Leader Pathways

The Life of Leading Greatly  
April 2010

Mentoring Leaders for Bold Tomorrows

Individual Mentoring or Custom In-house Group Programs

Publishing and Speaking

In this Issue:

Mentoring is the “Ultimate Executive Education”
Leader Pathways Interviews Charles Hoffman

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   Mentoring is the “Ultimate Executive Education”

Charles HoffmanLeader Pathways Interviews Charles Hoffman

“Executive Education” is one of the most prominent search words that attract people to our LeaderMentoring site. That term piqued my curiosity. What is the difference between “executive education” and an MBA, for instance? Furthermore, what role does mentoring play in executive education?

To answer those questions I turned to Charles Hoffman, who has been associated with the Arch of Leadership since its inception as a guiding light, supporter and mentor. Mr. Hoffman was President and CEO of Rogers AT&T Wireless from January, 1998 through June, 2001. He retired from the role of President and CEO of Covad Communications Inc. in 2008 and now serves on several boards of directors.

LP: Is there a difference in your mind between a managerial education and an executive education?

CH: I see managerial education as learning the basic tools of how to manage people without falling into negative traps like legal issues, or de-motivators like demanding, aloof, or remote behavior rather than collaborating.  Well-done executive education can take a manager to the next, more positive levels such as how to get the best out of people, how to incite their passion for what they do, etc.  Usually the individuals motivated to participate in executive education are more experienced, more motivated, and more practical.  Thus, the manager who has benefited from an “executive education” can learn more from his mentors and peers and then puts the ideas generated to immediate, positive use. 

Just this last week a senior executive at a publicly traded company let his emotions cloud his dealings with the board on which I serve.  I put on my mentor hat and sat down with him. Blunt talk and several difficult conversations saved the day, but this executive nearly ruined his career because he didn't have the benefit of being guided to see problems as part of a larger picture. An executive education can provide that larger picture and help someone gain that emotional intelligence leaders require.

LP: Do you notice a difference in the quality of executive performance between someone who has had a mentor, or who has been through a professional mentoring program, and someone who hadn't?

CH: I believe that a true mentor makes all the difference in a career.  Actually, I've tried to learn a bit from every encounter in my career, but early on I was lucky enough, and smart enough to use, a mentor who promoted me five times during my career.  Others didn't like this difficult boss, and as a result continued dull, sideways careers. 

Once someone knows what ignites his or her passions (a key part of the mentoring program) they need guidance, a role model, and the occasional push.  Sometimes the help relates to a better understanding of the individual's distinct sense of self.  That awareness can lead not only to better success at work, but also to the approach of a balanced, happier life.  Sometimes the help involves learning to learn from others.  Only the rare person can do this on his or her own.

LP: What role does professional mentoring have in executive education?

Frankly, without the mindset I have developed as a result of being mentored throughout my career, the executive I described earlier would not have received this kind of guidance (most boards have no patience for any of this work), and he would have lost his job.

In my current work with companies as a member of the board of directors, I continue to be amazed at the relative scarcity of emotional maturity (even among some CEOs).  Without professional mentoring -- that is, without someone from outside the highly charged political atmosphere in an organization -- an individual often can't see the larger world in which he operates.  A secure, self-aware, confident manager can deal with any challenge.  He can focus on a successful outcome for the organization because he has his act together.  

LP: What's your advice to an aspiring executive about the education he or she should seek out?

Each of my three sons has asked me about the need for an MBA.  Even though I went to business school and earned an MBA, in each case I advised them to continue to gain the experience from work. Sitting in a large classroom is unlikely to help you develop leadership skills. You can learn far more from working at a progressive company that is interested in your development, especially from one that offers mentoring or professional mentoring.  

If you aren't lucky enough to work for an enlightened company, don’t be shy; take on the hard jobs that no one wants. Push for individualized help. Seek out individualized programs like the Arch of Leadership. With their new on-line program, professional leader mentoring is only a click away.  Better yet, convince that unenlightened company to pay for the course and prove to them that the return on investment is large and comes quickly.

LP: Since you brought it up, what is the value that you have seen in using this program in the companies you have led as a part of an executive education?

Over the ten years of my association with The Arch of Leadership program, it's hard to describe the successes I have seen in this regard. I think it comes down to a professional mentor being able to individualize help for each unique individual without internal company political risk or embarrassment. It's the ultimate in executive education because it builds upon the positive attributes the individual has already developed to enable a higher level of success. 

To be sure, I tried to put the best people in the program, so perhaps I biased the results, but it never failed that a new challenge assigned to a person from the program led to a successful result. 

Help us! You can then say that you too joined forces to launch a new way to develop the aspiring leaders who bring us bold tomorrows. To learn more about how Arch can work with YOUR organization, contact me personally or visit www.leadermentoring.com.