Creating a Mentoring Culture

By Etheline Desir | Desir Group | LeadershipBrief.com

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”… says management guru Peter Drucker.… 70% of Fortune 500 companies have formal mentoring programs.… However, many companies today are focusing on developing a mentoring culture as well. Simply stated, mentoring is demonstrating support and encouragement to help people manage and maximize their potential. We know that formal mentoring programs help organizations retain employees, increase job satisfaction and commitment, and cultivate organizational citizenship behavior. In an era when leadership talent is at a premium, is your organization deliberately creating a culture of mentoring that leads to succession planning?

According to Lois J. Zachary, many organizations are striving to raise the bar on the practice of mentoring. However, successful mentoring cultures focus on creating mentoring readiness. In other words, your key stakeholders must understand and embrace and live out the organization’s mission, vision and values. Zachary shares that learning process has shifted from mentor directed to self-directed, and the focus of mentoring partnership has shifted from knowledge transfer and acquisition to critical reflection and application. She further adds that mentoring is most successful when it is done collaboratively. Zachary addresses eight ‘hallmarks of a mentoring culture’ which should be entrenched in organizations’ that desire to create successful mentoring cultures. Below are three:

  1. Successful mentoring cultures promote accountability. Organizations need structure (formal or informal) which support mentoring partners by providing ongoing feedback, and evaluation, and routine benchmarking.
  2. Mentoring cultures, align or embed consistent mentoring practices within the structure of the organization. Thus, mentoring is not simply just another program, but mentoring initiatives are linked to larger goals of the organization. When mentoring is aligned, it becomes a part of the organization’s fiber, and thus adds to the overall value proposition.
  3. Successful mentoring requires proper communication. Good communication builds trust and strengthens relationships. In a mentor-protégé relationship communication is vital since it requires the exchange of teaching and learning relative skills and values.

Adriane Gonzales, a Training and Organizational Development Specialist, suggests latching mentoring to existing formal programs like onboarding is an excellent way to keep the learning momentum going. Creating communities of practice for new hires to continue to expand their own learning networks will help new hires connect with those individuals who can advise them on the organizational culture and thus be able to pass on that knowledge.

To sustain successful mentoring cultures, actions should create value and visibility. Organizational leaders who share personal mentoring stories and lead by example, as well as celebrate and reward mentoring activities will increase visibility within the culture. Executives who do not create cultures which promote learning in their organizations, will end up managing the organization rather than leading it.

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