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How To Use Collaboration For High Employee Engagement

If you're an employer who claims to communicate well with your employees, you might want to check with them first. Your definition of effective communication may differ drastically from those of your employees.

Quick questions to ask yourself: Do your employees engage actively in conversations? Do you have workplace mentors to initiate effective internal communication? Have you recommended two-way mentoring to your employees? Does mentoring tackle other complex human resource challenges in your organization? If not, it’s time to take another look at your company!

Effective internal communication programs are the life and blood of any successful company. But unfortunately, the truth is that a majority of companies spend millions of dollars on their external communication plans, while failing to create an effective mentoring strategy to improve internal communication.

The famous Gallup study highlights the disappointing state of organizations worldwide with only 13 percent of employees engaged at work. Another study by Towers Watson claim that companies with the most effective employee communication had 48 percent higher shareholder returns over the last five years as compared to those with the least effective internal communication.

Well-meaning staff and proper mentoring tactics positively influence employee engagement by generating ideas, forging strong relationships, and making a real difference in your organization’s growth.

Consider the below practices to engender good communication amongst employees in your organization:

One-way mentoring: Mentors can make a huge difference in improving internal communication between the ranks. Mentoring is a great vehicle for value-sharing and knowledge transfer from senior members to associates seeking to move up. 

Two-way mentoring: This advanced form of mentoring is a win-win situation in which older employees share their experience and expertise while the younger ones give insights on engaging with their generation and the new times, technologies, and perspectives. 

Create a culture of initiating meaningful conversations: Try to be transparent and straightforward in explaining the challenges faced by your business. Not only does this promote transparency and trust between the employer and the employee, but it also fosters dialogues and conversations at lower levels in your organization.

Engaging employees with the right story: Before initiating any meaningful communication, you need to create an open space for your employees and prepare their minds to welcome something new. Storytelling can be a great way to get the employees’ attention. Rather than talking about something that is important to you or to the organization, tell a relevant story using an example that matters to them. 

Update your employees regularly:  If you want your employees to build trust in you and your organization during rough patches, you have to earn their trust. This is possible through a strong relationship. Remember: relationships are like checking accounts - in order to make a withdrawal, you first need to make a deposit. Build a great bond with your employees by keeping them updated about all the ups and downs that your organization is going through. This will help them understand the challenges better and maybe inspire them to come up with innovative solutions to tackle those challenges.

Take the help of technology: Choose your vehicle depending upon the desired outcome and the target audience. While some companies use intranets, others use Yammer or Ning, and some prefer simple email messaging.

Feedback goes both ways: Encourage your employees to comment and ask questions. Grab this opportunity to answer them in an open and honest manner. Whether you hold it in an old-fashioned town hall meeting, a question box, or organize a Skype conference, employees expect a chance to ask you questions and to be answered. Through this, you can initiate a better two-way conversation.

Brainstorm: Create a fun space where team members can think outside the box to voice their ideas without the fear of rejection. Keep a record of those ideas, and decide how to use them in future to improve the internal communication in your organization.

Looking for more tips on effective communication? Seek the help of expert mentors within the MentorCloud network. Engage with the right people and foster meaningful collaboration in your organization, then tell us what you found the most effective!

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10 Quick Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Every entrepreneur needs mentors to be successful. But business mentors are very busy, so it's imperative to figure out how to make the best use of their limited time. How? Be proactive in understanding how they can help and maintaining a healthy relationship with them. A mentor cannot make every decision for you; s/he can only be a motivator who gives valuable suggestions when you need them.

What you should ask your mentor?

1. How does s/he spend time outside of work? This helps gather insights about the interests and tastes of your mentor.

2. How would s/he respond to a current dilemma? Remember that mentors have been mentees themselves, so they likely have had valuable advice passed on and are more than willing to do the same for you. 

3. How can you help them? Never assume that only the mentor should help the mentee, even the mentee can provide insight on the mentor's own behavior. Be confident and ask if you can help your mentor in any way possible.

4. What constructive criticism can s/he provide you? Give some space for your mentor to give feedback on your work performance right at the very beginning of your relationship.

5. Why did s/he decide to work with you? Ask for the reason why your mentor accepted you, but also be sure to answer the same question if asked by the mentor.

