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Mentoring Myth: Buddy systems and mentoring programs are the same thing.

  
  
  

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

Mentoring Myth: Buddy systems and mentoring programs are the same thing.

BUSTED: Organizations typically use buddy systems to help new employees adjust to their jobs during the first few months of employment. Buddies are most often peers in the same department. They assist new employees for short periods. Buddies don’t require any specialized training.

Mentoring is a more complex relationship and focuses on both short- and long-term professional development goals. Though a mentor may be an employee’s peer, most often a mentor is a person who is at least one level higher in the organization and who is not within the mentoree’s direct supervisory line of management.

We recommend training for mentors, mentorees, and mentoring program managers.

If you want to get this myth plus five more in one handy package that you can easily access and share with others, then download our complete white paper: 6 Mentoring Myths Busted.

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

  
  
  

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! 

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

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.

 

If you want to get this myth plus five more in one handy package that you can easily access and share with others, then download our complete white paper: 6 Mentoring Myths Busted.

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Do you need mentoring or do you need coaching?

  
  
  

At Management Mentors, we talk A LOT about the differences between coaching and mentoring. So many companies come to us asking us for a coaching program, when what they really need is a mentoring program (or vice versa). We've written blog posts, white papers and even recorded podcasts on the subject.

Every month, our Mentoring vs. Coaching white paper is not only our number one downloaded white paper, but very often it is our most visited page on our website. 

So how does this pertain to you? We are guessing that if you read our blog, you want to develop your employees to help them to reach their full potential. So do know whether you need to offer coaching or mentoring? 

We've written yet another article on the popular topic for the Association for Talent Development: Do Your Employees Need Coaching or Mentoring? 

 

Check it out and be sure to let us know what you think. And of course, if you are interested in our white paper, you can get that by clicking the link below:

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MENTOREE SAYS: "I'd like to work on people taking me more seriously"

  
  
  

business mentorLast week, a mentor called me and asked for my advice on how to help a mentoree explore the goal of having people take him more seriously. This goal appears vague and somewhat hard to address. During the course of the call, we shared a few thoughts and ideas and I would like to share those with you in the event you are faced with similar areas of professional development.

I should state upfront that I believe any statement like "I'd like to work on people taking me more seriously" can be achieved by exploring it more deeply before embarking on a plan to flush out in what areas is the mentoree not being taken seriously.

Mentoree should cite a specific incident

1.  I first suggested that at the next mentoring session, the mentor ask the mentoree to cite a specific instance where they felt not taken seriously. This will involve a conversation or presentation with someone or in a group. I would ask the mentoree to state what she/he said and what the response was during the entire conversation. As a mentor, I would try to identify key themes or key words used and whether there is a pattern. Key themes might be to observe the mentoree's voice, body language, how forceful the mentoree is in the presentation, does the mentoree give up easily when pushed back, etc.  Key words might be:  the pronouns “me” or “I” used too frequently, words that might turn off others:  we must do this, we should do this, etc.  Is what the mentoree advocating too thin a suggestion?  This information gives a mentor data in which to be able to provide feedback and suggestions on what the mentoree could have done differently to get a different result.  It would be instructive to go over several conversations the mentoree has had to see if there is a pattern to why she/he feels not taken seriously.

Role-Playing and mentoring

2.  The second option—which can be done separately or added to the point above—is to role-play the scenario with the mentoree to get a good sense of the emotional component of the dialogue. For example, if I did the technique in #1, I might then add,  "Now let's role play this same scenario where I will play the other person and see what happens."  In role-playing you are trying to replicate not only the conversation but also the emotions attached to that conversation; therefore, it is important for both partners to engage so that they really feel in that scenario. At the end, you should have the mentoree discuss how they felt in engaging in this dialogue, what they think they said/did that was helpful and what they think they said/did that was not.  The mentor should then provide the same feedback on what it felt like to be the other person in this scenario.

If you don't do # 1 above, you can simply use the same technique by asking the mentoree that you would like to role play a given presentation that s/he is about to conduct or use a scenario from the past and follow option #2.

A note on role playing:  I know that most of us feel somewhat uncomfortable in role playing but it is a very powerful technique that can generate very useful information and bring about change. Don't be afraid to try it. You need not be perfect at it—just make the effort and see what happens. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

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How to get mentorees to open up during a mentoring session

  
  
  

business mentoring relationshipIn speaking with several mentors recently, they expressed concern about wanting their mentoree to be more open on a given issue but afraid to push too hard and turn the mentoree off to the idea.

