What The World Needs
Nobody makes it alone. If you’ve ascended the corporate ladder, you know how true this is.
Research shows that successful CEOs reached the top because they sought out mentors along the way. In a survey of 1,250 top executives, two-thirds reported having a mentor and 29 % of respondents out-earned their unmentored colleagues. They also reported being happier than those who did not have mentors.
What’s more, every single successful female executive in this research study reported having a mentor.
Why does this matter so much? Consider these stats. Today, women earn 38 % of the MBAs but make up only 2 % of S&P 500 CEOs and occupy just one in five board seats. Women’s progress in the corner offices and boardrooms of America has stalled.
To help turn this trend around, we need more women mentoring women.
Before you get concerned that this is just another demand on your time, know that mentoring can be one of the most fulfilling experiences in your career. Seeing another person strive for growth and success and supporting them as they reach their goals can renew your own passion for your career. You can also benefit from better understanding the employees you lead and how to motivate and retain them.
In other words, there’s as much in it for you as a mentor as there is for the mentee.
We all have demanding jobs and struggle to achieve work-life balance, but mentoring is enriching and well worth the small investment of time.
Here are some tips to help you succeed as a mentor—should you choose to make a difference in a young woman’s life and help give her a hand up on her way to the C-suite.
Find the right fit
You’ll know you’ve found the right fit when you meet a young person you feel invested in and personally care about. That element must be present for both the mentor and mentee. You cannot force it. Ideally, they will choose you. Be patient. If you are open to the possibility that a woman in your organization or network could benefit from your experience, the opportunity will find you. To flip the old saying, “when the teacher is ready, the student will appear.”
Listen as much as you speak
You have a lot to give, so it’s tempting to dominate the conversation, but your mentee needs to talk too. Be a sounding board and a resource. Seek first to understand, as Stephen Covey coaches, before being understood. If you spend as much time listening as you do speaking, you’re doing it right. When people listen to someone they perceive as an expert, brain researchers say that the part of their brain that problem-solves shuts down. So, remember that your mentee might do more learning when they’re talking to you than listening to you.
Use actions as well as words
Who can you introduce to your mentee? What event could you invite her to? What you do for the mentee can be as or more powerful than what you tell them. Open new doors. Create new connections. Support new experiences.
Be a role model by being human
Everyone is busy so busy-ness is not an excuse. Scheduling conflicts will be unavoidable, but to the extent you can, show up on-time to demonstrate you value your mentee. Be human and share your own fears or anxieties and how you overcame them so your mentee can see that being perfect is not a realistic goal. Risk-taking and failures are all part of growing.
Hold mentees accountable
You have an opportunity to make an impact but not if your mentee isn’t willing to follow through with their goals, commitments or putting in the hard work necessary to achieve. One of the first things that a mentee should learn from you is that you will hold them accountable, but you can do it in a positive fashion. Congratulate them on their achievements and probe them on their misses. “Why do you think you didn’t get that done? What other options or approaches could you have taken?”
Hopefully, with the right fit, you will find that your mentee exceeds your expectations. If they continually do not follow through with their promises or plans, or do not respect your time, you might have to find someone else to mentor. If you do sever the relationship for these reasons, it will be the most powerful lesson you can teach your mentee.
By Carla Carlini
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