Many great leaders and companies attribute their success to having great mentors and strong mentorship programs. In fact, Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, said, “If I hadn’t had mentors, I wouldn’t be here today. I’m a product of great mentoring, great coaching… Coaches or mentors are very important. They could be anyone –your husband, other family members, or your boss.”[ii] Successful mentorship programs shouldn’t follow cookie-cutter outlines. They should be agile, creative, collaborative, and most importantly strategically driven. In this blog, we’ll review three ways to create a strategically driven mentorship program that can be used personally and within an organization.
Create Your Own Definition
Mentorship can be defined in many ways, but how it’s identified within the context of an organization is the first step in creating a strategically driven mentorship program. The goals and outcomes will vary from one organization to the next. Take, for example, USAA. They made a commitment to achieving 25% military employee representation by 2020. In order to help meet that goal, they offered a 12-month program that developed military veterans whose backgrounds suggest potential as future business leaders.[iii] Starting with a goal helps build the road map to success. It is also important that the role of a mentor be defined. Carol Larson, with Deloitte & Touche LLP, defines a mentor as, “an individual who offers advice and support, the individual that asks you the key questions that can help you self-discover your path to success. Mentorship can be a relationship between a professional at any level, but typically more seasoned than the mentee, and someone who is seeking knowledge. Having strong mentors can encourage individuals to broaden their mindset and take ownership of their careers.”[iv] The role of a mentor (or mentors) can vary depending on the organizational goals. Laying the groundwork and defining the role of a mentor, the vision of the mentorship program, and what success would look like, are the first steps towards building an impactful program.
Maximize the Power of Many
Another way to create a strategically driven mentorship program is to maximize the power of many. Instead of simply utilizing one mentor, have many mentors [v]
An article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) explains, “there is a need for us to have multiple mentors with expertise in various domains.”[vi] Having an array of internal mentors can be great, but with all of the social media platforms available, employees can have global expertise with a virtual mentor. An example of this can be found in a recent study conducted by HBR. They surveyed over 1,000 employees of an IT development company. An employee, whose team was not using agile-development techniques, heard of their value from one of his virtual mentors and decided to learn more about it. Discovering that expertise in it would put him in the running for some of the most exciting projects in the company, he decided to follow the mentor’s advice and joined an internal community. Participation allowed him to learn the basics of agile and stay on top of the latest developments and project news. Most importantly, the community allowed him to forge valuable connections and learn about project opportunities that would help him deepen his knowledge and gain recognition for his growing expertise.[vii] The results were impressive. The survey also found an increase in innovation and that employees felt more connected and engaged to the organization. Creating a global network of mentors allows employees the opportunity to maximize the power of many and to achieve much more.
Set the Bar Higher
Steve Jobs once said, “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.”[viii] Setting the bar even higher, while providing exceptional mentoring is a great way to make impactful change. Alyssa Rapp, a Mentor at AJR Ventures, wrote, “I like to invest in talented people by offering them positions a half or a full step above what they are expecting. Watching an employee grow into a new role is gratifying and boosting the person’s sense of his or her capabilities often strengthens that person’s loyalty to the company. When employees are challenged to learn and grow, they feel that management and mentors are invested in their success.”[ix] It’s important that when incorporating this strategy, management set attainable goals and responsibilities. Employees should feel challenged, not overwhelmed. By setting the bar higher and providing trusted mentorship organizations can achieve great things.
Strategic mentoring programs should increase employee engagement, build diversity, and drive a developmental culture. As John C. Crosby once said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”[x]
[i] Women, YEC. “Be One, Get One: The Importance Of Mentorship.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 2 Oct. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2018/10/02/be-one-get-one-the-importance-of-mentorship/#3123d6574343
[ii] Brandon, John. “22 Quotes to Help Boost Your Mentoring Prowess.” Inc.com, Inc., 8 Nov. 2014, www.inc.com/john-brandon/22-quotes-to-help-boost-your-mentoring-prowess.html
[iii] Moore, Emily. “7 Companies With Impressive Mentorship Programs.” Glassdoor, 30 Nov. 2018, www.glassdoor.com/blog/companies-with-mentorship-programs/
[iv] “Deloitte Women’s Leadership Launch and the Value of Female Mentorship – Life at Deloitte Blog | Deloitte US.” Deloitte United States, 18 Jan. 2019, www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/careers/articles/careers-blog-value-of-female-mentorship.html
[v] Graham, Cat. “To Amplify Career Growth, Try Crowdsourcing Your Mentorship.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 Nov. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2018/11/26/to-amplify-career-growth-try-crowdsourcing-your-mentorship/#771c50cc696c
[vi] Murphy, Bala IyerWendy. “The Benefits of Virtual Mentors.” Harvard Business Review, 26 Apr. 2016, hbr.org/2016/04/the-benefits-of-virtual-mentors
[vii] Murphy, Bala IyerWendy. “The Benefits of Virtual Mentors.” Harvard Business Review, 26 Apr. 2016, hbr.org/2016/04/the-benefits-of-virtual-mentors.
[viii] Brandon, John. “22 Quotes to Help Boost Your Mentoring Prowess.” Inc.com, Inc., 8 Nov. 2014, www.inc.com/john-brandon/22-quotes-to-help-boost-your-mentoring-prowess.html
[ix] Women, YEC. “Be One, Get One: The Importance Of Mentorship.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 2 Oct. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2018/10/02/be-one-get-one-the-importance-of-mentorship/#3123d6574343
[x] “John C. Crosby Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, www.brainyquote.com/quotes/john_c_crosby_137546