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Breathing the Same Air Is Not Enough
Access alone is not sufficient to pass along knowledge and know-how from experienced leaders to new ones. Structured mentoring has marked benefits for developing high-potential talent.
There’s a scenario that plays out in countless executive conference rooms. Well-intentioned senior leaders want to be sure they contribute to leadership development by mentoring up-and-comers in their organization — making themselves available in casual settings, sharing insights about the company and their career paths and answering questions.Learning leaders create these opportunities — often lunch and learn formats consisting of a key executive meeting with six to 10 individuals who are considered high-potential talent. The company’s executives meet the attendees and try to create an environment where people feel comfortable asking questions. However, too often the outcome is attendees are impressed by the breadth of the senior leaders’ knowledge and insights instead of being personally impacted in a way that facilitates growth. Breathing the same air as a senior executive is not enough.Informal one-on-one mentoring of a high-potential individual by a more senior leader is another practice frequently incorporated into development initiatives. While this approach is more impactful than the executive roundtable format, when left unstructured or informal, these partnerships can become a series of polite but ineffective conversations. Mentees may be unsure how many or what types of questions to ask, and mentors often think their role is to impart knowledge rather than develop the mentees’ strengths or work on weaknesses.Learning leaders’ challenge is to create sufficient structure to design meaningful interactions between senior executives and high potentials and drive growth and development. Whether in the executive roundtable format or in individual interactions, thoughtful participant matching, training, monitoring and the incorporation of content are all key to facilitate this kind of high potential development.“In the past, I thought I was mentoring by answering questions and by the guidance I provided my employees,” said Keith Hicks, senior vice president of human resources for MedAssets, a health care supply chain management company. “We would get together and chat, but that was just having a conversation. Talking is not enough. While a mentee might gain some pearls of wisdom, there is no action plan, no accountability and no follow-up. Hoping a mentee benefits from the conversations is not true mentoring.”
Leveraging the Latest in Brain Science to Deliver the Next Generation of E-Learning
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