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.
As our society navigates through an increasingly heightened collective consciousness about race, so many of us are wanting to know what we can do to become anti-racist. While all action should begin with learning, it must not stop there. Indeed, there is an important role mentors can play in thwarting racism in the workplace and promoting an inclusive and equitable work environment– the role of ally.
In order to be an ally, one must engage in allyship – which requires action. To wit, Ally is a verb, not a noun. To ally is to actively thwart oppression or racism as it is encountered in one’s life. Allyship requires more than a label or lapel pin. Rather, a person serves as an ally every day when they are willing to put their own comfort aside for the sake of promoting racial equality.
Find an allyship partner.
An integral part of allyship is surrounding yourself with people who are also on the allyship journey. This work can be isolating and challenging, so having a partner or list of people you can call on is essential. Just as mentoring is reciprocal, so is any partnership focused on becoming a better ally. You will need to lean on each other and seek each other out for advice perhaps more than in a typical mentoring relationship. In this case, a partner may be someone who is on a similar journey who can provide peer accountability and a sounding board. One of you may have more experience with allyship, but that does not mean that the other person won’t need additional support.
Significance of Race.
If you are white, it is important that when you select an allyship advisor, you choose someone who is also white. Why? Unlike more traditional mentorships where relationships across difference are not only valuable but encouraged, in this case, the work to be done in thwarting racism is best first done with someone of the same race as you. When processing racism, oppression, power, privilege, and fragility it can be taxing for participants in the conversations. Being an ally means that you will do what is within your power to ensure that you are not putting additional emotional labor on people of color.
Our Series on Allyship.
In this series we will discuss three themes of allyship as it relates to mentoring: Getting Educated, Create Space, and Walk the Talk. In Getting Educated we will discuss the foundations of allyship, resources, and reflection questions that you and your mentoring partner can work through together. In the next post, Create Space, we will elaborate on two very critical pieces that take immense amounts of courage: welcoming feedback from BIPOC peers and fellow allies regarding you behavior and learning how to amplify marginalized voices in the workplace. Lastly, we will conclude our allyship through mentoring discussion with a summary of how it may look to be an Everyday Ally. This work is hard, and never ending. Mentoring pairs will need strategies to keep moving forward and engaged with this difficult material. Along the way you may feel burnt out or find yourself checking out of conversations. This is completely normal, and we will discuss how you and your mentoring partner can develop a plan to get back on track.
Take the time to identify a partner, establish ground rules, what you hope to learn, and some goals you and your partner will work towards. After creating your foundation, stay tuned for our next post on “Getting Educated” where we will discuss what type of material to review, the importance of reflection, and how you can do this work with a mentoring partner.
It has been 20 years since Robert Putnam wrote Bowling Alone, the groundbreaking book that described the phenomenon of disconnectedness that Putnam believes indicated the collapse of community in America. Since then, all signs point to an increase in disconnectedness.
In American workplaces, this is particularly acute. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2000, 3.3% of all workers worked remotely. Today, that number is up to 5.2% — this is a jump from 3.7 million workers to 6.5 million workers. This trend looks as if it will continue : 90% of remote workers say they intend to work remotely for the rest of their careers.
With all the advantages of remote work in flexibility, the disadvantage is a workforce that might not ever interact in person. 21% of remote workers say that the biggest struggle of working remotely is loneliness, while another 21% said that it was collaborating and communicating. This is what Putnam described as the loss of social capital.
Yet these trends do not mean that workplaces must throw up their hands and assume that an engaged workforce and an inclusive organizational culture are futile efforts. Rather, it is more important than ever to create a work environment that builds social capital.
Social capital is most simply defined as the benefits of sociability. It is the productive outcome that arises from connectedness. It comes from meaningful relationships in the workplace where employees feel invested, think about each other, and engage in reciprocal acts of mutual benefit—it creates a sense of belonging.
Mentoring is often overlooked as a means to build social capital; though, by its very nature, mentoring is a reciprocal relationship where mentor and mentee collaborate towards a common goal that will build the mentees’ skills, knowledge, and abilities.
When an organization invests in mentoring, it nurtures four characteristics that grow social capital: conversation, connection, community, and culture. Let’s take a deeper look into each of these characteristics and how mentoring fosters growth in each.
