by Kristi Casey Sanders, CMP, CMM, DES, HMCC
• How to be a mentor
• Tips and rules for mentees
Your curiosity and ability to adapt to corporate culture will help you meet and maybe exceed workplace expectations. But instincts will only get you so far. The secret to success may be in your ability to find a mentor for others or be one.
Sun Microsystem’s human resources department conducted a five-year study of 1,000 employees to quantify the impact of the company’s mentoring program. They discovered that both mentors and mentees were 20% more likely to get a raise than people who didn’t participate in the program. In fact, only 5% of managers not participating in the program received raises versus 28% of managers who did mentor others.
The mentorship program also helped elevate careers. The study found that mentored employees were five times more likely than nonparticipants to get promoted, and those who mentored others were six times more likely to get moved up.
Oftentimes the mentor/mentee relationship is one that happens organically. If it doesn’t, here are three ways you can look for potential mentors or mentees.
1. Ask your human resources department about internal or external resources they offer.
2. Search your school alumni pages. Many colleges offer a program that matches potential mentees with willing mentors.
3. Look at your circle of friends and business acquaintances: Are there people who you know might need advice in an area you know well? Are there people in your circle that you find inspirational?
Cardinal rules for being an effective mentor
Being a mentor imbues you with a lot of responsibility. Here’s how to wield it wisely.
1. Listen. This is your primary responsibility. Resist the urge to jump in immediately with suggestions or comments.
2. Ask questions. Make sure you understand what’s important to the mentee and what they want to focus on. This may be unclear to them too, so ask questions.
3. Gain permission before sharing advice and suggestions. Sometimes people just want to share what they’re feeling and aren’t looking for advice. So, before you start offering yours, ask if your mentee would like it. Gaining permission will also increase the chance that they’ll be receptive to what you have to say, whether or not it’s hard to hear.
4. Point out patterns or inconsistencies. People are notoriously bad at self-assessment and awareness. Looking in from outside, you may notice certain patterns they’re unaware of or inconsistencies between what they say they want and what they’re actually pursuing.
5. Set boundaries. Don’t want a call on the weekend or a text message during work hours? Let your mentee know how, when, and how often you should stay in touch.
Cardinal rules for being a good mentee
1. Don’t expect much from strangers. Getting referrals is one thing, but don’t ask someone you don’t know to mentor you.
2. Narrow your focus. What is your goal? What kind of advice do you need? How do you want to grow? Don’t spread yourself or your mentor too thin. Drill down to what’s most important to you and why you think they can help. That kind of focus will help you have more productive conversations and mentoring relationships. And who said you will only have one mentor? Chances are you’ll have several formal and informal mentors throughout your career.
3. Listen. Why ask for someone to mentor you if you don’t want to listen? Shut up and take their advice.
4. Resist the urge to get defensive. Not all advice or observations will be easy to hear. Don’t take it personally, this is business, remember? Ask clarifying questions so you can be sure you’re interpreting what is being said correctly and understand what it means.
5. Pay it forward. Once you make it, don’t forget where you came from and all the help you had along the way. If you run across people who you enjoy and want to see succeed, take the time to mentor them and help them achieve their potential.
Are you looking for an opportunity to enhance your leadership skills, mentor and be mentored by others? Find a Women in Leadership: Executive Leadership Skills class presented by Meeting Professionals International near you. Interested in bringing it to your city or organization? Email email@example.com.
Kristi Casey Sanders, CMP, CMM, DES, HMCC, passionately believes in the power of curiosity, the magic of technology and the alchemy of human connections. As Director of the MPI Academy for Meeting Professionals International (mpiweb.org), she helps design the content, educational programming, and digital resources meeting professionals need to succeed and advance in their careers. She loves exchanging ideas about event design, storytelling, strategy, innovation, digital marketing, the neuroscience of human behavior, engagement strategies, technology and machine learning. Prior to joining the MPI team, she spent 13 years designing event experiences, educational programming, technical platforms and editorial direction for PlanYourMeetings.com, which is now part of the MPI family. She also has experience as a professional, award-winning actress/improviser/corporate trainer and not-so-professional rugby player. Engage with her on Twitter @KristiCasey. “When we meet, we change the world.” #IamMPI