Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mentoring for the Wrong Reasons

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My main goal with the OnMentoring blog and YouTube channel is and has always been to inspire people to find or to become career mentors. It is usually far easier to convince someone to be a mentee compared to a mentor because the benefits are more obvious from the mentee's perspective. So this posting is highly unusual for me in that I want to refer to an article entitled "Mentor or Martyr? Beware the Rescuer Trap" by Manfred Kets de Vries about a set of circumstances when you should not become or continue as a mentor.

The article uses the term "Rescuer" to essentially mean someone who cannot separate their own emotional needs from those of the person they are trying to help. To the Rescuer the act of mentoring is more to fill a void in their own life rather than help another. Serial rescuers "feed off a vulnerable and dependent person and feel satisfied when able to elicit gratitude and appreciation". In other words a "rescuer" is in it for themselves which is the antithesis of why one should be mentoring. The article includes a set of insightful questions a mentor can ask themselves to ensure they are not "Rescuers". It's a really good read.

I'd like to share some additional bad reasons to be acting as a mentor:

  1. Don't do it to "look good" or "get promoted". As in the rescuer situation above someone that's mentoring solely so they look good to their own management is much too focused on themselves to be of any real use to a mentee.
  2. Don't do it purely to network. While networking is a likely outcome of most mentoring relationships one shouldn't become a mentor in order to immediately gain access to a mentee's contact list. The reverse is also true.
  3. Don't mentor as a replacement for good leadership. I've occasionally seen managers who were having problems leading their own team go and take on a mentee.  I can only speculate as to reasons why. Perhaps it was to make themselves feel worthy of their management role. In this situation I very strongly urge that person work on making their own team and their own relationships successful before dedicating any time to mentoring others.
Of course most people do not fall into any of these categories and so I continually ask everyone to consider becoming someone's mentor. And if you do happen to fall into one of these categories hopefully the issue can be resolved and you have a bright mentoring future ahead of you.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The GREAT Mentoring™ Model - Be a GREAT mentor!

One of biggest reasons people stumble upon this blog is to find tips on how to be a mentor. It's also one of the most popular questions I get asked. I've written several articles about finding and being a mentorfiguring out if you'll be a good mentor and if you are being effective in your current mentoring relationship.

As I pass the 4th anniversary of this OnMentoring blog which consists of over 100 postings and celebrate nearly 20 years actively participating in a mentoring capacity I felt I needed a succinct communication mechanism for people to remember what's important about being a mentor. So I came up with an idea and a simple model that captures those key elements of being a great, effective and empowering mentor - I call it GREAT Mentoring™

Here is the model - simply remember the word GREAT and what each of the letters stands for:
G = Great - Assume your mentee is Great from the beginning no matter what - your job is to build them up from there.
R = Relate - Be sure to relate to your mentee and be personally involved. The more you are both connected to each other the more you will both get out of the mentoring relationship.
E = Ear - Be an Ear to your mentee and actively listen. Sometimes your job as a great mentor stops there because all the mentee needed was a person to bounce ideas off of. More than likely your active listening will lead to important questions that further a person's thinking and self-awareness.
A = Authentic - Authenticity is the key to a productive mentoring relationship. Be yourself always. You will quickly gain a lot of trust by being yourself and being honest. And besides you'll feel more comfortable.
T = Trustworthy - You can't have a relationship without the basic attribute of trustworthiness. You need to create a safe space for both yourself and the mentee to discuss and share anything that will move the relationship and personal growth along.

I've written about all of these ideas before in one way or another throughout this blog. Now I'm happy to finally capture it in one place so to speak.

Over the course of the coming weeks and months I'll be expanding on each of these areas and adding resources such as templates, links to information and related material on the website.

It's been my passion to make mentoring a worthwhile and life-changing pursuit for mentors, mentees and companies alike for nearly two decades. I will continue to post to this OnMentoring blog as I have the past 4+ years and continue to cover a variety of topics, answer questions, link to interesting articles etc. When something fits or can expand on the model I will be sure to include it there as well.

As always I'm very grateful for your readership. Keep those questions coming and keep MENTORING!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Peter Principle Evolved

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I was reading an excellent article entitled "What Thomas L. Friedman Didn’t Report About Getting Hired by Google" by Gary Burnison, CEO at Korn/Ferry International. In this post he discusses the changed nature of the Peter Principle and the concept of something he calls "learning agility".

"The Peter Principle, which asserts that employees will continue to get promoted until they reach their highest level of incompetence, has evolved. Today employees don’t need to get promoted to become incompetent. They will become incompetent in their current jobs if they don’t grow, adapt, and evolve."

"The net-net is that most successful executives are able to move out of their comfort zone, take risks, learn from mistakes, and begin anew as they encounter new assignments. The successful leaders continually learn, bend, and flex as their work world changed. In other words, they were learning agile."
 - Gary Burnison, Chief Executive Officer at Korn/Ferry International

He found learning agility to be the #1 predictor of success. This makes a lot of sense. When we live in a world where a single tweet from an unverified source can be the catalyst of company skyrocketing on the NASDAQ or falling to be on the verge of bankruptcy adaptability will be the skill most sought after.

Gary's definition of the term "learning agility" includes self awareness and overall mental agility. Working with a mentor very often at a minimum leads to greater self awareness. A great mentor will challenge your established thoughts with targeted questions and personal stories. I've found working with my mentors that I was able to expand my problem solving approaches by learning their ways of framing a problem and arriving at a solution. I was also able to learn from their mistakes and more importantly decide whether their mistake would actually be the opposite - an answer - for me in my own situation. The ultimate achievement is to learn how to continually learn. Because I find continually learning - building a constant feedback loop - is the key to adaptability.

Learning agility is more than thinking out of the box. It's about not having a box in the first place. A mentor will help you make those boxes disappear. This is probably why a study conducted by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) found that 75% of executives attribute their success in part to having a mentor.

Good luck on your journey! I hope you find boxes disappearing and being replaced with green fields fertile with answers to your challenges.