1 – Conversation
Good mentoring begets good conversation, which is marked by the presence of dialogue. Unlike the transactional conversations that more typically occur in workplace relationships, dialogue is a rich interaction in which both parties are fully present and learning. There is deep listening, a collaboration on problem-solving, and a mutual investment in achieving a goal. Good conversations contain an element of trust and learning.Here’s how to create better conversation in your mentoring relationships:
- Set the intention to build trust. Don’t expect that mentoring conversations will be meaningful right off the bat. It requires sustained focus and intention, and creating a safe space for mentee and mentor to open up.
- Take ownership of the learning. The advice to “own” the learning may seem counterintuitive. Ownership does not mean that one person has 100% of the obligation to drive good conversation. Rather, it means that both mentor and mentee have 100% of the obligation to drive good conversation. Once both parties recognize that they co-own the responsibility, conversation will go deeper and be reflective of collaborative dialogue.
2 – Connection
We know that one of the most important factors that determines whether someone is engaged at work is whether they have a meaningful relationship in the workplace. One of the byproducts of good mentoring is enhanced engagement through connection with another individual, often someone with whom a relationship might not have been formed more organically. Through these connections, mentor and mentee gain broader perspective within an organization.
One mentor I interviewed—a very senior level executive—told me that his mentoring relationship helped him see how some of the rules and procedures within his mentee’s department could be improved—and he was then able to effect some changes. We often hear from mentees that they learn about additional possible career opportunities and make valuable connections through their mentors’ networks.
Here are three things you can do to create more meaningful connections in your mentoring relationships:
- Embrace differences. In any relationship, there are differences between each person that make a difference in how they view the world. Lean into those differences. Instead of judging the difference, exercise curiosity about why your mentoring partner’s perspective might be different from your own.
- Share your learning. When you learn something in the pursuit of your goals, discuss that learning in your mentoring meetings. If you learn something from your mentoring partner, talk about what you have learned, and the impact it has made.
- Welcome feedback. In healthy mentoring relationships, mentoring partners set an expectation for continuous feedback. Mentors should offer feedback to their mentees about the progress they are making in achieving their goals. It is as important, however, for mentor and mentee to seek and offer feedback on how the mentoring relationship is going. Regularly set aside time to talk about what is working in the mentoring relationship and what needs to be improved upon.
3 – Community
Social capital derives from a sense of belonging. Mentors and mentees don’t just feel more connected to each other, they feel more connected to their organizations. Research shows that mentorship increases results in better organizational citizenship— creating a better sense of community. When organizations invest in mentoring training, they are creating a cohort of mentors and mentees which further enhances a sense of belonging.
This is particularly palpable in large global organizations, or organizations with a remote or distributed workforce. Because effective mentoring requires relationship-building and because it can be conducted using video technology, it is also a way to boost engagement and create a sense of belonging and accountability.
Here are a few ways organizations can build community around mentoring.
- Set expectations.Mentoring is a skill that requires practice. Teach your leaders what constitutes good mentoring, and set the expectation that they develop their own mentoring competency.
- Establish a mentoring cohort. Create opportunities for mentees and mentors to meet as a cohort. Consider holding periodic roundtables for mentors to meet to share best practices, and for mentees to support one another.
- Create accountability. Ask mentoring pairs to share their goals and their progress. Measure satisfaction with mentoring relationships and the impact of mentoring on the organization.
4 – Culture
A mentoring culture is a network of good conversations, multiple connections, and community around learning. Mentoring is embedded in the fabric of the organization, and employees at all levels understand that development is a priority and a value.
Here are some steps you can take to build a mentoring culture:
- Connect mentoring to your organization’s core values. Understanding “why” something is important is a prerequisite for successful implementation. Articulate and share how investing in the development of mentoring relationships is connected to the core values of your organization.
- Communicate the importance of mentoring. Share the expectation that mentoring will occur. Make sure your most senior leaders are participating in and sponsoring your mentoring initiative. Encourage them to share their own mentoring stories when they communicate with their teams.
- Measure progress. Effective mentoring is an investment of time and resources. It is critical to understand why you are making that investment and to measure progress against your purpose; these can include, for example, improvements in attraction and recruitment of top talent, improving diversity at top levels in the organization, increased engagement scores, or lower attrition rates. Take baseline measurements before starting your mentoring initiatives and measure improvements along the way.
Social capital remains an essential ingredient of healthy workplaces, despite remote work increasing in prevalence. Social capital is not at risk of being eroded in its entirety; however, it is a continual pulse-point issue. Leveraging mentoring to nurture the 4Cs—conversation, connection, community, and culture—can create an increased sense of belonging in employees, thus building social capital.
About the author: Lisa Fain is the CEO of the Center for Mentoring Excellence and a global speaker on the intersection of mentoring and inclusion. Lisa is also an executive coach and a former management-side employment attorney. Her passion for diversity and inclusion work fuels her strong conviction that leveraging differences creates a better workplace and drives better business results. She is the author of the book Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring.
Mentorship and the Importance of Story. By: Sarah Haggard
I’ve always been a storyteller. Stories entertain. They make us laugh. They make us cry. They remind us of our humanness, and leave us feeling raw and inspired all at once. They are the keepers of ancient wisdom, our legacy, and cultures all around the world. Stories hold tremendous power. We’ve all walked out of a movie hiding tears of sorrow at a story well told. Binged a Netflix series or finished a good book, and mourned it’s end. Our souls deeply moved, called into action.
So what does storytelling have to do with mentorship?
The origin of the word mentor comes from one of the great stories ever told, Odysseys. Mentor was Odysseys “wise and trusted advisor.” Today, mentors are in more demand than ever. We all want a sage advisor to turn to when the going gets tough. The challenge is, wisdom isn’t gained in the classroom nor in the boardroom; the places we most often look to for mentorship. Wisdom is gained from lived experiences, which are best told through stories.
Our age and years’ experience isn’t the sole indicator of wisdom either.
Some of us have lived a few lives over by the time we reach our twenties. While others are lucky enough to life a life of ease, privilege and stability. The truth is we’re only expert in our own life experiences, knowledge comes and goes. I lost my Mom at age 27. I mentor women in their 40s, 50s and 60s dealing with the loss of a parent because I understand grief, having lived through it. Developing the ability to narrate our life experiences using story is key to being able to mentor, or be a “wise and trusted advisor” for others.
So what can you do to become a wise and trusted advisor for someone else? The first step is to know your story. Here are five ways you can get started today.
1. Make a lifeline chart, plotting out the high and low moments in your life.
2. Make a list of common themes that emerge from that timeline.
3. Write your story, highlighting those key themes, in less than 1,000 words.
4. Practice telling your story.
5. Sign up to become a mentor, sharing your story and passion for mentoring others from your lived experiences.
In a world where mentors are in more demand than supply, getting to know your story is the greatest gift you can give someone else. It is also where you’ll find your greatest passion and purpose.
Sarah Haggard is the CEO and Founder of Tribute, a modern mentorship app for the workplace that connects employees together for mentorship through shared life experiences and stories. When not working, Sarah enjoys reading, writing, mentoring college students and spending time on her houseboat with friends and family in Seattle, WA.
By: Art Markman June 15, 2018 (Harvard Business Review)
In almost any business these days, you are guaranteed to interact with people whose cultural background is quite different from your own. In a global organization, you may have colleagues that come from a different country. You may partner with organizations whose employees come from another part of the country. There may also be cultural differences between you and some of the customers and clients you serve.
By The New York Times Kristin Wong June 12, 2018
Impostor syndrome is not a unique feeling, but some researchers believe it hits minority groups harder.
Last May, I walked into a room of impeccably dressed journalists at a media event in Los Angeles. I tugged on my pilly cardigan and patted down my frizzy bangs.
When a waiter presented a tray of sliced cucumbers and prosciutto and asked, “Crudité?” I resisted the temptation to shove three of them into my mouth and instead smiled and replied, “No, thank you.” I was focused on the task at hand: pretending not to be a fraud among this crowd of professionals.
Ironically, I was at the event to interview someone about impostor syndrome.
The psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the term in 1978, describing it as “internal experience of intellectual phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” In other words, it’s that sinking sense that you are a fraud in your industry, role or position, regardless of your credibility, authority or accomplishments.
This is not a unique feeling, and it hits many of us at some point in our lives. But some researchers believe it hits minority groups harder, as a lack of representation can make minorities feel like outsiders, and discrimination creates even more stress and anxiety when coupled with impostorism, according to Kevin Cokley, a professor of educational psychology and African diaspora studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
Read the full article here.