Conference Daily

Maximize Mentoring Relationship

Monday, May 20, 2019

Wendy Axelrod is the author of the soon-to-be-released 10 Steps to Successful Mentoring (with pre-publication copies available at the ATD Store). As an HR executive and external consultant, Wendy has helped organizations substantially increase their development results, working with thousands of managers and mentors in the US and internationally. 10 Steps to Successful Mentoring, Wendy’s second book, is dedicated to helping mentors become truly masterful and is filled with dozens of tools and case studies as well as addresses mentor practices not found elsewhere.

Conference Daily caught up with Wendy ahead of ATD 2019 to learn more.

In the foreword to your book, Bev Kaye writes, “Perhaps the most important benefit to those reading this book, is that when they do it masterfully, mentors receive incredible rewards beyond the months or years they spend with their mentee.” Can you talk about a few of those benefits?

It’s a thrill to have Bev write the foreword; here are just three of the benefits she is referencing.

  • Mentors enhance their careers through the commitment they demonstrate and by applying skills such as building trust, expanding viewpoints, facilitating change, and influencing. Turns out that these are the same skills required of an exceptional leader and often lead to broader opportunities. In fact, research from Sun Microsystems showed that mentors were far more likely to receive increased salary grades than their nonmentoring peers.
  • Mentors learn what it takes to develop others in significant ways, helping mentees work through challenges, adapt new perspectives, increase self awareness, and attain new skills. Mentors will further develop and apply these approaches in many aspects of their life.
  • Mentors stay relevant by learning from their mentee what new methods, research, and tools are currently being used. For example, the change could mean a greater focus on analytics or new communications protocols used with clients. Mentors also learn about competencies professionals now need to have.

What are the three most important mentoring skills today? Have they changed over time?
Because we have learned a lot about perfecting the mentor’s role, skills certainly have changed. We even borrow from the ever-evolving field of leadership coaching. Here are several crucial skills:

  • Leverage experience for development—help identify and shape potentially hidden opportunities to grow targeted skills (e.g., stepping up to take on a troubled relationship with a client); next, help prepare the mentee to test skills, even with role plays; and then debrief to further sharpen proficiency.
  • Elevate the power of questions—with a focus on facilitating development rather than providing advice, well-crafted questions direct the mentee’s attention to the most important elements of their development experience. Mentors need to up their game with how and what questions they use to help mentees consider a more strategic perspective, identify intended impact, uncover personal blind spots, and more.
  • Apply everyday psychology—understanding human nature and the nature of their mentee adds significantly to their conversations. When trust and safety are in place, mentees freely share thoughts and feelings, opening up exploration that leads to increased self awareness, better decisions, and greater confidence.

Can you talk about a mentor who has had an impact on your professional (or personal) life?
During my career, I was fortunate to have two generous leaders who nurtured me and helped to grow my capabilities. These leaders increased my understanding of organizational dynamics and boosted my confidence to make bold moves, such as me proposing and then leading a significant organization change process at my company. Their thoughtfulness and guidance truly changed my path; I am forever grateful. It stirred my desire to pay it forward, and I have now worked with mentoring programs for two decades.

Meet Wendy Axelrod at the Author Meet and Greet on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the ATD Store in Salons GHI.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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