Moving Your Mentoring Relationship To A Whole New Level

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Having spoken about how to choose a mentor, why somebody should become a mentor and meeting your mentor for the first time, it’s now time to move your mentoring relation to a whole new level.

Your relation with your mentor or mentee is like any other important relationship. It’s built on trust, shared experiences, reciprocity, respecting boundaries and being genuinely interested in the other person. Eric Barker from Barking Up The Wrong Tree made some great suggestions on how to build trust in a relationship:

  • Act with discretion. Keep secrets secret.
  • Communicate often and well. The more you know about each other, the more you are willing to help each other.
  • Match words and deeds. Remember all the promises you make and set realistic expectations so you can meet all of your commitments.
  • Highlight knowledge domain boundaries. If you don’t know something, be willing to admit your lack of knowledge.
  • Hold people accountable for trustworthy behavior. If someone does well, let them know. If they disappoint you, let them know because they will not respect you if you let them walk over you.

For a mentoring relationship to really blossom it has to evolve into an intimate relationship. It is a relation in which both parties are able to disclose their inner most thoughts and concerns, and where both mentor and mentee become interdependent. This of course can’t be hurried, although specific defining moments can certainly accelerate this process. Who doesn’t remember the bond that was created with your best friend when both of you went through that ‘once in a life time experience’.

Ellen Esher and Susan Murphy in their book: Power Mentoring, mention that to deepen the mentoring relationship you need to:

  • Develop a deep understanding of each other’s work and issues
  • Develop a mutual admiration
  • Treat each others as confidants
  • Be open to ideas
  • Help each other focus on solving issues you can influence
  • Create mutual wins

Not all mentoring relations end up in a powerful and highly successful partnership. Sometimes the chemistry or the intent is not there or simply the circumstances are not right. In those cases you have to have the guts to call it a day and move on. Maybe find another moment or maybe find another mentor. Don’t give up, the support you can get from a mentor makes it a worthwhile pursuit and hopefully at some time you can turn the tables and mentor others.

– Paul Keijzer

P.S. If you are interested in being mentored by me, send me a short email (paulkeijzer@engageconsulting.biz) with the reasons why I should chose you as my mentee. I can’t promise I will choose you but I do promise I will respond! 

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Meeting Your Mentor For The First Time

Mentor meetingSo now you have identified your mentor, he or she has said yes and you have agreed to meet for the first time. Now 5 minutes before the first meeting you are getting a bit nervous as you know how important this first meeting is going to be. You ask yourself how do I make sure I set a good foundation for this relationship to flourish. A great question and the simple fact that you ask this question means that you are on the right track.

The most important step in making your first mentor session the start of a powerful relationship is to be clear in your own mind on the following questions:

  • What do I want to get out of this relationship?
  • What can I bring to this meeting that is of value to my mentor?
  • Am I coach-able?
  • Can I take the responsibility for this mentoring relationship? and
  • What can I do to cultivate this relationship?

Don’t expect to get big revelations from your first interaction with your mentor. The first meeting is all about setting the tone and spending the majority of your time at your first meeting in getting to know each other, align expectations and setting the ‘ground rules’ for an effective mentoring relationship.

Getting to know each other
I am sure that when you look at any of the important relations you have in your life, one of the biggest similarities across all these relations is that you know a great deal about this individual and that this individual knows a lot about you. To establish a strong mentoring bond you have to create the same foundation. Be as open as you can, share experiences, look for commonalities and build rapport by asking questions, be humble, listen intently, learn and be appreciative.

Align expectations
Explore, share, discuss and agree what you are looking to get out of this relationship and of course make sure you understand and commit to the mentor getting his share out of the relation. In addition there are many other areas that you need to align yourselves on:

  • What are the boundaries of the relation?
  • What topics are off-limits?
  • Confidentiality of the discussions
  • What behavioral standards you expect from each other?
  • How can you contact each other outside the formal meetings?
  • How long you can commit yourself to the relationship and when it will end?
  • How you will evaluate the relationship?
  • What are the ways out of the relationship if it is not working out?
  • Any possible conflicts of interest?

Meeting practicalities
Then of course there are the logistics you need to agree on:

  • How often do you meet?
  • Who takes responsibility for setting up the meeting?
  • Where will you meet?
  • How long can you meet for?

If you are able to cover all the above you have had a tremendous first meeting and you can be proud that you have set the right foundation for an impactful follow up conversation. Do make sure that at the end of the conversation of course you agree when the next meeting is and that you appreciate the mentor for his/her time, effort and guidance. A sincere thank you always goes a long way!

Enjoy your first mentor meeting and let me know how it went!

– Paul Keijzer

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Why Should You Become A Mentor?

Mentoring

“Before you are a leader success is all about growing yourself, when you are a leader success is all about growing others” – Jack Welch

So why should you and why would you trouble yourself in making the effort, investing time and emotional capital in trying to mentor someone junior. Of course you should not. If you really feel that mentoring someone younger is a burden then is not worth it, please don’t do it because it will not work and will leave a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.

Let me however ask you a question. When you are 85 and looking back on your career and people are asked to summarize your achievements, which of the below statements would you prefer (you can only choose one of the two)

“John has been an amazing achiever. He beat the competition, doubled our market share, tripled the revenue of the company and quadrupled the profit. Shareholders loved him for dividend soared and made them rich”

Versus

“John was a real talent magnet; he attracted the best and no matter your ability he was able to help individuals grow beyond what they thought was possible. Whoever worked with him succeeded to bigger jobs and 10 of them became CEO’s of other large companies. They all recognize him for the impact he had on their career”

Personally I would choose the second example any time. Why? Simply because financial results are as lasting as the calendar they are made in. Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of modern Vietnam captured this beautifully when he said “to reap a return in 10 years plant trees, to reap a return in 100 years cultivate the people”.

Even if you are not driven by the desire to positively impact another person’s career, then here are some other reasons why you should consider mentoring:

1. Mentoring others accelerates your own career
First and foremost mentoring will accelerate your own career. Developing talent for most companies is a capability that they will carefully assess regarding the potential of a future leader. Your ability to attract, support and push mentees forward proves to your managers that you have the ability to not only deliver results, but also the talent needed to further grow the organization.

2. You will in return learn as well
Mentoring someone younger gives you the opportunity to learn from others. You will be challenged to stay on top of your game by teaching others. You get the opportunity to see the world from someone else’s perspective, you get an opportunity to stay in tune with what is ‘really’ happening in the organization and hopefully have an opportunity to get infused with new ideas as you will be stepping outside your normal circle of influence.

3. Build long lasting reciprocal relationships
Finally, mutual beneficial mentoring relationships last a life time. Giving the opportunity to help each other out over a long period of time will at some point in time prove that you would appreciate if your mentee could mentor you.

Senior managers will share their knowledge and experience and in turn the junior upcoming talent will bring to your table innovative and new ideas to allow you to be the best you can be!

Next week I will write about how to make a mentoring relationship work for both parties.

– Paul Keijzer

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How Do I Find A Mentor?

mentorA couple of weeks ago, a friend came up to me and said Paul I really want to find a mentor. I need someone, whom I can trust and help me navigate through the organizational politics, put a perspective on the challenges and opportunities I am facing and help connect me to other people inside and outside the organization. He asked me how to go about this.

A great question, as I have met many people who had similar needs but didn’t know whom to or how to approach a potential mentor due to the fear of being rejected. Whatever the reason here are a number of steps for getting a mentor:

Step 1: Know What You Want
My favorite Stephen Covey habit is “Start with The End In Mind”. The same applies when finding a mentor. Know yourself and know what you are looking for. What do you want a mentor to help you with? Is it networking, office politics, feedback, new ideas on that project you are working on, work – life balance questions, career  counseling or all of those above. The more specific you are, the easier it is to identify an individual that can help you. 

Health warning: only use a mentor for personal learning, growth and reflection. Don’t use a mentor as a shortcut for promotion, as it will surely come back flying in your face. 

Step 2: Go Outside Your Comfort Zone
Knowing what you want from the mentor relation will help you identify the expertise, relations and experiences you are looking for in a mentor. If for example you are a mechanical engineer working in a fertilizer plant who has the ambition and skill to move to general management but you lack specific financial or business-2-business experience, you should find a person in the company who can guide you and give you insight in your area of interest , how to move in that role and aspects to consider when trying to transit.

Don’t restrict yourself to your own department/company. Look outside, who are role models in your field of work, who are the leading experts. Check your LinkedIn network, talk to friends, senior colleagues, executives in your company. Ask them who they think could be the best person to help you in your quest to become better and grow. Or better yet approach the person who you have always looked up to.

Be bold go outside your comfort zone and pick the best there is. 

Step 3: Get Introduced
If you have zeroed in on a potential mentor who you don’t know yourself then the best way to get connected is by being introduced. Approach someone who can help you get introduced to the individual you are inclined towards speaking with. The change of getting a positive answer by cold calling in my experience is close to ‘zero’. I personally have never ever been successful in pitching to a person who I have not been introduced to, or who has heard about me. I also don’t react on any approaches I get from people that I don’t know. 

Work the network and get people to introduce you to your ideal mentor. 

Step 4: Be Interesting and Give Back
As much as you want to learn from a mentor, you have to make it worthwhile for the mentor to be willing to invest in the relation. I personally would never be able to mentor a person who is mundane and dull. Make it interesting, give back to the mentor, and help him with experiences or skills that he doesn’t have. You have to create a relationship that is worthwhile for both. 

