I guess I´m on a mission. I´m sort of stuck on mentoring, so please bear with me. Before I went out on my own, first as a writer/publicist and then later as a writer/speaker/consultant no employer ever suggested that I get myself a mentor. And no employer ever introduced a mentoring program. But I wish they had. My mentors were sort of appointed by yours truly. While it´s nice to have a real mentoring relationship, one that encourages steady communication and mutual respect, you don´t have to wait for someone to handpick an individual who can provide guidance and inspire. I´ve had many mentors who have not idea that I´ve looked up to them. Some aren´t even living. After reading a biography on Eleanor Roosevelt, for example, she became a mentor, a hero of sort for her strength, independence, and ability to get people to do good. This is one my favorite Eleanor quotes, one that you might want to post in your company kitchen or mailroom: "You must do the thing you think you cannot do." I love that, because it can apply to so much in our work and personal lives. It´s part dare, part encouragement, and part permission granted to challenge yourself even if your doubts could fill Lake Ontario.
Here´s what Bev Kaye, co-author of one of my favorite business books Love "Em or Lose "Em: Getting Good People to Stay says about mentoring:
“Star employees who have been mentored or are currently in a mentoring relationship are more likely to stay with an organization and be engaged and committed to it. They are also more likely to mentor others, which further increases the strength of the organization.”
Once again, we have a strategy that forwards the notion that when people feel valued on the job they´re more likely to do a better job. It´s pretty simple. One of the most important facets of mentoring is what the mentee (that´s the person who´s being mentored) is willing to put into the relationship. If he or she is going to wait for nuggets of wisdom to rain down from the mentor, then the relationship will probably not work. A person who volunteers (VOLUNTEERS ARE NOT PAID) to mentor another individual wants to get something in return, not necessarily lunch or a box of chocolates (though if I´m mentoring any of you . . . just kidding; I don´t need chocolate . . . ) As you look into the possibility of introducing a mentoring program for your company think about what your employees need to bring to the relationship-general principles and specifics that will ultimately help your company grow. One of the best ways to respond here is to make a list of the obstacles you´d like your people to overcome in order to help them and the company grow. Is there a communications issue between employees and customers? Does everyone know the company´s mission and could they tell a stranger on the bus? Do some employees, particularly those who´ve been around for a while, have a better perspective, one they could share on a regular basis with staffers who are newer to the organization? Answering these and other questions will help you understand why mentoring is an essential piece of the employee development, hmm, pie (or cake or pizza or . . . ).