Can Sustainable Mentorship Lead to Strategic Advantage?

Aderant Think Tank

Can Sustainable Mentorship Lead to Strategic Advantage?

This post is the first in a two-part series.

Caroline Jones, who is manager of experience design at Aderant, learned over time that trying to be all things to all people is not a sustainable model.

“By taking a more strategic approach and empowering others to become the experts, I have found a greater sense of fulfilment and a sustainable model,” says Jones, who joined the legal software provider in late 2014.

Jones has been applying this philosophy in her other role as mentor to both people in her workplace and in external organisations through the years.

She relates how she got into mentoring, and why she believes more organisations and ICT professionals should engage in the activity.

“Organisations that are seeking growth or managing large programs of work might want to reconsider this as an approach,” she states. “Having people onboard that have the time to actively mentor and develop those around them helps to mature the organisation as a whole and ultimately leads to better outcomes for the business.”

Gap analysis

Jones has a huge interest in fostering diversity, and acknowledges an area that gets a lot of attention in this space is the gender imbalance in the ICT sector.

While she says this gap exists in the sector, she believes the need for diversity extends far beyond gender.

That being said, qualities that have traditionally been seen as feminine traits such as empathy, vulnerability and being highly collaborative, are intrinsic to the Design Thinking mindset and are now being recognised as ones of high importance, she says.

“The adoption of this type of mindset can lead to a strategic advantage when dealing with the evolving and diverse landscape that businesses now exist within,” she states. “Design Thinking is the perfect mechanism for better understanding the impact of this diversity and harnessing its potential for driving improved business outcomes.”

Jones explains she naturally develops informal mentoring with her direct reports. “However, I distinguish between the traditional supervisory aspects of management and the development aspects, where I focus on investing in an individual personally.

“Across the organisation I work in, I have informal mentoring relationships with stakeholders in a variety of different functions where I assist them in identifying new ways to build empathy, collaborate, and experiment in order to solve problems.

“I believe in the power of storytelling and hearing diverse perspectives, so a large part of my team mentoring style involves regularly scheduled activities such as TED talk lunches, field trips, and subject-matter explorations. These always have some relevance to areas where development would be beneficial, and are designed to inspire, engage, and provide a platform for conversation, reflection and growth.”

For Jones, a mentoring relationship never finishes but the nature of the relationship evolves to one of mutual interest and value.

“For example, a previous mentee and I are in different organisations and our relationship is now one of peers,” she says. “Her knowledge and experience has grown to the point that she is equally capable of providing insight.”

They recently attended a conference together and talked about what they were both doing in regards to mentoring their own teams.

“I believe that having someone you previously mentored, discussing their own mentoring initiatives, is the ultimate reward and payback for the time you have invested in them. It’s a ‘pay it forward’ type of thing,” says Jones. “You don’t want to just mentor people, you want to create future mentors.”

Her advice for potential mentors? “Work with the person you are supporting as a partner, and strive to empower them to make their own decisions rather than relying on you for answers.”

“Grounding your approach by focusing on a Design Thinking mindset that encourages the person to have empathy for others and to consider differing perspectives will help them to let go of their own personal biases.

“These are useful precursors to reflective thinking, and will ultimately allow a person to remain open to ideas and options later on when they are problem solving. It will also equip them to be more effective collaborators.”

As your mentoring relationship evolves and you work through specific challenges, share real world stories and experiences, including past failures and what you learned from them, she says.

“Always work to instil confidence, even if it is the confidence to accept past failures and grow from them.”


Note: This article was first published by CIO New Zealand and is reprinted here with permission. Part two of this post coming soon.

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