Leader Pathways

The Life of Leading Greatly  
June 2007

Mentoring Leaders for Bold Tomorrows

Individual Mentoring or Custom In-house Group Programs

Publishing and Speaking

In this Issue:

Mentoring: Whence the Premium?
Part 4 of a 4-part series

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In Michael Shenkman's book The Arch and the Path we see how great leaders embark on a strenuous life path in order to transform mere possibilities into more expansive and encompassing opportunities for all. Shenkman vividly portrays how the life of leading is a journey of the mind, heart and spirit that is like no other.

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   Mentoring: Whence the Premium?

Michael Shenkman Part 4 of a 4-part series

Being Coached, Being Mentored

“Our mentoring commands a premium because that premium represents all the energies we unleash in the extraordinary effort to accomplish what has never been done before.”

In my previous message in this 4-part series, “Mentoring: Whence the Premium?” we examined how coaching and mentoring differ. We also described the conditions which dictate the right choice between them. In this final installment of the series, we dig into the matter of why, in the right situation, mentoring delivers a higher value and thus commands a premium in pricing.

Demanding The Mentoring Difference

I recall an experience that has remained seminal in my development as a leader mentor. It happened when I was emerging from my coaching career and was in the process of defining what “mentoring” would consist of. Assigned to me were several very high level, high potential executives at a national communications company. One of the most successful candidates in the program resisted working with me. His reason for resisting was simple: “I don’t want to be ‘fixed,’“ he said.

So, from the earliest of my mentoring encounters, I was challenged to make mentoring a different kind of experience. After all, these high level people in a well-heeled organization had been exposed to every manner of executive training, coaching and advising imaginable. What was I going to offer that would be distinctively valuable?

I had to make a decision about what “mentoring” would consist of. It couldn’t be “remedial” or of the “fixing” variety. What I found out as my conversations with this resisting executive progressed was that this person had major fears around his leading. He wondered how much to reveal about himself; he wondered if he could be “authentic” in his leading. Our work truly became mentoring when we focused on what his own “authenticity” would consist of, and on how people would be affected when he revealed himself and his true feelings and values.

This work with this early mentee of mine led me to concepts such as “leader brand” and “self-trust” that are now central themes in our Arch of Leadership mentoring. But more important, it established a rule that mentoring would consist of a relationship that was exclusively between mentor and mentee. It would not be directly about the organization or its success. My resisting executive got to take away from it what he wanted in order to grow in his life as a leader, not advice the coach offered.

(As of this moment, by the way, this reluctant mentee has moved on from that initial setting and has become one of our most ardent advocates and staunchest clients.)

The Mentoring Premium

The question remains, however: Why would a company pay a premium for this seemingly strictly personal engagement?

If a company is going to grow and compete in its markets, it has to have a will and a vision that is larger than, that is more expansive than, and that is more far-seeing than the organization as it currently exists. This greater vision is most compelling when it comes from the people in the organization – not from the outside consultants. Leaders who have a deep vision about their own lives are the ones who are most likely to create that vision.

Success in making that change will then be determined by the extent to which people are willing to have their lives affected and changed by the experience of the organization’s growth.

For an organization to grow, in other words requires that executives look within themselves to get beyond themselves, in order to let go and to let their energies affect and move people to new realizations about themselves and their organization.

Our mentoring commands a premium because that premium represents all the energies we unleash in the extraordinary effort to accomplish what has never been done before.

In terms of results, successes and increased value delivered to the bottom line, do we see that in our clients? We sure do. Every day.

As one stellar example, there is a communications company that, during the time that we have worked with them, has faced daunting regulatory changes and challenges, pricing pressures from the large phone companies, and has undergone from a financial restructuring. It is now a valued resource assuming more and more control of its destiny. Today it is cash flow positive and has been acquiring other companies in pursuing its own growth strategy. And it has accomplished all this during a period in which all of its direct competitors in the independent telecom market have disappeared.

This client exhibits the absolute best managerial cost and revenue practices. But more than that, it is a led company: every single level of the organization, and every single department, has true leaders who are encouraged and cultivated to act, decide and to create followers. That has meant that this is an organization always ready to grow, to move into more expansive and more encompassing challenges than any current capability would seem to allow.

And so, while our client has largely disdained executive coaching, it has enthusiastically embraced leader mentoring. Its deeply accomplished and daring leaders know how to succeed in their bones. Everyone from the CEO to managers on the line only hire people who are similarly accomplished. But what these same people also know is that for success to come their way, first and last, the spirits, wills, hearts and generosity of their employees has to be attuned to the larger worlds and ferocious combats they have before them. Mentoring is what nurtures that spirit.

There have been ancillary benefits as well. Because of the fact that mentoring is modeled as a means of development, our mentees do it with their reports. That creates a culture in which employees feel that they matter for more than just their output, they also feel their aspirations and energy and dedication matter as well.

The company’s HR director has told me that because the most promising leader prospects can look forward to being mentored, they stay with the company; and the ones who have been mentored feel an obligation to give back.

Also, because people have learned to look deeper into themselves, they look deeper into the people they hire. Hiring thus yields not only employees who are talented and experienced in their fields, it also yields people who are more amenable to the adventure that lies before them.

Finally, the workplace becomes not just a means of making a living, but a community. A community is a place where people band together, despite personal differences or even animosities, because they share a commitment to creating something bigger than themselves that does not exist yet. A community is not a cult or a homogeneous sanctuary that echoes common beliefs, but a place where creating something new, more expansive and encompassing for all, and for those beyond its confines, takes precedent. Yes, a business, even with all its corporate demands, all its organizational and hierarchical constraints, all its need for well managed operations and success-oriented results, can indeed be a community.

So, whence the (pricing) premium for mentoring over executive coaching? It is in this:

Mentoring creates the organizational capability for growth and change rather than just using it or deploying an existing capability. It does so by pointing beyond success to each person’s capacity for greatness.

To learn more about how Arch can work with YOUR organization, visit www.archofleadership.com.

Web: http://www.archofleadership.com