Part of the learning progression of every professional is the deft shift of understanding and belief as to why people stay with an organization. Early on, there is a strong assertion and conviction that people follow the money and stay or leave for that reason alone. As we mature, we know and admit we are wrong. A multitude of factors influence the decision to stay or leave, but we come to realize that one of the strongest reasons (if not the strongest) is the relationship with people we have in an organization.
Friends – yes. Peers with like-minded objectives – yes too. Managers who build our capabilities and help us climb the career ladder with learning, recognition and enjoyment – a double yes to that! But above all, it is the time and effort our mentors spend sharing their knowledge that bind and convince us of the closeness of our professional home to our hearts.
Personally, I have been very lucky in having senior leaders spend valuable time with me, sharing their personal and professional experiences that helped them climb their summits. They helped me recognize and determine my strengths, gave me brutally candid but constructive criticism that lent a whole new dimension to career support. My reminiscence holds a fervent prayer that every earnest and diligent professional gets the same good fortune.
That brings me to the question of leadership responsibility (nay, obligation?) to mentorship. How many of us as seniors voluntarily take on this happy activity? And how do we approach it – right from the intent, content and execution?
Intent. This goes beyond focus and objectives. One must have both an intense belief and a passionate urge to make a positive difference in the lives of one’s mentee(s). And yes, it is really about your mentee – you do draw upon your experience, wisdom and foresight, but please, the mentee is the star.
Content and execution are best tackled simultaneously. You could be in either a casual mentor-like role, or a formally assigned mentor. The ‘modus operandi’ changes in both scenarios, but the pleasant burden of responsibility they carry is no less.
Spontaneity is an awesome friend when it comes to mentorship. Keep your conversations spontaneous. Reflect on your experience to tickle the possibilities and help her apply your wisdom to her challenges. Reenergize him with the confidence and belief that he can rise above his situation.
Your mentee is the prime character. Understand him, connect with her – build a relationship with trust. Today’s business environment is rife with generational and cultural divides from across the world. Trust will be the critical bridge.
Help them understand how the bigger organizational picture can map with their work ethic, values and expectations. Subtly and non-invasively, get to know their moral compass – what matters most to them, to what beat of the drum do they march, both in their career and life priorities? Help them pin their work to where they are in their lives today – this will help chart their next steps with enthusiasm and conviction.
Every encounter is a whisper of a mentoring opportunity. Keep both the obvious and the subtle channels of communication open. Make them feel comfortable opening up. Yours is not to solve or solution – yours is but to reflect their dreams, ambitions, capabilities and experiences as meaningful feedback that they pluck from your tree of perspectives.
And then, you realize, while the physical time frame of your mentoring assignment could be finite, its spirit and essence can extend throughout a mentee’s career.