6. What mistakes has s/he made, either professional or personal? Everyone in the world makes mistakes, so don’t hesitate to ask your mentor about the mistakes s/he has committed (but be sure to learn the subsequent lesson as well).

7. How does s/he overcome failure? Failure is inevitable, especially in the business world. Learning how to accommodate for defeat or failure in life and how to see the positive side can save weeks or even years of stress. 

8. How does your mentor consider her/himself unique? Everyone has a different story to tell, so find out what that unique characteristic, quality, or history is. 

9. What was his/her proudest moment? Everyone is happy when speaking of his/her own achievements. Give a chance to your mentor to be proud and ask about his/her most cherished moments.

10. What can you do better? Finally, when you earn the trust and confidence of your mentor, ask him/her how you can improve. Personal development is a constantly iterative process.

At the end of your mentoring session, thank your mentor for the valuable time spent with you. Ask yourself what you learned from the session and decide together when you can have the next mentoring session. Always link the next mentoring session with the previous one, and let your mentor know how much progress you've made since. 

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Feedback Essentials: The Art of Giving and Taking Feedback

Kenneth Chenualt, CEO and Chairman of American Express, rightly pointed out that regular feedback is one of the hardest things to drive through an organization. Without a doubt, it is an imperative quality of an effective mentor. However, HR personnel and managers across industries have been dogged by the conflicting question: How can feedback, both positive and negative, be conveyed in a manner that would only improve an employee’s performance? Can a mentor deliver constructive criticism and yet make sure that the mentee is not de-motivated? Or praise a mentee in a way that ensures sustained increase of his/her outcome? How can the employee take feedback to heart professionally and still consider it as nothing personal? What gives feedback a longer shelf life, add value to the organization, and bring real change?

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions, as each organization performs in a distinctive dimension and every employee within it is unique. It is, however, possible for HR and managers to make the most of feedback by developing a clear understanding of why feedback is essential, what makes it a rigid entity to be delivered, and how to essentially implement technology to bring a tired performance-management process back to life.

With the development of mentoring techniques, there has been an often misapprehended notion that feedback is only required for employees in need of serious development and grooming. Interestingly, researches reveal that incompetent individuals in a workforce are often too incompetent to even analyze their incompetency. Sadly, this holds true for talented employees, who often go without realizing their true caliber. The reality is that everyone needs feedback.

Constructive developmental advice is the most imperative facet of feedback as it helps someone perform better. In Rocky IV, a great Hollywood movie, Rocky changes the mindset of Russians with an inspirational speech towards the climax. Good mentors employ the same construct in a real-time work environment, but here they mold the mindset of an employee and improve performance through constructive feedback. While doing this, they make sure the work expectations and performance objectives are clear. They ensure that they have all the sufficient details, such as job descriptions, notes, memos, and a clear perception of the idea of the change they would like to see occur. They create a conversation that incorporates the other person's input.

Though delivering feedback is made difficult due to certain organizational structures, it also depends on human nature to a large extent. On many occasions, the immediate boss may not be closely involved in an employee’s day-to-day work and organizations are simply not set up to encourage and document feedback from others. However, a good mentor can always reach out and start off in an upbeat manner. S/he could listen actively to each response, make a suggestion or request, and then check for understanding. S/he constantly check for the receiver's understanding of the suggestion/request. Finally the mentor can enable the employee to reach a commitment on next steps.

The pain point in traditional performance-appraisal systems is that the feedback comes too rarely, too late, and from a few people. MentorCloud has been changing this equation and is shaking up traditional performance reviews in a big way. The strong network of amazing advisors, collaborative clients, and fantastic friends that include HR and managers at MentorCloud have been helping one another in the pursuit of professional and personal aspirations. Join us in our vision of building a mentoring planet.

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Newsflash: Even The Savviest Entrepreneurs Need Business Mentors

Life as an entrepreneur is, to state the obvious, an exciting experience.

However, it also is a great responsibility towards your team members, customers, investors, and most importantly, your family. How to attract the top talent and guide them into achieving great things for the company? What is the right business model that maximizes adoption and revenue? How to grow the company with minimal resources? How to create positive impacts for beneficiary organizations? How to measure and track your progress? How much equity to give for various contributors? How to know you are not making a mistake? 

