A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in Julie Kantor’s, founder of TwoMentor (http://www.twomentor.com) and Co-Chair for Leadership Greater Washington Signature Program (http://www.lgwdc.org/) workshop, “Speed Mentoring”. Yes, you got that right, it’s pretty similar to “Speed Dating”. But before we get into what happened, Julie started the activity with some strong stats and supporting evidence about why mentoring is important.
BENEFITS OF MENTORING FOR PROFESSIONALS & COMPANIES
- Increase in connection to each other and to the organization
- Greater retention of staff and less institutional knowledge loss for organizations
- Higher promotion rates in shorter time period compared to peers
- Increase in earning potential and have greater success in the workplace
To start the activity, Julie had us all sit down at a long table. Half the participants were on one side and the balance of the participants on the other side, facing each other. The ground rules were that one participant of each pair would be the mentor for seven minutes. Then we’d rotate and have a different role. We were guided through the experiential activity to see what would occur.
Could we build rapport?
What would we talk about?
Would the conversation be genuine?
Never fear, we didn’t ran out of things to say. Julie gave us a question for each round, timed the conversations, and debriefed us afterward. As a group we also crafted definitions of modeling, sponsoring and mentoring. To fully appreciate the value of mentoring, it’s important to understand these terms and what roles they can each play in the success of our careers.
- Sponsoring is someone senior promoting you “behind closed doors” or when you aren’t present.
- Mentoring is when a relationship is built through trust and respect. There are regular interactions with specific goals or expectations. Both parties benefit.
- Modeling is a person we “worship” or aspire to be from afar, there isn’t a personal connection.
As a headhunter, I often counsel people about their career choices. It’s not always as structured or consistent as formal mentoring, but most people (including my kids) will tell you, I do offer plenty of unsolicited advice. As a board member for Empowered Women International (http://ewint.org/), I also present a workshop to share ideas about promoting yourself, building a network, and identifying your marketplace. Most of the time I’m in the role of coach-sharing my insights, but through “Speed Mentoring”, I learned that you can gain as much from being the recipient of advice as you can by sharing your knowledge. The only caveat is, both parties have to be receptive to the relationship or it won’t work.
Read on if you aren’t yet convinced that finding a mentor or being a mentor could greatly influence your career success-plus you might enjoy it.
WHO NEEDS A MENTOR
Often as a recruiter, after twenty years, I don’t have many peers. I work from a home office since we gave up our bricks and mortar location. It can be isolating. Not that I lack interaction with people, but intellectually and professionally. All day long I share pieces of advice with candidates and clients. Sometimes though, I need to bounce ideas off a peer or someone with a different perspective from me. Even experienced people need to find mentors. While we have a lot of knowledge, there is a need to collaborate and share with peers. Or learn from experts in our field. Plus up & coming young professionals have new perspectives. This enables everyone to learn from each other. It’s not just young people or inexperienced people who need mentors, but all people in whatever stage they are in their career or life.
The other interesting idea I learned about was “Reverse Mentoring”. It’s like 360 degree feedback in the workplace. Julie presented it as an opportunity to learn from junior people around us. Baby Boomers, GenXers, and Millennials, can all learn from each other. We are the first cohort to have three generations in the workplace because people are living longer, and also have to work longer because they lack enough funds to retire. There’s lots of experiential learning (aka on-the-job-training) that’s invaluable. Someone fresh from the university though, will know the most current methodologies and can share new approaches. Old dogs can learn new tricks.
So by teaching or mentoring others, we break down a task and can remind ourselves of forgotten skills. By working with people of all ages, we can share knowledge gained from experience and fresher approaches straight out of academia. Through mentorship we learn, we connect with others, and we all find ourselves richer for the experience.