Mentoring programs nationwide prove to be very beneficial to talented employees and their managers. As a result, millions of dollars are invested in companies’ bottom lines. Research documents mentoring provides pivotal developmental relationships that serve as the foundation for organizational improvement. However, with these successes, obstacles/stumbling blocks exist that can keep organizations from achieving these goals. Here are three to consider.
Why a Mentor?
Often, an employee will question the need for a mentor. Whether it’s thinking that mentoring is time-consuming or that employees should be recognized/acknowledged for their talents on their own without reaching out to a mentor, that individual shortchanges him or herself in terms of what a mentor can bring to the relationship. Women are particularly guilty of this. They often shortchange themselves in terms of failing to gain valuable insights that can otherwise blindside them. Mentoring can help them improve/advance, both professionally and personally. Organizations that actively support and encourage mentoring, whether through internal or external initiatives, can counter this thinking. In turn, it’s a benefit to the organization, the mentor, and the mentee.
Plus, when an individual understands how a mentoring relationship can be mutually beneficial (to the mentee and the organization), that mentee is more willing to embrace the opportunity and experience success. Once on board, the mentee is more likely to collaborate; as a result, the outcome can be a strong, productive mentor/mentee relationship.
Timing: When is it Right to Mentor?
More than knowledge and expertise are necessary to advance mentees into leadership roles in today’s corporate workplace. For those who want to advance, this requires more than doing a great job. Mentees need to decipher the dynamics of their organization. The key is accessing mentors who can help them, because mentors can guide/direct them and provide a reality check that lets them know if they’re on track or need to redirect their efforts in the corporate environment.
Often, mentees have a blind spot in terms of how others perceive them within an organization. The mentor can provide honest feedback, which enables the mentee to course correct, when necessary. Mentors can help mentees advance quicker by helping them gain insight into how they can successfully navigate their organization and position themselves to become more visible. In turn, this naturally enables the mentee to advance further quicker, become more visible, and influence key leaders.
It’s particularly important for women who aspire to climb the corporate ladder to align with a mentor sooner than later. It’s not enough today for women to rely on their drive, knowledge, and skills. Another shortcoming women are guilty of is postponing working with a mentor. This can also shortchange their opportunities for advancement. It’s not uncommon for women to feel they can’t take the time to step back, seek out a mentor, and develop a relationship with that mentor. Because men and women respond differently to mentoring, organizations should note this and act accordingly.
When an individual joins an organization, that organization should advocate for and foster mentoring individuals at all career levels and provide internal and external mentoring programs across all organizational functions. Plus, women should be mentored by men as part of developmental initiatives.
Women Navigating the Feedback Black Hole
Black holes are places where people or things can disappear without a trace. It’s imperative for women to be aware that they commonly receive different levels of feedback compared to their male colleagues. Women need to avoid getting stuck doing the same thing and not making necessary changes that can help them advance into leadership roles; this is commonly referred to as women being in a black hole.
Constructive feedback is essential for advancement and career growth. Both men and women benefit from honest feedback. Women, as mentees, should be willing to receive difficult feedback and act on it, irrespective of how challenging the message. At the same time, mentors need to provide candid feedback based on their mentees’ goals. While mentees may have a difficult time accepting that feed, it’s imperative that they be open to realistic assessment and act on it in order to grow and advance within an organization.
There’s real value in organizations developing and advancing their employees, because investing the time in mentor/mentee relationships at all career levels encourages both mentors and mentees to be honest and productive. The result, corporate diversity, inspiration/support of upcoming leaders, and a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line.