April 21, 2015

Why I Choose to Mentor

For longer than I care to admit sometimes (20+ years), I have been working full time. I was lucky and I was given the opportunity to manage teams early on in my career. And this early start to management allowed me to gain needed experience and build a proficiency that comes from 10,000 hours of practice.

And, for me, one of the most rewarding parts of management is mentoring and coaching. I enjoy the process of helping people to clarify their goals, understand their strengths, take on new challenges and successfully build needed skills and capabilities. It is really gratifying to help someone grow and see them meet (and crush!) their career goals.

Harvard Business Review recently that Millennials value mentoring highly. These young professionals are ambitious and crave the feedback that will help them succeed. Especially useful and valuable is “micro feedback” - where a mentor’s input and feedback is provided regularly and not just at official performance review times. This kind of real-time input can be the most effective because of increased relevancy and specificity of the feedback.

HBR also suggests Millennials value micro-mentoring versus a broader, more encompassing 1:1 mentoring engagement. Much like micro and real-time feedback, micro-mentoring provides the protege needed help around a particular challenge over a given timeframe with the best mentor for that situation. This approach also allows young professionals to craft a kind-of career ‘board of directors’ with different skills, expertise and networks which are open to helping them at different times across a long career.

In addition to mentoring the people I am fortunate to work closely with, I also choose to mentor with Everwise. Everwise engages with companies with rising leaders (proteges) and connects them with mentors who work outside the protege’s company.

And while I’m not knocking internal mentorship programs, it’s been my experience that there is something special that can happen when a protege feels she can talk freely and openly about her professional goals and struggles with a mentor who has no ties with her organization. She knows I am 100% in her corner and that my advice and feedback is not at all biased by any internal politics or other agendas.

It is also helpful for them to see that the challenges they are personally facing are, in fact, very common ones faced by many women in most organizations, and that it’s not something unique to them. This insight and understanding can open them up to finding new ways to break out of old patterns and to trying new approaches that can be more successful.

As a protege, if you need another reason to look outside your own organization for a mentor, Gallup research shows us that just 1 in 10 people have the innate talent to be a “good” manager where a good one takes the time to get to know their team’s strengths and actively works on their development. This situation puts too many up and coming “good ones” at risk of being neglected, under-developed or even burnt out by “limited” managers.

Finally, if you’re one of the “good” ones, or just think you have some key experience and may have something to offer, you should consider seeking out mentoring opportunities beyond just your immediate team. Be open to it and connect with someone and work together to help them succeed. I expect it will be a positive experience for both of you.