In this engaging and experiential Coaching at Work Masterclass, Lis Merrick will consider how to design and develop a mentoring approach within an organisation. She will explore the different models, dynamics and uses of mentoring globally and the key steps to create a really robust and effective programme.
Coaching at Work Mentoring Masterclass event outline
Kicking off the Coaching at Work Series of Masterclasses, this event examines how the mentoring approach in organisations differs due to culture and context. It will help you understand the different uses of mentoring in formal programmes.
The participants will then work in pairs or small groups on the design of some ‘real’ programmes. It will certainly consider these key steps of mentoring programme design:
The rationale for the programme
Clear recruitment strategy
Communications and marketing
Preparing the participants
Supporting the programme
Review and evaluation
The role of the mentoring co-ordinator/manager.
Lis will tailor the design part of the masterclass to the specific needs of the participants attending. In addition there will be an opportunity to work on your own programme design, or to use the masterclass to refresh an existing programme you are running.
Mentoring Masterclass aims and objectives
Above all, the masterclass will ensure the participants understand:
The different models and dynamics of mentoring
How to use mentoring to support different OD and L&D interventions
How to use a step approach to design an effective programme using the latest good practice and research in mentoring
The shortcuts and quick-wins to robust programme set up
The challenges and barriers in programme design and how to overcome them.
The masterclass also provides an opportunity for participants to share knowledge and experiences in developing mentoring programmes. So come with ideas of possible programmes you would like to design or information about an existing programme you would like to review and revitalise.
Seminar date: Wednesday 4th September 2019 Venue: The BPS London Offices, EC2A 4UE Timings: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Fees: from £169.99 Catering: Tea, coffee and lunch included
Mentoring takes many different approaches. Walking Mentorship is an approach that harnesses the clarity of mind brought by walking in wonderful locations. In this guest blog, João Perre Viana Founder of Walking Mentorship, talks about what brought him to mentor whilst walking. He shows how to channel the resultant high flow of ideas and creative thinking.
The philosophy of Walking Mentorship
Proposes to create habits of personal development as autonomous as possible, always moving forward and in contact with nature.
My route to the present day started in law school, but it was the passion for management and operations that grabbed my attention. At the age of 24, I created my first company in the digital and marketing sphere. Later I completed an MBA in Belgium and started a journey that would take me to destinations like France, Spain, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Angola. During this process, I managed and mentored diverse teams in several companies and taught at different universities.
Walking Mentorship was a project that has been in continual development in my life. Especially so since I passed my last year of high school in the Rocky Mountains in Montana in 1991. An experience that was simultaneously an internal and external journey.
Almost twenty years later, I felt it was the moment to consolidate what I had learned and lived. This is how I created this project of life, the Walking Mentorship. In fact it continues to be born every day.
Acquisition of skills
We know that we can accelerate the acquisition of knowledge or skills if we invest time and other resources. For me, in the case of Walking Mentorship, It was the need to live different experiences and learn challenging lessons that ended up determining the time required to mature the idea and realize the moment to advance.
I believe it was the mentoring and the walk that found me, and not the other way around. I think the first big hikes that I did were the result of being available to follow other people and experience something that I never did before. First with my parents and family. Then in scouting and youth groups and later, following the excellent advice of people who were close to me.
When you establish a relationship of confidence with someone who shares with us experiences, advice and working methods, generally we end up incorporating something positive in our lives, hence the importance of mentoring.
Walking Mentorship: The three pillars
The pillars of the concept of Walking Mentorship are: the walk, the contact with nature and the mentoring.
Allowing each person to meet the conditions necessary to slow down, gain perspective and to define a future action seems to be an obvious path for continuous human development.
The ultimate objective of my service is to facilitate a process of alignment between your present moment, your purpose of life and the way you want to put it into action.
In this way, the end of each process coincides with the beginning of a new life cycle, a likely preview of the current moment and the design of a new action plan, endlessly.
And the choice of walking is not by chance. Because moving in such a way, becomes more comfortable to adjust to the rhythm of each person. It is probably the most natural movement that exists.
It is common after a walk to feel more relaxed physically and mentally. We all know that the last decades have transformed our habits of life, making work and leisure more sedentary. However, the act of walking has always been the core physical activity in human evolution.
We know today, through increasing research from the scientific community that something truly positive happens in the brain while we walk. Our ability to produce a high flow of ideas and creative thinking, increases exponentially. Even after the exercise is completed, the activity extends our capacity to think better and more creatively.
