Jennifer* started work a few months ago for a company where we consult. Although she has the technical skills and experience her job requires, she was having some trouble getting traction with the clients she was assigned. Clients were expressing uncertainty about her abilities. She was not conveying the confidence in herself, and by extension the company, and that problem needed resolution. Fortunately, this was an issue her company had experienced with other young associates, one they had asked us to solve. Part of our solution for them was to implement a mentoring program.
A mentor helps a mentee learn to be the employee their company needs, one that can correctly identify problems and think strategically, while using the appropriate ‘soft skills’ that support success. Mentoring programs allow organizations to meet the unique training needs of their workforce, while stretching training dollars by tapping into the trainers that already exists within an organization.
Even more than that, when done correctly, mentoring allows an organization to retain and pass on its corporate history, as well as identify and groom new leadership within the real world laboratory of doing business. Talk about effective on the job training!
So why doesn’t every business utilize mentoring? Given its enormous benefits, it is a question we have asked ourselves. We have determined that it comes down to a lack of two things: structure and emotional intelligence. Mentoring can sometimes be mistaken for friendship. And most productive mentoring relationships have some of the same elements – trust and a willingness to be open about personal weaknesses and developmental needs – to name a few. This might be why businesses avoid mentoring; vertical workplace friendships can be fraught with problems. That is understandable but unfortunate because there a few easy things that can be done to minimize the potential for that type of messiness. Implementing a simple structure to the relationship and appointing a mentoring coordinator are two excellent ways to stack the deck favorably.
Jennifer’s company understood the long term value Jennifer could bring to them and Jennifer is now being mentored by a senior partner. Jennifer and her mentor have made a 3 month plan that focuses on two things: learning to project a professional presence and communicating confidence. Over the next three months, the partner will have the opportunity to get to know Jennifer better by seeing her in action and Jennifer will know that she is working for a company that is willing to invest in her. And at the end of three months, the two can part ways, or make a plan for another 3 months – it is up to them.
Lauchpoint Leadership is a consultancy firm, founded in 2000, focused on organizational and professional leadership development and includes facilitation, executive coaching, and leadership training. Our experience encompasses staff development, business training, strategic planning, and board training and development. More information can be found at www.launchpointleadership.com.