These are all critical questions in your entrepreneurial saga that need the fervent presence of a vested mentor to help you find real-life answers. A vested mentor is someone who has not only "been there, done that," but who more importantly has interest in your success.

A good business mentor is someone with more entrepreneurial business experience than you, and one who serves as your trusted confidante over an extended period of time. While you as an entrepreneur can benefit tremendously from a mentoring relationship, the benefit a business mentor expects from this relation is accountability and acknowledging their help for your venture. A good mentoring relationship always works in both directions - it can be a Win-Win partnership. A trusted business mentor can provide a clear vision for your business, connect you with potential clients, unbiasedly point out flaws/holes in your business plan, and brainstorm on new ideas with you.

Business mentoring can be defined as a process that greatly enhances the skills of the entrepreneur in their current role and also grooms the entrepreneur to be a mentor in the future. It empowers you to make decisions that define you, your influence and your efficiency. Keeping in mind the following factors will allow you to make the most out your business mentorship.

Define clear goals for you and your venture – Identify the pain points on which you want to get advice from an external expert, and then zero in on the right mentor for the issue. A person who can successfully lead you on cost effectiveness and budget constraints may not be able to enlighten you on the best marketing strategy to adopt. So give shape to your needs or else you will land up with a bad mentor.

Hear, analyze, execute, and live up to the guidance - Mentors who are good at what they do prefer mentees who are willing to grasp and take quick actions from their advice. However, you should know the difference between blind acceptance and thoughtful practice. Comprehend the foundation of the advice and thoroughly implement action items.

Own up to your responsibility and do your homework - Remember, the best mentors are busy people, and wasting their time is something they wouldn’t accept. The best way to reach out to them is by doing thorough homework, getting a clear perspective of the issue at hand and taking small chunks of their time to talk about it. This way, you could make the best out of even the ten minutes you might get with your mentor in private.

Keep in mind the distinction between a mentor, a coach and a friend – If you expect a mentor to tell you what you want to hear, you would probably end up getting disappointed. Remember the difference between a friend and a mentor. While a mentor won’t beat around the bush and directly address the specific situation you are in, a business coach will be focused on helping you with generic skills. The same person can’t be all of these.

Update your mentor on the current scenario and the tasks at hand - Making it clear that you are following through makes a potential mentor more open to assisting you as it is positive feedback on your association.

Reach out to a business mentor who is inspirational, impressive and expert in his/her niche segment. MentorCloud has a connected network of hundreds of mentors who find immense satisfaction in sharing what they gained from the industry. They are more than happy to add value to someone else, and in the process learn about themselves and their own leadership style and influence. Having hassles operating inside a start-up? Need suggestions for perfecting your tasks inside the organization? We are at your service!

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MentorCloud at NAWBO's WBC2014 (Sept. 8 - 9)

One example of the excellent soirees at NAWBO's WBC2014: music, drinks, and canal rides at the "Night on the Canal" at the Eitelborg Museum

One example of the excellent soirees at NAWBO's WBC2014: music, drinks, and canal rides at the "Night on the Canal" at the Eitelborg Museum

At the reception: MentorCloud is proud to be a Gold Sponsor of NAWBO!

At the reception: MentorCloud is proud to be a Gold Sponsor of NAWBO!

MentorCloud is honored to not only have been invited to attend NAWBO’s Women Business Conference 2014, but also to speak alongside BizWomen editor Mary Johnson, JP Morgan Chase Executive Vice President Maria Quintana, and independent consultant Dee Elliott on a very interesting panel about “The Power of Mentoring.” As gold sponsors, we are proud to support the advancement of women business owners and fuel the collaboration necessary to truly unlock the potential of this talented group.

Seen around the conference: posters for our "Power of Mentoring" panel

Seen around the conference: posters for our "Power of Mentoring" panel

The response we’ve received both during and after the conference has been overwhelming. The NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) network is full of movers and shakers, all keen to keep their organizations current with cutting-edge technology solutions and a collaborative model for success. We’ve had amazing feedback about our MentorCloud platform, including “this is what NAWBO has needed for years” and “MentorCloud is truly going to change the world.” We agree, and we couldn’t be happier to have been able to share our vision and technology with a group so passionate about making actionable change now. MentorCloud is more than a company - it’s an opportunity to level the playing field and provide ambitious individuals an opportunity to succeed with the resources they need. This solution is something that rings quite true to women in particular, especially this group who’ve overcome such obstacles to accomplish so much. 

