Mentorship. You know the term. You’re familiar with the concept. But what does it mean to truly foster a meaningful mentorship in the workplace?
In this Brave Conversation, Culture Moments podcast host Larry Baker is joined by guests Lisa Fain, CEO of The Center for Mentoring Excellence, Kamillah Knight, Senior Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Danaher Corporation, and LCW’s own Tamara Thorpe, Senior Consultant and the founder of Real Mentors Network.
Together, they explore what it means to form an authentic mentorship, why mentorship matters, the different forms mentorship can take, and what it looks like to put this conversation into action and pursue a mentorship in your own workplace.
Listen to the full podcast below, and share your takeaways on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
Listen to the conversation below (Run time – 51:04) or scroll down for the full transcript.
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Show Notes & Highlights
3:25: Lisa shares her belief that meaningful relationships are at the core of “moving the needle” in the workplace
10:15: Kamillah tells us what a reverse mentorship looks like and its benefits
12:05: Lisa calls out the beauty of co-creating relationships in a mentorship context
19:10: Tamara discusses what was lacking in the older, “traditional” model of mentorship
23:45: Tamara shares her insights on why cross-cultural mentorships might fail
38:45: Kamillah explains how sponsorship relationships go beyond a mentorship relationship
40:40: Larry asks each guest to share what steps can be taken to start your own mentorship in the workplace
Larry Baker: Hello everyone. And welcome to the Culture Moments Podcast. I’m your host, Larry Baker. And I am thrilled to have you join us for our second season called Brave Conversations with LCW. In these episodes, you’ll hear from a panel of guests from specific communities, offering a range of perspectives on the past two years.
We’ll hear about their own experiences as well as their insights on what has changed and more importantly, what needs to change to move equity forward. As we all know so much has shifted and changed over the past two years. And for many of us, we’re still in recovery from a very difficult 24 months.
Mentorship. We all know the term and we might have our own ideas of what it means. What does mentorship look like in the workplace and how can we foster truly meaningful mentorships? In this episode, we’ll explore what it means to form an authentic mentorship by talking about why mentorship matters, what the benefits of mentorship are, and we’ll wrap our conversation up by discussing what it looks like to put this all into action.
Today. I am thrilled to be joined by three thought leaders in this space. I’m pleased to introduce Lisa Fain, who is the CEO of the Center for Mentoring Excellence, Kamillah Knight, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Danaher Corporation, and LCWs own Tamara Thorpe, a senior consultant and she’s also the founder of the Real Mentors Network.
But I am going to allow each one of them to just give us a brief introduction in regard to who you are, what you do and why mentorship matters to you. So, Lisa, if you could kick us off with that conversation.
Lisa Fain: Thanks. Larry. I’m so happy to be here and so honored to be on a panel with two esteemed colleagues.
Um, so I’m Lisa Fain, as you mentioned, CEO of Center for Mentoring Excellence based in Seattle, Washington and founded in 1992 by Lois J. Zachary who, in addition to being the author of many books on mentoring is also my mother and I came to mentoring really, very surreptitiously. I’m a former management side employment, lawyer, who fell into the world of diversity, equity and inclusion.
When I went in-house to a company that was a wonderful company, but had not, uh, had neither the representation or the inclusion that I had wanted to see and was given the opportunity to really lead that. And in the course of doing the work of diversity, equity and inclusion, I really began to believe, um, and Kamillah, I’m interested in your thoughts on this as well, but I really began to believe that where you start to see the needle move in the workplace is when there’s meaningful relationships across difference in the workplace.
You can have all the programs you want and the programs are important and they’re foundational, but until there’s action and there’s relationships, you really don’t see the needle move. And it wasn’t until our women’s group wanted a mentoring program that I actually called up my mom and said, what are we going to do?
And she came in and led the kickoff for the mentoring program. And I had this epiphany that the frustration that I had been seeing in leading DEI and moving the needle forward, and the belief that relationship was the solution and, uh, the depth of mentoring and the power of mentoring really could be synergistic.
It’s proven out in the data sense and the research sense, but also my own experience. So I moved into this role and really with an effort to help create a more inclusive work environments through mentoring.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that. So since you kind of queued her up, I’m going to ask Kamillah to introduce herself and tell us why mentorship matters to you.
Kamillah Knight: Thanks, Larry. Um, so my name is Kamillah Knight and I’m currently the Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Danaher Corporation’s water quality platform. My D&I background spans across different corporations, including Unilever and Ferrero. I consider myself to be what I call a change superhero, working to change the way that people interact with their environment, whether that’s their physical environment or with other people.
