Mentors Are Not The Super

Sometimes mentors and mentees think that it is on a mentor to provide all of the solutions to all of a mentee’s problems. Check out this video on why that may not actually be the case!

Why can’t my manager by my mentor too?

There are some really great managers in our workplaces today. These managers understand the importance of focusing on the development of their employees.  They take the time to build relationships with the people whom they manage.  They create a safe space for learning, inquiry, and even for making mistakes.  They are great role models, advisors, and coaches.   

So why do I discourage mentees from choosing their supervisor as a mentor?    

Before I answer, here is an important distinction.  I DO believe that good managers should develop the competency of mentoring.  I DO believe that when managers mentor others, it helps them become even better managers. But while it is important for managers to be mentors,  I DO NOT think that managers should mentor people who work for them.

Here’s why:

There are two characteristics of a supervisor/employee relationship that make it less than ideal for a mentoring relationship:

A manager’s primary accountability is to the business’s success, not the employee’s career.

Ultimately, a manager is responsible for their team’s performance and must put the organization’s interest first, even when it conflicts with the employee’s interest.  Managers are hired to perform a specific job and to make sure their team’s performance is in service to the outcome they are hired to achieve.  Sometimes, an employee’s interests might be at odds with that responsibility.  Perhaps the employee’s best career path would take them out of that team, out of that company, or in a different role.   A manager’s allegiance to the organization compromises their impartiality when they mentor their own employee.

A mentor’s primary accountability is to the development of the mentee. Since a mentor is not tethered to performance metrics, they can provide an additional unbiased perspective that can help a mentee develop in a way that is authentic to their own needs.

A manager is responsible for evaluating their employee’s performance and job security, which includes determining their compensation and career trajectory.

No matter how good the manager, ultimately, they have a say in their employee’s compensation.   For mentoring to be effective, a mentee must feel safe sharing their challenges and shortcomings.  It isn’t easy to build that safety when one’s job or livelihood is at stake.

There are some essential roles a manager can play in mentoring, however. 

Mentees:  Enlist your manager in your mentoring by:

  • Asking for help in finding a mentor. Share what you want to learn.  Ask them who they know who might be a good learning fit.
  • Helping you identify learning goals. Ask your manager what skills, competencies, or knowledge they think you can strengthen or amplify.  If those recommendations resonate with you, use them as a basis for setting goals in your mentoring relationship
  • Giving you feedback on your progress. Share your mentoring goals with your manager.  Ask what improvements they have observed. 

A Future for Mentoring

The pandemic has surely made us race into the future. Remote work was at it’s peak this past year, with many people still working from home here in 2021. So how does mentoring, something that hinges on interpersonal connection, work in a virtual workplace? In this episode of “Thinking Inside the Box” by Matt Burns,  CME’s CEO, Lisa Fain, discusses how mentoring may be in the future, and how those relationships can thrive.

A Future For Mentoring

The pandemic has forced us to consider what the future of work will look like sooner than we anticipated. The same goes for mentoring. How can we have meaningful and authentic relationships in a virtual setting? How can we promote diversity, equity, and inclusion through mentoring? In this episode of Thinking Inside the Box, Lisa Fain the CEO of CME and Matt Burns discuss what the future may look like for mentoring. 

Strategizing for Success on Social Media

Getting the word out about your vision and mission out to the world is literally at our fingertips, and while that may seem straightforward…it’s not. There are so many strategies out there and it can be so challenging to figure out where to begin or how to pivot one’s social media strategy. CEO for CME, Lisa Fain, chats with Becky Robinson, creator and host of “The Book Marketing Action Podcast,” about the power of social media and the struggles that come along the way. 

A Tale of the Three Mindsets

I’ve been thinking about mindset a lot lately.  Partly in an attempt to prove to myself that I can be disciplined and partly in an attempt to set my own health and fitness routines, I just completed a 75-day challenge that required twice-a-day workouts, following a diet, and drinking a gallon of water a day.  When I began the challenge, I wasn’t sure I could finish it because I thought I lacked the discipline I needed.  After all, my track record at sticking to new programs wasn’t great.  I often started strong, but found a reason a week or two for why I couldn’t continue.  The truth was, I never really believed I could develop the discipline I needed.   When I finished the challenge, I realized that it wasn’t a matter of discipline that got me through – it was a matter of mindset.

In her frequently-cited book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck described two kinds of mindsets, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.  A fixed mindset—a belief that your strengths are fully developed and not subject to change – is what kept me stuck in the past to the story I told myself that I could never be disciplined.  I’d told myself “I just don’t have it in me.”

During my 75-day challenge, I let that fixed mindset go, in favor of what Dweck calls a “growth mindset” – a belief that one’s abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.  I thought of each day as a new opportunity to learn discipline, and one day at a time got through the challenge until my old story didn’t work anymore.

So, how does this relate to mentoring?  In mentoring, mindset is critical to continued success.  Our mindsets determine our approaches, interpretations and responses to a situation. There are three mindsets that are helpful for mentees .

A Growth mindset

Recognizing that you can grow and learn and develop into the person you want to be is essential to growth.    Approaching mentoring with a growth mindset means you believe:

I can learn something new. You must believe in your ability to grow.

I can imagine getting good at something. You must be able to visualize becoming the person you want to be.

My strengths and weaknesses aren’t fixed. You must be willing to  step into possibility.

A Beginner’s mindset

There is a Japanese concept called Shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind.”  Shoshin requires that you:

  • Are open to learn. Just as you would if you showed up to learn a new skill, it is important you are open to learning from and with your mentor.
  • Are eager to learn and excited to see what will happen when you learn. A sense of enthusiasm makes a big difference.
  • Let go of preconceptions about what it takes to become an expert at something. Part of being a beginner is being willing to challenge your expectations and to face what you don’t know you don’t yet know.

A Mentoring mindset

Linda J. Searby of the University of Florida has identified a “Mentoring Mindset” a series of attributes of successful mentees.  Having a mentoring mindset means you:

  • Have a learning orientation. American author Brian Herbert said “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.”
  • Take initiative. A mentoring mindset requires that a mentee take ownership of their own learning and ask for what they need.
  • Are goal-oriented. This means you identify and work towards your goals.
  • Show relational skills. Mentoring is as much about the relationship as it is about the learning.  To develop a mentoring mindset, you must invest in building a relationship with your mentor.
  • Reflect on your learning. Take the time do a self assessment, learn from your mistakes and share your insight with your mentor.

Discipline is developed after mindset – not the other way around.   Focusing first on mindset will set you up for success in your mentoring relationships.

 

Mentoring, Feedback, & a Happy Wardrobe

This past month, Lisa was a guest on the podcast “The Happy Wardrobe” with host and style coach, Erin Keam. Erin is on a journey to genuinely connect with 1000 women over the next two years. So what does a style coach and mentoring expert have to talk about? Turns out, Lisa and Erin discuss everything from receiving feedback to the benefits of mentoring to Lisa’s personal journey and even dog poop bags!