A Note from the Author
This book is one that begged to be written. In my work across many businesses, I’ve seen this problem and I’m sure you have too…
- Mentors and mentees conducting their relationships as if defined by this equation:
Mentoring relationship = A Meeting. Period.
- Meet at a prescribed time at the conference table under the florescent lights and talk. Or at least the mentor talks… and then it’s “goodbye” till next month. (Then another meeting and some more talk.)
- Management team and Learning and Development applaud a positive mentoring culture because of the mentoring meetings that are occurring.
This isn’t every mentoring relationship but it sure describes many of them.
I’ve named it ‘Yakking, Tracking, Get Sent Packing” and no organization wants or needs that. Too many individuals have their bottoms nailed to their chairs for a meeting. Real change isn’t happening. Meetings are!
Mentoring needs a SHIFT.
Employees are feeling frustrated with their mentoring experiences and too many organizations see very little strategic ROI for their costly efforts.
The fix to this problem took root in two of my early lifetime experiences.
First, I’m a cowboy’s daughter straight from the heart of Nebraska. My dad, granddad and great granddad were all in the cattle business. As kids, my dad would take my brother and me out on the open road to show us the cattle business. We’d jostle along on the bumpy pastures to get right up close to the grazing cattle. Dad would start the inevitable quiz. He’d say, “Which is an Angus, a Hereford, a Long Horn? Would that steer make it to market?” (Trivial Pursuit really should have a category for Cattle Facts: I’d be a tough competitor.)
Dad and Grandpa also took many young cowboys with them as they traveled those dusty roads. The key word iswith them. They took the men with them to round up cattle and strike a deal. They believed that if those young men didn’t “look the critter in the face” and “get their boots dirty” too, they weren’t really learning the business.They rarely worked alone.
What do bumpy cattle pastures have to do with a book on mentoring? My dad and grandpa gave me a clear example of great mentoring that I still use today. Mentoring was not a textbook experience; it was a hands-on life experience. I still call it “The Power of ‘With’.”
You learned by going WITH them.
That’s the first root that was planted – I learned that the best mentoring doesn’t happen by sitting at a conference table under the florescent lights at a pre-appointed time. It happens when you take someone with you into real life.
The second part of the solution came through knowing the value of a process, of “steps,” if you will.
When I was eight years old, I baked my first cake. My mom gave me a recipe with simple steps to follow.
When I began driving, I learned to commandeer a car around town by following a checklist of steps:
- turn on the ignition
- back (safely) out of the driveway
- head for my destination by staying more or less on the right side of the road.
When I took a short try at country-western dancing, I memorized every kick and twist performed by the cute cowboy instructor who taught the line dances; I wouldn’t be caught dead tromping on my dance partner’s boots because I didn’t know the steps!