Three-time gold medalist in the para-Olympics, Muffy Davis, with CEO Ravi Gundlapalli and Marketing Analyst Vidya Kaipa

Three-time gold medalist in the para-Olympics, Muffy Davis, with CEO Ravi Gundlapalli and Marketing Analyst Vidya Kaipa

Seen around the conference: NAWBO members have access to the tremendous MentorCloud network!

Seen around the conference: NAWBO members have access to the tremendous MentorCloud network!

There’s something unique about NAWBO. The powerful organization, now in its 39th year, has brought together a core group of such motivated, ambitious, and accomplished women and created an atmosphere in which everyone genuinely roots for the other women’s success. In doing so, and with an incredible level of hospitality of which our Indianapolis hosts should be proud, I was inspired and awed by the amount of work this community has done to break through the glass ceiling and support one another in pushing past typical gender obstacles. In a lesson about endurance and perseverance, we also heard from Para-Olympic gold medalist Muffy Davis, who shared her story of overcoming her paralysis to continue engaging in her love for competitive sports. Stories like these encapsulate the NAWBO spirit: determination, vision, and compassion, a winning combination that will bring us as a community into a better world. 

CEO Ravi Gundlapalli talking to interested NAWBO members about MentorCloud

CEO Ravi Gundlapalli talking to interested NAWBO members about MentorCloud

Oh, and the food! And the drinks! And the soirees! We must give NAWBO Indianapolis the credit they deserve for hosting a world-class conference, designed so beautifully with not a single detail missing. We now consider this conference the gold standard, and we’re excited to see what insight next year’s WBC in San Antonio will hold. If you’re interested in learning more about the WBC2014, please follow this link. Thank you, NAWBO, and we look forward to working with you more in the coming months! 

Rachael Bender, Chair of the President's Assembly, CEO Ravi Gundlapalli, and Marketing Analyst Vidya Kaipa

Rachael Bender, Chair of the President's Assembly, CEO Ravi Gundlapalli, and Marketing Analyst Vidya Kaipa

Seen around the conference: Learn more about MentorCloud!

Seen around the conference: Learn more about MentorCloud!

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"Even more about Mentors" - Insights from Dr. Marla Gottschalk

Much has been said about mentoring, since an early discussion of the construct in the Harvard Business Review. Since that time — volumes have been written — and the topic has been examined and reexamined, from various vantage points. This has included the functions of mentoring (career-related vs. psychosocial support), intended outcomes (skill attainment, compensation, promotions) and its impact upon work life, in general (job satisfaction, retention).

Mentoring is by no means a new concept — although it remains one of the most powerful workplace constructs. If you consider the term for a moment (think of Socrates), you’ll discover that mentoring has existed for ages. Because of the sheer power of the mentoring relationship, mentoring will continue to evolve with changes in both organizational culture and technology. Of course, the basic concept of mentoring is simple and brilliant — you spend time with someone who possessed great knowledge or experience about a specific subject  — you observe, reflect and absorb information that enhances your work life.

There has been evidence that the process may work a bit better for men than women. But whether we are discussing men or women, problems with mentoring may arise because some basic tenets are not followed. Other problems can arise because we are not utilizing newer, more creative applications of the process.

Here are some guidelines to help power the process:

  • Are you seeking a mentor, a sponsor (a form of mentorship) or both? Where a mentor may help with a skill set or knowledge base — a sponsor might focus on moving you through the organization, helping you to secure challenging assignments or enhance your visibility.
  • Mentoring relationships must be mutual, not assigned. The matching process should be left to ultimately to choice — where the mentor and mentee agree to work together. If possible, consider more than one potential mentor to ensure there is potential for a real bond. In an ideal world, formal programs would allow mentees the opportunity to meet a number of possible matches before a choice is made.
  • Define the goals of the relationship. If you feel it is imperative to enter into a mentoring relationship, you should outline a clear picture as to what you really require and where you’d like to go.  Set specific long and short-term goals with your mentor or sponsor. Do you want to master a specific skill or knowledge base? Are you seeking increased visibility? Have the “goals” discussion early and often.
  • Think outside of the box when choosing a mentor. There has been an interesting suggestion to convene a “Board of Directors” for your career — a group that would not be entirely left behind if you should change organizations. So, you would not only seek an internal mentor or sponsor, but a group of external experts to help guide you as well. Moreover, don’t rule out less established or younger employees as potential mentors. If an individual is an expert in an area, actively consider them a mentor candidate.
  • Be open. Don’t subscribe to the notion that “dissenting opinions are not allowed”. Strive to embrace constructive criticism (some tips for that here). This can be a challenge, but remember you are in the relationship to learn. What you don’t know can hurt your career — so be open to whatever honest feedback comes your way.
  • Be respectful. However, don’t trade things running smoothly at the cost of a productive relationship. Ask for what you need and “rock the boat” just a bit if necessary. Be diplomatic, and voice your concerns if you find that the relationship has reached an impasse.

All in all, mentoring should be a positive process, however things can go wrong. If you have a concern that the dynamic is less than stellar — you may need to explore moving on.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She serves as an advisor at MentorCloud. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

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Mentoring to Help Your Profession Thrive

"Mentoring is a professional responsibility to see your industry thrive."

This is what Sheila Forte-Trammell, Global Chief of Mentoring at IBM and author of Intelligent Mentoring and Agile Career Development, told me during a recent conversation. I found this particular statement quite profound and one that provided me a richer and more personal meaning for mentorship.

An amazing role model of this philosophy is Dr. Ephraim Engleman, who at age 103 leads an illustrious medical career at Stanford in the field of arthritis. I first heard of him from my high school daughter, who went on a tour of the Stanford Blood Center with her classmates. She came home that night very inspired after hearing his son, Prof. Edgar Engleman (MD of Stanford Blood Center), share his research and the amazing things that happen at the Center. Amidst his talk, Prof. Engleman also mentioned his 103 year old dad, who really intrigued first my daughter and then me. I thought to myself: "How many stories, experiences, and pearls of wisdom would this man have gathered during his long career, especially over the amazing 20th and 21st centuries?"

During a follow-up visit to the Center with my daughter, I happened to find a copy of this newspaper article that featured the elder Dr. Engleman’s illustrious medical career of 70+ years. It also described how he got into rheumatology after measuring a woman’s heart murmur without a machine, how Dr. Philip Hench of the Mayo Clinic inspired him with a demonstration of Cortisone for treating arthritis, his penchant for playing violin, and so on.

Reflecting on Sheila’s profound statement, I asked myself: "Isn’t this what Dr. Engleman is doing, i.e. passionately practicing and sharing his infinite wisdom with the next generation of arthritis specialists?" The article may not have touched upon this, but in my view, he is mentoring. He is ensuring that the field of arthritis thrives and reaches new frontiers, and he is still practicing as to pass on the baton to the next generation of doctors and specialists.

Kudos to you, Dr. Ephraim Engleman. May you be blessed with great health and many more years of stellar contributions to the field of medicine.

In closing, my deeply held view is that we learn a lot more from each other than from books. Take any career - music, teaching, carpentry, hardware design, nursing, dance, marketing, banking, entrepreneurship and so on. Books and websites can give us the basic knowledge and know-how, but real mastery can be achieved only by observing, interacting with, and learning from other experts. By asking intelligent questions, you can draw out richer wisdom from experts that they themselves may not realize they had. Context plus conversations bring out the true expertise, and this is what our clients are facilitating with our platform. Mentoring is a proven way for true wisdom to be passed on from one generation to the next, and Dr. Ephraim Engleman is a living testimony of that.

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Awesome Q1 2014 at MentorCloud

2014 has been an extraordinary year so far at MentorCloud - amazing advisors, collaborative clients, fantastic friends here at Runway and elsewhere, and increasing interest in our platform from all over the world.

Our vision is and has always been to “Build a Mentoring Planet,” where hundreds of millions of us are connected to support one another in our pursuit of professional and personal aspirations. Over the past 90 days, we have showcased our platform to people from Japan, Turkey, Brazil, Canada, Argentina, France, Colombia, and Saudi Arabia. Wow! Mentoring is now a global phenomena and is being recognized as the only way for true wisdom to be transferred from one individual to another, from one generation to another.  The new era of mentoring has arrived and we are truly leading the way. Thanks to all our ‘MentorCloudians’ who have joined our journey so far.

