This John Maxwell quote speaks to an aspect of leadership that is often forgotten. The philosophy that leadership is about one life influencing another is not always considered as one develops as a leader. When leaders embrace this philosophy, great things almost always happen. One way to influence another’s life is through mentoring. This quote came to life as I watched Pat Summit announce her retirement on ESPN.
Pat Summit is the legendary women’s basketball coach for Tennessee. She is one of my favorite leaders. In addition to being an amazing basketball technician, Pat Summit understands the powerful affect mentoring has on teams. During her coaching career she made the connection between influencing the lives of young women by serving as a mentor and her capacity to turn these same young women into great basketball players. Clearly this philosophy works for her. Pat Summit belongs to the elite group of coaches with numerous championships under their belts. Her stellar record indicates that mentoring can make a qualitative difference in one’s desire to succeed.
This same philosophy is being embraced by organizations and companies. I see a rise in the development of formal mentoring programs in every sector of business. These programs involve top leaders, including CEOs who agree to mentor strategically selected high potential employees.
Mentoring is a person to person relationship focused on the professional development of the mentee. The mentor oversees the career and development of the mentee through teaching, career counseling, providing psychological/emotional support, protecting and, at times, sponsoring the mentee for promotion in the organization or company. This definition speaks directly to strategies used to influence the life of the mentee. Mentors have direct influence on the mentees career by providing this specific type of business based support, caring and concern.
In effective mentoring relationships, the mentor and mentee:
- Value the relationship.
- Trust that the relationship is confidential.
- Ensure the mentee’s manager is a partner in the process.
- Commit to meetings and respect each other’s time.
- Share a quality experience at specified time in the both careers.
- Work together on defined professional growth projects.
- Ensure expectations are clear.
- Support and encourage a progression from dependence to independence.
The development of a formal mentoring program must be strategic. Top leaders typically lay the foundation for program development by determining how mentoring aligns with business and workforce development goals. Human Resource professionals are empowered with time and financial support to organize teams to design the program. Selection criteria are developed to ensure leaders and employees are appropriate for participation in the mentoring program. Evaluation mechanisms are in place to ensure mentor – mentee relationships deliver business results. It is easy to reduce mentoring to another “touchy /feely” workplace initiative. However, there are many documented business benefits that result from successfully implementing formal mentoring programs. Mentoring is a business strategy that contributes to the achievement of business goals.