by Candie Harris
Mentoring is all over recent headlines with stories touting its
positive effects. President Obama launched a fatherhood mentoring initiative in
June and recognized the winners of the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring organization
in an Oval Office ceremony. Canada's Afghan forces are garnering news coverage
as well, with soldiers teaming with Afghan counterparts in mentoring
relationships while in-country peace-keeping.
These stories reflect the positive face of mentoring. But is mentoring
always a plus? The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece entitled
"When Mentoring Goes Bad" (May 24, 2010). Reading the piece gave me pause. In
my 20 year career I've been lucky enough to have had both smart, instructive
mentors and mentees. Looking back on
why these relationships succeeded, I realized they were navigated using what could
be dubbed the "Three Cs": collaboration, clarity and communication.
successful relationship is a two-way street; the best mentor/protégé
relationships recognize that each partner has something to offer as well as something
to gain. While mentors are typically established leaders giving their counsel
and time to promising up-and-comers, it's important that the relationship be
differences in experience and seniority, a mentoring relationship is that of
two equals, working together as a team to advance mutually-agreed upon goals.
Seasoned business leaders have wisdom to impart but can also benefit from a
younger colleague's familiarity with newer technology and the latest global
business practices. Learn from each other's strengths.
Be sure to
set the relationship up as partnership: don't let one partner do all the giving
or dominate the relationship. If the relationship is lopsided, one person may
feel drained by the demands, the other that their potential is overlooked.
Successful outcomes require clear goals. Before establishing a
mentoring relationship, both parties need to understand what is required to
produce a beneficial collaboration.
Partners should have a basic rapport and affinity even before
establishing a more formal mentoring relationship. Keep in mind that partnerships
can devolve if work styles are too dissimilar. An "in the weeds" micromanager
is going to have trouble successfully mentoring a "big picture thinker" and
vice versa. Similarly a workaholic may clash with a nine-to-fiver.
It's also helpful to articulate a framework for the relationship. Are
the partners working toward a set goal? Is there a timeframe for the
relationship? Try to achieve as much clarity as possible upfront.
Ambiguity can lead to disconnect and hurt feelings. And both
mentor/mentee should be "in for a penny, in for a pound." If one partner loses
steam or has too busy a workload to truly commit time, the other partner
Communication is key in any relationship. Mentors and mentees can't
exchange information through osmosis. Don't let a promising relationship run
off the rails due to a lack of communication.
Consider formalizing communications. Agree to meet once a week, or
once a month; find a communication calendar that suits both parties' schedules.
Feedback needs to flow both ways, not just top down. Mentors can also learn
from their protégés; improving leadership skills and acquiring a communications
conduit for ear-to-the-ground information.
Keep communications honest. Give your partner the courtesy of
constructive criticism when warranted. After all you can't fix what you don't
know is broken. And smart partners want a mentor/mentee relationship to help
professional development so keep information flowing.
Finally, communicate and advocate on behalf of your partner. The best
partnerships not only enhance professional skills, they are a vehicle for
promoting each other's success. A mentor can provide valuable advice defining a
career path and be an unparalled advocate for their protégé's advancement
through the ranks. Similarly, protégés can not only help a partner hone
leadership skills, they can promote their mentor's leadership qualities to a
A Push in the Right Direction
said that "mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to
listen, and a push in the right direction." To get the most from mentoring,
employ the "Three Cs" and watch how they come together to produce a fourth:
What a joy to find somneoe else who thinks this way.
tpk772 Not bad post, but a lot of extra !!...
68X7nI Stupid article..!
Beyond FoldersTM is written by a team of Pendaflex associates
passionate about time management, communications, productivity and workplace organization. Believing in "continuous improvement" on both a personal and professional level, they share their unique perspectives on subjects of common interest to our readers.