Are You Mentor-Able?

Written by Julie Kantor and Karen Osborn, Twomentor

Moving into the challenging professional world is an intimidating journey but thankfully, it doesn’t need to be tackled alone.

Mentorship, from academic to professional settings, is an active and involved process, but the benefits are well worth the effort. According to a survey carried out by Micromentor.org, mentored individuals and entrepreneurs significantly outperformed those who don’t receive mentoring. Additionally, a study conducted by the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) revealed that 75% of executives point to mentoring as playing a key role in their careers.

Makes sense! But what we view as a given (that mentoring is happening informally at our companies) is not actually a given. In fact, as we travel the globe running the Mentor Road Trip™ mentor training sessions, we have witnessed firsthand at women’s conferences, at leadership development conferences, at HR executive conferences, at conferences focused on Millennials and multi-gen workforce that well under 50% of attendees answer YES when asked this simple question “Do you have or have you had a professional mentor?”

So how does one go about finding and building a mentoring relationship? Here are five things to focus on when starting your journey:

  1. Be Proactive, Committed, and Clarify Your Needs

Mentorship can happen organically, but that is the exception, not the rule. In order to maximize your options, be diligent in figuring out what you are looking for and what your professional or personal goals are. Being passive causes way too much confusion in these budding relationships. Spend an hour and write down 3-5 goals. Reflect on how a mentor can best help you move your vision forward? In what specific areas are you looking for guidance? If you’re just looking for a mentor to advance you the next job, that’s not really mentoring. That’s sponsorship.

So where’s the love? People are so isolated at work, so hidden behind computer screens, often unclear how to navigate the professional seas riddled with jellyfish and mysterious sea animals. Asking someone to be a mentor is an investment in your well being… and theirs. A mentor can make you feel plugged in, connected again. That someone out there cares about you and your professional trajectory. This is a big ask that’s mutually rewarding. You need to invest too with your best foot forward. A study by the Journal of Organization Behavior demonstrates that mentored individuals reported having more satisfaction, career mobility/opportunity, recognition and an overall higher promotion rate than non-mentored individuals. A mentor can help you to develop skills, offer career advice, and enhance your network amongst other things, but you again, you first need to understand and determine your own aspirations in order to figure out what type of person will be the best fit. Once you have determined these goals, you can start thinking about your network for ‘fit’ or ask people for introductions. I [Julie] want to scale my company for example, so I started asking people I respect who would be a good mentor to help me specifically with scalability strategy for 3 – 6 months. Start simple, by inviting a prospective mentor for a cup of coffee, tea or lunch, and share upfront that you would love their advice on a few things. Think of this as a first professional date to determine if you can learn from this person, that they want to open up their mental world to you and make sure you have a good and honest rapport.

  1. Work on Being Very “Mentor-Able”

Mentorship is a multi-dimensional relationship, and the value of a mentor-mentee relationship comes from applicable knowledge being shared between the two. If you are unwilling to take advice, constructive criticism, or be flexible in your thinking, having a mentor will likely not be a good fit for you. Openness, candor, honesty, listening… all ingredients to this delicate recipe. When looking for a mentor, look for someone that you will work well with, and make sure that you are willing to do your part to be a good mentee. In fact, you will need to take a leadership role in many aspects of this relationship. A study by the National Institute of Health found that the five main characteristics of successful mentoring relationships include: reciprocity, mutual respect, clear expectations, personal connection, and shared values. One thing about being very mentor-able is that your mentor will be much more likely to want to introduce you to other people and keep you in mind for opportunities in the future that might benefit you. Additionally, your mentor might talk about you to other influencers down the line based on your willingness to learn, grow and follow up on good advice towards your goals. If you are headstrong and difficult to work with, your mentor might not want to invest as much time or put their reputation on the line on behalf of you. Never be late for your sessions/meetings.

  1. Focus on Your Relationship Structure

You will need to actively and regularly communicate with your mentor, shadow them if possible, and actively pursue educational or professional opportunities with them. We suggest at least one meeting a month for 60-90 minutes. We view in person as best, but a Skype, FaceTime or Zoom online coffee call is fine too. Better to see each other live and really focus… not have someone checking out the latest news on CNN or schedules their next teeth cleaning in the middle of the call. The success of your mentorship relies on the effort you put in, including good follow up, being on time, and don’t expect to find a mentor and have everything happen toward your goals overnight. One thing we see a lot at Twomentor is that people get together but it’s unclear who is supposed to lead the relationship. The mentor expects the mentee to reach out, or the mentee comes to a meeting with no specific questions, goals, or focus. There needs to be some structure, including clear objectives you want to focus on with your mentor. We suggest you write up a one-page vision of how you want to grow and specifics on how your mentor can help you with your goals. It is important that you come to your meeting(s) prepared and with specific discussion topics or questions you have. We suggest you set up your next meeting on the spot when you are together. Keep track of your work and actions so your mentor knows you are taking his/her time seriously and so you have clarity regarding your progress.