Furthermore, the practice of walking is easily accessible, free of charge and requires no major equipment or logistics. It is easy to implement this habit in our personal life, as well as inside an organisation.
The Walking Mentorship aims to make accessible to the most significant number of individuals and organisations the regular practice of this methodology of work to create self-development habits which are the most autonomous possible.
The materials I have produced are always put to work to the participants so that they can replicate them whenever they feel the need and gain ownership of the process.
One of the best ways to learn occurs when a person needs to teach or share some knowledge. Ideally, each participant of the Walking Mentorship should assume the responsibility of becoming a mentor to other people, whether friends, family members or co-workers.
Together with the benefits of walking, the contact with nature also helps clarify decisions. Being in the outdoors offers conditions and stimuli unique to our brain. We know today that our cognitive functions, namely at the level of selective attention and problem solving, suffer an enormous pressure due to our lifestyle. The challenge is amplified by the overuse of technology that surrounds us permanently. The immersion in nature can restore our attention system.
We can see the role of walking in contact with nature in the methodology work, especially in the way people gain perspective about the reality since the prolonged connection with nature and the limited use of technology allows progressively to clarify our thinking process. Scientific studies carried out in the last decade prove that our mind enters more readily into a state of introspection and reflection after we are exposed to nature. This allows connection to our default mode and hence improvement in our mental health.
The format of the walks
The programs of Walking Mentorship happen in two formats: individual sessions and group programs. In the individual programs (walk and talk), we draw the action plan along eight sessions of 60-90 minutes. These may be weekly or fortnightly but always on the walk and in nature.
For group programs (between 8 and 10 participants), walks happen over a week. They are accompanied by the methodology booklet, named Survival Kit. We use existing routes such as the Camino de Santiago in Spain, The Via Francigena in the Alps, or the Mining Route in Sardinia.
The programs are drawn so that each person can focus on what is truly important in their current moment in life. We tailor each program individually to each person.
The basis of the methodology is sufficiently neutral and flexible to be adapted to both professional and personal matters. The process is cumulative, both at the level of the mental exercises and hiking. Even when it is done within the group, the angle is always personal and individual.
Who can benefit from the walks?
In the same way, it can be adapted to address the challenges of an organisation. Placing the person at the centre of the methodology, we develop connections with the business challenges. We feedback with new streams and ideas to improve what we do and the way we do it.
We also design programs specifically for a given segment. Namely, programs for Parents and Children, Middle-aged Transition or routes with a higher spiritual dimension.
I believe that the process of self-development is, literally, endless work. These, when incorporated into habits of life, become something tangible and highly rewarding.
Although it seems too much evident, when we put our objectives in motion, we create the possibility of assessing its progression and produce learning that leads to thinking about next steps. The end of each “route” always corresponds at the beginning of a new cycle in our life and a new action plan, always towards the best version of ourselves.
Our good friend David Clutterbuck has written an open letter on diversity in coaching (shown below). He discusses how AI systems tend to inherit existing biases in areas such as gender and race. The next phase of our evolution is likely to be driven by those who can successfully harness the benefits of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. The major FAAMG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google) technology players are racing to entrench their assistant offerings as essential parts of our everyday lives.
The good and the bad in AI
In his letter, David highlights shortcomings of systems such as these and wonders how we can help them avoid the pitfalls we have already encountered. He illustrates how non Anglo-Saxon thinking may work more effectively than typical western approaches such as GROW. Where do you stand? Do you think pushing for more diversity amongst our coaches will be sufficient to provide the volume of unprejudiced experience AI systems require to learn to be well-balanced members of our profession? Read his letter below and leave your thoughts.
Facing up to the diversity challenge in executive coaching
A recent Sunday Times headline ran:
Q: How do you end up with AI that’s white and male?
A: Let Google design it
The article went on to explore the dangers of designing AI systems that carry the biases of their creators, when those creators are insufficiently diverse. Classic cases include the AI sentencing system that wrongly classified black (persons of colour) defendants as likely repeat offenders, compared to whites.
AI is already starting to make inroads into the world of coaching, through coachbots. True AIs are only a short way behind. If coaches are going to be working alongside AI more and more, how can we have confidence and ensure that these algorithmic assistants do not come with built-in racist, genderist or other biases that will affect who and how we coach?
