Who’s Mentoring YOU?

Who's Mentoring YOU?

I was reading some recent research that talked about the great divide in satisfaction with workplace advancement between employees with sponsors and those without sponsors. Sheryl Sandberg also made a point in her book “Lean In” about the importance of workplace mentors to help guide your career decisions and workplace choices.

So the question is: do you have a workplace mentor?It’s very common for employees to joke that they have a workplace spouse, usually a co-worker that they can trust, vent to, and share some “for your ears only” jokes with. While this can make your days at work happier, it doesn’t seem to be enough to increase your overall satisfaction at work.

So how can you find a true guide to help you navigate your organization?

1. Don’t just socialize laterally, socialize up
Find out what you have in common – kids of the same age, similar interests, a love of bad puns – with more senior leaders in your organization. Then see if a stronger relationship can grow from that earlier point of connection. There’s a reason that golfing was the sport of the white male establishment – it provided a shared interest and casual time together. Before that (just refer to Downton Abbey) it was shooting and hunting.

2. Ask for “tutoring”
If you see a more senior employee who has managed a skill or technique that you’ve been wanting to learn- ask if they can tutor you on it. Make sure to keep your request manageable and specific – like requesting books or course recommendations and asking to follow up with questions and ideas. If you start with a concrete request, it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone to help supervise your learning, and in the process – develop a closer relationship with them.

3. Looks Beyond The Superficial
From my close friend Lara Gilman I got this great tip. She warns people to not only look for mentors who “look like you.” Someone could be a different gender, marital and family situation and be a great supporter. You don’t need to remind someone of themselves, to find a helpful ally. In fact, she warns, “sometimes too much similarity can make it harder. Just focus on how you can help them.”

4. Follow the Feedback (the constructive ones)
After working together and completing projects, it’s always wise to schedule a project debrief and feedback session. First of all, your openness to feedback really demonstrates your commitment to excellence. Secondly, you can scope out which senior leaders are keen observers who provide helpful insights. This might be the perfect person with whom you want to work to cultivate a deeper relationship.

5. Get a coach 
Why yes, I do happen to be a coach who helps guide people through workplace challenges so they can prosper and be promoted further. But beyond the seemingly self-serving nature of #5, I truly believe in coaching as a way to move beyond seemingly limiting work situations. While cultivating a professional work sponsorship situation might take a forward-looking investment of time before it deepens and takes root, a coach can be an immediate impartial observer to help you gain a wider (or new) perspective on your work situation, and support you in developing new skills that will enhance your performance and prominence at work.

So reality check time here -have you begun to plant seeds or cultivate mentors at work? Is this even on your radar? Are you steadfastly going it alone?

It’s never too late to reflect back on your career development, plot a new roadmap moving forward and enlist support and companionship for the upcoming journey ahead.

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? For You: Do you have a mentor? If not, do you think it would be useful? If so, how has it been useful?

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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