The Three Ms of Mentoring

The Three Ms of Mentoring

Mentoring is one of those strange, unknowable beasts. It can be hard to do, difficult to explain, but can have enormous benefits for all involved. Both mentors and mentees find significant value in the process – but it’s more like a dance and less like a business relationship than you might imagine. And in today’s multi-level, matrixed organizations, finding just the right mentor-mentee relationship can be like finding a needle in a haystack. For women in particular, the challenge is even more complicated. Studies show that women find it more difficult to find mentors – and a LinkedIn survey of over 1000 working women indicated that 20% of women have never had a mentor at work. Over the years, I have been a mentor and have, in turn, been mentored. And I have come to realize that there are three clear elements that need to align for mentoring to be successful. I call them the “three Ms”: Match-making: In many ways, mentoring is like dating. What you are looking for is a “match” – and this goes far beyond whether you “like” someone or not. To have a successful match – on both sides of the mentoring equation – it is essential that you find someone who is actually interested in the mentoring process. If you have been matched through your work, then you might find there is just not the level of commitment you want or need. Ensure that your mentor-match has the time, focus and interest that you expect or need. Mentality: Do you know – or have heard about your mentor-match? Do you respect their experience...
Putting a STEM in STEM for Women

Putting a STEM in STEM for Women

We often look at the world of tech startups through rose colored glasses. After all, these companies are the future IBMs, Oracles and SAPs – long-lived, large scale organizations that have generated not just large returns for shareholders, but massive value for customers, employees and partners. Yet despite their obvious focus on future value building and innovation, startup tech companies have a startlingly poor record when it comes to hiring women. Ann Hoang from STEMINIST explains: Women make up less than 40 percent of the workforce at Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter, and no more than one-fifth of the technical workforce at those companies. Blair Hanley Frank takes this further, citing “a 2011 study found that 15 percent of women who graduated with an engineering degree did not go on to work in engineering, while another 20 percent entered the engineering workforce and then summarily left for another industry.” Clearly there are not just factors that prevent women from taking up STEM related roles – there are also factors that drive them elsewhere once they have them. Lynne Y Williams refers to this phenomenon as IT’s vanishing women. “A 2004 study by the National Center for Women & IT revealed that a large number of women who already occupy upper-level IT-related positions are leaving the industry at a startling rate, with “56% of technical women leav[ing] at the ‘mid-level’ point” (Ashcraft & Blithe, 2010) of their careers, a rate almost double that of equivalent male colleagues.” Williams calls out the “hostile, macho culture” in the IT workplace along with isolation, lack of opportunity and support from and...

Using the Force to Manage Employees

I am more of a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan, but this infographic from Mindflash caught my attention. Based on the Star Wars series – the Jedi Trainer’s Guide to Employee Management outlines some of the trials that we all face. And while this is a little “tongue-in-cheek”, it is worth sharing with the first time managers in your teams. Regular readers will not be surprised that my favorite skill is identified here as the “trial of insight”. Powerful communication is one of the hallmarks of a leader – to be able to listen, engage and respond – and ultimately to action requires a great deal of effort and experience. Aspiring leaders should never underestimate the importance of communication – nor as the graphic points out – that communication is often coupled with courage. As leaders we need the courage to communicate – and to follow that communication through with action. Sometimes it is indeed our actions which communicate most forcefully. Nina Nets It Out: A great chart for the aspiring leader – it reminds us of the challenges that come with leadership. We must listen, evaluate, decide and communicate. In the words of MY favorite sci-fi leader, Jean-Luc Pickard, only then can we “make it...

Thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg and Personal Leadership

As we reach the end of one year and enter into a new one, we all feel the need to recap on what has been and look toward the future – at what will be. Perhaps we are drawn to predictions as a way of helping us make sense of what is otherwise unknowable. But I am a great believer in planning and action. It’s important for us all, as individuals and as leaders, to set forth a vision and follow that through with programs that help us all build towards that vision. At the end of 2010, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, delivered an amazing address to the TEDWomen conference. As she points out: Women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world Women on boards and in C-level positions sits at around 15-16% Women political leaders and heads of state – about 0.5% These numbers have not moved since 2002 and are trending down While not downplaying the role of mentoring, training or other programs designed to encourage the participation of women in business, Sheryl suggests that there is no clear answer (even for herself) – but that an important aspect is to focus on our individual actions and responsibilities. What are the things that we can actually do? Sheryl suggests we take three key actions: Sit at the table – don’t underestimate your skills and capacities. You don’t make the corner office or get a promotion when you don’t sit at the table when decisions are made. Make your partner a real partner – statistics show that women continue to take...

Leading From a Distance

There was a time when business was done face-to-face. Sure there’d be some travel, but it was over shorter distances. We’d have networks of offices spread across the country servicing our customers in close proximity to one another. We’d know our bosses and their families intimately – we’d play golf, send our kids to the same schools and the team building retreat would be held in a neighboring town. This was another time – and another world. These days, our bosses can be across the country – or across the planet. We spend our time on conference calls, video and virtual conferences and yes, planes. We snatch productivity from the dead hours of airport lounges and the long nights of jetlag re-adjustment. We have lost the proximity that helped us create culture, build and motivate our teams and intimately service our customers. As leaders, however, it is our role (and our challenge) to bring our customers and our teams closer together in a way that harmonizes all our interactions across time and space. Now, you may think I am referring to technology – to social media, blogs and the like. Yes, these have a place – and a very productive place it can  be. But I am taking my lead here from John Baldoni’s Harvard Business Review blog post – How to Lead Without Saying a Word. John suggests that our non-verbal cues often say more than our words ever do – and in a “long distance relationship” with our teams, we need to be careful that our leadership style, messages, directives and suggestions are not misinterpreted. Clearly this...

A Breakfast with Smart Women Leaders

Last week I attended SAP’s premier customer event in Orlando – Sapphire Now. It is a feast of presentations, discussions, forums and workshops. There are keynote sessions, luncheons, chance meetings and conference floor demonstrations – and around 50,000 people in three locations – Orlando, Frankfurt and online via the SapphireNow virtual conference platform. As with most conferences, it is not always about the mainstage. For example, SAP ran a Women’s Executive Leadership Breakfast event where attendees were treated to a conversation with Jeanne Ross, the director of MIT Sloan School’s Center for Information Systems Research. Tara Degler writes that rather than leading in with a raft of presentation slides, Jeanne shared her story – leaving the audience with three important actionable insights: Work smarter – It is one thing to be busy – but quite another to be “productive.” When you multiply this across your organization, the effect can be profound. Empower your people – Make sure that each and every role in your business is professionalized. Provide the structure to help make your teams successful and give them the power to achieve. Create the space for unlearning – Old habits die hard, so when you want to transform your business and they way that people work, remember that it takes time to unlearn. But how do you apply this thinking to your own situation? Are you working smarter? Are you empowering yourself? Are you able to unlearn? Take a look at this brief interview with Shari Temple from Aidmatrix where she talks about the challenges of finding a mentor. While things have changed over the last 20 years,...