It’s not just an academic question. We already have the seeds for prejudiced interactions built into the structure of the coaching profession. While there is a reasonable balance of gender at all levels of professional coaching, on just about every other significant variable of diversity – from race and culture to the autistic spectrum – coaches are overwhelmingly white and middle class. There are, of course, thousands of coaches around the world, who don’t meet that description. But when we observe from the perspective of voice – who is listened to and has influence on the development of the profession and the technology that goes with it – the diversity diminishes rapidly.
The recent WBECS initiative to create a coaching capability in Ethiopia last year was one of the few truly innovative initiatives to address the diversity issue. Riza Kadilar, President of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, has publicly announced his own and the council’s commitment to promoting greater inclusion and diversity in the profession.
Having greater numbers of coaches will undoubtedly help – but only to a point. Corporations across the world still struggle with breaking the glass ceiling that prevents women and disadvantaged racial groups from getting to the top. Coaching has much the same problem – high status in the profession is a white preserve. The good news is that it is no longer a male preserve. Indeed, if you discount the pioneer generation, the influencers at senior levels in the profession are more female than male.
What’s lacking is a chorus of influential voices from cultures other than Anglo-Saxon. In some cases, the barrier is mainly one of language. France has a rich history in this field, for example. In other cases, the problem is a hubris that assumes that the Anglo-Saxon perspective of coaching is the only one. A few months ago, I was given an insight into some of what this myopic approach causes us to miss. A coach in supervision explained how his Chinese client would not arrive with an issue. Instead they would talk around what was on the client’s mind until the issue emerged. And by that point the solution was also clear. The Anglo-Saxon model, typified in simplistic terms in GROW, starts with identifying the issue and working towards a solution – and this often misses much of the context that might provide a better solution. Both perspectives have validity, but the assumption of automatic superiority of the stereotypical Anglo-Saxon approach is an impediment to mindful, genuinely client-centred coaching.
Artificial intelligence can either support much greater diversity of practice and voice in coaching; or it can exacerbate the existing cultural dominance. If we – the professions, individual coaches, educators, corporate buyers of coaching and other stakeholders – do nothing, then the second of these scenarios will occur. And that would be everyone’s loss.
One of the key steps we can collectively take in preventing that second scenario and promoting the first is to invest in the development and visibility of experienced coaches from outside the Anglo-Saxon world. For example:
Educators can ensure that curriculum development includes advisors from multiple cultures
Internal coaching and mentoring programmes within corporates can engage with user groups to design initiatives that are genuinely multi-cultural
In designing new research projects, academic-practitioner partnerships can extend beyond “the usual suspects” to include contributors from, say, developing economies.
When writing books on coaching, co-authors from other cultures can provide valuable different perspectives.
Within the past year or so, there has been a significant and welcome shift in thinking amongst leading coaching influencers that raises hope we may at last be taking this issue seriously. More and more respected voices in the field are saying we must tackle the issue, even though how we do so is still largely unclear.
Hence this open letter to all of the coaching professional bodies and a straightforward challenge. How are we going to work together as a profession and with our stakeholders to create a truly inclusive world of coaching?
Having at least one clear goal or some tangible direction is important in creating a sense of purpose and urgency in a mentoring relationship. Without this focus, there will not be momentum.
The mentee may understand their direction in advance of the relationship starting. For example, if they already have a personal development plan. Or perhaps the mentee has sought out their mentor to work specifically on a transition they are facing. However, the mentor may need to support their mentee to develop direction and use questions such as: What does success look like for the mentee? To uncover what the mentee really values in their life.
The mentor helps the mentee set direction
The mentor should challenge the mentee’s thinking to ensure they are working on the right areas. Will this actually matter to the mentee in a year’s time? And what will this agenda mean for the mentee personally in terms of opportunities, reputation, their learning etc?
Without clear direction, mentees tend to not utilise their mentors effectively and relationships are less energised.
Skills Training Videos
We hope you found this 60 second video briefing useful. Coach Mentoring Ltd offers video training to meet any requirements in Coaching and Mentoring. We will work with you to produce a bespoke video to suit your organisation’s needs, or you can choose a standard video from a range of topics.
Above all, we love to talk with new friends, so get in touch to arrange a free chat to find out how we can help you.
