Lessons Learned in Mentoring

by Saba Software | Posted | Leadership

Lessons Learned in Mentoring

As part of Halogen Software’s Emerging Leader Program, members of our executive team mentor future leaders in the company. One of those mentors is Pete Low, Halogen’s Chief Financial Officer. I thought it would be interesting to get Pete to share some of his experiences and what he’s learned being a mentor.

Tell us a bit about the Emerging Leader Program at Halogen

Pete: We’re really proud of our Emerging Leader Program (ELP) at Halogen. We proactively identify high potential employees who aren’t currently in management roles and put them in a leadership talent pool for cross-functional leadership development. Participants go through both formal and informal training, as well as executive mentorship to prepare them for future leadership roles within our organization.

I certainly recognized the value these emerging leaders would get in being mentored by our company leaders but what I didn’t fully appreciate was how much I, the mentor, would gain from the experience. It’s been a fantastic learning opportunity.   

How is the mentoring relationship structured?

Pete: As part of the ELP, Halogen’s HR department matches members of the executive team with mentees who work in different departments than their own. In my day-to-day work, I’m so focused on the finances of the business and my other direct responsibilities as the CFO, that being paired with someone on the development team gave me a much broader perspective on the business as a whole.

I think when it comes to mentoring within your own organization, there’s real value in working with someone from a different focus area. We each benefit from the other’s view of the world, so to speak.

Mentoring inside your own organization certainly presents a different set of opportunities and challenges than mentoring someone from outside your organization. When you mentor someone outside of your company, you’re not biased by what’s going on inside the business. Of course, the reverse is true when your mentee works within the same four walls as you. It’s easy to get into conversations with your mentee and want to turn your attention to solving the issues yourself. However, it has become very clear to me that you need to put aside your natural company biases and focus on what you’re really there to do: help the individual learn and grow by offering suggestions and perspectives on how they should go about solving a problem; not you.

What’s needed to ensure a successful mentor-mentee relationship?

Pete: One thing I’ve learned that’s critical to a successful mentor-mentee relationship is trust. This isn’t something you can build overnight and it can’t be rushed. Mentors must create a space where the mentee feels completely safe talking about anything. They need to feel confident that no matter what they say they won’t be judged or that what they say won’t make it back to their direct boss.

As I said earlier, it can be all too tempting upon hearing something your mentee says to want to run to their boss and help fix and issue. The reality is that this approach is counterproductive for several reasons. The first is that it breaks the trust between mentor and mentee. The second is that it isn’t true to what the purpose of mentor really is – to offer advice and guidance to help the mentee solve issues and challenges on their own.

Any advice to add on being an effective mentor?

Pete: One of the other important things I’ve learned being a mentor is that you have to let the mentee drive the relationship. Sure, I could sit there and talk to my mentee for hours but when they prepare the agenda and lead the conversation it means they’re really engaged. An engaged mentee is likely to get the most value out of the relationship.

Mentoring can be of great value for both parties involved. Being a mentor has certainly prompted me to do some self-reflection, it’s challenged my thinking and it’s given me fresh insights on the business.

Your turn: What have you learned from being a mentor? What tips do you have to offer to other mentors?

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