I believe that mentorship is something that can’t be assigned. Mentorship is a mutual relationship and needs to be based on mutual willingness. It takes effort from both sides to build that relationship.
At a senior level, I think we need to be more conscious and mindful about making mentoring relationships the best they can be. We need to be clear about the differences between coaching, mentoring and sponsorship too. Coaching is about teaching the specific skills needed to get the work done – and done well. Often senior level people are more willing to provide coaching to junior people to ensure they can get things done.
I see mentoring as vital to increasing the number of women in leadership roles within strategy consulting. With this in mind mentorship must go beyond coaching. A mentor is someone who’s willing to take you under their wing. Someone who cares and shows a real interest in how you’re doing, beyond just helping you get the task done. There’s a difference between mentoring and sponsorship too. A mentor is someone who wakes up in the morning and thinks ‘I hope Jin has a good day’; a sponsor is someone who wakes up in the morning and thinks ‘I need to make sure Jin has a good day’. A sponsor should go out of their way to create opportunities for you.
To get the most out of coaching, you need to have a positive approach when you’re given constructive feedback – take it as an opportunity to learn and to grow. That’s the mindset you need to have. And with that mindset, you’ll be better placed to actively reach out to people, asking them for feedback and how you can do things better. That will give a senior person more confidence to build a coaching relationship with you because then they’ll know their feedback will be valued. At the end of the day, both sides need to proactively talk to each other to build that understanding and a strong coaching relationship.
It’s important to be proactive when it comes to mentoring too. It’s much easier for me to be someone’s mentor if they proactively reach out to me and tell me they really want me to be their mentor so they can learn from me. You should find out who can give you insights and perspectives in different areas – a mentor doesn’t have to be someone who can help you with everything. It’s someone who can give you insights and helpful perspectives in certain areas that are important to you.
I find that when I’m being a mentor for less experienced people, I actually get a lot out of it myself. It’s interesting to hear their view point; I get to learn from them as well as them learning from me. It’s also great to spend time with someone outside of the office. I get to experience new places I’d never otherwise have gone to. I always take something from the conversations we have. Mentoring is not one way – it’s mutually beneficial. It makes me feel rejuvenated.
Developing others is especially important for Accenture Strategy because strategy is all about people. People are our most important asset – distinctive people enable us to get distinctive work done. That’s how we build our brand. That’s how we can continue to succeed. So as leaders in Accenture Strategy, we need to develop people, to be their mentors and to help them grow both personally and professionally. And in doing that, we can grow as leaders too.