Following the enthusiastic response to the Women in Aquaculture interview series in 2018, and the success of its inaugural Setting the gender agenda event at Aquaculture UK, The Fish Site has launched an innovative global pilot programme with Coach Mentoring Ltd’s support. It will offer professional mentoring to women and men in the industry. The majority of mentors are established female aquaculture professionals to enable female-led experience sharing, support networks and career advancement.
“This is a really exciting time for diversity initiatives in aquaculture,” said Ellen Hardy, Managing Editor of The Fish Site.
“We have been hugely inspired by the stories shared with us for the Women in Aquaculture series. The logical next step was to give something back, in the form of an expert panel of aquaculture mentors who can share their insights as women in the industry and make a real difference to the careers of the next generation. At The Fish Site we want to take an active role in enabling the future sustainability of the aquaculture industry. We believe that promoting the diversity of its workforce is an essential contribution.”
Aquaculture Mentoring Programme Best Practice
Coach Mentoring Ltd has supported this launch by consulting on best practice in designing, developing and running a mentoring programme. This included advice on the matching process, including the design of application forms for mentors and mentees. Due to a great response from mentees, we have also reached out to another long-standing Coach Mentoring Ltd client to advertise for more mentors in Aquaculture within their organisation.
The pilot has started with 18 matched pairs and Lis Merrick has provided virtual training for both mentors and mentees. Support throughout the programme will also be undertaken by Coach Mentoring Ltd’s Virtual Programme Manager, Jacki Mason to include check-in’s at around 6 weeks into the programme, and supervision sessions for both mentors and mentees at the mid-way point. Any learning from these touch points will feed into the programme’s ongoing formative evaluation and development followed up by a final summative evaluation at the end of a year with recommendations for future offers.
“These are opportunities for career development and greater professional recognition that women in aquaculture are crying out for,” concludes Dr Cecile Brugère, independent consultant and director of Soulfish Research and Consultancy. She went on to say:
“Practical or strategic advice and guidance to navigate career development opportunities, work-life balance, job applications, to broaden one’s network of contacts are all examples of the kinds of benefits that could be achieved with a mentoring programme, as we all know that these competencies aren’t the ones you learn in a classroom. Specific skill building – like learning to use a software, do a particular type of lab analysis, or writing an academic paper – are other benefits that can be achieved through direct interactions between mentors and mentees.”
Case Study in Mentoring
Coach Mentoring Ltd provides support to many organisations and published this case study to showcase the benefits of mentoring. So talk to us today to see how we can help your organisation with great coaching, mentoring and leadership development.
The issue of ambition in women’s careers can remain an obstacle for some women as they develop their careers. Many employers have shown enthusiastic commitment to gender diversity and women have made enormous strides in being able to compete on the same playing field as men at work.
But does this make women ideal workers or ‘Bulldozers’ if they dare to demonstrate the same level of vertical ambition motivation as a man? Women are 30% more likely than men to receive feedback that they are too aggressive, bossy or intimidating.
Initiatives such as mentoring and sponsor programmes have been really successful in eroding this gender imbalance. Gender equity means fairness of treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs. Research strongly confirms mentoring to address gender equity as being an important factor in developing more women leaders.
However, sponsorship is less time intensive than mentoring and requires fewer meetings. Therefore a woman, who may be struggling to promote her own career and integrate herself into the male bastillion of organisational politics, may find a sponsor more helpful than a developmental mentor. So consider if a woman needs a sponsor rather than a mentor!
Whilst considering more senior roles, doubts about one’s own proficiency will inevitability appear. It’s been shown that women experience imposter syndrome more intensely than men. So make sure to develop a coping strategy with the help of a coach or mentor.
Women’s mentoring, Queen bees, Tiaras, Glass ceilings and Leadership styles
At the other end of the spectrum, a women might think that keeping her head down, working hard, over-preparing and passing all her exams is best. However, if she’s too modest she might never claim the tiara she deserves.
So where is the right balance? Good mentoring can help a woman to make a crack in the glass ceiling. But it’s imperative to have mentor and mentee ‘buy in’ to a women-only mentoring programme. That way she can avoid the Queen Bee and claim the tiara she rightfully deserves.
And finally, after successfully navigating these preceding tricky waters, our intrepid heroine only has to find her own leadership style to claim the ultimate prize. A full and successful career supported by appropriate best practice in women’s mentoring.
International Women’s Day is just 24 hours, but these ideas are important 365 days a year. At Coach Mentoring Ltd, we live and breathe these topics every day. So, whatever support you need, get in touch. We love to talk with new friends!
