Archive for October, 2014

Mentors, or Just Nurturers? How Women Are Hurting Themselves and Not Realizing It

Posted on: October 29th, 2014 by Mentoring Talent presented by How To Mentor Toolkit No Comments

Mentors, or Just Nurturers?

I once observed a situation in which an individual (we’ll call him “Bob”) asked two of his colleagues for advice on how to solve a problem in a project he was working on. One was male (“George”), and one was female (“Liz”). Bob went to Liz for advice first, and she suggested a solution to Bob. About four days later, Bob presented the same problem to George, who suggested the same solution that Liz had proposed four days earlier.

Shortly thereafter, Bob was asked by his superiors how he was going to solve the problem. When he presented the solution that both Liz and George had suggested to him, he immediately credited George – and only George.

Why did this happen? And why didn’t Liz take credit for the advice that she had, after all, been the first to offer Bob four days before George even entered the picture?

There are two issues at play here:

  1. Women tend to be perceived as “nurturers” and “givers” instead of “leaders” and “askers” by others – including other women.
  2. Women themselves tend against talking about their own accomplishments and goals – despite their desire to be recognized for them.

Bob perceived Liz’s advice as something that was natural for her to give, for which he didn’t owe her any recognition, because she never asked for it. Worse yet, he may have unconsciously disregarded her solution in the four days before he approached George with the same problem, and not even realized that Liz and George had both presented him the same solution.

But why give George’s presentation of the solution so much more weight?

When you look at any given organization, you will most likely find that there are more men than women in the role of mentor. This is odd, considering that women are perceived as “givers” and “nurturers”, when mentoring is all about giving and nurturing.

But consider this too: I’ve also observed that when a either a man or a women has the opportunity to choose a mentor, they will more often than not choose a man within the organization.

Is this because they only perceives the male candidates as being influential and leaders in the organization? Is it because the importance of networking and finding a mentor is taught more often to men than to women, and at a much earlier age?

Or, is it because they haven’t heard about the successes of other women in their organization, and therefore there is a perception that the pool of female mentors is very, very small?

It’s probably a combination of all three, but we can no longer afford to overlook the fact that women are hurting not just themselves, but also other women, by not talking about themselves.

Women Must Be Mentored, Too

But all this doesn’t even begin to touch on another fact: that women often feel uncomfortable searching out their own mentor, male or female, because they’re fighting against their personas as “nurturers” and “givers”, along with their unwillingness to talk up their own accomplishments and goals.

When talking with individuals who have a list of impressive and significant accomplishments many people – but particularly women – are many times very reluctant to talk about them, even admit them and certainly not willing to put them down on paper. Women are taught at an early age not to brag, as it makes us appear brash, arrogant, and egotistical: three qualities that are perceived as extremely unattractive in women.

But ultimately, where do we draw the line between bragging and representing ourselves? While the line might currently be blurred and unclear, we must let those around us know who we are, what we stand for, what we have accomplished, and what we want to accomplish going forward.

If we are to not only make it more acceptable for women to be a bit more “selfish” in making sure that they receive the recognition they deserve, but also ensure that women are considered on equal footing with their male colleagues by men and women alike, it’s important that women also feel that they’re able to ask for mentoring and advice for themselves.

And much of this comes from within. Consider how you currently represent yourself, your abilities, your accomplishments, and your goals to the people around you in your everyday life. Below, you can find a few quick tips to get you thinking.

Don’t Be Afraid to Own Your Abilities, Accomplishments, and Goals

1. Know Exactly How What You Do Helps Others

Be able to express this in a very short, memorable, and impactful sentence, so that when people have a particular issue that you’re able to solve, they immediately think of you.

2. Make It Impossible for Anyone to Say No to You

If you have managed to do all the hard work and gained someone’s attention, make sure that you provide them with enough information that they feel they cannot leave the interaction without wanting more. This might take the form of another meeting, a request to follow up, or to see a portfolio.

3. Love What You Do and What It Does for Others

If you are not passionate about what it is you do, it’s negatively impacting everything in your life. Find something that connects with your values and delivers a difference. This is perfectly possible in a corporate environment.

4. Walk Your Talk

We should always be walking our talk. If you are in finance, be sure your personal money is in order. If you are in IT, don't have an overflowing inbox. If you are in marketing, make sure you have a portfolio that reflects your work.

5. Leverage Your Talents

What is your unique ability? How can you weave it more consistently in to your everyday actions? Become known for something that proves to be invaluable, and that will make you indispensable.

