[Homestead] Mentors smooth and speed road to business success

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Tue Sep 28 20:14:30 EDT 2004

I have always known this, along with minor-mentor approach of being an 
apprentice in machinist and building trades.  Having mentors gains you 
an in-house support-group you will find to be more help than winning the 
lottery.  The following article speaks for itself.
	The Christian Science Monitor - csmonitor.com 

from the September 27, 2004 edition - 

    To make your career soar, get a mentor

*Eager to retain employees, US firms are matching senior workers with 
newer hires.*

*By Stacy A. Teicher* | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Lolita Walker didn't need to clamor for a spot on the new season of "The 
Apprentice" to find a mentor in the business world. Out of college for 
nearly five years, she's already forged relationships with eight people 
willing to help her navigate her career.

"Everyone should have a mentor in their company; everyone needs a 
soldier in the field - someone to brag about you when you're not there, 
someone who has your best interests at heart," she says with the fervor 
of an evangelist.

Not everyone has Ms. Walker's knack for networking, but the demand for 
mentor relationships is growing. In response, some companies have set up 
formal pairings, at times resembling a dating service in the care they 
take to find the right match. Others give groups of new hires a peer 
mentor to show them the ropes. Even on the executive level, companies 
don't want people's leadership aspirations to wither on the vine for 
lack of guidance.

"The topic is on the tip of the tongues of most managers and executives 
[because] retention is a critical issue, and one of the key elements of 
retention is mentoring," says Myrna Marofsky, coauthor of "Getting 
Started with Mentoring" and president of ProGroup, a diversity 
consultancy in Minneapolis. "What used to be an informal process has now 
been formalized ... and linked to the company's business objectives."

Take Gen-Xers, the employees in their late 20s and 30s who don't exactly 
have a reputation for loyalty. Even they feel at least "indirect 
loyalty" when they form good relationships with co-workers and managers, 
according to a survey by BridgeWorks, a consulting company focused on 
generational issues in the workplace. More than 40 percent of Gen-Xers 
in its survey said that having a mentor directly influenced their 
decision to stay at a company.

"When you feel there's somebody there who cares ... who can help out in 
your development personally and professionally, it makes people stay," 
says Walker, an engineer at Gillette in Boston.

When she was a new employee there, Walker and a small group of her peers 
were matched with a male and a female executive. She sees at least one 
of them monthly. But she's also mentored by four people whom she 
approached at Gillette - plus two outside the company. She admits it's 
hard to leverage all those relationships, but she squeezes in phone 
conversations with the mentors late at night.

Early in her career, Walker says, her mentors made her savvier. She 
would recount how she reacted in a meeting, and they would set her 
straight about a more professional way to respond.

John Parks, a plant manager for Gillette in South Carolina, agreed to be 
her mentor when she e-mailed him a year ago. He's helped her reach "a 
better definition of what she wants to be," he says. "She had a very 
narrow scope ... and it's kind of difficult for senior managers to help 
you progress in your career if you're just talking about your next 

As a mentor, it's satisfying to see people's personal and professional 
growth, Mr. Parks says. Often he's approached by fellow 
African-Americans, such as Walker, because he's been a trailblazer at 
Gillette since he arrived in the 1980s.

Parks didn't have mentors per se, but he did benefit from "indirect 
mentoring" by people a few levels above him. "You can be mentored in a 
five-minute conversation; it doesn't have to be a formal setting. As a 
matter of fact, some of the most worthwhile mentoring I received was 
[while] riding the golf cart.... Casual comments got made that gave me 
insight into an issue."

Corporate success has traditionally depended on those informal bonds, 
but not everyone has had access to the unwritten rules, says Ms. 
Marofsky. That's why many firms now link mentoring programs to diversity 

"We work with organizations to go below the surface, to say, 'Who are 
you missing in the pool of up-and- comers?' " she says. ProGroup also 
provides tools to guide dialogue between mentors and their protégés, 
because once people are paired up they often are at a loss for what to 
talk about.