And I put this purpose into place not only through my day job, but also through community outreach, championing DE&I education, as well as through coaching and consulting.
For me, mentorship is important because it allows people to actually build relationships which can help to guide one in their careers and their actions.
You can have a mentorship relationship, which is between someone who’s senior and someone who’s junior with a senior person might be the person that’s providing that insight, but you can also have a reverse mentorship relationship with a junior person is also helping to guide a senior person and providing insight on something like culture, for instance.
So mentorship is productive. For all parties involved.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that excellent description and last but never least, Tamara. Please introduce yourself and tell us why mentorship matters to.
Tamara Thorpe: Thank you, Larry. And, as Lisa said, it’s great to be here with everyone. Um, my name is Tamara Thorpe and I am a senior consultant with LCW.
I come to my work at LCW with about 20 years experience in global leadership and diversity. And in that journey in my career as I was exploring how we develop. Culturally competent leaders I began to see the power of mentoring. And similarly, as Lisa said, I started to see these connections as somebody who, had incredible mentors growing up, completely shaped and informed my life and my career.
And as somebody who was very passionate about mentoring others, I started to recognize that mentoring wasn’t something that just happened informally, but it can happen formally. Then, the benefits that can come when we look at how do we navigate our differences within an organization.
And so for 10 years or so, I’ve been best known as the millennials mentor. And I’ve spent a lot of that time and work, helping organizations bridge the generational gap that we’ve seen grow over the last 10 years and seen within the work that I’ve done, that mentoring is a really powerful way to help bridge our differences.
And when we can create those kind of mutual mentoring relationships, where folks are learning from one another. It then becomes a really powerful tool, uh, for people to develop their cultural competence for organizations to share that institutional knowledge and wisdom and for organizations to be more sustainable, more inclusive.
And we know that the database backs all of that up. And so I have been a real champion for mentorship. And as you said, I am the founder of the Real Mentors Network, which is a web-based platform that provides an opportunity for people to be matched with mentors. I want to make sure that mentoring is as accessible as possible for individuals, for leaders in organizations.
And that’s just because I know that mentoring has played such a powerful role in my own work.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that Tamara. And as you can see, we have three individuals that have very deep relationships in regards to this topic on mentorships. And I want us to take a step back and then dig a little bit deeper into this concept of mentorship.
So Kamillah, you mentioned different type of mentorship when you talked about reverse mentoring. So if you could elaborate on that and maybe give us a definition of what you consider to be mentorship, but really highlight that concept that you’ve mentioned on reverse mentoring.
Kamillah Knight: Absolutely. So for me, a mentorship relationship or a mentor really, is someone who is a coach to you, they make time for you.
They can help stiffen your backbone if you will. Um, and it’s also an ongoing and continuous relationship. They also are a sounding board in a sense, you know, they provide you with. And generally a mentorship relationship allows for information to flow, usually in one direction where one party is sharing some wisdom, sharing insights, sharing their experiences, and really helping the other person to build that level of competence in certain situations.
They also helped to, you know, and in my opinion, at least shape what that person’s perception and outlook might being going forward. And it’s really a person who can teach you and how to navigate certain situations, whether that’s in your organization or just a certain experience. And when I think about the different types of mentorship, for instance, as I mentioned earlier, and as you noted reverse mentorship is one of those.
Whereas when we generally think about mentorship, it’s that one-on-one mentorship relationship where you have a senior leader kind of guiding a junior employee, whereas you could have reverse mentorship where it can, like I said earlier, be something that’s cultural, where perhaps there’s a leader who wants to learn more about how to navigate relationships with a person of color.
So they might form a relationship with the person of color who then shares their experiences with them and kind of puts checks and balances that even in place of no, perhaps you should think about this this way, or perhaps you should go about this this way. To then help that senior leader be better, uh, when it comes to navigating that space.
And there’s so many other forms of mentorship, including group mentorship, where you can have several people listening to one person or even peer mentorship, where it can be two people who are junior coaching, one another on different situations and sharing your experiences. Um, so I really do see mentorship is kind of being multifaceted if you will, but really, and truly where, you know, one person or both people are sharing knowledge and helping each other, or one another, uh, navigate different situations.
Larry Baker: Thank you so much for that response Kamillah. And Lisa, I want to bring the discussion to you because you mentioned that you had an epiphany when you dug deep into this concept of mentorship. So question for you, what is mentorship to you? And then what are some of those benefits that can come from both the mentor and the mentor?