6. Help People Who Don’t Know What They Need Right Now

Everyone is overwhelmed today – too much email, too many choices, too many requests on their time, not enough resources. Be sure that people know what you do and have seen you demonstrate it. When they do know what they want, the decision will already be made.

7. Be Emotional and Connect to People

If you only can explain your talents in very rational terms, your audience is much less likely to engage with your message. Don’t be afraid to be emotive when describing challenges you’ve faced, and how it felt after you were able to help the situation by leveraging your talents. This will help people feel connected to you on a deeper level, so that they’re more likely to keep you in mind.

8. Don’t Take What You Do For Granted

All too often when we’re using our unique talents, we take a lot of what we are able to do for granted. After all, it just comes so naturally that it is not a strain, isn't that the same for everyone? Answer: no. So make sure that those individuals who do utilize your talents are fully aware of all that you bring.

9. Have an Answer for the Doubting Thomases

On occasion people will suddenly find a reason to be negative, sarcastic or doubtful of what it is you claim. Be ready with an effective response.

10. Build Your Brand Everywhere You Go

Ensure that all you are doing, saying, and communicating is a reflection of how you want to be known, and that information is what you want others to know. By the time they actually reach you then you have got them at Hello!

This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct edition of Profiles in Diversity Journal, and is by mentoring training expert Judy Corner.

Having a Conversation about Personal Issues in Mentoring

Posted on: October 22nd, 2014 by Management Mentors presented by How To Mentor Toolkit No Comments

Whenever you are involved in mentoring, there is a good possibility that at some point your mentoree may share some very personal issues that they are dealing with.  Some may feel uncomfortable or unprepared to deal with such issues, but it's important to recognize that this is an important moment in the mentoring relationship and you should not let this pass. Below is a sample script you might find helpful if you encounter this situation:

Sample Script: Mentoring Gets Personal

I appreciate your sharing this information with me. It says a lot about the trust we’ve built. I want to be helpful as best I can and as we discuss this further, it may become apparent that you may need to seek outside assistance to provide you with the help you need beyond my own limited expertise. Are you open to my suggestions to seek additional assistance if that becomes necessary? OK.

Tell me more about what is going on and how this is impacting you in your current job.

This is obviously a difficult time for you, what possible solutions can we explore that would assist you in this situation?

Are there resources either within the company, such as an Employee Assistance program or Human Resources, or outside the company that can assist you in this situation?

How do you want to proceed from here? What do you see as my role? What do you see as yours?

Let me share with you my own concerns.

Before we end our session, I need further clarification…or I need to summarize what we’ve agreed to.

When will we meet again to follow up on what we’ve agreed to do? 

Mentoring Myth: Mentoring can be used as a performance management system

Posted on: October 15th, 2014 by Management Mentors presented by How To Mentor Toolkit No Comments

mentoring mythsThere are some mentoring myths we encounter day in and day out as we guide our clients on their mentoring journey. This is the first in a series of posts on mentoring myths. Watch as we bust this myth wide open! 

BUSTED: In the world of talent management, people often misuse words like mentoring and performance management. After all, both involve professional development and share common goals. What’s different is how each one goes about achieving these goals.

Performance management is a system for measuring whether an employee is “performing” adequately on the job. Managers use this information to assist the employee in becoming a better performer.

The goal of performance management is to develop an employee in his/her current position. While performance management sometimes involves planning for future performance, most often it centers on the employee’s current job performance.

Mentoring, on the other hand, promotes professional development by linking an employee with a mentor who will focus on the overall development of that employee. Mentoring is transformational and involves much more than simply acquiring a specific skill or knowledge. Mentoring is about a relationship and involves both the professional and the personal. In many ways, mentoring is like counseling. Mentoring will certainly help with the mentoree’s current job, but it also poises the mentoree to take the next steps in his or her career.

Should Mentoring and Performance Management Be Linked?

You should absolutely link mentoring programs to performance management—meaning, you should link those competencies deemed important by an organization as employees develop for future roles. There is a difference, however, between linking mentoring to performance management and turning mentoring into a performance management system. Let’s use an example for clarification.

If I want to develop one of my employees into a true leader, then I’ll probably use various approaches: seminars, training, coaching, etc. I’ll want to measure progress in these areas and determine if the development is successful. This requires me, as a manager, to be “hands on” with the development of this employee into an effective leader.

Now, let’s say I think it would be great for my employee to have a mentor who is experienced in leadership. I bring in this mentor, we have discussions, and the person mentors my employee. I get periodic reports from the mentor, and we discuss the results. This process has turned the mentor into a “second manager” as opposed to letting him or her simply support the employee’s development. In essence, it has created a relationship that focuses on results and measurement as opposed to one of development and transformation. There’s nothing wrong with this approach per se, but it isn’t mentoring, and it shouldn’t be called mentoring. It’s more akin to coaching.

