Over the past decade, demands on top professionals have increased dramatically. Nothing has been taken off the plate of these professionals; it’s only been added. That is the premise of research undertaken by Thomas DeLong.
The rise of technology – from the 24/7 access afforded by Blackberries and iPhones, to the new requirement to cultivate a “social media platform” has only increased the time squeeze. One of the casualties of this reality has been the decline of mentoring. Whether formal or informal, executives have found it more and more to make enough time to cultivate rising talent.
Looking for mentors
How many reading this post have had a real mentor? How many have wanted one? The sad truth is that the changing business landscape has made investment in mentoring the next wave of high flyers take a back seat. The consequences are only really coming to the forefront now, and will cause increasing difficulties in the next 5 years unless we change the way we build our workforce.
The reality is that real mentors always make time. They make time because they have a burning desire from within to see others grow and to leverage their success and experience to benefit others. The time constraints referenced above impact formal company “mentorship” programs but not individual leaders who see the criticality of investing in the next wave of leaders.
Over the next little while I want to have a dialogue about mentoring. How do we find a mentor? How do we invest in mentoring, and if we can’t find anyone, how do we self-invest?
It’s easy to get complacent about professional development when you’re employed. If you already have a job, why should you go above and beyond to be a mentor or look for one, especially if it’s not required by your organization? But making an effort to help yourself grow professionally will help you succeed, both in the short term and in the long term.
Leaders look for ways to grow their teams and organizations, and no effort has a greater effect than mentoring. That being said, one of the misconceptions that continue to be promulgated within the workplace is that it’s the senior executives that mentor. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Being a mentor is everyone’s business
Mentoring is a developmental partnership through which one person shares knowledge, skills, information and perspective to foster the personal and professional growth of someone else. We all have a need for insight that is outside of our normal life and educational experience. The power of mentoring is that it creates a one-of-a-kind opportunity for collaboration, goal achievement and problem-solving. Does that sound like an executive only pursuit?
We all have something of value to share. We all have a need to benefit from someone else’s experience. The real question is whether we have the desire to make the effort. What makes a Good Mentor in the long run, is the recognition of the value of mentoring both to the mentor as well as the mentee. And the skills of a good mentor go far beyond professional expertise, they are founded in the desire and willingness to invest.
So the questions remains – what happened to the mentors?