What if the mentor is a turkey?

Jack Welch is no hero of mine, but I agree with this:

“Pairing up a young employee with a single mentor is one of the stupidest ideas around in management because the mentor may be a turkey.”

I wrote the following to a client who inquired about mentoring a young exec on his team:

The primary issue that we take with most mentoring pairings is that the result of the mentoring is not defined in advance. We’d prefer that a person be assigned to a mentor once we’ve identified the exact, measurable results we want the pairing to achieve. That starts with a frank evaluation of the junior exec’s needs. That would include an evaluation of his professional assets as well as his Predictive Index® personality profile.  Mentoring is not coaching or training.  It is the act of serving as a role model.

The creation of a mentoring relationship should be based upon a clear understanding of which of the mentors behaviors the mentee should and will learn to reproduce.  Are they values based or behavioral?

What specific skills or attributes does the person need to advance? If the deficit or area to be mastered is in the professional assets group, i.e. specific skills, learning the corporation’s methods and practices, certification, etc., then assign the person to some-one who has that area mastered and can impart it to the junior – but that’s not mentoring, it’s training, pure and simple. We would establish balanced scorecard metrics to tell us whether the person is learning or not.

On the behavioral assets side, if the the odds are low that the mentee can ever behave like the mentor, e.g. be assertive in the sales process; acclimate himself to long hours of intensive data analysis; deal with an ever-changing schedule rife with interruptions, etc.; don’t waste money and human effort in mentoring.

Mentoring should be a targeted activity of defined duration with specific objectives and follow through. Too often, companies will make these matches; and, they can work very well, but often they fail to satisfy because the outcomes are too vaguely defined or not defined at all.

Some questions to consider if you’re thinking about your mentoring efforts:

  • What do you want to this mentoring episode to achieve?
  • How do you expect the mentee to behave differently when it’s over?
  • What will the mentee know that sh/e doesn’t know now?
  • Are the mentee’s needs at a career level or talent level?
  • Do you expect the mentor to provide answers or validate the answers you’ve already developed?

Not satisfied that your mentoring pairs are not producing the results you want?  Need information about behavioral assets to make the pairings?  Whatever your need, if you are in western Ohio, Michigan or Indiana, contact me for more information and a demonstration.


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