May 10, 2018
Throughout my career in recruitment and workforce solutions, serving clients in a range of industries, I have seen that positive role models and mentoring are crucial to inspiring and developing the next generation of women executives. Being nurtured in your career is similar to being nurtured at home. It doesn’t matter what type of home you come from; what matters is that you are being nurtured and believe in yourself as a result.
When women see others advancing, they are inspired to push the boundaries further for themselves. Historically, women have had to work harder and push themselves harder to get noticed in an organization. Instrumental to the success of future women executives are mentors—both female and male—who lead by example and take the time to meet with, advise, and help direct less experienced colleagues. Their leadership and mentoring help inspire their younger colleagues to want to succeed and perform as well as possible.
The mentor should be able to share her experiences with her mentees, explain the reasons why she has made decisions, and treat the role of mentor as an ongoing and full-time commitment.
Conveying to mentees real-life experiences, such as how specific setbacks were overcome and difficult periods were resolved, is critical in this regard. It’s also helpful to explain the roadmaps mentors put in place to achieve their success—which can be something as simple as writing down everything that needs to be accomplished the next day at work.
Mentoring may include, for instance, having mentees attend introductory meetings with clients so they can learn by witnessing business situations unfold and relationships as they develop. Adding follow-through responsibilities, in the aftermath of such meetings, encourages the mentee by including her as a member of the working team whose role becomes important to the company’s overall success—assuming all necessary actions are implemented. This way, junior staff can learn the subtle arts of building rapport, listening and asking questions, and leading a meeting in a way that seems effortless and conversational.
I believe a one-size-fits-all approach to mentoring is a failed approach; the individual’s strengths and weaknesses must be recognized and all mentoring shaped accordingly. These specifics can include a staffer’s style of written communication, the level of urgency with which she works, and the way she gives or receives feedback. Mentors
must be prepared to encourage, provide constructive criticism, and offer solutions while also letting their mentees fly on their own. This type of encouragement doesn’t merely keep the workflow within the organization going smoothly, it is crucial in shaping the next generation of leaders in the field.
Organizations can also be well-served by instituting a formal, executive mentorship program that is dedicated to developing female employees into leaders. Some new hires can be assigned a mentor immediately upon starting work—someone who previously held that role and can help guide them as they get their bearings. Some companies
effectively use the appointment of a designated staff member who serves as a career coach to employees. The development of a diversity and inclusion initiative can be valuable as well.
With the proper types of encouragement, opportunity, and mentoring, the stage can be set for organizations to prepare a new generation of innovative female leaders.