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How a Mentoring Program Keeps Leadership Growing and Evolving

A universal concern is what happens after the leadership training? There is a nagging discomfort at all levels that nothing will change when the workshop is over. Everyone will go back to fitting in to things the way they were. This is where leadership, training and development lose credibility.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

A mentoring program can keep leadership development front and center beyond the workshops and training programs. It helps managers and leaders continue to grow, adapt, and learn to create necessary change. A mentoring program can ensure stronger managers and leaders that stay on the cutting edge and consistently perform well. 

At first glance a mentoring program may appear like something else to do, a new requirement or a time commitment.  A deeper look reveals the potential for a hidden strategy that can give you an unbelievable competitive advantage.

Senior leaders and CEO’s know that highly effective mentors will seize the opportunity to sharpen their leadership in the process of helping mentees. A mentoring program gives you the opportunity to reflect and get clarity on your own leadership. It gives you the space and freedom to identify patterns and figure out what makes you effective, how you apply your individual expertise and experience to create momentum and drive results. 

Mentoring also helps you view the organization in a new holistic light. In addition, the best mentors get personal satisfaction and fulfillment from the mentoring relationship. If you are feeling unfulfilled, worn or jaded, becoming a mentor can give you a personal boost. 

Here are 6 strategies the best mentors use to continuously move the needle on leadership.

1. Put the relationship first. It is self evident that the best results come from the foundation of a good relationship. Mentees need to feel safe to bring up sensitive issues that can only be asked behind closed doors. They have to feel like it is in their best interest to open up in service of their growth and development. The mentor / mentee relationship should go beyond the formal employee and boss roles. Build it as people who have a common interest in growth and development and a solid commitment to the success of the relationship.   

2. Focus on character. Skill and competence are not enough for today’s leaders. Leave skill development to the trainers. Mentoring is your chance to help mentees develop more deeply in new areas such as cultural agility and developing the social awareness to understand the impact of their behavior on others. Help mentees develop the self-management to pause in the face of strong emotions and the self-awareness to recognize and manage their own emotions. In the long run building a strong character and value-based qualities matter more than skill.  As challenges grow in number and complexity, aspiring managers and leaders need to be prepared for anything because anything can happen and it usually does.   

3. Manage yourself. Mentees may come to you with some hair-brained ideas or ambitions. Your response will ensure they keep bringing questions even if they are off the wall. Use a measured response and avoid the scrunched frown that says, “whaaaaat?” Don’t roll your eyes or sigh loudly. Although perhaps subtle and maybe even meaningless to you these nonverbal responses are loud and obvious to your mentee and they create dissonance in the relationship. Refer to #1.

4. Be Strategic. Every organization has problems, dysfunctions and long-standing complex issues. Be deliberate and intentional with what you project. Demonstrate how to minimize issues and work in a proactive way always in the name of moving the needle toward what is possible, productivity and daily wins. Don’t give any energy to backbiting, negativity or gossip. When you model this way your mentee will learn how to do the same. They will project what they see you project.

5. Push. The new normal of uncertainty, volatility and the pace of change, dictates the need for managers and leaders who are broadly competent, adaptable, open-minded and responsive.

Emphasize learning agility—learning from experience and applying that learning to current and future challenges. Advocate and even push your mentees to accept new assignments, temporary detail opportunities and different roles. You will be ensuring deeper and broader development through varied experiences within and across departments. Your mentees will learn adaptability in hands on fashion. You will be encouraging them not to hideaway or burrow in to one department. They will instinctively become adaptable, open- minded and responsive. 

6. Inspire. When you enthusiastically and legitimately praise a job well done you teach the language of inspiration. Commending work done well one-on-one happens so infrequently that most managers and leaders don’t know how to do it. They don’t have the vocabulary for it and they feel awkward and out of place giving praise. Show your mentees how to inspire others and give valid and authentic praise. This is an under emphasized capability that when done well and often can take employee/management relations to a new level.

The competitive advantage of your mentoring program is under your guidance mentees improve in day–to-day critical thinking. They also develop longer view enterprise thinking and a holistic organizational perspective. They understand where the organization is going and they know their role. They know how to use their strengths to contribute where it is needed most.

Mentoring is not time spent but rather time that is invested strategically.

 

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