Lisa Fain: I love that question. So for me, mentoring is a reciprocal relationship where, it’s such a beautiful thing because where else in the workplace, when you have a pirate power distance, if you will, between two people, can you, co-create a relationship and have that kind of reciprocity, right?
It really doesn’t happen in the supervisory. Um, and so, um, real mentoring is about this co-creation. I think that there’s really three key characteristics to mentoring. There’s this idea of reciprocity where mentors give and mentors get and mentees give and mentees get there’s this idea of co-creation where both the mentor and the mentee.
Dig into the relationship and create something that I often tell people it’s, you know, the formula and mentoring is one plus one equals three. There’s the mentor, there’s the mentee. And there’s the mentoring relationship. Right? And then the most, I wouldn’t say the most important, but equally important is this idea of learning.
Ultimately, mentoring’s a learning relationship. That’s about the development, right? Unlike a supervisory relationship, which is about performance, how will you do your job? Mentoring really is about learning. So those are the three characteristics that I like to highlight the most. We’ve got the idea of reciprocity and co-creating.
And returning to your question, Larry about benefits is a really, really important one. And you know, if there’s mentees who are listening, I just want to acknowledge that one of the things that I hear and I’m sure the same is true of Kamillah and Tamara, which is, you know, I don’t want to burden my mentor.
I don’t want to take up their time. I’m afraid that I’m. You know, going to be a heavyweight for them. Um, you know, especially when a mentor, maybe somebody who is senior and have a lot of experience. And the truth is, um, when you think about reciprocity, it’s not just a, it’s not just a aspirational statement, it’s a factual statement and what the data shows.
Is that mentors really do gain a lot from the relationship they gain better leadership skills. They gain increased perspective, as Kamillah mentioned in a reverse mentoring context, but also in the regular mentoring context, there can be, um, enhanced perspectives, uh, about diversity, about cultural competency, about generational perspectives as well.
Um, and then there’s the satisfaction of giving back, right? A lot of people lead with the satisfaction of giving back. It’s great. Uh, and it’s true and it’s real, but there’s also a damp, a data piece, which I think is really important for mentees to keep in mind and for mentors to keep in mind as they think about investing time, because it really is an investment of time if you’re doing it right from aunties.
I mean, you know, we could all probably, you know, sit here and brainstorm, um, uh, or, or recite some of the benefits, but of course there’s, you know, enhanced career growth. You know, the data shows that mentoring is one of the most effective tools for creating an inclusive work environment and that as compared to non-mentored employees, uh, people of color and women in the workplace who are mentored have, have enhanced advancement, they have, uh, better performance.
They have better access and greater career satisfaction. And so I find that really, really exciting, um, because it truly is a win-win win, win for the mentor, win for the mentee and win for the Oregon.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that, Lisa. And I think that it’s great that you pointed out that if you are a mentee, please do not think that you are a burden to your mentor because as you stated.
The mentors get so much out of this process as well. So Tamara I’m going to bring the same type of question to you where I want you to talk to me about what is mentorship to you, but you touched upon something that I really want you to dig into when you mentioned millennial mentoring, because I definitely feel like that’s a different type and I really want us to unpack that a little bit.
So. Tell us, what is mentorship to you and really focus in on that millennial content.
Tamara Thorpe: Uh, so I will say mentoring to me. I don’t think I have a very different definition than Lisa, because I will say that so much of my knowledge has come from, uh, Lisa and her, uh, her mother-in-law Dr. Zachary, who has been such a, uh, a force in the mentoring space.
And that for me, reciprocity is what is really fundamental in a mentoring relationship, because it is a learning relationship. And I think one of the. Interesting aspects of mentoring is that it can happen in so many different forms. Right? A lot of times when we think of mentoring relationships, we tend to think of them in terms of a formal, structured mentoring relationship that we might have in the workplace.
Or we might have an academic program, or we think of mentoring like a teacher or a coach or a parent. Um, but one of the, uh, interesting aspects of mentoring is mentoring can happen in a single conversation with another person you can have this very serendipitous exchange and you may never see that person again, or you may never have that kind of meaningful conversation.
Um, but in this, uh, very short exchange, uh, you can have a powerful mentoring relationship by hosting some virtual speed mentoring event and people always say, speed mentoring. What can you, what can really happen in a seven-minute interaction? And I, every time we do them, I’m blown away at how powerful those conversations are in a short period of time that the insights or wisdom or experience that people share.