Efforts to measure the effects of career mentoring are relatively new. 
Catalyst, a nonprofit research group in New York, tracked a large group 
of professional women of color from 1998 to 2001 and found that 69 
percent of those who had a mentor had been promoted, compared with 49 
percent of those who didn't. The study also showed the growing 
popularity of mentoring, with the portion of women with mentors rising 
from 35 percent to 58 percent.

General Mills has an extensive set of mentoring programs, and it's 
planning to assess soon how well they fulfill retention and diversity 
goals, says Kjirsten Mickesh, manager of corporate diversity. According 
to its surveys, "80 percent or more think the programs have been 
successful," she says.

Employees say the quality of the match is key. Potential mentors and 
advisees fill out a questionnaire about their background, goals, and 
preferences for a match. Then a steering team interviews them and pairs 
people. A few months into the program, participants can ask for a 
change, but that's rare, Ms. Mickesh says.

One challenge for companies, however, is finding enough people willing 
to commit the time to be a mentor, Marofsky says. And the higher one 
climbs, the fewer people there are above to choose from. This summer, 
Catalyst found that only a minority of senior-level women (17 percent) 
and men (23 percent) in Fortune 1000 companies are satisfied with the 
availability of mentors.

As Ilene Hill moved up the ranks of Raytheon, the Massachusetts-based 
defense giant, she found she needed a new mentor. "My boss who was 
mentoring me before in an informal way was right at the time, because I 
was trying to understand the politics of the company," she says. "But 
then I got to a point where I [decided] ... I need somebody who can look 
big- picture and help me to deal with other things."

Last spring she connected with a female corporate vice president. Ms. 
Hill and her new mentor are both juggling family responsibilities and 
career aspirations. "I just have found it to be a real benefit - finding 
someone who can understand where I am today and where I'm trying to go," 
she says.

Recently, she has started mentoring someone. A consultant in her 20s 
approached Hill for advice after they worked together on a project. 
"She's interested in how I do it, with kids and everything else," says 
Hill, the mother of 10-year-old twins and a top manager at the 
Integrated Defense Systems branch of Raytheon. "She's not there yet, but 
[she's married] and she knows it's going to be in her future."

*How to find a mentor when the company won't do it for you*

It's easy to see the merits of having a mentor, but if your workplace 
isn't offering to pair you up with someone, where do you start?

First, lose any preconceptions that might hold you back. If you're stuck 
in a do-it-yourself work culture, change that culture, advises Myrna 
Marofsky, a workplace-mentoring consultant. If you believe potential 
mentors are too busy, think again, she adds. "You have to be courageous 
and go to people you admire.... Busy people often make time for many 

Think strategically about whom to approach. If your goal is to learn 
about career paths in the company, choose a mentor who has already 
advanced at least a few levels beyond your own. And find out who has a 
reputation for helping those who don't work directly for them. If you 
want advice on general issues such as handling conflict or balancing 
work and family, you might find a mentor from a different company or 
another field altogether.

Your mentor doesn't have to be local, thanks to e-mail and phones, but 
if he or she is local, meet in person to discuss what kind of mentoring 
relationship you hope to establish. (As one mentor quips, "Buy them lunch!")

Tell your mentor-to-be what you admire most about him or her, what you 
hope to gain from the mentoring, and the structure you propose - such as 
talking once a month for six months or a year.

"Create a payoff for them," Ms. Marofsky says. "That's a very important 
piece." You can sell the idea by suggesting it will be personally 
rewarding to them to revisit what has made them successful, and to help 
someone else make good career choices. You can also share your 
professional network, or insights on issues that you and your mentor 
both care about.

Once the mentoring is under way, "be willing to listen," says John 
Parks, a plant manager for Gillette in Lancaster, S.C., who has mentored 
a wide range of people. The learner needs "a willingness to take to 
heart what's being shared."

And the final step: Reciprocate. You may think you don't have enough 
experience to be a mentor, but chances are someone is eager to learn 
from you - even if just to avoid making the mistakes you learned the 
hard way.

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