Save yourself and your company money…get mentoring!
December 20, 2016 | Jason Futers
When I look back over my career, there are many moments I would describe as pivotal when I think purely from the perspective of my professional development. These moments marked a successful project, a new client, or a non-descript sentence that truly resonated with me. I’m fortunate to have had many of them, and of course I hope to have many more.
I've reflected a lot on my career over the past two years and I realise that many of these instances are simply the resume highlights of my career. Not to dismiss them at all. They are vital and on many occasions gave me energy and drive to keep challenging myself. However, the real work happened somewhere else... For me, and I believe for many others, the real progress happens in one to one meetings.
I have been privileged to work with many great teams through my career. Great teams require individuals with a wide range of skills and qualities. Qualities such as honesty, integrity and humility were common denominators throughout. Skills were wide-ranging and in same cases truly exceptional.
Even the most exceptional talent requires nurturing, and from my experience the most exceptional individuals require the most attention, the most nurturing, the most mentoring. I have spent at least half of my career in one to one meetings - either in person or through technology - helping with specific tasks and challenges, often providing support for non-work issues, and very regularly providing career guidance.
I mentored people every single day. I had no guidance or structure to work to, just a general sense of everyone enjoying their work and being part of the team. Anecdotes and results would suggest I was good at it. Unfortunately though, in the cold light of day, I'm unable to point to quantitative evidence of success regarding the mentoring itself.
And that's one of the challenges with mentoring. Mentoring happens a lot within most companies, in all industries, in all countries. However, it's often fraught with challenges. The process is inconsistent. Measurement is difficult. People are assigned mentors even if they'd rather work with someone else.
The mentor is often the manager, and I think we would all agree that not all managers are blessed with mentoring skills. And, sadly, mentoring programs often just run out of steam before momentum is built or progress is made.
The lack of traction with mentoring programs is a huge shame; a waste of time, effort and positive intent. I also believe it's an inefficient use of company resources. The wasted opportunity to engage, grow and retain talent, is significantly more wasteful than any of the corporate shenanigans that outrage stakeholders.
In terms of lost money and poor ROI, it should spark the same reaction as fat cat salaries, offshore tax evasions and accounting black holes. The inefficient mentoring of human capital should be headline news!
The great news is we can all do our part to change this. Don't wait for others to create a company program. Don't wait until your top performers leave. Don't stew on why you and your team aren't getting the support you deserve. Keep calm and get mentoring!
Whether you feel you can mentor, or would benefit from mentoring yourself, or of course both, from my experience I'd point to the following ingredients of successful mentoring:
- Goals – set clear goals that will allow you to focus on something compelling. Two types of goals should be held in parallel: your work goals and your career development goals. Losing sight of your day-to-day activities and targets will not help, so adding work goals is key. Work goals can typically be grouped together for career development purposes, and a small group of additional career goals – maybe three or so – tends to provide the right balance. One or two goals is typically not challenging enough whereas, say, ten could result in you being spread too thin. Three or four seems to work well.
- Structure – there are many ways to structure your goals and mentoring. At huupe we use the tried and trusted method of allocating progression tasks within Education, Exposure and Experience. Working through new knowledge you need (education) to achieve each goal, what you need to be exposed to in order to see how it’s done (exposure) and what you need to be able to do to know you’re progressing and achieving your goals (experience), provides a thorough and consistent approach. When setting your 3 E’s, if you struggle to identify something that feels realistic and substantial enough for each component then it might be that the goal is too much of a stretch. If you can’t narrow it down to one or two for each component that maybe the goal definition should be a little more specific.
- Measurement – this is crucial. There are two key dimensions to measurement – cycles and time – that together introduce a measurable cadence to achieving goals that is crucial to career momentum. Cycling through goals too quickly could mean the goals are not challenging enough, and taking too long to achieve a goal could mean it’s too much of a stretch…redefine the goal, reset the 3 Es, and go again.
I'd love to hear from you if this resonates or if you believe there are different ingredients. It's never about being right but rather about making a difference and helping people nurture and grow.
The huupe mentoring tool delivers personal and professional development that works. Visit www.huupe.com to learn more.