In the late 90’s the CEO of a global company took it upon himself to mentor a number of young trainees who recently joined the company. Of course the trainees were delighted to be mentored by the global CEO, but it was not his altruistic motives that were at play here. He had a clear intention to gain as well from the relationship as he wanted to understand how young people interacted and used new technology (this was the height of the dotcom area for those of you who remember). 

Step 5: You Are Responsible
Finally don’t forget the number one rule of the mentor – mentee relationship: the mentee is responsible! He/she is responsible for making sure the meetings are organized and taking place, actions are being followed up and in general make sure the relation continues to flourish. If you do this well the relationship will surely last a career and be ‘priceless’. 

Next week: Why Should You Become A Mentor?

– Paul Keijzer

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How HSBC Middle East Forces SME’s Out Of Business

HSBC

No this is not a bank bashing story. This is simply a personal experience on how my (ex-) bank, HSBC Middle East, treats its customers.

As a customer, banks are not my favorite destination. Luckily they have over the last decade tried to limit my personal exposure of having to deal with them directly (ATM’s, internet banking, phone banking, and mobile banking). Although at the end we are still dependent on them as we give them control over something that is very important and dear to us, our money!

My aversion towards banks reached a new peak last month, when upon checking my account information online, I was confronted with the fact that my account balance of my company account was zero and the notification read “account closed as per August 25”. My 2 years of company savings had magically disappeared in thin air. A strange sensation crept down my spine realizing that my money was gone.

To give you a bit of a background I have been a happy HSBC customer for the past 10 years with a number of personal and company accounts in a number of different countries. When I opened my company in Dubai I had no second thoughts other than to open my company account with HSBC expecting that my being a premier customer in other parts of the world it would help them in their ‘Know Your Customer’ requirements to facilitate the relation. How wrong could I have been? Yes pretty wrong!

I run a small consultancy firm in the UAE and my banking needs are very limited, I only require basic checking account transactions and online access. All my interactions with the bank were channeled through an anonymous customer service email account that responded generally within 48 hours to my questions. Interesting thing was that at no point would an employee of HSBC identify himself as the responses were always signed ‘yours sincerely HSBC Bank Middle East’. This was never an issue as the queries were always small. But as all my money had suddenly disappeared this became a huge issue because I had no one to turn to.

So the only option I had was to write an emergency email on August 26 to the anonymous email address and ask what has happened to my money. I received the following email response the next day:

“Dear Sir,
We thank you for your email.
We hereby take this opportunity to advise that we have sent you the attached important and official communication by registered post with regards to your account held with us.
In accordance with the attached communication, we advise that your account remains closed as of 25 August 2013 and the final balances shall be dispatched by way of a Managers Cheque to the company’s registered address as held in our records.
Should you have any queries or need assistance feel free to contact us.
Assuring you of our best services at all times.

Yours Sincerely,
HSBC Bank Middle East Limited
Corporate Services”

With this mail was the attachment that was sent on June 2 by Mr Rana El-Emam, Head of Business Banking U.A.E. that read:

“Following a strategic review of our business customers, we will now be providing a personal relationship manager in all cases but subject to qualifying criteria…..based on the above, I am sorry to advise that you will no longer qualify for business banking services from HSBC and we will need to close your account with us”

Despite the fact that the bank was instructed and till then had always sent all documents, cheque books and other stuff to my home address, they sent the most important document to my company licensed office address that they knew I only visited once a year. Completely unaware of this notification I continued using my account, intimating the details to my clients for payments and using it to pay my suppliers. The simple fact that I had not approached the bank to move my account  should have lit up warning signals triggering someone to think that ‘hey maybe this client is not aware of our decision to close his account, let me call him’. None of this happened and HSBC continued to close my account.

Let me be clear. I have no problem in the decision that HSBC has made, that is their prerogative. They can decide whom they want as a client and whom they don’t. I can certainly be disappointed about their decision in the light of all my other banking relations with HSBC, but that is not the point.

What completely baffles me is how they went about executing this decision with no respect to their clients and just shutting down accounts. They completely ignored my pleas to either speak to a human (other than the anonymous email) or to re-open my account for a short period so I could continue my business and move my account to another bank. Basically leaving me with no bank account for my business and thereby shutting down my business.

To be honest the customer service I have received from HSBC Singapore has been outstanding. It shows that customer service is personal, no matter how hard you try to institutionalize it.  It differs from one person to another, from one leader to another and proves how difficult it is for a global concern to make sure that each and every operation in every part of the world lives their self proclaimed values (taking directly from HSBC website):

“Our values describe the character of HSBC and reflect the best aspects of our heritage. They define who we are as an organization and what makes us distinctive. By operating in accordance with our values we are: Connected to customers, communities, regulators and each other, caring about individuals and their progress, showing respect, being supportive and responsive”.

HSBC Middle East should read up on that statement again if they want to retain customers as I am moving on, taking my banking business somewhere else.

– Paul Keijzer

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