So, you´ve been thinking about your career potential recently and how you can grow professionally. You have some ideas in mind, but where do you start? How do you find the guidance and support you need and get introduced into the right networks? Or perhaps you´ve already gained a certain amount of seniority in your field and are ready for the new challenge of taking someone with less experience under your wing? Maybe you´re in senior management and have identified a lack of leadership skills in your team or department? How can you work towards addressing these gaps? Mentoring is a powerful solution.
Being part of or setting up a business mentoring program can be extremely effective both on an individual level and to contributing towards the department or company´s business strategy and objectives as a whole.
Tell me more about the benefits?
Who benefits from a business mentoring relationship? Everyone who´s involved!
Benefits for the Mentee
- Working closely with a more experienced or knowledgeable person to provide feedback and advice for their continued career and professional development.
- A forum to brainstorm ideas, communicate concerns and receive support.
- Gain insight into the company culture and a develop a broader perspective on the business, including learning about departments, teams or technologies outside of their radar.
- Get introduced by their mentor to key players and leaders in the business and expand their professional network.
- Improved productivity, sense of purpose and engagement in the company.
- Collaborate with a supportive ally who will help them put together a focused plan for professional development directly related to skills, knowledge, and most importantly, create timely follow up actions.
- Increase chances of promotion – when someone know where they are going, are shown the tools and take action to get there, the probability of success is much higher.
Benefits for the Mentor:
- Opportunity to play an important role in empowering and developing people.
- Personal satisfaction of guiding and sharing their professional experiences with another member of the company.
- Learn from someone who has a “fresh” perspective regarding the company and culture.
- Increased awareness of issues and concerns in the company that perhaps no longer personally affect them.
- Opportunity to use and develop their own leadership skills with employees outside of their team.
- Enhanced and strengthened interpersonal and coaching skills through learning to work more as a facilitator rather than in a instructional way. This is a key skill for mentors.
- Improved listening – learning to listen better and asking follow up questions to truly understand the nature of the issue.
- Improved empathy – remembering what it´s like to be in the shoes of a more junior employee.
Benefits for the Organization
- Positive impact on employee retention – a lack of mentoring is one of the reasons top performers leave a company. The support received through mentoring is a factor that encourages them to stay and grow. Organizations also feel the impact financially. Less money is spent on training and recruiting replacements, which affects the bottom line in a positive way.
- Attract higher caliber talent – This is linked to the previous point. A large percentage of today’s workforce, particularly millennials, state that development opportunities are very important to them when searching for a new job. Retaining productive people along with recruiting quality talent can only be a win-win for any business.
- Improve company culture – Motivated employees who feel that they are progressing and being heard usually help to build a healthier company culture for all.
- Promote diversity and inclusion – diversity benefits everyone, but it has also been proven to drive innovation and financial results for companies, which is why large organizations are starting to set up mentoring programs dedicated to improving diversity.
- Empower new leaders – mentoring programs have demonstrated that they can boost hard skills needed for the position, focus on soft skills such as assertiveness, communication, delegation, amongst others, and improve work quality of emerging leaders. This not only sets managers up for success but also leads to significant gains for the organization.
And now for the downside
As with everything, there´s always a downside, and mentoring is no exception. It wouldn’t be fair to claim otherwise. Here are a few of the potential pitfalls in the mentoring relationship to consider:
- Choosing/being assigned to the wrong mentor/mentee – the importance of finding someone who has common personal or professional interests and aligns with skillset is not to be underestimated. It can make or break the success of the partnership.
- Not finding time to meet regularly – this is a common issue as everyone is “busy”. We need to commit to a regular time slot to grow the relationship.
- Not setting clear goals and expectations at the beginning of the mentoring relationship. The mentee should always have an end goal in mind and know what they want to work on, or the meetings will lose focus.
- Issues with dependence – mentees can become too dependent on the approval of their mentors, stifling their own growth and productivity.
- It can take time to develop skilled mentors – if there is no investment in training and encouragement from the executive team, it will be very difficult to build a solid, effective program.
Mentoring is not for everyone, and it probably shouldn’t be. It´s not a one size fits all approach. Neither is it a “cure all” nor a replacement for specialist training programs or a viable business strategy and mission. A valuable mentoring experience is dependent on the time, effort and commitment of all parties involved. As well as the Mentee and the Mentor, it requires strong sponsorship and support from the Senior Management team.
It´s crucial that regular meetings dedicated to careful planning and monitoring of goals and objectives take place, including clear future action points so that the momentum is not lost. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is that the mentor/mentee relationship needs to be the right fit. Without this key element the whole process can indeed be a waste of everyone´s time. And that would be a pity, because when done right, mentoring can truly be a beneficial and inspiring tool.