In the United States, the month of January is recognized as National Mentoring Month. While the focus of this monthly recognition is to promote the mentorship of youth, I am reminded of the important role that great mentors have played (and continue to play) in my life and career.
I am also proud of the fact that Capgemini NA has an Employee Resource Group (ERG) dedicated to supporting mentorship relationships. Mentoring Matters’ mission is to strengthen and develop employee networks, provide guidance related to the attainment of career and personal aspirations, and foster a culture of coaching and sense of inclusion. In addition to providing matching and support for individual mentorship relationships, Mentoring Matters provides mentorship program support to Capgemini business units and other ERGs, which drives greater efficiencies in the establishment and management of other mentorship programs that are needed in our business.
I spoke to someone who has been one of my mentors for 20+ years. Ray Vicks, is currently Senior Vice President and CFO for The HSC Health Care System. Ray became a mentor to me earlier in my career, when I was with another professional services firm. Fortunately for me, our coaching relationship has spanned both of our various career and life seasons. Ray always makes himself available to me, and his advice is spot on. And to the latter point, Ray’s “advice”, is usually the solution that he was able to pull from me, with the help of his coaching. Through my mentorship relationship with Ray, I have learned the importance of having a trusting honest relationship with your mentor, and the need for transparent, frank discussions at all times. Thanks to the good coaching sown into my life by Ray, I am a better mentor, employee and friend.
Below are some of the insights about mentorship that Ray shared with me during our brief conversation.
YH: What advice would you give an employee who is seeking a mentor relationship?
RV: Your mentor(s) should be at least 1-2 levels above you. Mid-level managers to help focus and support you on short term goals; executive mentors are accountable for long term development. “Layering” your mentors (having mentors at different levels within the organization) ensures prescriptive advice for both short term and long term. A mentor helps to share your way of thinking. Try the mentorship relationship for at least 1 year, to determine what type of connection forms. During that time find areas of commonality, and welcome areas of dissonance that can grow and stretch you. Someone to keep a mirror in front of you.
YH: What are the key attributes/characteristics of your best mentors?
RV: My best mentors have been very accomplished professionals with gravitas. They are down to earth, humble, and with experience that I can benefit from. My mentors have had the ability to relate to me in my own space, see situations through my lens. Often, my mentors could see themselves (or an earlier version of themselves) in me. It is my experience that a good mentor provides advice, at times tough, and holds the mentee accountable to follow through on the coaching tips. A strong mentor holds up a mirror to his/her mentee, while also recognizing that a mentor does not change anyone but simply shows that mentee how he/she is perceived by others. In summary, helps the mentee towards increased self-awareness.
YH: What is the best advice a mentor gave you?
RV: Don’t limit yourself to one area of career focus. Think more broadly, and introduce yourself to other areas and expertise. Don’t limit yourself to a single functional discipline. Again, think broadly. Keep an open mind to what you might achieve in your career. Being flexible in your career. Be open to opportunities that may at the time seem inconsistent with your goals. And probably the simplest, yet powerful: choose your battles wisely!
YH: Describe a situation or achievement that made you most proud of a mentee?
RV: As a mentor, I focus my energy on those mentees with the appropriate level of ambition. They are usually individuals with raw talent that they have not yet connected with and nurtured. I am most proud when my mentees have embraced their talents and leveraged them to get promoted or achieve a professional or personal goal. I am happy to have been able to invest in their success and to recognize that it wasn’t about me but instead about their realizing their potential through self-improvement.
YH: What advice would you give other mentors as it relates to coaching employees in general, Millennials specifically?
RV: Engage employees on expressing their views of the world. Try to be neutral as to their views, and help them to advance it. Allow mentees to express themselves. Try to see things from their perspective. Be open to learn from your mentees. Do all of this while still holding your mentees to a standard of excellence consistent with their talent. As for Millennials, demand as much from them as you do from other generations. Millennials tend help one another, as opposed to competing against each other. There is power in their desire to help one another.
You can access Ray Vicks’ LinkedIn Profile is here:
More information about the National Mentoring Month campaign can be found here.
Please following this link to former President Barack Obama’s Proclamation -- National Mentoring Month, 2017.