Has it ever happened that you have diligently strived for a month on a statistical report and then suddenly realized that the expectations from you were completely different? And then, at that moment of enlightenment coupled with an absolute bad day at work where your presentation was not pitch perfect (obviously, because you got the data all wrong since you had nobody to guide you) the internet decides to play hooky, and the coffee tastes worse than dark chocolate?
Do you think a constant feedback could have helped? And that too a full 360–degree feedback? Imagine the kind of results that your research could have then yielded. The kind of impact that you could have made. All because you had an experienced support directing you on the right path.
Ladies and gentlemen, there have often been moments when each one of us have felt like a lost soul amidst all the cluttered files and enormous data records at the workplace. Where we crave for an ounce of encouragement, a brief sense of recognition, where somebody can help set the right sail to our ship. Where the work culture is completely messed up.
Sounds familiar? Well, that is precisely the criteria that would outline the job description of a mentor at the workplace! An experienced and trusted advisor. One who leads by example, helps sharpen our decision–making skills, gives us leadership training if required and one who doesn’t shy away from giving critical feedback. Mentors often wears many hats. And during their journey, leave behind a treasure chest of learning. Each one of us can benefit from having a mentor at the workplace. Here’s why.
An Unbiased Goal–visor
Disengaged employees eventually become detractors, dissatisfied with the organization and more likely, with their jobs. This can also lead to a negative image of the company and the work culture in the market resulting in a bad Employer Branding. It thus becomes an organization’s prerogative to help its employees achieve their career goals. And we kid you not when we say that having a support system makes all the difference.
Dr. Seuss — From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!
Don’t we all seek a Dr. Seuss in our work life? That voice of sanity that unfailingly gives us a wake–up call every once in a while and persuades us to acknowledge our undermined potential. One who challenges us to think ‘for ourselves’, who guides us to unlock ‘our potential’, and who helps in breaking things down for ‘our growth’.
We humans are classically conditioned to be unreceptive towards feedback. Especially if it means having to re–work; irrespective of the quantum. But occasionally, we all need to ‘empty our cups’ and unlearn, to learn something new. Enter Analytics Personified – With a ‘been there done that attitude’, an individual who doesn’t tell you what to do, but let’s you explore every possible opportunity by yourself. Who pushes you off the cliff, only after ensuring that you have a well–functioning parachute.
Fortune 500 companies have initiated mentorship programs into their employee’s on boarding process. Why? Because they understand the importance of ‘Starting Young’. Just like a start–up that works best when coached, every individual can reach new heights, if rightly tapped into their hidden potential.
The Cultural Dilemma
It’s the process of initiating the sense of ownership that comes with trust. We often meet new people without understanding the value of collaboration. We do emphasize on networking, but at the cost of forgoing the power of our diversity. These are not just words. These are defining behaviours. Pillars on which an entire empire has been established. A legacy that is being entrusted to the next generation.
The company’s policy document may state it, but a mentor is the one who enforces it, in a very subtle, yet impactful manner. Peter Drucker states it the best – ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Having somebody to count on, means learning processes and embracing the work culture faster. Which in turn compliments one’s productivity at work, and drives the passion to excel.
The Social Network
Almost 50% of employees suffer from anxiety today. The anxiety of not doing things ‘right’. Imagine if you needed a referral really bad to crack a deal. You check with all your personal connections and yet, fail to garner any leads. But then, right at the crossroads, you candidly discuss your situation with somebody over a cup of coffee, and in the very next moment, you have a solution to your problem in your inbox.
Do you believe that making your mark professionally becomes easier, if you know where the opportunities lie? Learning from the right set of people and being connected to the right group of influencers helps climb up the ladder smoothly. It’s not always about how many people follow you on LinkedIn or how many testimonials you have against your name or how many activities for team building you attend. It’s also about how many quality connections have you made that have helped you sustain your business, as well as grow as an individual.
A Third Eye
‘Blind spot’ is a common phenomenon that often occurs due to work pressure. When we face a ‘thinking block’ and end up creating more problems instead of seeking out solutions, a mentor acts like a funnel, facilitating filtration. Among other things he can also suggest an Employee recognition program to your boss.
A different perspective is essential at all roadblocks. Especially, when it comes to assessments and executions. Every situation has two sides. Fears can seep in anytime from anywhere. The fear of missing out on deadlines, not delivering quality, or even getting thrashed by the competition. At times like these, when somebody helps you establish a balanced integration, works like a pack of ice cubes on a tense set of nerves.
It’s easier to grab a book and learn about the techniques of communicating, or the art of selling. But what happens when you are asked to conduct an ‘actual conversation’? In schools, we have a teacher who disseminates good values. At the workplace, we have a mentor. Even after putting in our heart and soul, there comes a phase in our career when we try hard to draw a line between pride and vanity. When we need a reality check before success gets to our head.
Keeping us rooted to our fundamentals and ensuring that we never compromise on our integrity. Helping us build our credibility the right way and through the right channels, treating everybody with equal respect, and investing in nurturing our EQ over sharpening our IQ, are the salient attributes of a good mentor.
The ultimate responsibility of a mentor is their ‘Consistent Learner’s Hat’
It’s like saying that when you train somebody else, you also simultaneously sharpen your own survival skills. A good mentor is always in the quest for more – More challenges, more responsibilities, more experiences. And knows exactly when to take off the helping pedals from our wheels, equally contributing towards our professional, as well as personal development. Learned individuals will never hesitate from passing on the baton with pride. An employee who has experienced the joy of mentorship, will always be a source of positivity, and will voluntarily pass on the same to his/her peers.
Mentor’s Incentivise the Idea of Inspiration
In today’s world where an expertise in soft skills is being sought over academic achievements, it becomes extremely crucial to stay constantly updated, as well as upgraded. A study by Forbes in January 2017 emphasized that ‘Millennials planning to stay with their employer for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%).’
Chat bots and digital marketeers have not yet been able to replace the need for one–on–one mentoring. Because no machine can ever replace the value that a personal, first–hand experience can provide. And admit it, mundane Mondays can always be spiced up from a task that pushes you out of your comfort zone!
Employees who self–realize that the company cares for them, turn out to be far more engaged professionals, and will thus become value ambassadors, percolating the positive work culture. Ultimately, it’s not just about attracting the right kind of talent and empowering your existing workforce. It’s also about sustaining the existing talent, while ensuring productivity and a seamless culture of high performance.
This article first appeared on the print publication of Indian Management Magazine.
Click here to visit our Office Quirkies section.