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Global Leadership Forecast 2018

Mentoring for Impact:

How to Maximize a Critical Leadership Experience

Stephanie Neal

For many reasons, mentoring is one of new leaders’ most sought-after development experiences. Not only does it enable them to gain broader, deeper perspective and knowledge of their business, but it also allows leaders to network and connect with people outside their immediate functional groups. And its benefits extend beyond the individual being mentored. Organizations that operationalize mentoring gain connections between new leaders and mentors, keep practical experience and wisdom in house, and break down silos between functional groups. Yet, despite the potential impact, only about one-third of organizations (36 percent) have a formal mentoring program for their leaders. What distinguishes the successful organizations, and what is the impact of engaging more leaders in formal mentoring relationships? The graphic below depicts some of the benefits and sheds light on why more organizations and leaders should engage in mentoring.

Mentoring for Impact

Seven Findings on the State of Mentoring

We explored the state of mentoring across 2,488 organizations that participated in Global Leadership Forecast 2018. We found that few factors differentiate the organizations that offer formal mentoring beyond the benefits they and their leaders are receiving (see graphic above). Here are the top seven findings about mentoring from leaders and organizations across the globe:

  1. Nearly 6 in 10 leaders have had no mentor. Only 41 percent of the more than 25,000 leaders in our study have had a mentor.
  2. Fewer early leaders have access to mentors. The majority (60 percent) of first-level leaders have not had a formal mentor. This represents a wasted opportunity, given the proven payoff.
  3. More Millennials have had mentors. Even though they’ve had shorter careers than their longer-tenured counterparts, Millennials have enjoyed the most mentoring opportunities. Just about half (49 percent) of the leaders from this generation already have had a formal mentor, as compared to only 40 percent of Gen X and Baby Boomer leaders.
  4. Mentoring is gender neutral to a point. Just as many men and women have had mentors and have mentored others. Among leaders in higher-level and senior-executive roles, more women have had mentors than men, indicating that this is a critical experience for women to advance their careers.
  5. Not all senior leaders are mentoring. Although nearly half (47 percent) of senior leaders have had mentors, a large portion are not passing on their experience or knowledge to junior members in their organizations. One-third of senior leaders reported they have not formally mentored anyone.
  6. Few organizations offer formal mentoring for their leaders. Only about one in three organizations (36 percent) provide formal mentoring.
  7. More financially successful organizations offer mentoring. Fifty-four percent of organizations in the top third for financial performance have formalized mentoring, compared to only 33 percent of organizations in the bottom third.

Broader Knowledge Networks

When designed to cross organizational boundaries, mentoring programs can facilitate an exchange of knowledge and experience that informs younger employees. These programs also put mentors in touch with other parts of the organization, elevating knowledge transfer between disparate sections. In fact, organizations that encourage mentoring are already benefitting more widely from these guided interactions. Leaders from organizations with formal mentoring programs were 1.7 times more likely to feel well prepared for capturing organizational knowledge before it’s lost than were leaders from organizations without formal mentoring.

Where to Start
  • Encourage formal and informal mentoring. Although formal mentoring programs should establish and foster guided connections and interactions between junior and senior leaders, it’s also valuable to encourage leaders and non-leaders to seek informal mentorships, especially in the reverse with senior leaders seeking out their junior colleagues to gain new perspectives.
  • Develop mentoring contracts. Mentoring is a valuable investment of a leader’s time to share knowledge and experience. Provide mentors and their charges with examples of how to clearly communicate expectations for the mentoring relationship, and also set guidelines in advance for the mentorship.
How to Excel + Differentiate
  • Build mentoring networks. Organizations can go only so far in connecting and establishing mentorships. Foster peer learning by establishing mentoring networks, so that when there isn’t formal guidance on a specific question or need, leaders can seek the help and support of others throughout the organization.
  • Make mentoring a retention strategy. Leverage mentoring connections to foster retention. Be purposeful about matching mentors to junior leaders who are at greater risk of turnover.
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