Watching an episode of ‘Working Moms’ with my daughter recently, reminded me just how difficult it can be for working women, particularly with a new baby to go back into work and thrive. Yes, we giggled together at the automated breast pumps and the comedy in the script. However, through the humour it brought back memories of being admonished for having baby sick on my suit jacket and being interrogated about my commitment to my career at every junction.
Sadly in some organisations I don’t believe much has improved in the last twenty years. In last blog for #iwd2019, I want to explore some very simple steps that most organisations can implement straightaway to support gender equality and equity.
The reality for women in the workplace
I am not going to dwell on this, as we know the facts, but briefly:
In an ILM Survey, 17% of women felt having a family had presented problems or barriers to career development, compared to 7% of men. They also discovered that 41% of women managers and leaders were childless compared with 28% of men.
According to McKinsey and LeanIn.org’s 2017 gender report, women with a partner are 5.5 times more likely than their male counterparts to do all or most of the housework.
Michelle Budig has shown that men are perceived as more responsible when they have children, while women are seen as being less committed to work. Fatherhood may serve as a signal to potential employers for greater maturity, commitment, or stability. In the context of higher employer expectations for the “family man”, her research found that fathers are given less scrutiny for poor performance and more opportunities to demonstrate their abilities than are childless men.
The effects of children on men’s and women’s earnings are referred to as the ‘fatherhood bonus’ and the ‘motherhood penalty’.
I’ll stop there, as you don’t need to read a stream of data. It is our cultural and societal norms, which impede our ability to make effective progress. Gender inequality and gender inequity is mainly due to second-generation bias*. We need to think differently and take some pragmatic steps to change societal and workplace thinking.
We need to change to level the playing field
Einstein defined insanity so beautifully as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. We need to break out of our established and ingrained thinking and behaviours, our expected ways of treating men and woman and create new thinking and ways of behaving.
Here are some simple ideas we can start today to gain momentum:
Promotions and Hiring
Make promotions and hiring more equal. Measure gender diversity, have balanced interview panels and rethink recruitment and promotion processes. It is not rocket science!
Women need different talent strategies and support than men. Some creativity around talent routes and strategies and providing mentoring and sponsorship to support women are imperative.
Encourage your female employees to attend networking and conference events. Shawn Achor’s article demonstrates the power of connecting for woman (and men’s careers). Pay for women employees to attend external events and training. The motivational and connection benefits far outweigh the cost!
Another potential problem lies in workload. Higher workloads tend to be part of the territory as individuals advance to higher levels of seniority. This isn’t intrinsically gendered, but many social pressures push women to simultaneously balance work, family, and a disproportionate amount of housework. Organisations may consider how to modify expectations and better support working parents so that they don’t force women to make a “family or work” decision. I ‘retired’ from my City career because I couldn’t cope with a demanding role and two children. Something had to give!
Language used to describe women at work is often different to how their male counterparts are described. I wrote about women’s ambition after hearing a woman described as a ‘bulldozer’, in a talent review. Her boss said she was actually no different to the rest of his male team!
Language in performance evaluations is applied differently to describe men and women. In recent research, it was found there were no gender differences in objective measures (e.g., grades, fitness scores, class standing). However, the subjective evaluations provided a wealth of interesting findings.
Language needs to change and people need to have support in becoming aware of what they are saying. Raising awareness of this is straightforward, it just needs action.
Women earn less than men and I have discussed the enormity of the gender pay gap recently. However, women ask for pay increases as often as men do, sadly they don’t get them. Research shows that women’s requests for advancement are treated differently from men’s requests. Asking does not mean getting — at least if you are a female. Requests for pay increases need documenting and processing in the same way for men and women and HR can support that process to achieve more fairness.
So a few thoughts of how small steps can change the world. Margaret Mead’s philosophy is very dear to me and I believe she is so right: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. This is my message for #iwd2019.
Do get in touch if you want to discuss any of my ideas. I would love to talk to you.
* Second-generation bias: these are behaviours demonstrated in society and organisations, which flow from basic assumptions about working life or about the qualities required to succeed in leadership, which reflect masculine values and men’s life situations.
This week for #iwd2019 I have been extolling the benefits of how useful mentoring and sponsorship are for women’s careers. But actually is it always helpful? Mentors and sponsors can sometimes cause harm in supporting women and also negatively impacting gender equity and equality. So what can go wrong?
