Most organisations ‘do mentoring’ back-to-front. They launch a program because people ask for it, or because they think it’s one of those things that an organisation should have for its employees. They start by focusing on who they want to influence and what they want them to learn, i.e. the mentees. But what if they had been doing it wrong all along?
What if you start with the why (purpose) for your organisation, find your greatest brand champions who live and breathe the DNA of the brand, then enable these people to build and nurture mentoring networks through formal and informal mentoring opportunities? Help them discover what they can contribute to others and enable them to do that well. What might happen?
A strategic, brand-centric approach. With these brand champions as mentors, they can drive organisational outcomes and culture in the direction you want to go. To take it a step further, these champions have the influence and ability to build engagement, commitment, and retention because they can support your people to achieve their individual goals, truly fulfilling their potential.
So, don’t start with who we think ought to be mentored (the mentees). Instead, start with this question. Who do we want to empower to influence the future trajectory of the organisation, how it behaves internally and externally, how it will evolve, and the outcomes it is capable of achieving? The mentors.
Jim Collins talks about ‘getting the right people on the bus’ as a necessary component of building a great organisation. Get the right people on the bus, and they will attract others onto the bus. Ensure the bus continues in the right direction, and that what’s happening on the bus is consistent with getting to the chosen destination. These people will help ensure the bus ride is rewarding, so that the brightest and the most talented want to stay on the bus, not just for the destination, but the joy of the journey. Powerful leaders don’t have to be the most senior people in the organisation – they have influence because of who they are and how they inspire and mentor others. All you need to do is to give them the tools and processes to become powerful brand-centric mentors.
What makes a great brand-centric mentor?
Masterful brand-centric mentors help others understand where the bus is headed and why. They demonstrate and inspire others to behave in ways consistent with reaching the destination. They challenge and support others to be the best they can be, to achieve their own potential. They walk the talk.
This is one of the basic principles of Strategic Mentoring. Getting outcomes not just for the benefit of the individuals, but for the whole organisation and all of its stakeholders. It’s a purposeful approach to mentoring, grounded in an understanding of what mentoring is and what good quality mentoring can achieve and for whom. Organisations that follow this approach often have several mentoring programs on offer, with a blend of formal and informal offerings. We know that where formal mentoring programs have been implemented, informal mentoring flourishes, because there is a pool of trained mentors who reach out to others for potential mentorship. Formal, cohort-based programs play an important role in training and preparing people for effective mentoring relationships that can emerge organically without any administrative effort.
A strategic mentoring approach has multiple mentoring initiatives in co-existence:
- Cohort-based programs that meet a specific organisational need or purpose, for example effective induction of graduates, building greater diversity, mentoring emerging leaders. These programs run from time-to-time and may not be open to everyone. Sometimes an inside-out approach can work well here – for example, you can use reverse mentoring for diversity, empowering people from minority groups to mentor people who are usually more senior to help expose them to cultural, gender or other areas of difference. This approach creates a space for these leaders to develop a deeper understanding of key issues and prompt systemic change in the organisation for the benefit of diverse populations.
- An open, on-demand program, available to all or most people, whenever they want to start. The open approach depends on having a pool of effective mentors available for mentoring requests. This is where your brand-centric mentors can play a huge role. A mentoring-on-demand program provides a vehicle for these mentors to become part of many mentoring networks, influencing culture and organisational results, and at the same time helping individuals meet their own professional and career goals. A great example is ethical mentoring, which offers a pool of mentors specifically trained to assist people to grapple with ethical dilemmas. Used strategically to help build ‘ethical decision-making muscle’, this is an impactful way to shape more a positive, values-based organisational culture.
Why brand-centric and not customer or employee-centric?
Great question! As a brand strategy consultant 25 years ago, I learned that you can’t have your ‘inside clothes’ and your ‘outside clothes’ and expect to have a coherent brand. You can’t promise one thing to customers and then behave inconsistently with employees. The central glue is the brand, which is at the heart of and expresses the organisational purpose and promise. It should drive everything you do with employees and customers. When people understand and believe in the brand and what it stands for, they will naturally do the right thing by employees and customers. Brand-centric mentors can help cascade this right through the organisation, in all directions – up, down, and networked across organisational structures. Powerful stuff, for the organisations that get this right.
Art of Mentoring have more than 20 years’ experience in delivering powerful, purpose-led mentoring programs across a range of industries. Explore our resource library to access webinars, blogs and current industry insights on mentoring trends. If you’d like to talk to our team about mentoring for your organisation contact us or learn more about our mentoring platform here.
©Melissa Richardson 2022.