Reward Selfless Service in Mentoring

On July 16, I had the distinct honor of attending the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Annual Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards Luncheon. Both military and civilian members were recognized for outstanding service, contributions and advocacy for diversity, equal opportunity and human relations.

As I watched and learned more about these individuals’ heroic efforts and selfless contributions, it was reaffirmed to me that it takes only one champion to impact change.

Throughout the luncheon, one of the themes for the ceremony was the power of mentoring. Several of the guest speakers and award recipients emphasized the importance of mentoring. During the awards presentation, Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the NAACP board of directors, demonstrated this by introducing her mentee to the audience. The theme of mentoring was further echoed during the awards presentation when Phyllis Brantley, chief of diversity and special emphasis programs for the National Guard Bureau, reconfirmed the importance of mentoring by sharing with the audience that fellow award recipient, Colonel Ondra Berry (recipient of the NAACP Meritorious Service Award), was her mentor.

Though the benefits of both formal and informal mentoring are well researched and supported, we rarely discuss this relationship from the perspective of the mentor, let alone issue awards to mentors. Instead, the focus is on the social, professional and personal gains of the mentee.

I challenge organizations to switch schemas by increasing mentor IQ to gain the documented benefits associated with formal mentoring by conducting a mentoring IQ audit. Since we cannot change what we don’t know, conducting a mentor IQ audit will allow for the mutual growth and development of the mentor and mentee.

Let’s begin by exploring the following questions:

What’s your approach to mentoring?

Recently, a client of mine shared information about a particular formal mentoring program, touting that more than 90 percent of the organization’s workforce had a mentor. The percentage is impressive, yet equally frightening. Not everyone is intended to be a mentor. As the distinguished award recipients demonstrated, the quality of the mentor-protégé relationship is preferred over quantity. Consequently, organizations must narrow their lens and screen potential mentors to determine appropriateness, motivation to mentor and other mentor readiness characteristics before accepting anyone into a formal mentor program.

Do you offer on-demand mentor support services?

Without a mentoring roadmap, tools and on-demand support services, it is likely a mentor will coach and develop protégés by relying on their past experience as a mentor or mentee. Unfortunately, this approach can quickly lead to dysfunction. To prevent disaster, some of our clients supplement formal mentoring training with Web-based, phone and tablet applications providing on-demand support services. These on-demand services range from discussion rooms to checklists to live support assistance.

Are mentors being recognized?

Reward and recognition are the cornerstones to help provide an incentive for the most deserving employees. Like the NAACP award recipients, the formal mentors in your organization agree to mentor selflessly and expect no tangible rewards. On behalf of your organization, show your appreciation to formal mentors by starting a mentor recognition program, enhancing your current recognition program and/or nominating mentors to organizations such as the NAACP that recognizes the contribution of mentors.