Grow Good Social Capital Through The 4 C’s of Mentoring

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.

Dealing With Impostor Syndrome When You’re Treated as an Impostor

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.

CEOs Need Mentors Too

By: Suzanne de Janasz and Maury Peiperl (Harvard Business Review April 2015 Issue)

In 2010, when David Nish was promoted from CFO to CEO at Standard Life, he knew the scale of the challenge his company faced. The 185-year-old giant had just embarked on a sweeping transformation from an insurer to a long-term savings and investment company. Nish also knew that as the person leading the change, he would be tested by decisions and management situations he hadn’t encountered in the past. Certain that he could benefit from the perspective of someone who had been down similar roads before, Nish turned to a somewhat unusual adviser: Niall FitzGerald, a former chairman of Unilever.

The mentoring relationship they subsequently established is illustrative of those we have studied in our research—a two-year inquiry into an emerging way in which new CEOs in large organizations gain access to seasoned counsel and feedback. We found dozens of executives who were accelerating their learning by engaging the services of high-profile veteran leaders from outside their companies. To learn more about this growing but as yet undocumented phenomenon, we interviewed 15 chairman mentors and 25 protégés—CEOs, CEO designates, and CFOs. (Chairman Mentors International facilitated access to many of the study participants.)

On the basis of what we heard, we are convinced that more CEOs should connect with mentors rather than assume that theirs is a burden to be shouldered alone. But we also discovered aspects of such arrangements that make them trickier than the mentoring that takes place at lower organizational levels. At the CEO level, special considerations must go into making a match between mentor and mentee, structuring their sessions to deliver the intended benefits, and prioritizing the process so that it isn’t crowded out by other demands. By sharing what we’ve learned about these issues, we hope to pave the way for more use of this highly efficient learning model.

Read the full article here.

Mentoring the Mentors: Advice and inspiration for working with startups

Posted by: Rick Turoczy (Originally published at siliconflorist.com on July 3, 2012)

Around the time PIE was starting the accelerator phase of this ongoing experiment, David Cohen, cofounder of TechStars, shared the TechStars Mentor Manifesto. And it served as an inspiration for me. A post by Micah Baldwin, a former TechStars mentor, provided a similar nudge for me.

I’m often reminded to go back and reread both of these posts and am inspired, again and again. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to augment the PIE mentor guidance a bit with some things that we’ve learned from observing PIE startups and mentors over the years.

We shared these tips with the PIE mentors and a few of them suggested we turn it into a blog post for the broader mentor community.

So we took that mentoring to heart.

If you’re thinking about becoming a mentor for startups — either in a formal accelerator program or independently — here are some tips for thinking about how to work with entrepreneurs.

Read on here for 10 tips for mentoring startups.

Managing a Small Business: Don’t Try to Run a Business Without Having a Mentor

By Paula Pant Posted: 10/16/14 Updated: 11/10/17

In addition to helping large Fortune 500 companies, #mentoring is beneficial to small businesses as well. For Entrepreneurs, There Are Some Questions You Just Can’t Research Online

You’d love to become your own boss. You’ve always dreamed of starting a cake business, running your own car dealership, or launching a consulting practice.

Lately, that dream has morphed into a plan. You’ve built some savings. You’ve carved out a home office. You have approval from your spouse.

But there’s one incredibly important piece of the puzzle that you may be lacking: a mentor.

Why a Mentor?
You can read all the books about writing business plans, managing self-employment taxes and filing LLC paperwork. You can study the biographies of the leaders in your field. But unless you have a trustworthy person who can provide direct feedback that’s unique to your situation, you won’t be able to improve as quickly or as well.

Mentoring is essential in any field. If you’re a software programmer, meet with your mentor monthly to ask whether you should stick with JavaScript or learn Ruby on Rails. If you’re a professional writer, send your mentor one article per month and ask for feedback on style and tone. If you flip houses, show your mentor your operating budget and request advice on how to manage contractors.

So where can you find a mentor? To read the rest of this article click here.