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.
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