Top companies for mentoring – EY and KPMG – offer tips on building successful mentoring relationships.
By Sheryl Estrada
A mentoring program can bolster career advancement among underrepresented groups but the most successful ones are built on a foundation of goal setting and trust between the mentor and mentee.
“Mentoring relationships can accelerate your professional growth,” said Diana Cruz Solash, director, global and Americas diversity and inclusion for EY. But setting goals for the mentor and mentee, and building trust are critical.
EY (no. 3 on DiversityInc’s 2016 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) and KPMG (no. 16) are top companies on the 2016 DiversityInc Top 15 Companies for Mentoring. And both focus on key best practices to help ensure their programs hit the mark, whether formal or informal.
“Mentoring supports personal growth and professional development, and is a valuable mechanism to help individuals fulfill their career aspirations,” said Latoria Farmer, executive director, diversity and corporate responsibility for KPMG. But for a relationship to thrive, both the mentor and mentee should have defined goals.
Here are some tips:
Whether it’s a formal or casual mentoring program, relationships will end up meandering if there is no structure or goals, even small goals, established so both the mentor and the mentee know where they’re heading.
“Be explicit about your goals and the structure and roles for the relationship,” Solash explained.
She said you need to ask:
- What do you each hope to gain from the relationship?
- How will you structure your meetings (i.e., frequency, length, in-person or phone) and who will initiate the meeting?
- What are your expectations of each other? For example: The mentee will come prepared with an agenda and will confide, listen and act.
“The mentor will listen, instruct, challenge and reflect,” she explained. “Explicit, up-front communication sets the stage for better mentoring relationships.”
And both mentor and mentee have to be open to the relationship, advised KPMG’s Farmer.
“A starting point for having the right mentoring relationship is being mentor-ready – having clearly defined objectives such as getting acclimated to a new team, identifying and strengthening key skills required for career advancement, or reengaging at work after a leave of absence,” she said.
Mentoring relationships can be casual, but that doesn’t mean skipping establishing guidelines for the give and take.
“Mentors and mentees should immediately establish ground rules around confidentiality, frequency of communication, and trust,” Farmer said. “This becomes critical so mentors can provide personalized feedback and encouragement, and mentees have a safe environment to ask questions.”
A big part of making a relationship work is focusing on finding ways to build trust and confidence in each other.
Solash suggested sharing experiences “to identify key connections and forge a deeper bond, while providing more opportunities for professional guidance.”
“Agree on what you can share outside of the relationship and what you will keep in confidence,” she continued. “Listen intently to each other, and follow-through on your commitments. Close the loop by sharing the outcomes of your actions.”
A Two-Way Street
Too often we think about mentoring as only benefitting the protégé, but it goes beyond that, it benefits the mentor and the whole organization.
“Organizations that launch mentoring programs should emphasize the mutual benefits for both the mentor and the mentee,” Farmer noted.
Mentees, she continued, “acquire and enhance knowledge, skills, and perspectives. Mentors invest in developing and helping to retain talent vital to their organization. Mentors also are an integral part of the employee support ecosystem along with performance managers and other business leaders.”
And for the mentee, Solash added, “getting a different point of view is one of the biggest benefits of a mentoring relationship – for both the mentee and mentor.”