1. The Guru mentor or sponsor
Some mentors and sponsors know everything, or think they do — they don’t! However, positioning themself as an ‘all knowing guru’, who can provide all the wisdom and knowledge required, creates more satisfaction and ego stroking for them. In addition, it makes the woman feel even more inadequate if she doesn’t agree with her mentor or sponsor and wants to challenge them. Unfortunately many senior, successful men and women don’t want to be challenged in life, particularly by a younger and more junior woman.
2. Being positioned as the hero or rescuer in the relationship
Jennifer de Vries’ research shows that gendered expectations and choices position men as powerful and effective champions while undermining the effectiveness of the woman. This study describes how positioning male allies and mentors as heroic rescuers, can actually strengthen the gendered status quo, inadvertently reinforcing male positional power while showing women as unsuitable for serious leadership roles.
This scenario also makes me reflect on Karpman’s Drama Triangle. The “victim, rescuer, and persecutor” refer to roles people unconsciously play, or try to manipulate other people to play. In mentoring or sponsoring, if someone plays the rescuer role, it can tip the woman to becoming the victim, gradually eroding her capacity to solve problems and make decisions on her own. Rescuers need victims to help and often can’t allow the victim to succeed or get better. They can use guilt to keep their victims dependent. Rescuers are frequently harried, overworked, tired, caught in a martyr style while resentment festers underneath.
Does this sound familiar? What if the rescuer moves into persecutor? Persecutors criticize and blame the victim, set strict limits, can be controlling, rigid, authoritative, angry and unpleasant. They keep the victim feeling oppressed through threats and bullying. Again this can happen in some relationships and not just ones where the mentor or sponsor is male – remember Queen Bee Syndrome. Often this oppression occurs without the woman realising just how controlling their mentor or sponsor has become.
3. Cloning in mentoring and sponsorship
A bit like Dolly the Sheep! Many mentors are inclined to clone themselves in their mentees. So often unconsciously, they push their mentees to pursue career trajectories and make life or career decisions that mirror their own.
‘However, it can be harder for male mentors to overcome because of the way men and women are socialized to listen, and the ways that women are (generally) more relationship-oriented, while men are (again, generally) more task-oriented. To avoid this instinctual cloning tendency, men have to work hard at really listening to the women they mentor, focusing on the relationship more than the specific task being discussed.’
4. Dependency and disempowerment
This can be a by-product of working with a ‘hero’. Woman (and men) should never get so attached to their mentor or sponsor that they can’t make a decision without checking in with them. My colleague David Clutterbuck calls this the ‘cling on’ mentality and it needs to be discouraged! Over-dependence can become a real issue and disempower the woman so she is in a worse position than when she began the mentoring or sponsorship relationship!
Tips for healthy mentoring and sponsorship
The most effective relationships are where the mentors or sponsors:
Share the power (this is more difficult in sponsorship, but it is possible to park the power in the conversation, but use it outside the meeting!)
Feel comfortable giving specific feedback, treating men and women in the same way, avoiding stereotypes about how women behave or think
Talk about career advancement and compensation, as well as work-life balance, confidence and fears, a balanced and holistic portfolio of topics, depending on the woman’s needs
Have relationship and meeting structure
Are affirming! Offering both perceptual affirmation (supporting the woman in their self-vision) and behavioural affirmation (helping women to engage in behaviours aligned with their ideal selves).
It is so important to ensure your mentors and sponsors understand what ‘second generation bias’ is – these are behaviours demonstrated in organisations, which flow from basic assumptions about working life or about the qualities required to succeed in leadership, which reflect masculine values and men’s life situations. Challenge them to rise above it and to consider what impact bad mentoring and sponsoring can create.
Regular supervision and support will also provide that ethical check in to ensure no harm is being done and raise the mentors and sponsors awareness of their relationship dynamics.
This article has just skimmed the surface of some of the ‘darker’ aspects of mentoring and sponsorship relationship dynamics. Perhaps another time I will write about: jealousy, undermining, betrayal, abandonment and expecting sexual favours! All issues I have witnessed or experienced in my career.
The economic gap between men and woman is forecast to disappear by 2186. So financial gender inequality will be with us for an awfully long time yet! As part of our blog series for #iwd2019, Lis Merrick considers the current gender pay gap situation and gives two top tips for using sponsorship mentoring to remedy this situation.
