Making Mentoring Work for You

Making Mentoring Work for You

Sally, Jon, Felicia, and Antonio have been close friends since they joined the company 10 years ago as new college hires. Sally was recently promoted to General Manager of Sales, Independent Buying Groups. In her role, Sally will be responsible for managing the salesforce that serves the buying groups. She will also be responsible for managing relationships with customers. Independent Buying Groups represent 25% of the company’s revenues. Two of the last three CEOs of the company advanced to CEO through the Sales organization.

Sally, Jon, Felicia, and Antonio meet at their favorite restaurant to celebrate Sally’s promotion to General Manager.

Jon: Sally, you did it! Glad to see one of us accomplish such a significant milestone.

(Felicia, Jon, and Antonio share high fives with Sally.)

Felicia: Just think, Sally may one day be CEO of our company. 

Sally: I don’t know about that, but this promotion does have me wondering about my future.

Antonio: Sally, how did you do it!

Sally: I owe a lot to my mentor, Ed Crawford. He really helped me.

Antonio: Hey, I tried the “mentor thing”. It has not worked so well for me.

Felicia: I can attest to that.

Jon: My mentor and I have a friendly relationship, but that’s where it ends.

Antonio: I had Lou Hernandez as my mentor. I thought that was a good move. Lou and I are Hispanic and he is a vice president. I thought he would show me the way up the career ladder as a Hispanic professional.

Felicia: Martha Simmons was my mentor. She is a highly respected female vice president. She didn’t show me the way.

Jon: My mentor either postponed or cancelled our discussions about half the time. I guess that is a challenge when we ask senior executives to be our mentors. They have so many demands on their time. Mentoring is probably low in the pecking order.         

Antonio: Let’s keep the spotlight on Sally. Sally, how did you make mentoring work for you?

Sally: I started by identifying gaps between my “pro forma” and current resumes, the things I needed to do to advance my career.

Antonio: What the devil is a pro forma resume?

Sally: My pro forma resume is the resume I wanted to have to be considered as a top candidate for a general manager’s position in Sales. My pro forma resume was based on the assessment of my strengths, the feedback I received from my 360 surveys, my performance evaluations, and feedback from you.

Jon: Is that why you asked us what we would say about you if a head hunter asked us to be a reference for you?

Sally: Yes.

Antonio: I thought you asked for our feedback because you were considering an offer from another company.

Felicia: I thought you were going through a “self-awareness” phase in your life.

Sally: I thank you for that feedback. It was really helpful. Given the assessments and feedback, I reviewed position descriptions for executive positions on the Sales career ladder. General Manager was a great fit. I decided to go for it.

Jon: This is great stuff, the making of an executive!

Antonio: Keep going, Sally.

Sally: I determined how to eliminate the gaps between my pro forma and current resumes. I found that one gap was the ability to establish and manage effective relationships with business partners in Marketing, Product Development, Customer Service, and Distribution.

Felicia: Keep going. You’re on a roll!

Sally: I also realized that I needed to understand the culture among members of the C-Suite because I would often interact with them as a general manager. I knew that advice from someone who demonstrated these capabilities and knowledge would be a great help to my personal development. And, I got an idea on how to recruit someone to be my mentor.

 Antonio: What was that idea?

Sally: I had an opening for a salesperson in my territory. I worked with my human resources partner to develop a profile of the person I wanted to recruit. My HR partner used that profile to develop a search assignment for the external recruiter with whom we would contract.

Jon: So you used the search assignment for the salesperson as a template to create a search assignment to recruit your mentor.

Sally: That’s right! Using the search assignment, I identified Ed Crawford as my #1 candidate to be my mentor. Ed is great with relationships. Business partners love to work with Ed. He can easily get their cooperation when there is a crunch. Our customers think the world of him. Ed has either worked with or for 3 members of our company’s Executive Committee. When any of the members come to our organizational meetings, you can see the strong relationships Ed has with them. Someone outside of our company would think that Ed was in the C-Suite.

Felicia: How did you get Ed to agree to be your mentor? How did you recruit him?

Sally: I asked him. I informed him of why I asked him to be my mentor. We agreed to ground rules to govern our mentor/mentee relationship. This included an established time for us to meet, how to alert one another if we needed to reschedule a meeting, where we would meet, and how we would respect one another’s time during and between discussions.

Jon: I can see why mentoring worked so well for Sally.

Felicia: My discussions with Martha took on the flavor of “be like Martha” if you want to advance. I grew weary of listening to stories of her successes. She talked about things that were not a concern to me.

Antonio: Though Lou and I are both Hispanic, we didn’t connect. Lou is an extreme “in your face” type of person. He made me feel inadequate when I shared my career challenges with him. Lou’s advice was “deal with it”. He felt the best way to deal with challenges with others is through confrontation. That is not my personality.

Jon: I did not feel a strong commitment to mentoring from my mentor. It seemed like he agreed to mentor me because that was what his executive peers were doing.

Felicia: Sally, you recruited Ed Crawford to be your mentor. Ed is a general manager. The individuals that Antonio, Jon, and I had as mentors were members of the C-Suite. Yet, you got excellent results. We didn’t.

Sally: The KEY is knowing what you want from the relationship with your mentor and building and managing the relationship. This included small things like sending a birthday greeting and offering to pick up the tab for lunch. I listened to ensure that I understood Ed’s advice and suggestions. I keep him informed of my accomplishments and shared situations that did not go well for me. I made sure that I thanked him when I followed his advice and it worked.

Jon: Sally, you are our hero! (Antonio and Jon nod their heads in agreement.)

Sally: By the way, I had an indication that our relationship was effective. Jim Rogers, our CEO, said “Sally, how’s it going for you?” as we encountered one another in the parking lot. His administrative assistant went out of her way to greet me in the cafeteria. Ed and Jim started out as peers in Sales. Jim and Ed have maintained their relationship over the years. I believe that Ed has said good things about me to Jim.

Jon: I am going to create my pro forma resume and determine what I need to do to make it a reality. And, I am going to RECRUIT another mentor!

Felicia: I am going to do that, too!

Antonio: Me, too!

Sally: I look forward to future gatherings at this restaurant to celebrate your promotions.

Sally established The Business of Sally.

She realized that her personal product was the foundation for The Business of Sally. She used the Personal Product Development Process to develop a product called Sally.

Did this week’s article generate Aha Moments?

Do you have a mentor?

How is the mentor relationship working for you?

Do you have a pro forma resume?

Have you created a path, a personal development plan, to guide you to your career destination?

Are you operating The Business of You?

Share your comments, experiences, and suggestions. This helps me provide information that may help you address your career opportunities and challenges.

Fields of Success offers complimentary coaching sessions to help professionals convert their needs, challenges, and issues into career success stories. Visit the Contact page on the Fields of Success website to schedule a session. 

Next week’s article will provide a recap of the Personal Product Development Process.

Linwood Bailey is a career coach and the author of The Business of Me: Your Job … Your Career … Your Value. The Business of Me provides a career management process and information designed for today’s business professional. Since 2008, Linwood has enabled business professionals to manage their careers. Linwood, the been there coach, provides innovative career management solutions derived from his 34 years of experience managing functions and people in multiple industries, regions, and corporate cultures.

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