Ethics, Culture, Leadership and Compliance in the Workplace
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The Lost Art of Mentoring in Business

Ethics, Leadership, and Role Models in Business

I have previously blogged about the importance of mentoring in business. As a college professor I know all too well that today’s colleges students are not necessarily mature enough or lack interpersonal skills and will need help in the workplace to take the technical skills they do have and convert it into being productive workplace employees. Theirs is a social-media and networking culture that stresses minimal thought in communicating with others. That is why so many people – Millennials and others – post offensive Tweets or make insensitive comments on the Internet.

In a mentoring relationship, the mentor and mentoree should work together towards one main goal: helping the mentoree transform, both professionally and personally. By involving the mentoree directly in the process, he or she learns significant things about himself or herself—lessons that will last a lifetime. The most successful mentorees ask their mentors thought-provoking questions, listen carefully to the answers, and discover how and what to apply to their own lives.

With respect to a formal mentoring program in business, it can be used to develop employee skills, leadership characteristics, and a commitment to the ethics of the organization. Mentors are an important resource for new employees to help navigate the sometimes choppy waters of working for an organization. Mentors play an important part as role models to guide employees in the early stages of their careers and develop future leaders who can become mentors at a later stage in their careers.

A solid mentoring program is important today because workforce demographics have changed dramatically in recent years, as women and members of different minority groups have joined the workforce in greater numbers. In addition, technology has automated traditional employee functions and continues to affect on-the-job performance, altering the way people see themselves within the corporate structure.

In a formal mentoring program the goals are established from the beginning by the organization and the employee mentoree; outcomes are measured; access is open to all who meet program criteria; mentors and mentorees are paired based on compatibility; and training and support in mentoring is provided.

When you consciously and deliberately seek out a mentor, you must look for someone who genuinely cares about you as a person and who really wants you to be successful in your venture or your career. That emotional involvement and genuine concern for you are the keys to real mentor contributions.

Some people will say that they need to make all their own mistakes, in order to learn from them. Yet there is plenty of evidence that the fastest way to business success is by learning from others who have been there and done that, and have had a successful career.

A joint report by Ernst & Young and MENTOR, the national mentoring organization, unveils best practices and case studies from both businesses and Fortune 500 companies. In addition to examining how top US businesses collaborate with the public and nonprofit sectors to provide mentorship opportunities, the report also offers the following strategies to start a mentoring effort or enhance an existing program:

  • Align mentoring engagements with corporate priorities. Businesses should find ways to integrate mentor programs with their broader corporate mission, values and capabilities.
  • Collaborate with national and community partners. By establishing relationships with nonprofit experts or educational institutions, private sector mentoring efforts will benefit from your partners’ experience, robust systems, processes and standards, investment in talent development, and materials and methodologies.
  • Foster employee engagement. Employers must realize that mentoring happens in many different ways. Flexibility is a key element, especially the ability to mentor during working hours. Companies need to clearly illustrate which mentoring options are available to employees and work with their nonprofit partner to provide training, a curriculum, relationship tools and ongoing support.

I recall a famous saying by Benjamin Franklin that seems appropriate to end my blog: "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." 

Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on August 6, 2015. Professor Mintz is on the faculty of the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: