Let’s kick off with a question. How much progress have you made on your New Year resolutions? Don’t feel too bad – you’re in good company. A recent poll by the US time management organization Franklin Covey (15,000 people sampled), established that 4 out of 5 respondents eventually break their New Year goals. 40% of those surveyed attribute breaking resolutions to having too many things to do, while 33% said they were not really committed to the resolutions in the first place. Sometimes people lock on to the wrong thing, reflecting a general desire rather than a specific goal. Sometimes they try to do it alone. Mentoring can help on both fronts.
In almost 25 years of working in the field of employee engagement and development, I have witnessed line managers play a hugely important role in helping individuals stay focused on key work goals. But beyond your immediate manager, if you are career minded then consider whether a mentor could add additional support. Order a mentor – but choose wisely.
Order a Mentor: The concept of mentoring is hardly new; it has been tried and tested over the centuries. Assuming that the chemistry and confidentiality is right, a knowledgeable confidant whom you can share your aspirations and challenges with is a huge asset. More and more organizations are using this device, as executives require ‘pinpoint’ support rather than more generalized learning. Because ‘connections’ are so important within the Irish culture – part of the success of the process is simply aligning yourself to a high status individual. Your success becomes part of their goals. You double the horsepower.
Changing Fashion: It used to be that having a mentor was a remedial sign – why would you need anyone to help you do your job? That was then. Now, it’s become a mark of personal confidence and organizational investment. Look at the world of sport. The best golfers in the world use coaches. They are already great players, but aspire to continually improve. As executives, we are all flawed diamonds; mentoring offers an opportunity to build on the current strengths that exist, to up your personal game. The very best mentors can be brilliant – albeit a lot of what they do happens ‘below the waterline’ and is not easy to measure.
Brilliant Mentoring: I know that this will embarrass him greatly, but Karl O Connor in Ulster Bank has been offering wise counsel to younger managers for many years. Like a talent spotter for Manchester United, Karl has closely observed talent from the sidelines and worked hard to support up and coming staff. He has acted as a mentor for many managers as they implemented key projects or wanted to discuss career aspirations. While difficult to quantify in any objective sense, this is a hugely important and incredibly unselfish role.
Normally Offline: Mentors provide an ‘offline’ resource to help you stay focused on relevant issues. They stop you getting sucked into the vortex of day-to-day operational problems and look for ways to ‘catch you doing something right’. In short, mentors keep executives focused and positive, sometimes even sane!
Seeing Results: Interestingly, mentors typically report that their reward is to see other people making significant progress. And people have long memories when it comes to recalling who helped them along the way. Just like you remember that particularly lecturer, uncle or aunt who steered your path, overcoming indecision or shifting the fog of confusion.
Having a mentor can help you to maximize your talent and to cope when the going gets tough. But they also hold your ‘hands to the fire’ to avoid what happens to people like those in the highlighted Franklin Covey survey, who simply give up on achieving goals as they hit the inevitable speed bumps.
So, think about using mentoring to put rocket fuel on your career. Make that your Paddy’s Day resolution! Enjoy the parade.
PS While there are no universally accepted definitions, a mentor is normally a senior person within your own organization. A coach is normally someone external. Other than this, the roles overlap. For a more detailed discussion about how the process works – check out the Coaching Roadmap on our website – http://www.tandemconsulting.ie.