This is not an uncommon concern in understanding that it's the mentoree that drives the relationship and not the mentor. However, this does not mean a mentor should be hesitant or afraid to approach an issue that they perceive as critical to a mentoree's success. In fact, it is an obligation of a mentor to engage in these types of dialogues so that the mentoree receives honest and helpful feedback.

My advice to every mentor engaged in a mentoring relationship is to broach a touchy subject by inviting the mentoree to engage. Here are a couple of different approaches I would recommend: 

The "open door" approach

"I would like to open a door on an issue we haven't discussed before or not very much.  Would you be willing to open that door with me?" Most people will say yes, even if it's a tentative yes. You could make this specific by stating the issue. You could also ease their concerns by adding "I'd like to explore with you and if you prefer not to go there after that, then that's ok by me.” 

Seeking "permission" approach

"I have some perceptions on x issue that I would like to share with you and explore, but I am seeking your permission to see if you're ready or willing to hear my perceptions. If not, that's ok, we can move on to another topic." If they answer yes, then you can discuss. If the answer is no, then you can reply: "I respect your decision but could you share with me why you would prefer not to discuss this issue so I have a better understanding of your decision." 

 

Each of the above techniques allow for a mentor to explore sensitive issues with the permission of the mentoree. As in everything else in mentoring, you cannot and should not force any mentoree to discuss issues they are not ready to discuss—but that doesn't mean you should not encourage and support them in trying to do so. It is the difficult discussions that deepen the relationship and have the power to transform a mentoree.

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How to use storytelling in your next mentoring session

  
  
  

mentoring relationshipIs your mentoring relationship at a stalemate? Have you run out of ideas or topics to cover? Here's a fresh idea that could provide some real insight into your mentoree's creative side, generate some great fodder for future sessions and spice up your relationship (professionally of course!).

In a recent article by Inc.com titled The Under-Appreciated Skill You Should Look for in Potential Employees, Jessica Stillman highlights storytelling as an important trait some HR professionals are using during the interview process today. 

According to Stillman, the idea came from a fascinating interview published in the New York Times with Lonne Jaffe, the CEO of Synscort.

"Why should software engineers be able to spin a tale? It seems counterintuitive, but Jaffe explains his method. 'I'll talk about the company's strategy and my background and the nature and challenges of the role they're interviewing for. Then I'll ask the candidate to go through their prior successes and challenges and major responsibilities and tell that story, partially because I want to see how good they are at storytelling. There are very few roles in a technology company--even fairly technical, hands-on roles--where storytelling is not an important skill,' he told the Times."

How can you use storytelling in your next mentoring session? And more importantly, what is the value?

Skills that can be determined through storytelling:

  • Decision making
  • Prioritizing
  • Working with little or no supervision
  • Executing
  • Project Management

"'Earlier in my career, I tended to focus a little bit too much on technical aptitude and not enough on the ability to prioritize decisions about how to spend their time. So, what you can sometimes get in those situations is somebody who is really good at executing in some ways, but really bad at prioritizing time. Even with some guidance or hand-holding, they will make consistently poor decisions about prioritization. Figuring out how to spend your time is almost more important in some ways than how well you execute,' Jaffe explains.

The stories an interviewee tells about their work are a great way at getting at how good he or she is at prioritizing without constant supervision, Jaffe has found. 'When they tell stories about prior roles and projects, I'll ask about the decision-making process. Did somebody tell them to work on something, or did they realize that it was clearly valuable? How did they deal with smaller decisions they had to make while tackling the larger questions?' he says."


So, ask your mentoree to tell a story about a project he worked on either in a prior role or in his current role. Pay close attention to the story. Listen to the words he uses to describe his skills. When you dig into his story together, be sure to focus first on the positive, and then delve into some of the skills you think he may have been lacking by asking questions. Do not come out and criticize his decisions—remember, he chose this story to showcase his abilities, don't crush him by putting him down. Point out that this method of storytelling is one that HR executives are starting to use during the interview process, and encourage him to think about this method when he works on future projects. A future project with his newfound skills may be the project he wants to highlight on his next interview!

