I am very fortunate to be part of an organization that truly values mentorship as a way of growing and progressing your career. Today marked the kick off of an organization-wide mentoring program that all employees (from the c-suite to the admins) are invited to participate in.
What follows is some key takeaways from 4 members of our senior-level staff:
Dr. Mendelsohn – President
Dr. Burke – Executive Vice President and Physician-in-Chief
Dr. DuBois – Provost & Executive Vice President
Mr. Leach – Executive Vice President – Executive Committee
Note: I amended a few of their responses/tips/advice specific to MD Anderson so that they could be applied to any job and/or organization.
Update 2018: None of these gentleman are still with the institution. That said, they’re all respected leaders and their advice is evergreen.
- Think of yourself as a mentee in everything you do. (Mendelsohn)
- Being a mentee doesn’t have to be a formal process. It can and should be ad hoc sometimes . It can be just having a strong connection and seeing aspects of yourself in other people. (Mendelsohn/Leach)
- People don’t have to know that they’re you’re mentor. You can empathize with the way they approach work/life and transform aspects of your own life accordingly. (Mendelsohn)
- The mentor/mentee relationship should be casual and comfortable. It needs to be flexible. Not let’s meet at 4:30 once a week on Thursday. The problems you encounter in life don’t come on a schedule. (Leach)
- Pay attention to things your mentor does and learn what you want to do vs. the things you don’t want to do. (Mendelsohn)
- The right balance of work vs. our lives/families, etc. is more challenging than people realize and mentors can use their own life experiences to offer guidance for mentees to balance these things and manage stress in their own lives. (Burke)
- Remember that you don’t have to absorb the stress of others. Think about your own plan and strategy and focus on that. (Burke)
- Seek out specific/relevant people at critical points in your life. Revisit old friends and mentors years later if the situation calls for it. (Burke)
- It’s possible to see bad examples of mentorship and to challenge yourself to not emulate those behaviors. (Burke)
- Mentoring episodes might not seem like much at the time, but they often carry a lot of weight and turn out to be very valuable in your career development. (DuBois)
- Both formal and informal mentoring, but the key is to insert yourself in a caring and nurturing environment. (DuBois)
What are ways to ensure that mentorship is embedded into your organization’s culture?
- Make it a conscience effort to embed time for mentoring relationships in your life and job. (DuBois)
- Have more cross-pollination of ideas. It’s more natural to seek out mentorship in your own field, but how can you form some cross-disciplinary relationships? (Leach)
- Target the young people that come into your organization. It’s often easy for them to get lost. (Especially in an organization with 19K+ employees). Make a conscience effort to give young people experiences that expose them to a larger network of people. (Burke)
- There are two missions, the mission of your job and your personal mission. Both are important. Mentoring is for everybody not just high profile people or people trying to climb the corporate ladder. (Mendelsohn)
Mentoring Advocacy Relationships
- Once these mentors learn about you on a more intimate level they’re often able to become your advocate later. Mentors should be advocates for their mentees. (DuBois)
- Don’t start your mentoring relationship with the intent of your mentor becoming an advocate. These relationships typically progress naturally, and with time. (Mendelsohn/Leach)
- Mentors often become your advocate because your careers intertwine at some point. Many mentoring relationships are short term — learning from one another on a specific concern, project, etc. In these instances advocacy might not be as appropriate.
One of the themes is approachability. How do you keep this accessibility despite being in a busy leadership position?
- One effective way to increase face time is to have small meetings with multiple mentees at once. (DuBois)
- Don’t be hesitant to approach mentors just because they’re ‘high status.’ (Leach)
- Try to answer e-mails because it invites mentees to follow-up if they think it’s critical enough. (Burke/DuBois)
- Give clues to people and communicate your availability so that mentees will approach you when it’s the best time for you and using the method of communication most pertinent for you. (Burke)
Do you have a mentor? How has a mentoring relationship impacted your career and/or life? What recommendations would you add to the mix? What recommendations do you disagree with? Use the comments section to chime in as I’m interested in furthering this discussion.