She will recommend some fundamental changes that need to be made in the workplace and society to expedite this inequality. But also offer a couple of suggestions that any organisation, who is serious about tackling gender inequality and the gender pay gap, can implement straight away.
The BBC reported analysis in Feb 2019 that four in ten private companies, that had just published their latest gender pay gap, reported wider gaps than they did the previous year. This is with only about 10% of employers submitting figures, ahead of the 4th April deadline for the private sector. Of the companies who had reported by 19th February 2019:
74% reported a pay gap, which favours men. 14% have a pay gap favouring women and 12% have no pay gap. Some of the banks are particularly performing badly. The average gender pay gap at RBS being 36.8% and Lloyds 32.8%.
So what needs to happen to address the gender pay gap?
1. Societal and culture change
The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which enforces the gender pay gap rules, said that forcing companies to report their pay gaps was not enough to eliminate pay disparities. So we need to make deep and profound change to make things different to both erode the gender pay gap and reduce gender equality overall.
The Women’s Empowerment Principles, established in 2010 between the UN Women and UN Global Compact begins with a call to: ‘establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality’. However, there is little visible corporate leadership evident. This would make an enormous difference if more leaders paid less lip service and really made time for putting this on their corporate agendas.
Some of the things that need to happen in my view, include:
A genuine commitment to bringing about a permanent shift in organisational and societal culture of inclusion (and this is not just for gender). Aim to raise awareness from the very top of an organisation to the bottom. The CMI ‘A Blueprint for Balance’ report January 2018 highlights the gap between rhetoric and reality in many organisations, with female managers continuing to experience everyday sexism and bias. They suggest line managers are key to changing behaviour and creating change. The report found that only 19% of junior and middle managers regard their senior leaders as being committed to gender balance. In fact senior leaders are the tier of management least likely themselves to describe gender as a priority (42%).
Developing HR policies and processes that recognised the differences between the career lifecycles of men and women. They are not the same. They need different talent strategies and support. HR and L&D need to wake up to this and address this properly.
Create accountability — Measuring gender diversity so that talent pools, leadership teams, career mobility, leadership development, are all considered quantitatively and qualitatively. Diversity and inclusion is part of performance management. You need to link financial rewards and consequences to behaviours and delivery of targets.
Changing our language, we are still so masculine in the way we describe our workforce.
2. Sponsorship and mentoring as an intervention for change
Although overt discrimination has been much reduced, the real challenge is now ‘second generation bias’. These are behaviours demonstrated in organisations, which flow from basic assumptions about working life or about the qualities required to succeed in leadership, which reflect masculine values and men’s life situations.
Of all the interventions available, I believe mentoring and sponsorship can be the most powerful and quickest in influencing this ‘second generation bias’.
There is still much confusion about what the difference is between the two. Most sponsorship still tends to be informal and underground. Sponsorshipprovides very active support for a woman by advocating for her, protecting and sometimes fighting for her career advancement. Effective sponsors, proactively expose their female protégé to other senior leaders in powerful positions. They work to identify more challenging strategic assignments for them and help to place them in critical posts.
Lack of mentoring in the early stages of a woman’s career is a key factor in the gender pay gap. However, if mentoring is not used wisely, women can feel ‘over-mentored’ and not gain real tangible benefits from it. The most successful mentoring interventions tend to be when women have mentors who not only provide developmental mentoring support but can also bring feedback and some sponsorship to the relationship. So mentors with clout, who have a seat at the decision-making table, are most useful as a real sponsor. When identifying mentors for women, the most obvious candidates are often senior female colleagues. However, it is often male mentors, who are more likely to have those crucial decision-making roles that allow them to also add value as mentors or sponsors.
Two top tips to tackle gender inequality
So here are my two top tips when designing programmes for women, if you really want to change financial gender inequality:
Consider a hybrid sponsor/mentor role — define this carefully. Our take on talent mentoring tends to naturally adopt some of the softer characteristics of sponsorship anyway
And choose sponsor/mentors, whether they are male or female, who have some influence in the organisation. That way they can really actively support their mentee.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this? So please do get in touch if you would like to discuss sponsoring or mentoring women.