  1. No Challenge… No Real Growth

We saw a great quote on Pinterest today, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.” We often grow the most when we are in pain or challenged. If you are not willing to challenge your limits and expand your perspectives, you will not be able to get the most out of your mentor relationship. One of the most important aspects of mentorship is the ability to learn from the experience of your mentor, and apply their lessons to your current and future personal and professional situations. A mentor should continually challenge and push you in order to grow and develop both professionally and as an individual. There is much more value in honest feedback of your strengths and areas of improvements than there is in simple encouragement. Both are valuable, don’t get me wrong. A mentor will be more comfortable offering this type of feedback if they think you genuinely want it. So ask for it. Mentorship fosters personal and professional development, as noted by a Wharton/Gartner study on Sun Microsystems (2006), where employees who received mentoring were promoted five times more often than those who did not! Additionally, mentors and mentees both had 20% higher retention rates at the company… a WIN/WIN/WIN for the mentor, mentee, and the company better retaining good people.

  1. More Than One?

Some people refer to this as having an internal board of advisors. Different mentors have different strengths, experiences, networks, and perspectives. Therefore, they will serve as a mentor to you in different ways or on different priorities you want to focus on. For example, a mentor who is great for supporting creative ideas will help you differently than another who can guide you through business growth and financial planning. A study by the Journal of Applied Social Psychology on internal versus external organizational mentors found that mentoring relationships within an organization serve to provide mentees with career and psychosocial support, while external mentorship relationships focus more on networking and personal development. The better perspectives and different styles of mentorship you are exposed to, the more you will be able to adapt what you learn to your own personal and professional needs. When looking for a mentor, don’t disregard someone because they are not an expert in all of the areas you’re looking to grow in. Rather, find experts in different fields, and make a few of them your mentors.

There is so much more we can discuss on being mentor-able, but we want to leave you with one last tip.

Show the love (or gratitude). Do something nice for your mentor. Show appreciation each step of the journey. Bring him a Cappuccino, buy her breakfast, send a handwritten card reflecting on something you learned, say thank you. Good friends are worth their weight in gold. A good mentor might be a professional lifeline for you today or a bridge to your success tomorrow.

Four Key Benefits of Workplace Mentoring Initiatives

Co-written with A. Crosser

Q: What increases employees’ education and learning; saves company high turnover costs; develops leadership and management skills; and saves people time and money to focus on the big priorities?

A: Workplace Mentoring

When examining companies and how they became remarkably successful, one trait which stands above many others: successful companies have excellent leaders, and with excellent leaders come excellent employees. Leadership and guidance is very important to success in nearly every field, and workplace mentoring is one way to provide personalized leadership for both new and tenured employees. Skills-based Mentoring is part of on boarding to teach new executives the company ropes and to help them excel and grow as they continue their position.

Mentoring programs are becoming increasingly popular in workplaces, as they help in reducing turnover, promoting growth, and overall help employees adjust to new positions as well as become prepared to move up in the company. We shared earlier that over 79% of Millennials see mentoring as crucial to their career success. According to Chronus Corporation, over 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer mentoring programs, showing that mentoring programs are becoming a standard in many workplaces. This begs the question, why are so many successful businesses incorporating mentoring programs, and what benefits do mentoring programs offer?

  1. Education and Learning

There is no debate that educated, well-trained employees produce better results in the workplace than employees who lack knowledge and training. Nearly 80 percent of all learning is considered to be informal, meaning that it is not done by reading or taking classes, but rather by learning on the job and from others. By introducing mentoring programs, businesses can ensure that their employees are able to complete their work with knowledge of the field and their position. Mentors will elevate and escalate “knowledge transfer,” which is useful in shortening a learning curve in the workplace, meaning that companies can have highly-productive employees in a much shorter period of time then they would have had mentors not been implemented.

  1. Reducing Turnover Rates

One of the main benefits of mentoring programs is that mentors can play a major role in reducing the turnover of employees, meaning that the company will not have to invest in training new employees as often as they would with a higher turnover. Diversity & Inclusion leader Dresdene Flynn-White shared with us that the loss of one good employee costs on average a years salary. By providing personalized advice to a mentee, a mentor can help to ensure that employees will work through any frustrations or concerns they may have, help them build the skills they need for success, encouraging them to stay with the company and grow there for a longer period of time. By keeping employee turnover rates low, companies will continually have experienced personnel, rather than the burden of constantly training new employees to replace those who left.