And those rounds, uh, ended up being really powerful and I’ve had mentees leave those events saying my life has changed. I have a 35 minutes of mentoring. They feel like their life has been changed. And so it can be really, really powerful when we create that kind of learning relationships and have those learning conversations.
And to me, that’s really the essence of mentoring that we have an interaction with another person that elevates, uh, both of us. And that’s one of the reasons why the data that Lisa shared that mentoring has such a powerful impact on D&I strategy and creating, uh, cultures of belonging and inclusion for talent is because of, um, it gives people the opportunity to, to elevate and, and that’s feeling good about themselves having guidance, getting direction, finding really strategic ways to navigate situations.
And so when I started working with organizations around generational differences, what I noticed right. When we look at generational cohorts, um, that the traditional forms of mentoring right. Was a very one way. Right. So when we think back historically, uh, that there was sort of. You know, senior person, an elder person who held all the knowledge and then this younger, less experienced person would come and they’d get all this person’s knowledge kind of dumped into them.
Um, but in that model, that younger person has to be an empty vessel. Right. But that’s not the case, right. That, people who are younger or less experienced, still come as a whole person filled with, uh, their own lifetime of experiences and knowledge. And that’s something that folks can learn from.
And so I was working with organizations on navigating and bridging those generational differences. Um, it was about creating those mentoring relationships that was going to help one generation understand another in a deeper, more complex way because we know that bias exists and whether that bias exists around race or ethnicity, but it also exists around age, gender, et cetera.
And age-ism… I say all the time at age-ism is like this really like the last form of super acceptable bias. Right? That people can openly disregard and criticize an entire generation, right? Without anybody really feeling like anyone’s been slighted, but we know right from the research that, um, millennials leave organizations when they don’t feel a sense of belonging.
I have talked with millennials across the globe who have sat in meetings, listening to senior leaders, completely dismiss them and their entire generation and their value. Um, and so being able to, uh, create the opportunity for them to start having conversations on a deeper level, to understand one another in a more complex way has been really powerful tool for this.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much for that Tamara. And I do believe that in all of your illustrations, you touched upon research that supports specifically for colleagues of color, Black employees, Hispanic, Latina, employees, or all employees of color that. Mentorship can be particularly important and beneficial.
As a matter of fact, you’ve touched upon and how mentoring… those programs tend to boost minority representation at the management level. And what I’d like for you to talk to me about is how have you advised organizations to engage. In those cross cultural cross racial, um, mentorship, uh, relationships, if you will, uh, tomorrow, I’m going to start with you this time.
So Tamara, just give me some insight in regards to, you know, talk about some of those benefits and how are you encouraging organizations to participate?
Tamara Thorpe: Yeah, I think Kamillah had touched on this earlier where, uh, she mentioned there is an opportunity in cross-cultural and cross-racial mentoring relationships for folks to learn about a culture and community that is different from their own.
And when we look at de biasing organizations and their decision-making processes, particularly around talent, acquisition and talent development when folks have a deeper understanding of somebody else’s lived experience somebody else’s cultural background of that becomes this really powerful mechanism to move people away from stereotypes, into having more complex understanding of other folks.
And so, when we’ve been doing work around cross-cultural, cross-racial mentoring, what we know is typically cross-racial mentoring relationships suffer, because of the lack of cultural competence that mentors have. And so, uh, really the council and Lisa’s done a great work on this is helping is providing mentors the opportunity to develop the cultural competence. They need to go into a cross-cultural cross-racial mentoring relationship with some fundamental skill sets that then allow them to deepen their and strengthen their cultural competence in that relationship.
Larry Baker: Okay. So you’ve just given me a nice segue into asking Lisa to hop in and join us in that conversation, because you mentioned it earlier, we know that there are benefits and it helps that representation for, uh, you know, your colleagues of color and women when they are allowed to be a part of these mentoring relationships.
So Lisa, talk to me a little bit more about how do you make that happen in organizations?
Lisa Fain: Yeah, I mean, I think I have sort of a heady answer to it and then a practical answer to it. And the heady answer really piggybacks off of what Tamara was saying, which is, you know, it’s about cultural competency.
It’s about how people make sense of difference. And it’s really helping people understand the concept that differences lie between us, not within us differences lie between us, not within us. So nobody is inherently different. We are different from one another. And when you start to, um, teach people that and have them create some self-awareness about their own identity, they understand that, um, Creating an inclusive environment, leveraging the diversity in your workforce.