In the first of our series of blogs for International Women’s Day 2019, here are some ideas to use in briefing male mentors to mentor in a female mentoring programme. Research shows there are pros and cons to using female and male mentors when mentoring your female talent. Some male mentors are just naturally brilliant when mentoring a woman. Others need a little more support to really blossom. Here are some ideas to support them:
1. Encourage honesty in male mentors
The sharing of career and life experiences and telling of stories is so key in successful developmental mentoring. This is strongest when the mentor is demonstrating their more human side, their humility and when things have really gone down the pan badly! Male mentors can find this tough. Admitting to the times in their life when they have messed up badly and really learned from it. However, this is the heart of building trust in a mentoring relationship and where the role-modelling element can be strongest.
Encourage your mentors to be themselves and be honest about their experiences with their mentees.
2. Using challenge appropriately
Encourage male mentors to use challenge but in a ‘brave space’ that is held by them to demonstrate empathy, genuine care and concern and ‘unconditional positive regard’. Don’t let them be afraid of their female mentees and keep an aloof position whilst mentoring. #MeToo has created a situation where some men are now quite nervous about building too intimate a rapport in a mentoring relationship. So creating a robust working relationship in a male mentor/female mentee partnership can sometimes be awkward.
Often virtually mentoring can reduce some of the cues that can cause this anxiety and help the male mentor to feel more relaxed. This is not new knowledge. Hamilton and Scandura in 20021 found that, the reduced level of social cues over electronic media may allow greater opportunities for women and minorities to interact with mentors relatively bias-free. They also acknowledged that women might feel more comfortable having a male mentor working virtually, as their interest will not be misinterpreted in a virtual relationship.
A good mentor knows when to push their mentee outside their comfort zone into the learning zone. Sadly some male mentors ‘overpush’ and their mentees end up in the panic zone and end up cancelling their meetings or avoiding their mentors if they can!
3. Park the power and the ego
Male mentors find it harder to remove the power imbalance in their relationship, than female mentors. Unless you are dealing with a Queen Bee of course!
Without having it pointed out to them, the mentor can have a tendency to:
Want the mentee to see things from his perspective
Having his own personal agenda for his mentee
Feeling pressure to ‘improve’ his mentee in some way
Allowing the idea of being a mentor to suggest ‘superiority’
We find that the mentor understanding this can happen usually prevents it occurring. Please don’t think that we are suggesting that male mentors are megalomaniacs, but they often have more self-confidence than a female mentor and tend to bring it into their relationships.
4. Reduce the competitiveness
In my experience there is a tremendous amount of competitiveness between male mentors. How much can I achieve for my mentee? Is often a motivation that seems to run through programmes where there are a high proportion of male mentors. The answer is ‘nothing’! The mentees are the ones doing the achieving, if the mentors start to intervene and do it for them, then the relationships rapidly turn into sponsorship mentoring. Educating male mentors to be less competitive about how well their mentee does can be really hard. They can view their mentee’s success as an extension of their own and it is critical to help them understand that if they are in a developmental mentoring relationship this is not acceptable.
Facilitating promotions, opportunities and exposure behind the mentee’s back is not ethical or in the spirit of developmental mentoring.
5. #MeToo and male mentors
With the #MeToo movement exposing the horrific widespread prevalence of sexual harassment and assault globally, I think it is critical to support well intentioned male mentors not to get themselves into any situation that could possibility be misconstrued by a female mentee.
There are some clear ground rules in my mind, which I use when briefing mentors:
Meet in a public room – coffee shop, hotel lounge, office meeting room if meeting up face-to-face. Not in a hotel room or somewhere private.
Meeting late in the evening is a ‘no’, even with busy work schedules.
Having dinner with alcohol is another big ‘no’.
Do talk about family and home life, this will naturally occur in a mentoring relationship, but always remember this is a professional relationship.
Be clear on communication in your mentoring agreement. Allowing frequent texting or emailing in a mentoring relationship can be misconstrued and create the wrong type of dependencies.
Gosh there is so much more I could write, but I hope this gives you some ideas for how to brief male mentors effectively about some of the nuances of mentoring women. Male mentors can often be better than their female counterparts in mentoring women. But educate them wisely, as energy and enthusiasm for mentoring can sometimes create the wrong situations.
If you would like to discuss supporting your male (or female) mentors, then please do contact me. We love to mentor women and have specialised in this area since 2000.
1 Hamilton, B and Scandura, T. (2002) “Implications for Organisational Learning and Development in a Wired World” In: Organisational Dynamics, volume 31, No 4, pp388-402,