 

  1. Development of Leadership and Management Skills

Having employees who are ready to step into management positions in the business with minimal training is highly valuable, as it reduces the need for external hiring, ultimately saving the company time and money. By implementing a mentoring initiative, mentors can assist in teaching leadership skills to employees showing potential for future leadership positions. In addition, mentors reduce turnover rates, meaning that providing mentors for high potential employees will improve the chances of them staying with the company long enough to progress into a leadership position, reducing the need for outside hires.

  1. Time Savings and Focus

Implementing mentorship strategies is an excellent way to save time in the workplace. By implementing mentors, employees with questions or concerns can often work with the mentor on a resolution or answer, reducing the time needed to get tasks finished, which overall improves productivity. Mentors also reduce the formal training necessary for new employees; by providing new employees with a ‘project-based’ mentor, they can learn on the job, rather than in a training room. Managers and bosses will can therefore spend more time working on tasks more imperative to the success of the company, making mentoring a win-win for the employees and the company leaders alike.

So bottom line, mentoring can be a WIN/WIN/WIN (for the company, the mentor, and the mentee) but it has to be imbedded formally into the culture of the company. A need to have, not a nice to have. Additionally, recognizing & valuing employees who take time to mentor and those who lead the initiatives needs to be on every HR and team leader’s priority list.

References:

http://chronus.com/resources/daimler-trucks-reinvents-corporate-mentoring-program

http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2012/04/19/peer-mentoring

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1736

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/benefit-company-gain-mentoring-programs-20665.html#

https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/the-importance-of-having-a-mentor-in-business

Julie Kantor is the CEO of Twomentor, LLC a management consulting firm that provides mentor training, strategy and global speaking to elevate women and millennials in STEM.

Mentoring Culture is Good for Business

“I am leaving my company,” Bridgette, a very senior executive told us.

“We just don’t have a mentoring culture.”

In this world of GO, GO, GO productivity and massive technology dependence (or can I boldly go ahead and say, addiction), it becomes harder for people to take out time for each other. The ROI, the business case for mentoring is also not always clear to industry (ie. is it good? vs. is it good for business?)

“I just started here, and no one can explain to me how to use our Microsoft Lync platform.”

“I don’t know what I am being measured on and the other interns don’t either. I came here for experience.”

“I haven’t spoke to my hiring manager yet and its been 10 days.”

“Our girls need role models of women in IT.”

Concerns such as lack of time, lack of formal programming at the company, belief that one doesn’t have the skills to be a professional mentor are often cited for not engaging or saying “no” to this important role.

But the process of mentoring can be a great asset to the company. Both good for the people involved and good for the company.

In one Gartner/Wharton study, employees who mentored were promoted six times more often than their peers who did not mentor; mentees were promoted five times more; 25 percent of employees who mentor received a salary grade change in comparison to 5 percent of employees who didn’t. Lastly, employees who participated in a mentoring program had a retention rate 20 percent higher than those who did not mentor, and over 68 percent of mentors and mentees stayed at the company after five years.

Experiential learning is where it’s at. It’s one thing to hear about the world of work, it’s another thing to be swimming without a life vest in what feels like shark infested waters. A mentor can help their mentee enjoy the swim, dodge the jellyfish, jump up on a Jet Ski, and experience how not to just survive but thrive in a new career. Do you remember your first swim? Did someone champion you and help you navigate?

With the “I don’t have time to mentor,” concern. I can relate. This is why I am a big fan of internships and job-shadowing. I mentor about a dozen young men and women and feel our interns in the office get my best and more time. Short coffee breaks here and there work. Sure, we can sit in the conference room for 30 minutes after the staff meeting and go over your action plan for the week, vision and troubleshoot an area you are challenged.

Brandon Busteed at Gallup said “Mentor Duty is the new Jury Duty,” and also taught us that there is a big big (actually huge) divide between how prepared college Presidents believe their students are for work and how corporate leaders feel.

I do believe it’s our civic duty to teach, mentor and hopefully sponsor when interns come to learn. Online mentoring coupled with face-to-face works too. Thanks to our visionary CEO we hire many of these interns as part of an on-boarding strategy and we are able to test drive talent to see if a good fit for our company and culture.

And by the way, they reverse mentor me on collaboration, technology, use of social networks and so much more.

YOLO. JUST DO IT. Start now with just 30 minutes a week. I don’t know how else to put it, we all want to work for a company that has a mentoring/coaching culture. Those companies will retain their workforces significantly more.

In a non-mentoring environment people tend to swim in fear, visualize the fins around, likely want to leave, or worse join the silent majority who are not engaged in their work and drift through their days. That is not good for business.

Julie Kantor is the CEO of Twomentor, LLC. Follow her @JulieKantorSTEM She writes ongoing blogs on STEM, Entrepreneurship, Education and Technology for Huffington Post HERE

A Resource to help you get started . Here is an action guide geared toward mentoring in areas of Science, Technology Engineering and Math.

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