Are you one of the millions who reads – with envy – how someone’s success was dedicated to the great insights and support they got from a mentor? Are you one of the additional millions that keep committing to asking for a mentor but never get around to it?
Failure to build and maintain mentor relationships is tragic. And the efforts and investments made by companies to foster mentor relationships are meeting with little success.
Why? Because the responsibility resides with YOU, the employee, to establish and maintain a mentor relationship. It’s work. But it’s powerful work that can result in tremendous personal and professional success, regardless of your definition of success.
Some people use the excuse, “My boss is my mentor.” No, your boss is your boss. He or she has a different perspective than a mentor would have and there may be certain things you don’t share with your boss – for all the right reasons.
During my 11-year tenure at Microsoft Corporate headquarters as a General Manager of worldwide sales, I was a spokesperson and advocate for the worldwide Mentor Program. I was proud to work for a company who “built the field” for any employee at any level to be a mentor and to have mentors.
All an employee had to do was type mentor in the intranet address bar and he or she could request a mentor or offer to be a mentor. Microsoft encouraged all employees to be both. The system served as matchmaker and provided a tool for a number of valuable activities including:
- Teaching what it takes to be a great mentee or mentor.
- Establishing mentor relationships.
- Maintaining mentor relationships.
- Renewing mentor relationships.
Even after the company implemented strategic efforts globally and made multiple attempts to promote the online tool, the statistics were pathetic. In summary, there were two critical problems: First, light participation by both mentees and mentors. Second, and even more concerning, there was a huge drop-off in execution or follow-through. Meetings weren’t taking place and career-building discussions were not happening.
Microsoft recently closed down the tool. Gone. Opportunity lost!
I am now a proud Microsoft alumnus who is “living my legacy” by speaking, blogging, authoring books, and consulting on careers. There are three causes that I believe lead to this “mentoring apathy.”
1. Lack of accountability – Too many employees talk about their desire to grow their careers, but they claim, “My manager is not promoting me,” or “My Company doesn’t care about my career even though I’m working so hard.” Those who make their career growth Job#1 are the ones reaching out for strategic supporters.
2. Poor time management – Employees are feeling overwhelmed with balancing the work hours and family. They have no appetite to take on another extra-curricular task like networking or hosting a mentoring meeting. Yes, the mentee runs the meeting; not the mentor! The mentor is giving his or her time and wisdom.
3. Disengaged employees – Unfortunately, only 30% of U.S. workers are engaged, another 50% “non-engaged,” and an astonishing 20% are “actively disengaged,” according to a recent Gallup poll. They are “resting and vesting,” and have no desire or perceived need to build mentoring relationships… even though they should.
My challenge to you: Re-start your mentoring effort. Solicit a number of diverse mentors, set up each meeting with a great agenda, and keep it going for years. Stop being one of the millions who are observing the power of mentorship from the side lines.