Sunday, 12 April 2015

5 Steps to Building a Kick-A** Mentorship Team

There’s a current trend for younger workers to wistfully yearn for mentorship from their employers and bosses.  And it’s a situation most employers, HR Managers and others in organizational power, may try their best to sidestep.  But, before you cast those folks in your withering glare for being mean or selfish, don’t be too quick to judge. 

Our world is rushing by at breakneck speed.  Workload overwhelm is reportedly affecting 85% of the workforce.  I hear stories about it every day in my Career Transition Coaching practice, as I assist people across Canada to find relief or affect change in their day-to-day work.  About 5 years ago, I identified this growing trend towards overwork and overwhelm in the Canadian workplace (and those of other G8 countries) and have now dubbed it “The Squeeze”, as it is sucking the life out of so many employees in our working population.

It’s all part of the doing more with less work environment spawned by rampant and (in most cases) ill-conceived “restructuring” activities our working public is struggling to survive! 

As a result, with so much competition for so few positions, many employees are not getting well-deserved promotions, or assistance to grow the essential skills/knowledge needed to make the leap.  Hence, the dearth of energetic mentors for not only our young and eager Millennials, but for employees of all ages and professions.

Part of the problem in delivering competent mentoring or “informal professional development” is that, in pre-Squeeze days, we used to have more time to develop and teach people at work. Things went through cycles, sometimes hectic and deadline-driven, but other times we’d often experience an in-between lull.  A time to catch our breaths and catch up on work that had been delayed or postponed during the busy time. 

These down-times were often when more of the internal skills and knowledge building took place.  I call it water-cooler time… and it’s something the Squeeze has zapped out of the average working day.  Now, so many of us are skipping lunches and breaks, working overtime or at home on weekends and evenings to catch up.  This proverbial hamster in the wheel syndrome has reached epidemic proportions.  Which leaves scant little time for any informal mentoring or training. 

And we mustn’t forget our ever-present technology.  More and more we hear how technology is distracting us, impacting our productivity and making it difficult for us to concentrate and focus.  This also adds a layer of influence at work that depletes our mind-space for sitting down with co-workers, colleagues and junior personnel to share and cross-train in a more relaxed manner.

With all this running around and trying to keep up, Managers and Supervisors are also under the gun.  And few have time to devote to mentoring or developing their teams.  Many employers would be happiest if their staff could just train themselves and get on with it.  But that’s a pretty unrealistic expectation.

… which brings me back to the discussion at hand:  MentorsAnd how to find them!

How the heck, in this time-strapped workplace, can you find someone willing to devote their precious time to help you navigate this confusing work terrain? 

Well, I always say if one is good, three or four would be better!  So why not apply that concept to Mentoring? 

Here’s my 5 step plan to start building a multi-member Mentorship Team that will propel you to greater career heights. 

Do your homework…

1)    CLEARLY DEFINE what it is you want to learn (and this can be the most difficult part so don’t give up if you struggle with it.  This is something you will be doing for the rest of your life, so you might as well get used to it.  It’s what builds strong decision-makers and employees who are in high demand!)
·      Make a Clear, Targeted and Specific List:  figure out various areas of expertise you need to develop and apply in real-life/work situations. 
o   You might check with your HR department or supervisors/bosses.  This may lead you to someone you might like to ask to be on your mentorship team but don’t assume just because you asked them for ideas, that they’re the right person to mentor you.
·      Use the internet to do research and, if you find some inexpensive or free learning you can access on your own, DO THAT!  Anyone you approach afterwards will be extra impressed that you put in the extra effort before taking up their time asking rudimentary questions.
·      Be on the lookout for co-workers, contacts and even LinkedIn connections that might fit the bill.  Pretend you’re filling a board of directors for your most important endeavour:  YOU!

Then leap into action…

2)      Spread the love around! 
·      Since one is not enough, gradually, after researching, approach a few potential mentor candidates. 
·      Request a brief meeting.  Be respectful and make it ultra-clear you only want 10-20 minutes of this very busy person’s time.
·      Invite them for coffee and insist on paying! 
·      Prepare an agenda and send them a point form email outlining what you’d like to discuss ahead of time (a day or two is good).
·      Don’t ask if they’ll be your mentor just yet.  Wait until you’ve had a couple of meetings.  Build the relationship. And try to make it valuable to them, as well.
·      Show them “why” they should want to be your mentor!
·      BONUS: once you’ve cemented a few excellent mentors to your team, and they’re impressed by your respectful approach, they’re likely to start suggesting people you should meet and talk to!  It’s like they hand great mentors to you on a silver platter.  And who wouldn’t love that?

It takes two to make a relationship work…

3)   Be Considerate and Generous (in other words, when you get a little, give a little back) – in business lingo that means polite and professional. And when you do get some help reciprocate in some way.  Most importantly, treat your mentor with the utmost respect, especially when it comes to their time.  Remember:  since everyone is so crazy busy these days, the kind of people you want to advise you are likely to be even more in demand than most.
·      If they give you homework, make sure you do it and then, ideally, tell them how you were able to apply it into your life or work at your next meeting, or in an email. And don’t forget to take this opportunity to thank them for their advice. (This will rack up Brownie points like you won’t believe!)

Keep the ball rolling…

4)    Be prepared!  Plan and prepare your agenda. Treat your mentorship sessions like a business consultant meeting.  And keep it direct, to the point and as brief as possible.
·      If you’re nervous--which can be a natural offshoot of sitting down with someone you may see as an authority figure or decision-maker in your organization—practice what you’re going to say. 
o   Stick to the agreed-upon timeframe, even if you have a few more questions to ask.  Your mentor-to-be will appreciate you sticking to your word! 

Maintain a professional demeanor…

5)   Keep it Strictly Business – While it’s okay to share a bit about your personal life, try not to stray too far into that territory.  A mentor doesn’t mean “friend.”  And, as harsh as that may sound – and friendship “could” develop over time (stranger things have happened) – for now, keep it strictly business. 

By approaching potential mentors this way you demonstrate 4 equally impressive work traits and qualities that employers, managers and influential people (if they’re smart) look for in highly desirable candidates.

1. Initiative-Taking
2. Personal Responsibility
3. Critical Thinking 
4. Business Communication Skills

This creates a win-win arrangement.  But, you’re not looking for that (explicitly) now.  It’s just a great bonus, once you commit to the process and spend a bit of time tuning in to what soft and hard skills you want to add to your work-life palette.

My talent lies in deconstructing your experience (from work and life) then reinventing the Lego pieces into a newer, more satisfying design, through the delivery of high quality, personalized service that consistently hits its mark.  If you’d like to talk about your future career moves, call me for a FREE 30 minute consult!

Thought for the Day:
"Information is powerful!  But it’s what you DO with it that’s key. For my career change clients getting in front of people who have information valuable to their goals is as essential to them being successful as having a “transition” resume!  It takes a while to learn how to ask the best questions, but the rewards will propel you forward while helping you create more satisfying work, as well as life!"


COMING SOON!  My new e-book:  Putting Your Passions to Work - Using Self-Directed Internships and Strategic Volunteering to Design and Grow the Career of your Dreams!

No comments:

Post a Comment