenomenal mentors and sponsors, both male and female. One male leader gave me two life-changing ‘breaks’ including his own job when he left the company. He still mentors me decades later. I have always felt a debt to him to pay- it- forward and help others, especially those getting their corporate sea-legs.

Traveling around the country, most leaders I meet (male and female) agree that they are where they are today, because someone else mentored them, saw something in them, believed in them. These are life-changing, game-changing relationships! In facilitating mentor training sessions I’ve had the opportunity to speak with executive women in almost every industry. Most share with me that men, in particular, mentored them. Men were often in higher positions of power, generous with their time, sometimes willing to make key introductions.

“I would now tell men to just not do it [mentor women],” said Darren* a male entrepreneur I had coffee with yesterday as we discussed this article. “It’s too dangerous now with all the toxicity out there. You have to be ultra careful and conscientious with what you are saying.”

Will men pull back on mentoring and championing because they are afraid of being inappropriate? Fear the perception of having an affair? Decide only to mentor [or hire] other men? That would be a massive setback.

Additionally, in the workforce, we are moving to a new era of mentoring managers. The vast majority of Millennials want their managers to serve more as mentors and coaches as a management style. Mentoring is no longer a nice to have or a have to have, mentoring just IS. It is part of the new contract between progressive employees and employers.

Dr. Joan Soncini, Ph.D. spoke with us about how important ‘Mirroring’ is in mentoring. “We women need mirroring from male sources,” says Soncini. “Mirroring means to see yourself reflected in the eyes of the mentor (or…mother, father, husband, boyfriend, friend) as valuable: including your intelligence, capability, professionalism, attractiveness, etc.,” adds Soncini. “Women, especially need this mirroring from their fathers, so, as an extension, from male mentors too! Clearly, when the boundaries are SAFE, male mentors have a particularly strong and positive impact on the person mentored!”

As I read today about Matt Lauer’s apology as the latest #MeToo-Man-of-the-Hour, I decided that it was time to write this piece on healthy mentoring boundaries and say to men that we absolutely need you as mentors and champions.

Here are 8 recommendations:

1] JUST SAY NO– If you have a history of being accused of sexual harassment, sexual violence, you probably should find other ways to add value to the world. Don’t mentor one on one if you or your HR team feel concerned. If you are in a leadership role or management role, consider mentoring through public meetings with your team or small groups of diverse people. If you are feeling a strong physical attraction, help her find another mentor.

2] SAY YES TO MEETING IN PUBLIC– Yeah, hotel rooms are a no-go for any and all mentoring. Meet your mentee at Starbucks, in a conference room at work, have a great lunch at the new restaurant that opened up. Keep the relationship professional.

3] APPEARANCE & ASPIRATIONS– As a general rule of thumb, keep the focus on your mentee’s goals and aspirations. It’s ideal to have the mentee share 2-3 goals that are the focus of the mentoring relationship. I would keep comments about your mentee/mentor’s appearance to a minimum. “You look very professional today.” or “that’s a nice outfit.” Positively ‘mirroring’ your mentees accomplishments, efforts and sharing empathy in times of challenge are most welcomed.

4] ASK IF YOU ARE UNSURE– Ask your colleagues to help you understand what is okay or not okay. Ask for mentoring feedback. A lot has changed over the past several decades and you need to be up to speed. Something that was a compliment years ago like “spin around, let me see your new dress,” might be a threat today. Please watch this amazing video Deloitte UK put out on diversity. Best I’ve seen. STUNNING and eye-opening.

5] IT’S GREAT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR FAMILY– My mentors have been family men, and I am a family woman. They invite me to dinners or events with their kids, parents sometimes and visa-versa. They ask about my husband Marc and how my daughter is doing every time we connect. It builds lifelong friendships, trust. On the flip side, I had a potential major client behave very inappropriately after a colleague and I met with him. I used the “happily married” response following a barrage of flirtatious texts that he sent following the meeting. With over 60% women being single, I realized one should not have to use the “I have a boyfriend” response. In discussions with 8 women friends, many single, we decided a clearly stated “I do not mix business with pleasure,” was a simple option to shut down these types of advances right away.

6] KEEP IT ABOUT PROFESSIONAL GROWTH– In a professional mentoring situation, I would suggest 80%-10%-10%.

  • 80% of the conversations on things that will help your mentee professionally, please share from your own experiences and learning.
  • 10% on life, the weather, family, skydiving last weekend or what you did over vacation
  • 10% on other topics that you feel qualified to assist each other with or other shared interests

I would encourage you not to delve into your mentees personal life too much unless he/she brings it up. Ask any HR professional and they will likely have additional guidance especially for management situations.

7] AFTER 8 IS JUST TOO LATE- Alcohol and mentoring are just not a great combination. “Lead me not to temptation…” Dinners, bars 1:1 are not ideal. I know I wouldn’t want my husband’s colleagues seeing me out for dinners with a male mentor(s)/ mentees, so I opt for lunch, coffee or a group event if I am at a conference.

8] THAT’S SOMEONE’S KID OR WIFE– Remember your mentee is someone else’s daughter (or son), mother or wife. It is such a huge honor to be able to mentor someone else’s family member in the world of work and more. How would you want a mentor to treat your own daughter or son? I often think of mentees as a little brothers or sisters, a niece, someone I care for and want to see grow. She does need and value your advice. It’s an incredible gift with a lifelong impact. It’s a sacred trust.

###

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *