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Monday, June 19, 2006

Get out of the way

I am active in the Mentor Program we have at work so this article in the Boston Sunday Globe (free subscription required) caught my eye. Dale Dauten writes:

What got me thinking about "getting out of the way" was an article in The Wall Street Journal under the headline "Today's Bosses Find Mentoring Isn't Worth the Time and Risks." The author, Carol Hymowitz, said this of managers working in "the new model": Staffs are larger because of restructurings that have cut layers of managers, and increasingly they are expected to produce work themselves while supervising employees' output."

She added, "And with the ranks thin and chances for promotion scarce, they are wary of investing too much personal capital in a young employee for fear that person might stumble later on, tarring their own reputation with superiors." I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I'd want as mentors people who are worried about the effect my "stumbling" might have on their reputations.

I have to agree, that kind of mentorship will not be successful in the long run.

I believe we should explore one other aspect of mentorship as the world flattens, that is accepting and encouraging peer mentorship. The old model of getting hired at a company fresh out of school and staying there for the remainder of your working life is dead. Along with this model, the typical mentor relationship of someone two or three levels above the protégé may also be at risk. The "free agent nation" has brought about a reduction in longevity (coincident with major companies staff reductions). However you determine which came first, the end result is a mixed workforce. A diverse workforce. And there is nothing wrong with this. The human resources structural environment needs to adjust to this and begin to foster not just the collaboration of teams amongst sites, but mentorship programs of peers. Peers, in this example may have similar roles, but one of whom has spent less time at the company than the other and can benefit from the insights of the person who has been there longer.

If we think about it, many of these relationships effectively have been there all along the way.

Let's take advantage of the situation by recognizing the benefits and help to create a real sharing collaborative workspace.

This will also help to provide more recognition to people on the front line who truly drive the company. As well as the frontline folks do, the company will do.

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