At Twomentor, we share bi-weekly thought leadership from phenomenal executives and social entrepreneurs focused on: a diverse skilled workforce, social impact entrepreneurship, mentoring cultures, sponsorship and elevating women in STEM careers. This week, I am thrilled to share incredible gems of wisdom from a woman I admire greatly. Dr. Lois Zachary, president of Leadership Development Services LLC is an internationally recognized expert on mentoring and has been cited as “one of the top 100 minds in leadership” today. You’ve likely seen mention of Dr. Zachary’s books, or read her quotes, in The New York Times, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Inc.magazine, T&D, Leadership Excellence, The Chronicle of Higher Education, or other business and leadership news outlets. We had dinner recently in Washington DC and an enlightening conversations on how the field is evolving:
Julie Kantor (JK): First of all, thank you for being a mentor of mentors and all you have built! I’d like to speak with you about then versus now. What is the current state of corporate mentoring from your perspective?
Dr. Lois Zachary (LZ): I believe that mentoring continues to expand and deepen its reach, especially globally. More and more organizations are adopting a strategic rather than a programmatic approach to mentoring. The payback on an organization’s investment in mentoring is huge. Here are just a few to keep in mind:
1. Mentoring drives recruitment of future talent.
2. Mentoring contributes to increased retention rate of talent.
3. Mentoring breaks down silos and expands knowledge within the organization.
4. Mentoring promotes inclusion and promotes opportunities for everyone to learn and benefit from the diversity within an organization.
5. Mentoring helps ease job transition and avoid common pitfalls – ensuring continuity of competence in times of changing roles.
6. Mentoring contributes to promoting a more connected, engaged, aligned and productive workplace.
JK: Well said. For so many companies I speak with the question has been ‘have to have’ or ‘nice to have.’ Lois, How would you define a mentoring culture and please share about your book on the topic…
LZ: This is a great question for me since I’ve spent much of my career working with organizations to create and grow mentoring cultures. I’ve even written a book about it! In Creating a Mentoring Culture (Jossey-Bass) I’ve provided step-by-step guidance, practical advice, stories, and included reproducible forms and tools to speed the process along.
The presence of a mentoring culture is an indicator of organizational vitality. Mentoring becomes so tightly woven into the fabric of organizational life that it seamlessly informs the way business is accomplished. At its best, a mentoring culture enriches the vibrancy and productivity of an organization and the people within it. It also creates a continuum of expectation that raises the standards and consistency of good mentoring practice.
JK: As I shared, a lot of companies are focused on their more senior executives and building sponsorship initiatives. Many have shared with me that they are skeptical or shying away from mentoring… What are your thoughts?
LZ: Even if a company doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, informal mentoring is always in motion. I believe that when it comes to developing more senior executives, it is not a case of “mentoring or.” Rather it is about “mentoring and.” As I mentioned before, there are compelling strategic advantages for embracing mentoring. I don’t agree that companies are shying away from mentoring and if they do, it is temporary due to changes within the company and the need to deploy budgets elsewhere.
JK: I couldn’t agree with you more ”mentoring and”! What has been the most fulfilling aspects of building your company the last couple of years?
LZ: We are fortunate to have so many fulfilling aspects to choose from. Notably, our work has expanded globally (and so have our frequent flyer miles!). We’ve enhanced our mentoring training programs by including modules that enhance mentor and mentee skills in recognizing, leveraging and bridging differences. Lisa Fain has come on board as Assistant Director and added her expertise in diversity strategy and cross-cultural competency to our work in promoting effective mentoring.
The Center for Mentoring Excellence’s success is built on team creativity, collaboration and commitment. Our mutual fulfillment stems from working with each other and with clients who share that spirit. At the end of the day what matters most to us is facilitating the development and growth of our clients (individuals and organizations). We feel it is a privilege to serve them and all of us find it very fulfilling.