Having cross-cultural relationships is an obligation and a responsibility of everybody, because I think one of my biggest frustrations, and maybe this is some of the, one of the lessons that I take from the days working as a DEI practice. Is DEI is not delegable.. delegable… delegatable whatever the word is is… that you one cannot delegate DEI right?
It’s your job Kamillah to manage and make sure that it happens, but it’s actually every leader’s job, every person’s job to create an inclusive work environment. So once you create that, self-awareness of like, wait a minute, I have attributes so that I own DEI. That’s the really key.
So that’s a heady answer, Larry. Um, and then there’s the practical answer, um, which is, um, you know, until cultural competency, creating an inclusive work environment, is a leadership expectation and something that leaders are accountable for in a measurable way, it can be, do you have a mentoring relationship or a sponsorship relationship? Those are two different things, a mentoring relationship or a sponsorship relationship with somebody who is an underrepresented population in the workforce, right. It can be, um, what are you doing on your team to hire inclusively, right? And to include, diverse populations within your workforce and make sure that you’re elevating them.
It can be when you do your performance reviews, look at that nine box and see what some of your biases are as everybody in the top box, have some homogeny. And then what’s about what’s about that. What’s that about? Right? I mean, there’s lots of different ways to create that accountability, but when you say, how do you make it happen?
It’s about measuring it and having really concrete actions that people leaders are held accountable to just like other performance metrics.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. I appreciate the passion because you are absolutely, engaging in a point that I am a firm believer that what gets repeated is what is what they get rewarded for.
Right. If you want for me to do this, you have to hold me accountable towards it. And then I have to see some type of rewards from that, because then I will repeat that behavior. So, uh, I’m a hundred percent in agreement with that.
Kamillah, I know that this is something that you have a deep passion about in regards to that mentoring relationship and how it benefits colleagues of color. So hop in here and give me some insights in regards to how do you encourage it? How do you ensure that data aside when this happens, our colleagues of color or underrepresented groups, they thrive. How do you go about that?
Kamillah Knight: Yeah. So, you know, without, uh, trying to repeat some of the things that both Tamara and Lisa said, because I think they hit it right on the nail head.
The one thing that I would really drive home that I think is most important when trying to facilitate these types of relationships and encourage leaders to engage in them is making sure they understand that this is not a means for them to say, okay, this one Black employee, let me ask you every question that I’ve ever wanted to know about Black people.
It’s not that it’s not meant to be that… while it is a learning situation in environment it’s not meant to single someone out and kind of make them your token person. So, I think that’s important always to acknowledge and highlight so that the, the person who’s involved, um, from the opposite side of the person of color, doesn’t feel that it’s that type of relationship and therefore feel that they have this obligation to show up this way and, or educate someone in this way.
Um, but also I think what’s important to highlight to Lisa’s point. You know, making sure that it is tied back to the business, helping people to understand why, why it’s not just also great for them as a leader and how to help them grow as a leader within the organization, but also helping them to grow as a person outside of the organization, just in their community.
And not only is it important for the person of color in helping them to feel better and to retain them as talent within the organization, but also how this can help the organization in general, when it comes to number one, retaining talent, number two, to creating more inclusive spaces for people overall.
And number three, to hitting the bottom line and helping the organization just to be more innovative and jail. So I think when you can do that and really harness that for leaders and for the people within the organization, that’s what really helps, you know, these types of programs to be extremely successful and what helps people to lean in.
Larry Baker: Yeah. I love that piece Kamillah in regards to how you say. Tie it to the business results, because I do believe in so many situations, this is viewed as something that’s a good, right? This isn’t something that gets results.
However, research shows and, and everyone can see that there is absolutely a proven business case for mentoring relationships, which brings me to another question because.
We’ve done studies and we’ve read about how 71% of the fortune 500 companies, they have mentoring programs. And with varying levels of success.
So if you could each talk to me and I’m going to ask Lisa to kick us off with this one, based upon some of the organizations that you have worked with, what are some of the more common obstacles that come in the way of creating these meaningful relationships?
And you can peel it down a layer and get specific if you like. Focusing out around these underrepresented groups. So we know that the organizations have them, but what are some of the common obstacles that come in the way of having these meaningful mentorship? So Lisa asked you to start with.
Lisa Fain: Uh, it’s interesting how each question really builds on each other on the, on the next Larry, because I think a lot, um, you know, I want to just piggyback, um, uh, on what Kamillah was saying is like the biggest obstacle is this tyranny of the urgent, right?
Meaning like people will say if DEI is not tied to performance metrics, right. I’ve got, we’ve got a business, you know, we’ve got this crisis, or we’ve got this particular thing, don’t have time for mentoring right now… Let’s push it off till next month. Right. And until they’re accountable for it, the tyranny of the urgent is always going to feel like, um, it’s going to overcome this important.
The, you know, what’s, what’s important, but doesn’t feel urgent, which is the next. Piece of it. The other obstacle is lack of competency building and lack of understanding about really what mentoring is. And it takes two forms. It either becomes kind of what I call parent and pray, which is okay. We have a mentoring program, let’s pair people and just kind of pray that it succeeds.
We leave them on their own. No accountability, no, um, uh, competency building, no understanding that mentoring is. Um, you know, this on the stage, which Tamara was talking about before, it is really about facilitating or being a guide on the side. And so you’d have to build the competency just because somebody is a great leader.
It doesn’t mean that they’re going to be a great mentor. It doesn’t mean that they’re going to understand how to mentor somebody. It doesn’t mean that they have a cultural competency and the curiosity to say, well, this is how it was for me. Let me share my experience. How might it be different for you?
Right. Yeah, because we’re not, as Tamara was saying, an empty vessel and mentees less so. So really an assumption… It’s interesting. I mean, I think that one of the gifts that millennials and the next generation gen Z bring is that they are full of a worldliness and an aunt and an ambition and Tamara you can check me on this if I’m, you’re the expert on generation, but they’re filled with this curiosity and this worldliness and the sense of connectedness that gen X and older wasn’t at their age.
Um, and it rings, um, sense of perspective and a sense of knowing about what possibility is that is often surprising to the older generations and just speaks to this point that there people come as full people. We can’t make assumptions based on age. I think I have digressed from what your question was, Larry, but I got very excited about the answer.
Um, so let me know if there’s anything else.
Larry Baker: No, no, that’s great because I think you just cued up Tamara because we do want to talk in regards to the obstacles, because we know that, you know, a majority of organizations are saying that they have them. What are we seeing in regard to results specifically around those underrepresented groups?
So Tamara hop in there for me and talk about what are some common obstacles that come in the way of having these meaningful mentorships, if you would.
Tamara Thorpe: Um, I think that, uh, Lisa was right, right? That in organizations, we have a tendency to believe that because someone is really good at their job or very knowledgeable that in their industry, that they are then qualified to lead and mentor.
The truth is that, uh, leadership requires its own set of skills. And I have been a firm believer that one of those skill sets is cultural competence. For years, really. I have never identified as a D&I consultant, I’ve always identified as a leadership consultant in believing that a core, uh, and essential skill of leadership is the ability to lead people who are different from ourselves.
Um, and with that, then comes that being a priority and expectation of what my skillset is as a leader. That then is reflected in my ability to mentor and promote and ensure a successful mentoring relationships within an organization. And so I do think that organizations make assumptions about what mentoring is and that mentoring relationships will be successful because two people have been matched and set meetings and that successful learning relationships require, some structure, some guidance and one of the things just recently that we spent a lot of time talking about, the last time I was on a panel about mentoring was about knowing how to end a mentoring relationship when it’s not working. And too often, because either a mentoring pair or the organization hasn’t prepared for when relationships are not successful unsuccessful relationships, either end up with the mentoring relationship and experience never really fulfilling either a person, which then makes both of those folks uninterested in the mentoring ever again. Right?
And so we need to put as much energy into the development of a mentoring relationship and the evaluation of a mentoring ship, as much as that goes into the matching piece.
Right? It has to be a complete experience so folks have really clear expectations in the, in the beginning. Um, those, uh, expectations become milestones that measure the success of the mentoring relationship and that there’s a process for when to folks say this relationship’s not working, they have the ability to break up, so to speak, um, and, and establish a new mentoring relations.
Larry Baker: That’s great. I appreciate that reality that if something’s not going the way that it’s mutually beneficial, then we have the right to say, “hey, let’s step back and reevaluate this and maybe, uh, go our separate ways.” I appreciate that part of mentoring as well Tamara.
And Kamillah. Obstacles. I know that you have come across it. I know that you understand it, but what are some of the more common obstacles that in your experience come in the way of having these meaningful mentorship?
Kamillah Knight: Yeah. So, I mean, I agree wholeheartedly with everything that both Tamara and Lisa mentioned. I think the one thing that I would hone in on that I see as one of the biggest obstacles to a mentorship relationship is it doesn’t necessarily put the onus on the mentor themselves to be willing to put themselves out on the line for the mentee.
So while they’re serving as a coach and a sounding board and sharing insight, they’re not necessarily willing to, to go on for the mentee themselves when it comes to their actual progression career progression, and the effort in my opinion, and the work is still being placed on the mentee themselves.
So, you know, I think the next level to it is really looking at something like sponsorship. And I think Lisa mentioned this earlier on the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. And to me, a sponsor is really someone who, as I mentioned, is willing to advocate for you. They’re willing to be your voice in a room when you’re not.
They’re willing to put their reputation, even on the line for the growth of, you know, the sponsee or the protege, rather because otherwise, what, what I think mentorship relationships fall short of, especially when we think of POC communities, where employees is that it still puts them at a disadvantage because they’re only getting part of the way there.
They still aren’t necessarily having certain doors opened up for them, which has been this obstacle for them, which is why they sought out the mentorship relationship in the first place. Whereas when you start to transition to something more of a sponsorship relationship, that’s when those doors start to get open.
That’s when people really are putting them out there and saying, hey, I think they are, they’re good for this. Let them give them a chance. Whereas the mentorship relationship, in my opinion, doesn’t necessarily do that or get them their own.
Larry Baker: Yeah, that is such a key insight in regards to upfront identifying what type of relationship do we have? Is it a mentorship relationship or is it a sponsorship relationship? And if it’s not a sponsorship relationship, how do we build towards that?
So, to touch on Tamara’s point of defining expectations and milestones, you know, that could be an extremely critical step in this process. So I appreciate you highlighting the differences between mentorship and sponsorship.
So as we get ready to close our conversation today, which has been absolutely incredible, and I appreciate each one of you…
If I’m someone that’s listening to this podcast, and I really want to know how I can engage in a mentorship relationship and put this into practice, what would you recommend as a good first step?
Kamillah, I’m going to ask that you kick us off, then Lisa then Tamara.
Kamillah Knight: I think a lot of these things we’ve talked about a bit, but I think if you’re a person who’s looking for a mentor, one of the best things you can do is to look for someone who emulates a behavior or a leadership style that you aspire to have and, or career path even, um, that you think is attractive or you desire.
I think it’s also important that you look to attend meetings and events where you can naturally meet people, um, and therefore learn about them so that a mentorship relationship can organically happen.
And then I think I would also say that, you know, once you find a mentor, similar to what Tamara mentioned before, it’s important to, like you mentioned, you know, be clear on what it is that you’re looking for, how you desire for them to help you and understand what exactly they can even do for you and understanding if that’s a right fit for where you’re trying to go.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Lisa please…
Lisa Fain: Yeah, I mean Kamillah said it very, very well. Um, so I don’t want to duplicate what she said. What I’ll add to it is to think first about what you want to learn. Right, because remember that mentoring is a learning relationship. So I often tell people who are looking for mentors outside of a formal mentoring relationship to think about the, what, before they think about the who.
And, um, you know, what is it I want to learn? You don’t have to know your goals… I mean, it can be very intimidating as a mentor. To say, you need me to know exactly where you want to go. I’m not suggesting that, but generally, what is it you want to learn? And what are the qualities that you want in a mentor?
You may not know the person. You may not even meet the person in a event. You, but it’s like a little bit like dating, right? You might know somebody who knows somebody. And, you know, I have had periods in my life where I’ve been looking for mentors for different purposes and somebody will say, Hey, how are you doing?
I’m say, great. I’m looking for a mentor to help me with thought leadership. Oh my gosh. I might know of somebody. So really? Yeah. The other piece is also like dating. Don’t ask somebody to mentor you on the first date because mentoring really is an investment of a relationship. And this is where it’s different with an, when you are in a formal mentoring program, obviously there’s that structure.
But if you want to take ownership and agency and start to find somebody who can, who will invest any. As a mentor, start with a little learning goal. It might be something like, oh wow, Kamillah, you know, I’m really interested. You know, I know, you know, Tamara says great things about you. And I know that you’re really great at building community in the workplace.
It’s something I’m really interested in. Can we have a quick conversation where I can learn a little bit more from you? And then I can see if Kamillah and I have a chemistry. I can understand whether or not just as she had the willingness, but does she have the time in the interim? In me. Um, and you know, is she going to be able to help teach me what it is I want to learn?