The cultures, languages, expectations, aspirations, and local conditions may be different from one user to another, but what we are finding as a common theme is people’s desire to accelerate their lives and careers by connecting and engaging with the right people anywhere in the world. This is so universal. With the right mentor(s), one can be on the fast lane to achieve success quicker, provided there is willingness to work hard, to listen, to be open to new ideas, and most importantly to be accountable to someone else -- in this case, a mentor.

Mentors on the other hand want to share with those they care about and have a connection with. What’s in it for them? We have spoken to hundreds of mentors, and they tell us repeatedly that it is the immense satisfaction of paying it forward, of being able to add value to someone else, the sense of pride and recognition to accelerate their own career, and in the process to learn about themselves and their own leadership style and influence.

Exactly a month ago on the World Wide Web’s 25th birthday, we coined a new meaning for WWW: “World Wide Wisdom,” at your fingertips, to give and receive.

Next time, I will write about an amazing person I learned of recently. It was Sheila Forte-Trammell who taught me that mentorship is a professional responsibility everyone must undertake to see their profession thrive, and this person I am going to write about is doing exactly that. Stay tuned.

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MentorCloud's Blog Carnival: Mentoring Edition [vol. 1]

Mentors matter. You matter. 

At MentorCloud, our vision is to ‘build a mentoring planet,’ where hundreds of millions of people around the world can connect to share expertise and to accelerate one another’s professional, academic and personal goals.

We are kicking off 2014 with a Blog Carnival on our favorite topic: mentoring. A Blog Carnival is a means to collate the wisdom of the blogosphere on a particular topic, adding to it our team’s perspectives and reflections. Think of this as an ‘insightful summary’ of thought-provoking articles from authors who are as passionate as we are about that particular topic.

MentorCloud’s Inaugural Blog Carnival on “Mentoring”

Recent years have made mentoring a mainstream strategy for career advancement and entrepreneurial success. The simple notion of asking for another’s guidance, support, and wisdom is experiencing a revival in this new age of global connectedness and social media. From students to working professionals to entrepreneurs to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, the power of having good mentors is transformative. Equally powerful is to be a mentor for someone else. As our CEO puts it, “We grow by helping other people grow.”

Mentorship Defined

Mentor Signposts.jpeg

But who is a mentor, exactly? The reality is that anyone can be a mentor, as long as he or she is willing to share their practical knowledge or skill set with another person they care about. A good mentor does three things: cares, shares, and inspires. You might already be a mentor to someone, and you most likely have a mentor or mentors who you rely on for professional and personal advice.

Emerging Professionals contributor Heather Ludwig makes it simple in her article, “Mentoring - the Yoda Way”: quoting politician John C. Crosby, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” But she notes that recent trends in technology and globalization have resulted in “today’s emerging professionals [not] getting the mentoring they need to have a successful career.” Noted Forbes contributor, angel investor, and Babson College Professor Peter Cohan reiterated the exact same issue for entrepreneurs in his seminal article “Silicon Valley’s Mentoring Gap.”

Responsible Mentorship

The issue is not the lack of good mentors. The issue is that many potential mentors do not envision themselves in that role. As Alfred Edmond Jr. of Black Enterprise comments in his insightful article “Mentorship is Earned, Not Owed,” several mentees might selfishly view the mentorship process as an opportunity to exploit resources and connections, without giving back or paying it forward.

Professionals who have benefited from good guidance in their own careers should then take the time to pay it forward by becoming mentors themselves. Jay Baer, social media guru aptly sums it up this way in his message for 2014 – “Remember the virtuous circle. The more people you help, the more people you’ll have helping you.”

Yoda Student Master.jpeg

There are plenty of opportunities for mentees to accelerate this cycle. By respecting your potential mentor’s time and energy, you establish yourself as a conscientious, worthwhile mentee. In Crosby Noricks’ article, “How to Lean In to a Mentorship That Works,” she outlines five ways to approach a mentor: appeal to their interests, engage them on their turf, ask pointed questions, compliment them, and - when applicable - establish clear timelines and expectations.

"The Gift That Keeps On Giving"

By identifying oneself as a valuable asset to a mentor, a mentee also increases his or her potential to serve as a mentor for someone else, distilling and contributing to the knowledge passed down from the prior relationship. As Julie Winkle Giulioni notes in “Why Mentorship is the Gift That Keeps on Giving,” there’s a positive feedback loop for mentors as well. Mentoring can provide tremendous growth opportunities for mentors, who can hone critical leadership skills, improve their own work and performance, and stand out as an exemplary role model within one’s organization and network. Rather than emphasizing the search for helpful guides, Giulioni highlights the allure and importance of presenting oneself as an ideal mentor.

Inevitably, strong mentors embody traits and skills that are desirable for a much wider variety of potential mentees than they might have time to coach. As On Mentoring author Alan Saporta notes, sometimes "silent mentors" - or "someone in your life you select to learn from without ... having a formal mentoring relationship with them" - have as powerful an impact on a mentee's development. Through positive or negative reinforcement, mentees can mimic or condemn behavior, therefore creating a subtle but significant shaping mechanism that can tremendously benefit an individual.

How To Build a Better Mentor

Regardless of how valuable a mentor might be, their skills could always be improved. The Stanford Social Innovation Review posted “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Leaders,” a must-read for mentors seeking to enrich and fortify their relationships with their proteges. Jennifer Przybylo and Nina Vasan provide a thorough checklist of actions a mentor must consider, including “humanize yourself,” “foster community,” and “make regular appearances.” These informal qualities are more valuable, and feasible, with the introduction of social media. As angel investor Aaron Pitman comments, finding and keeping up with a mentor has become extremely simple with the inclusion of social media, so relationships have more potential for growth.  

Mentor Mentee Spokes.jpg

Like with any relationship, though, be sure to seriously consider your mental and emotional state before engaging in a mentorship. In her article, “Revisiting Some Basics: For Mentors,” Dr. Linda Phillips-Jones compiled some preliminary considerations for anyone interested in mentoring. She advises professionals to evaluate themselves, their workloads, their motivations, and their potential benefit to a mentee before agreeing to bring someone under their wing.

Of course, mentors aren’t perfect, and mentees shouldn’t aspire to walk directly in their leaders’ footsteps. In fact, the failures of a mentor can be just as enlightening as outlining their successes. Regi Campbell, an experienced CEO and entrepreneur, astutely described the “Six Reasons Mentors Tell ‘Failure’ Stories.” Campbell breaks down how failures can make a mentor seem human. “If you’re a mentor, open up. Loosen up. True strength is revealed in vulnerability, so tell your mentees where you’ve screwed up. Let them learn from your mistakes.”

Different Mentors for Different Needs

The effects of good mentorship can last a long time. Jon Titus, formerly with Design News, dedicated the final blog post of his career to “The Importance of Mentors.” He described how various mentors through his life, beginning in high school, influenced his career path and offered “guidance without issuing ‘orders’ to do something… and helpful advice and suggestions based on their experiences. [They] had a solid moral and ethical foundation on which they based their actions.” Importantly, Titus comments on the deep personal relationships he built with his mentors.

Noted workplace psychologist and LinkedIn influencer Marla Gottschalk stresses the importance of a carefully-selected Fab 5, "a group of key people to serve as a 'catalyst,' encouraging both exploration and excellence." By developing a broad foundation, professionals can access a strong knowledge base, derived from a varied group of mentors.

Formalized Mentorship

Though mentorship can be a fairly ambiguous concept, there are structured programs that offer mentorship on particular topics. The Leeds School of Business (University of Colorado, Boulder) runs a Professional Mentorship Program, which emphasizes academic achievement and career placement. In a post on the Leeds blog, Jillian Trubee describes how her mentor’s ongoing support has positively affected her major and career prospects.

Mentor Comic.jpg

The UK’s NIH Research Clinical Academic Training scheme trains nurses, midwives, and allied health professionals with the guide of accomplished subject-matter experts. This quasi-academic situation hearkens the question: what’s the difference between a “mentor” and a “teacher”? As Professor Annie Topping quite thoroughly explains, a mentor can serve many roles at once, including but also exceeding that of a teacher.