On the other hand, let’s say I’ve identified my employee as a talented person with leadership abilities. I could recommend that he or she participate in our company’s mentoring program to develop more leadership skills as well as other necessary career-building skills. Since I’m focusing on this person’s long-term development—development that could move this person out of my department or even out of my company—I should not be directly involved with my employee’s mentor.

Yes, it may be useful for my employee to receive feedback from me regarding what to focus on with the mentor, but this is by way of suggestion as opposed to requirement. And, yes, I should be informed of meeting schedules to ensure they don’t disrupt my department, but in a mentoring program, my role is to support my employee’s meeting time with the mentor, offer suggestions to my employee on areas of development, and STAND BACK and let the relationship happen.

Mentoring requires both partners to know what they are doing!

Posted on: October 8th, 2014 by Management Mentors presented by How To Mentor Toolkit No Comments

mentoring relationship

Each week, I get inquiries from a prospective client to enhance their mentoring program. When I ask if they train people on how to engage in mentoring, the answer is often "Yes."  Without asking about the quality of that training, I ask if they train mentorees as well as mentors and the answer is often "No." This is one of the most serious mistakes made in a mentoring program. This means that one-half of the partnership doesn't know what they are doing within that relationship!

If we remember that mentoring is about establishing a specific type of relationship, it doesn't make any sense to train one person about how it works and leave the other half out. Mentoring involves a mutual partnership and one can't be a complete partner if he/she doesn’t have the same understanding as his/her mentor or mentoree.

I think a number of people don't train mentorees because they confuse informal mentoring with formal mentoring. Formal mentoring has structure and has a specific purpose which necessitates explaining how this type of relationship works. To not do so at all or to only train one half of the partnership significantly reduces the effectiveness of any mentoring program.

Another reason I often hear that companies train only mentors is the cost involved. That is a legitimate concern when you consider bringing all parties together in a classroom setting where travel expenses are involved. However in today's technological age, there is mentoring e-learning.  This is very cost effective and within the budgets of most organizations.

So if you want to get the most out of your mentoring program, be sure to train both your mentors and mentorees in understanding how to effectively engage in a formal mentoring relationship!

Four Overlooked Benefits of Mentoring

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by Management Mentors presented by How To Mentor Toolkit No Comments

benefits of mentoring

There are many benefits to a corporate mentoring program. From boosting employee morale to reverse mentoring (millennials mentoring baby boomers on the latest and greatest technologies, for example) to successfully supporting women in their career growth goals. Here we discuss four overlooked benefits of mentoring that will position your organization for the best and brightest prospective employees while nurturing the rock stars you already have today.



1. Attracting talent

It's college graduation season. There is so much great talent out there, but why would these talented young people want to come to work for YOU? Mentoring has a powerful attraction for prospective employees. In career development surveys, mentoring continues to be cited as an important benefit. When trying to attract talent, advertising that you have a professional and effective mentoring program can be a significant differentiator between you and your competitors.


2. Developing talent

Does your organization struggle with developing talent? Developing a talent pool is an ongoing challenge for most companies as they strive to remain ahead of the competition. Many different development strategies exist and a company that wishes to remain a player needs to incorporate a number of them to grow its talent. Corporate mentoring is one of the most effective strategies as a standalone program or as part of an existing workforce development program.


3. Supporting diversity intitiatives

We touched upon this in the opening paragraph. Millennials, boomers, women… about global organizations that are working together cross-culturally? Many companies are struggling with supporting diversity initiatives. Today’s workforce is evolving, and the best companies are responding to it by offering and fostering diversity initiatives to expand understanding and encourage collaboration across different demographics. That’s good news, but there’s still a big problem – most diversity initiatives don’t go far enough. And companies that offer insufficient programs are wasting time and money.


4. Succession planning initiatives

We all like to pretend it isn't going to happen. "Joe Smith will never leave us….he's been here forever and he knows everything!" Well, we hate to break it to you, but Joe Smith will eventually leave. It's coming and you need to be prepared for it. Ensure that your company's expertise from experienced employees like Joe Smith will not be lost once he retires or leaves the company. Retain that expertise via a mentoring program by properly positioning those who are poised to take Joe's place. Mentoring is an ideal strategy for enriching your succession planning program. In succession planning, you're targeting individual talent to take on increasingly more responsible positions and eventually assume a major position within your organization.