 

For some great resources to freshen up your mentoring relationship, check out our mentoring eBooks. 

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Having a Conversation about Personal Issues in Mentoring

  
  
  

mentoring relationshipWhenever 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? 

For more mentoring relationship tips and tricks, check out our eBook: Creating A Successful Mentoring Relationship: Training Tips and Tricks.

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Executive Mentoring: A Delicate Balance

  
  
  
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Executive Mentoring (EM) is an important part of key leadership development. It is a powerful and effective way of sharing high level knowledge and experience

with a specific mentoree. In most ways, creating an EM program is similar to any other program in terms of best practices. However, there is one unique component of EM that needs to be understood and managed to avoid derailing a mentoree's career from the get-go.

 

The key component to any mentoring relationship is to establish a trusting, confidential relationship between the mentor and mentoree that also promises not to jeopardize the mentoree's role within the organization.

This is even more critical at the highest level of the organization. Mentoring is about development and not about assessing whether a person is ready for the next level job. Therefore, one has to be clear about the confidentiality rules and what can or cannot be shared between a given pair and what the mentor can share with other senior managers. 

In mentoring, a cardinal rule is that a mentor does not participate in any talent assessment meetings concerning his/her mentoree. This is the proper role of the mentoree's manager—not the mentor.

But how can that work when someone is being mentored by the President of a company?  In my experience, it can't. 

I once worked with the President of a well known banking company who insisted upon mentoring a mentoree. I counseled against that, but he insisted. After two meetings with his mentoree, he approached the mentoring committee and stated that they had to do a better job of determining who gets into the program, because his mentoree wasn't really following his advice. At that point, this mentoree's career at that bank was, for all intents and purposes, over.  

This is why I believe that Presidents should never mentor. Rather, have them lead a group mentoring session. This way the program participants will gain the advantage of the Presidents' experience and knowledge without putting any one mentoree at risk.

When a company creates a mentoring program, they enter into a contract with the mentoree that his/her employment will not be put in jeopardy because of the program and that their confidentiality will be respected. It's important to keep this of paramount importance when creating an executive mentoring program.  

To learn more about executive mentoring and group mentoring, download our white papers below. As always, they're FREE!

 

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4 Reasons to Consider An Online Mentoring Software Program

  
  
  

online mentoring softwareDo you resemble these statements?

1. Your company has been thinking about starting an employee mentoring program, but you don't know where to begin.

2. You already have an existing program, but you need a precision matching tool to create effective matches between mentors and mentorees.

3. You're looking for a way to share knowledge between employees and create a true learning network.

4. You just think it's time to take your mentoring program online and into the 21st century.

 

Many HR professionals feel that an employee mentoring program will benefit their company but aren't sure where to start. We have lots of resources and information about the benefits of not only an employee mentoring program, but we also offer tools to support existing mentoring programs. 

Still have questions, feel free to contact us for a free consult!

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MentoringComplete: A Robust Online Mentoring Software

  
  
  

 

mentoring softwareWe get a lot of questions about the the pros and cons of online mentoring software. Here, we've compiled some of the frequently asked questions we get about our online mentoring software, MentoringComplete

 

Why should my company have a mentoring program?

Studies show that employees who work with a business mentor flourish in their careers. Companies that offer mentoring programs typically enjoy higher productivity and better employee retention.

Why should my company use web-based mentoring software?

Web-based mentoring software like MentoringComplete integrates the interactive human elements of relationships with all the productivity and technical capability of the Internet. This combination creates an ideal mentoring relationship that ensures employees the best support network possible for success in their positions.

Does MentoringComplete require lots of expensive hardware?

No. In fact, MentoringComplete doesn’t require your company to buy any additional hardware. As long as your employees have access to a browser and the Internet, they’re all set.

Will I need to get my IT department involved?

No. MentoringComplete doesn't require the loading of software or server integration. Your IT department doesn't need to get involved at all.

Do you provide training on how to use MentoringComplete?

Yes. We walk you through set-up, we have a thorough self-help/troubleshooting guide, and we're readily available to answer your questions.

How much does MentoringComplete cost?

When you choose MentoringComplete, you'll buy licensing rights to access the system based upon your specific needs. The cost of MentoringComplete is half the cost of traditional mentoring programs created on paper.

 

To learn more about the benefits of online mentoring software, check out our free white paper:

 

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