Mentors v. Other Leadership Roles

Authors Chip R. Bell and Marshall Goldsmith of Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning further clarified the delineation between mentor, coach, and leader. Rather than expecting performance deliverables like a coach would, mentors work on improving their mentees personally. Georgia Feiste outlines in “Mentoring as Part of the Leadership Role” Bell and Goldsmith’s SAGE mnemonic. The acronym, which stands for “surrendering, accepting, gifting, and extending,” is key for any mentor to keep in mind. 

A very important distinction between a mentor and a supervisor is the mentor’s distance from the outcome of his or her mentee’s work. In “Mentorship,” Jennifer de Graaf notes that “My mentor understands the industry, knows me personally, and has exactly zero stake in the results of my decisions unlike those other resources.” This separation allows the mentor to provide the unbiased, “outsider” perspective on the topics about which mentees seek guidance. That being said, many mentorships evolve naturally and without any formal agreement.

"What Life is All About" 

All in all, mentoring is a dynamic, nuanced topic that manifests in hundreds of forms. What’s clear is that mentoring is a positive act, with both sides interested in improving themselves and others. For those interested in learning more about the art of mentoring, JumpStart’s Annie Zaleski provides further reading in “8 Must-Read Mentoring Articles.”  

Graduate Ma’ayan Plaut, writing on the Oberlin blog, sums it up:

“You know what I love about all of this? The cycle, the circle. I have mentors, my mentors have mentors, and I'm gonna be (I am?) one, too. We're here to help each other, whether it be someone to talk to or talk up. Learning from each other. It doesn't really stop when you say stop. In all these situations, it's about being open to the possibilities. … it's what life is all about.”

We couldn’t agree more. Mentorship is the best way to prepare aspiring professionals for their upcoming careers, students for their academic challenges, and entrepreneurs for the long road ahead. It’s the only way for practical wisdom to be transferred from one person to another or from one generation to the next. By being a mentor and seeking a mentor, we can “build a mentoring planet” together.

MentorCloud wishes you a very happy, prosperous and success-filled new year!

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Make a pact with yourself and time.... to make an Impact.

I was talking to my good friend Jacqui when these statements just popped out of me during our insightful conversation: "We shouldn't leave this planet like we leave a casino - made some money, lost some, met some interesting people, had a good time for sure, bye bye". This blog is a further reflection of those statements.

It is well-known and proven time and again that individuals who make an Impact get recognized as heroes. CEOs who constantly innovate and take their companies to new heights (e.g. Steve Jobs - RIP), Social entrepreneurs who come up with new models for empowering millions of people (e.g. Mohammed Yunus), Leaders who work tirelessly to bring freedom and social justice (e.g. Gandhi, Mandela - RIP), Teachers who inspire students to learn and Doctors/Scientists who develop new cures to alleviate human suffering (e.g. millions of such individuals around the world). In all these cases, the individual's actions have left permanent footprints on people and society.

What kind of footprints do we want to leave behind? Those left on a sandy beach can get eroded easily by wind or waves washing ashore. Those left on 'settling concrete' are likely to stay much longer.

In my opinion, every aspiration, ambition, goal in a person's mind is analogous to 'settling concrete.' They must be noticed, attended to and nurtured at the right time. We all have the power to do so by being passionate and caring Mentors. I believe and have experienced it time and again personally, that we know more than what we think we do (of course, there are some people who think they know more than they actually do and that is a topic for discussion at a later time, not here!!!).

Many a times, lessons you have learned from your life/career experiences, stories you have heard, challenges you have faced and creative solutions you came up with - all of this go into an archive someplace, and you always don't know they are there. They tend to surface and flow like a river when someone (Mentee) approaches you with a question or comes to seek your insights on a challenge they are facing.  What that context brings out your innate wisdom and insights, and the Mentee learns exactly what to do and overcomes the challenge, believe me, you have made an Impact - a lasting one at that.

So, make a pact today with yourself and time (that is ticking away non-stop) that you will make an Impact on as many people as you can by sharing your expertise as a Mentor. The Impact you will see yourself making will be very satisfying and rewarding. Be a Mentor and Connect with a Mentee, today, and begin the process of Impacting. The clock is ticking....and hundreds of millions of aspiring individuals are out there wanting and waiting to learn from you and achieve their full potential. They can be within your own organization so reach out and make your intent to help known, so they can find you.

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