Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Art & Science of Mentorship

Great leadership includes mentor capabilities.

Corporate America refines mentoring as a career development strategy. It is a conscientious choice and efforts to seek excellence and breakthrough of continuous self-improvement. A great leadership includes mentoring capability, and a superior mentorship is both art and science, however, should executives be "required" to mentor others in the organization?"

1. Mentoring vs. Coaching 

Mentoring relationships range from loosely defined, informal collegial associations to structured, formal agreements between expert and novice, co-mentors where each develops professionally through the two-way transfer of experience and perspective. Whether the relationship is deemed formal or informal, the goal of mentoring is to provide career advice as well as both professional and personal enrichment.
  • Coaching: Coaching is an interactive process through which managers and supervisors aim to solve performance problems or develop employee capabilities; coaching is the subset of mentoring. Mentoring focuses on the individual and the conversation transcends more broadly into the general work life. This means the interaction can be more philosophical, more focused on attitudes and behaviors than on specific skills.
  • Mentoring vs. Coaching: A mentor is by definition someone outside of the individual's chain of command, which means that all that an executive can be asked to do for their direct reports is to look out for them, give advice and steer them along where they can - which they ought to be doing anyway. But that's more as a leadership coach, not mentoring. A mentor is someone who provides the benefit of their experience to those without, helps them navigate the politics and make choices for their career. A supervisor can't do that in a disinterested fashion. Also, a mentoring relationship depends on communication and trust, which requires a certain level of simpatico. 
  • Training vs. Coaching vs. Mentoring: Training is short-term (equipping an individual with skills to apply to immediate tasks), coaching is medium-term (guiding an individual to achieve a specific goal where the coach has goal-specific experience), mentoring is long-term (helping an individual to explore career (and sometimes life) direction options & choices where the mentor has wide-ranging business and life experience. 

2. How to Cultivate Effective Mentoring Relationship 

A mentoring relationship will work well only if it is a two-way process - whilst the mentee needs to learn from the experience of the mentor, the mentor needs to get something from the relationship too, otherwise, his/her interest will quickly evaporate - this is often learning about a subject from a different perspective, often cross-generational. 

  • Mentoring needs to be volunteering, not mandatory: Not everyone (even many top executives) makes a good mentor. There are many skills & abilities that a good business mentor needs - key amongst them are the ability to listen & observe; the ability to ask probing open questions; a degree of imagination (to put oneself in the mentee's shoes to understand his/her perspective); and an openness in discussion, allowing the mentee to lead the agenda, avoiding being too prescriptive and/or 'telling' the mentee what to do. On the other side, while many have the inbred capability or have been trained to mentor, not all have the desire to mentor others and many don't even have the time or patience to do so, so mentoring needs to be volunteering. 
  • In order for a mentoring relationship to be beneficial, there must be a good rapport between the mentor and the mentee. There's nothing worse than pairing an individual who doesn't want to be mentored with a willing mentor, or vice versa. You need two willing individuals to form a mentor and mentee relationship to enable the successful transfer of insight from the mentor to the mentee. If either is unwilling, the relationship is baseless. Not only is it up to an individual to choose whether she/he wants to be mentored, it's also important the individual is allowed to choose who they're mentored by from a list of individuals' who have agreed to be mentors, the most effective mentoring needs the participants to be open, authentic, relaxed and engaged with each other.     
  • A well established and functioning mentoring process is invaluable for an organization to develop its next-generation leaders and for the current leadership to stay attuned to the realities of their ecosystem. It has to be institutionalized and lived by the top of the organization to be successful. Focus on mentoring those outside their direct reporting line. It avoids conflict of interest and helps individuals (mentors and mentees!) to benefit from a different and independent point of views and experiences outside their reporting line.

3. Mentoring is a business Culture, not a Business Objective 

Mentorship inspires the culture of learning. There should be a balance between the organization and the individual where the responsibility for learning is concerned. The organization should be able to identify fundamental skill requirements at different levels of management and the individual must self-assess and identify what they lack to move forward and seek to learn through whatever means is made available. The format of such talent development needs to be flexible and adaptable in benefiting all parties.

  • Such mentoring and talent development can also be well embedded in organizational innovation management lifecycle, it's the practice based on mutual interest & encourages close collaboration. if one to many, it turns to be communities which can be engaged in offering ideas, besides leadership mentoring, creativity can be the other focus:
    -Select for the diversity of background, perspective, and personality;
    -Encourage appreciative inquiry;
    -Facilitate coaching up, sideways and all around;
    -Change Agent to abolish hierarchy;
    -Thought Leaders to break barriers;
    -Select for empowerment, select for curiosity, select for low ego;
    -Love the clash of ideas, love listening, love being wrong, love 
  • Great leadership includes mentor capabilities. By mentoring you are showing that you value others, and in order to add value to others, you need to hold people in high regards, not only for who they are but for the potential that lies inside of them. Great leaders should be ideal mentors, but mentoring less experienced people is a key task for senior managers and executives. If the leaders are not willing to mentor the next generation of leaders, it will lead to reduced competitiveness and effectiveness and suboptimal business results. But you need to understand where people are and where they want to go in order to be an effective leader. Listening is a key skill that will allow you to learn about those you are leading and then help them toward where they want to go, or where you need them to go. 
  • The process is important, but not about too much structure: Otherwise, the requirement probably won’t work very well. So if you instill it in your business at the grassroots level, you will see enormous benefits. People feel engaged by mentoring they don't by training. Also, make sure you have technology in the place of an enterprise social network so that you can quickly socialize the mentoring process across your business, you will see a reduction in the turnover of staff, the rise of innovation and ideation and an improvement in client services and business agility. 
In summary, mentorship is both art & science, it inspires the culture of learning, build the effective leadership team, improve agility in the organization, this is vital to achieving the vision and mission of the enterprise.


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