And I may, I am I willing to invest in giving back to her? Right. So I think, you know, there’s baby steps, as opposed to saying, will you marry me or will you mentor me? Is let’s start with, can I, can we learn from each other? Can we have a quick conversation? And then later on, I might be able to say, wow, that was a great conversation. I’m actually looking for a mentor. And I’m wondering if that’s something that you might be. To invest in and what that might look like for you. So the intimidation factor is often I’ve got to meet somebody. I’ve got to ask them to be my mentor. And then when we move in together and have babies, it’s, it’s, it’s not quite that big a leap.
Larry Baker: I love that analogy by the way, Lisa.
So Tamara, please hop in there, give me some advice. I’m really wanting to start a mentoring relationship. What are some really good first steps?
Tamara Thorpe: So, both Kamillah and Lisa have shared what I think are some really key, great first steps. And so I don’t want to duplicate that, but I will do one to say that we, we know that, um, um, from some of the most recent research.
Um, and sorry, I’m huge research nerd. And, to the point that Lisa made organizations sometimes see the stuff is extra, right? And so the research really helps us, uh, with people really understanding the impact and benefits. So I will say that, um, what they have found for research is that most mentoring relationships happen organically and people struggle to find a mentor.
Uh, and so what I know from the work that I have done in building a network of mentors is that people love to mentor. There are no shortage of people who. Want to mentor who wants to share their experiences, um, and leave a legacy, uh, by, uh, mentoring. So I think that for folks who are looking for mentors, uh, as was mentioned, there can be this intimidation factor, but no, People love to mentor.
Now that also means that not everybody has the time for a long-term mentoring relationship. And so one of my first tips would be one, let mentoring look different, be willing to have different types of mentoring experiences so that you might just have a conversation with one person one time.
And that’s what that person has to offer. And I guarantee you, you are going to get something from that conversation. Um, and then potentially having a more formal, um, mentoring relationship potentially in the workplace, but a more, or a less formal, but regular, maybe there’s someone who, uh, you know, you have coffee with quarterly that doesn’t work with you, but.
You know, um, uh, with an area of expertise or insights that are going to be valuable to you. So, um, be willing and open for the mentoring relationships to look different and for them to be come in a variety and having a network of people that you might reach out to for mentoring, um, and, uh, Uh, and I always tell folks, right, like proximity is really key, right.
People kind of have a tendency to think that they’ve got to go find this person that’s not already within their circles. So I always tell folks, look in your inner circle first. Um, who do you already have? Access to that then can be, you know, somebody, you start with a single mentoring conversation or directs you to the right mentor.
Um, and one of the reasons that I have built the Real Mentors Network is because I have so believed in using technology to connect with people that you might not otherwise have access to. Right. Uh, and so while we have mentors that may be within our sphere, Uh, you know, how is there, how do we access it?
Somebody that seems way out of our league. I have a practice back in the old days when we used to go to conferences in person with lots of people in buildings, I always had a strategy of talking to. The most famous person at the conference. Right? So whenever you go to a conference, there’s somebody who has a lot of buzz around them.
Oh my God. So-and-so is going to be the keynote so-and-so’s here, but nobody ever talks to those people because they’re so intimidated. So I always had a strategy. It was like, who’s going to be, who’s a famous person and talk to them as much as I can. And that gives me access to this really key person.
And I believe doing the same thing with technology. So no matter what platforms you are using, you can now have access to people, uh, that you would not have had access to. And I reach out to people virtually all the time who are like, yeah, hit me up, let’s have a conversation. Um, and so, uh, we really do have such an advantage with technology.
Uh, and I think that there’s a way for us to leverage that, to have access to people, um, that we can have a mentoring moment, a mentoring conversation, or a long-term mentoring relationship with.
Larry Baker: Yeah, Tamara. That is such an excellent point in regards to how technology has absolutely expanded our ideas in regards to who do I look for to be my mentor. That that’s a fantastic concept. So I thank you so much for sharing that insight.
And I just want to thank each of you. This, this has been such an enlightening conversation. We have really cracked the code, if you will, in regards to mentorship, why it matters, talking about some of those benefits, and the importance to the business.
And we’ve also touched upon how it can benefit our colleagues of color or individuals from underrepresented groups. So thank you all so much. I appreciate your insight to this conversation, Lisa, Kamillah and Tamara, thank you so much for this engaging conversation.
And to all of you that are listening, we want to know what were your biggest takeaways from this conversation? Please share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn at Language & Culture Worldwide or LCW. Once again, thank you for joining us.