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.
You’ve come so far in your mentor/mentee relationship! Take a breath and take a look at all you’ve accomplished over the past 12 months.
Do you remember where you began a year ago? What was the quality and tone of that relationship then? What were your goals and visions?
Where are you now…and even more exciting, Where are you headed for the next 12 months?
Next month we begin a whole new series of tips! So, dream, journal and wonder at your next level…and stay tuned for more.
Listening is an essential mentoring skill and, once again, it topped our Wheelhouse Mentoring Survey list as the number one attribute of a good mentor.
Thanks to the responses of our readers (like you!) we also collected the following additional characteristics of good listeners:
- Uses active listening.
- Provides a safe environment for a mentee to share and take risks.
- Demonstrates empathy.
- Picks up on all the subtle (or not so subtle) clues to tailor appropriate responses.
- Is nonjudgmental and has unconditional positive regard for their mentee.
- Keeps an open mind.
- Is truly, authentically interested in the development of their mentee.
- Encourages mentees to come up with solutions themselves by asking probing questions.
- Stays focused on their mentee.
- Possesses the humility to accept that they don’t know all the best ways of doing things.
- Remains fully present in the conversation.
- Listens and learns; doesn’t just share their expertise.
Here’s an example of how listening should work in a mentoring relationship, and why it’s so important:
Kasi wanted someone to listen and understand her concerns and challenges. Jonah, her mentor, got it and got her.
Kasi: “I feel like I’m stuck. I don’t see where I can go and grow in this organization. Maybe I need to go back to school and get an MBA.”
Jonah: “Feeling stuck is no fun. I think everyone feels that way at one time or another in their career. I know I’ve been there. I found, both for me and many others who have shared those feelings, it isn’t always the long range career path. Sometimes it is a short term lull — like what you are doing now doesn’t interest you anymore. Does that make sense?”
Kasi: “Yes it does, I don’t feel like I am working on interesting projects anymore. All the new projects seem to be going to others. I feel like I am being left behind.”
Jonah: “That, I know, is not a good feeling. When you see others get what appears to be the latest and greatest project, it can easily make you second guess yourself. I just want to remind you of what you told me before in our earlier conversations. And that is your supervisor values your work, and you are well-respected. So I don’t believe it has to do with your contribution. Have you talked to your supervisor about these feelings of yours and about a new assignment?”
Kasi: “I haven’t. I guess I had hoped I would be the natural go-to person when something new came up.”
Jonah: “Well, I am sure that might have been your hope, but I can tell you, as a supervisor, that, number one, I am not a mind reader. I don’t always know that someone wants a new assignment, and two, I do tend to rely on people like you who are responsible and can get the job done. I give them free reign to do their work and appreciate that I don’t have to watch over them. I guess this is a reminder for me, too. Not to take their contribution for granted.”
Kasi: “So you think I need to be speaking up more about what I need, not just put my head down and get the job done?”
Jonah: “I do. Let’s give it a try.”
Seems pretty straightforward, right? As you can see, Jonah is a mentor who listens. He refers back to previous conversations, showing he’s invested in Kasi. He also acknowledges what she’s feeling, listens to the words she’s using, and digs deeper into why she’s feeling the way she does.
What’s great about this example, too? It showcases several other top qualities listed in our survey — empathy, focus, nonjudgmental, etc. A truly great mentor combines these top qualities into an unforgettable experience for their mentees!
Key Takeaway: How well are you listening? Use the top 12 qualities in this post to help you benchmark your listening skills.
Trust is everything when starting out in a new mentoring relationship — and even when you’re nurturing an existing one! While it’s tempting to dive in and drill down quickly to talk about needs and goals at the first meeting, try to avoid this. Instead, focus first on establishing an open and authentic relationship. It takes time and attention, but in the long run, it’s well worth it. You will have established a deeper, more meaningful, trusting relationship. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Get to know your mentee, and let your mentee get to know you. To jump start the process, come prepared with a list of questions. What is it you want to know about your mentee as a person? What do you want to know about your mentee’s work context?
- Your mentee needs to relate to you, too. Mentees are more forthcoming when a mentor shares their personal success stories, as well as their struggles. If you’re open and authentic, it invites your mentee to be, too.
Check back soon for “Your Mentoring Year” Tip #2!
How is your year going so far?
With summer right around the corner, we thought it was the perfect time to inject some energy and excitement into your mentoring relationships.
So how about some helpful tips and tools? Just like any other healthy habit, building and sustaining thriving mentoring relationships is a non-stop process, requiring constant care, learning and adjusting.
With this in mind, we’re starting a new program for you — Your Mentoring Year: Mentoring Tips One Month at a Time. Each month we will focus on a mentoring practice, approach or technique that contributes to your mentoring excellence. As part of each month’s tip we’ll discuss why it’s important and how you can specifically apply these practices immediately to enhance your mentoring relationships. It’s both informative and actionable!
After a full year, you can refer back to these monthly tips to assess your effectiveness.
Sound good? Keep an eye out for our first month’s tip early this week!