A Portfolio of Mentors

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My latest response to a question posed in the Mentor’s Guild their Ask an Expert forum:

Their Question: We are national telecom organization with a new mentorship program aimed to develop our new executive leaders from within the organization. We have identified more than 20 mid-level managers from various functions who are eligible for the program, 4 of them are women. We intend to increase this ratio in coming years, but our immediate problem is finding the right mentors for the women mentees. There are very experienced women professionals in the organizations, but most lack the organizational clout to really push for their career advancement in the key discussions. Assigning male senior executives, as mentors, may present complexities of its own. Our current culture is a definite “work hard-play hard” which at senior levels extends to after office networking events, weekend events with customers, frequent travel, etc. It is one thing to participate in these after a promotion… but at this stage it might scare away women with young kids at home. Thanks for your suggestions.

My Answer: I wholeheartedly encourage you to modernize your mentor matching methodologies — for women AND men. Gone are the days where just one mentor is enough. What your up-and-coming leaders need is an entire PORTFOLIO of mentors. (I’ve been coaching/mentoring, professionally, for 14 years, but it’s a lesson I learned beforehand, back when  I  was vice president of telecommunications for a futures/options exchange.) Consider:

  • advocacy – which is the real key to upward mobility – requires more than just one boss and one mentor standing up for you
  • “single-sourcing” may make sense as a telecom marketing strategy, but it does not when developing your future leaders
  • even if one mentor was an expert in everything, there is power and perspective in getting multiple points of view

More at: Creating a Portfolio of Mentors » http://www.leadershiptraction.com/articles/TheLadders-2006-09-04.htm

P.S. You might also want to encourage the “boys” to consider what your up-and-coming women leaders have to recommend vis-a-vis your “work hard-play hard” culture. They may have some suggestions that not only help with work/life balance thing, but better differentiates your company with your clients and prospects, as well.

I’m happy to further the conversation with you – or your mentors and mentees – directly.  Call or email at your convenience.

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