This is a generation of talented people who want to hear, ask questions and get answers
Mentoring and coaching are effective leadership development tools which can make a big difference in developing leaders
…through Mentoring and Coaching as creating an apt environment for the success of the next clan of leaders becomes imperative, clarifies Marcel R. Parker, Chair of IKYA Human Capital Solutions
The next generation of talent is our future and attracting, inspiring and retaining them is crucial. So how do we do it in a way that will make a difference and enable this talent to see value-addition in them?
Every generation differs from the previous one. Tomorrow’s leaders are at a level below the layer that report to the CEO, and they are distinctly different. These fall in the age bracket of 28-35 years and have debuted in an age of expanding opportunities and a technology-enabled world. They learn very quickly and they consider the legacy knowledge in the organization easily attainable. They have huge expectations of being heard and of having their issues addressed quickly.
Who is listening to them in the organization? With the kind of targets, work pressures, road-rage, mobile intrusions and stress, most of their bosses end up paying them lip-service in terms of quality time, solutions, quick-fixes and flavor-of-the-month slogans trotted out by HR for employee-engagement processes! Coaching-mentoring may be able to provide answers to questions looming over these set of employees.
“The leader of the past knew how to tell, but the leader of the future will know how to ask,” said Peter Drucker many years ago. Marshall Goldsmith, arguably one of the most effective coaches in the world, clarifies that “the reality is that nobody knows what’s going on in this world and more than ever you have to learn to ask, listen and learn. There cannot be an omnipresent person with all the guidelines who gives orders. That world does not exist anymore!”
So, where are we going from here and how? We are all familiar with these options - creating effective models of leadership development, talent pipelines, back-to-school programs, e-learning, virtual universities, shadow-board membership, et al. This is a generation of talented people who want to hear, ask questions and get answers, and this need can be supplemented through a coaching-mentoring model.
Classically, the dividing line between coaching and mentoring is a fine one. Coaching is short-term, time-bound and closely linked to typically performance enhancement with specific goals. Mentoring, on the other hand, is more long-term, ensures a balanced exchange, shares experiences, contributes to the mentee’s self-development and personal competences. Most importantly, the mentor accompanies the mentee and shows him options.
HR practitioners normally start with introducing a mentoring model after defining whom the organization wants to be mentored and why is there a specific need for that group of persons. It could be fresh intakes, management trainees, employees of an acquired company, high-potentials or mid-level management. They all have specific varied needs so there has to be utmost clarity on why a particular group is chosen.
Then, a Champion is identified for this exercise. Interestingly, organizations that have used non-HR Champions for mentoring have generally had a better track-record of success. Ideally, it should be the CEO, but given constraints on his time if he is seen as the sponsor of the exercise with a very successful credible senior leader as Champion, facilitated by HR, it is a win-win situation. The Champion is also the Chief Evangelist for mentoring as it’s his voice that gets heard.
Next, mentors are identified. These are the credible successful managers who enjoy 360-degree respect amongst their peers, subordinates and bosses. They have demonstrated performance, honesty, commitment, integrity and responsibility for stewardship. They have positive attitudes and have been long enough in the organization to understand its culture and who are interested in not only developing young leaders but want to develop themselves too. Recognition of these people as mentors is a compelling motivation for them. The choice of the correct mentors is critical for the success of a mentoring program.
Educating the mentors: A day is set aside as it is on this day that the organization facilitates mentors for their ownership of this exercise. It gives a chance to the mentors to understand the exercise, express their opinions, argue, and debate, followed by a half-day training workshop. The training must be conducted by a person who enjoys credibility as a mentor (either internally or externally) and who can walk the mentors through the process, discuss caselets, take practice sessions with them, check their interest levels in the process and then after a self-evaluation, assess their suitability for the exercise.
After educating the mentor, the time comes to interact and talk with the mentees during a 2-3 hour semi-formal planned interactive session with the Champion and HR. What transpires is explaining what mentoring is all about (and also what it is not), how it will aid their development, how will they manage logistics and setting expectations on both sides, . This again is best managed through small groups of 15-20 mentees with an HR person leading the discussions and the Champion backing – up as and when appropriate.
How do we match mentors and mentees? There are no readymade solutions of how to match the mentors and mentees but here are examples of what works: the employee’s boss is never the mentor; geographical convenience of both mentee and mentor should be taken into consideration; similar areas of interest of mentor and mentees; individual requests from either side for a particular mentor/mentee should be taken into account (this is a real tough one to manage); “chemistry” between mentor and mentee -- although difficult to achieve, it leads to either success or failure of the mentoring exercise.
Since the mentor has, in the past, faced challenges that the mentee is facing now and has real experience in senior leadership roles, he should ideally also have had global leadership experience which helps him in his role of sharing with the mentee. Mentors help clients find solutions that work for the client in their situation by not simply repeating what was done elsewhere. A level of humility combined with curiosity and learning agility on both sides helps in determining the success of the matching.
As can be seen, there are gaps between expectations and needs of the Mentee and success can only be ensured once these gaps are narrowed.
The Mentor too has expectations from the Mentee in the form of taking initiative to drive the relationship, clarifying ambiguity, and ensuring that the activities agreed in the sessions are completed.
The Mentor and the mentee discuss the following broad topics during the mentoring exercise: Mentees’ work-related issues; Mentors’ work-related issues; Career development; Time Management; Personal issues (this is a tough issue and is bound to happen).
Getting potential mentee and mentor together for the first time in a face-to-face meeting is best done through a social interaction. With sensitization on the process and some background information on each other already done personally by the Head of HR, the Champion and the HR address the small group and share the objective of the first session. Typically, this would include formal introductions, setting expectations on both sides, logistics, timings, frequency of meetings, the mentor making the mentee feel comfortable, et al.
HR has a huge role to play in this entire exercise. HR has to be sensitive to the organizational dynamics, skepticism and towards the ultimate goal by taking a helicopter view of the whole initiative and ensuring that the logistics are smooth. The background role is to monitor (without becoming a control freak!), offer feedback wherever appropriate in a discreet manner, and to ensure that the focus is not lost. This is done by involving the Champion wherever necessary.
The measurement of success and failure of the entire mentoring exercise is extremely important. Here, the determination of the measurements of success (or failure) is paramount. Some examples of metrics used are as follows: Comparing attitudinal feedback in the PMS and through pre- and post- mentoring 360-degree appraisals; Keep track on how many mentees become mentors themselves two-three years down the line; Keep records on how many requests come from employees to be mentored or how many requests emanate for people to be trained as Mentors.
Be that as it may, should the mentoring and coaching exercise be mandatory or voluntary? There are no straight answers to this but evidence suggests that voluntary mentoring and coaching works better as there is greater ownership.
With a formal mentor process, a body of knowledge and other cultural teachings/learnings are expected out of the mentor-mentee relationship. A small component of the mentor relationship is evaluative in nature in the sense that an organization is expecting employees who mentor to assess the new employee’s fit within the culture of the organization. If the employee is slow or not learning, the mentor can help the departments in making adjustments through HR.
Overall, mentoring and coaching are effective leadership development tools, which if executed along with other tools, passionately, can make a huge difference in developing leaders, both NextGen and others.