Following on my previous blog exploring the importance of building meaningful relationships, I believe mentoring can be another great way to build relationships, and again this can be applicable both inside and outside your organisation. I’ve been mentoring informally forever, but I’ve been formally mentoring through a number of programs for the past five years and I can’t tell you how much I’ve got out of it. I’ve had 8 mentees across the programs and there is only one I’m not regularly in touch with.

The word mentor gets thrown around a lot, but if you find yourself at times with questions and no one to ask, that’s a good sign you need a mentor. A mentor is going to help you think things through, ask big questions and guide you through decisions. It helps a lot if you know what you’d like mentoring support for. You can’t really find a mentor and then just say, ok here I am, mentor me! Equally as long as you’ve got a vague starting point and you are both committed to the discussions, things have a way of naturally evolving into the right conversation.

Internal or External Mentoring?

I think mentoring relationships can be successful both internally and externally, but I’m probably more of a fan of it being external. Internal relationships still have a degree of political correctness that can sometimes get in the road. Perhaps your mentor knows your boss or they are still too close to the situation in one way or another, and that’s why I’m a fan of using it as another opportunity to meet someone externally. I’ve paid for some of my own staff to be mentored externally and I love hearing what they come back with. I think it’s good for them to get out of our organisation once in a while, but it’s not to say internal mentoring can’t work.

I’ve got so much out of my mentoring. I’ve been able to help with and then witness promotions, job changes, new businesses, pay rises, babies and web site launches. I actually didn’t have anything to do with the baby… that was just nice to hear about and cute to meet afterwards!

Mentoring can also evolve into sponsorship. The simplest way I’ve hear the difference between mentoring and sponsoring described is Mentors Advise and Sponsors Act. In her book called “From Me to We” Janine Garner has a whole chapter on sponsoring. In her list, sponsors do the following

–        Take action

–        Open doors

–        Make introductions

–        Give business and career leads

–        Help pave the path to success

–        Influence activity and decision making

–        Actively build the pipeline of future game changes

Do you currently have a sponsor? Janine quotes some research which shows sponsorship can result in as much as a 30% increase in promotions, pay and stretch assignments for a protégé. Alarmingly, the same study says that most women believe that purely working hard will get them the same results.

Sponsorship also seems to bring out the best in people, which I think is completely natural. If someone is going to be kind enough to sponsor you and you agree a strategy and they stick their neck out for you and put their reputation on the line by supporting you and recommending you, you have to do your bit to make sure they are getting a return on their investment in you. There are so many great stories about what sponsorship has achieved and part of it is because of this sense of loyalty the protégé’s feel to their sponsors and what they can achieve with that as a motivating factor.

As females, we have to do something differently here ladies! It’s not about being more like men, but it is about adopting some of the strategies that they’ve used quite naturally for years into our plansI encourage you to embrace mentoring and sponsorship when the timing is right for you.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Ready for a mentor and not sure to get started? Some organisations I’d recommend are Mentor Central and YPWA or numerous industry and professional bodies
  2. Think…”could I help sponsor someone with my influence?”
  3.  Interview someone who you know is a mentor and see what value they’ve gotten out of the relationship, I can assure you it’s often mutual
Youth Mentoring

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