I think having mentors is critical to success, especially for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers (like me) who are forging new ground on a daily basis. This post from Patricia Wheeler at The Levin Group gives thoughtful pointers on how to use the gift of mentoring to your greatest advantage. Check it out, and check out The Levin Group here. Thanks, Patricia! -Lisa
You Have a Mentor…Now What?
By Patricia Wheeler
The results are in…one of the best strategies to help leaders effectively transition into new roles is to find mentors to help with navigating the culture and politics, particularly for advancement to the most senior levels.
Mentoring is a great way to help introduce a leader new to an organization to the nuances of an organization’s culture, help them avoid political pitfalls, and simply learn how things get done. Similarly, when a leader is promoted within their own company, a mentor can help them develop clear awareness of the view from a higher “organizational balcony.”
In our research on Senior Executive Transitions, we heard many stories of mentoring, encompassing both best and worst practices. We found that nearly half of the companies we surveyed in 2010 connect their transitioning leaders with mentors and/or informal networks within their organization. What helps these connections work best?
My client Susan tried unsuccessfully to form a mentoring relationship with her boss, a passive man who had little interest in and talent for developing people. She hoped that she could learn from his deep business knowledge in her industry. They met sporadically for four months, neither really benefiting from their contact, until Susan finally acknowledged to herself that the mentoring was going nowhere and searched for others outside her direct business to give her the support and ideas that she needed to provide a boost into better roles.
She eventually chose a mentor who helped connect her with other key players across the company’s matrix. This person was energetic about leadership and continuous learning, and he welcomed an opportunity to assist Susan’s development as a leader. And he benefited from Susan’s perspective as well, seeking her opinions on the view from her generation. It became a true win-win relationship.
Here’s a checklist for making the most of the relationship with your mentors:
1. Prepare in advance: What do you know about prospective mentors….their interests, their expertise, their style? Consider good “matches” for you and what you need at this point in your career.
2. Consider your direction: Be prepared to articulate what you would like in a mentoring relationship, and a sense of how you (and your mentor) will evaluate success. How will you describe your passions, your interests, your strengths? What are you known for now, and what do you want to be known for as you continue moving forward in your career?
3. Create accountabilities: The value of a mentoring relationship depends heavily on what you do between meetings. Make sure that you end each meeting with at least one action step….it could be an article to read, another leader to connect with, or an action you will take with a direct report….so that you keep your program moving ahead.
4. Forge multiple connections: most successful senior leaders report having more than one mentor in their career. Ask your current mentor to help you target other connections than can add value to all concerned.
5. Make it Mutual: understand that mentoring is not a one-way process. You may think your mentor doesn’t need, want or value your assistance or perspective, but you are likely to be incorrect. Ask your mentor how you can be of help to him/her.
6. Pay It Forward: make sure that you actively use what you learn from your mentors to contribute to the development of others.
Copyright 2011, Leading News
Dr. Patricia Wheeler is an executive and team coach who helps smart people become more effective leaders. As Managing Partner in the Levin Group LLC, she has spent 15 years consulting to organizations and coaching senior leaders and their teams. Her work helping executives succeed in new roles is featured in The AMA Handbook of Leadership. You may contact Patricia by E-mail at Patricia@TheLevinGroup.com or by telephone at 001.404.377.9408