Mentoring has many aspects: skill development, personal growth and career advancement are all addresses. Some senior industry analysts have coaches, most often paid professionals who help them to work through specific questions identified by the coached. Often tools and formal processes are used. But there’s scope for non-paid, voluntary, relationships that allow them to share experiences with people both within their organisations and outside it. Often these are equal relationships than with coaches but they share agreed both mutual objectives, which could be professional or personal, and the reality that the responsibility for development is on the person being helped by the experienced helper.
Often in analyst relations, we talk about the need to coach analysts. Building rapport, listening and questioning are essential to help people understand the goals and priorities. Often the real issue is only uncovered by probing and challenging to find deeper opportunities.
However, there’s clearly a difference between the solicited mentoring we expect in organisations and the informal, of often under-cover and unsolicited, mentoring that AR people and spokespeople try to develop with analysts. And while coaching or mentoring are often formalised for fixed periods of time, informal coaching can fade in and out over time. Nor is there the same expectation of confidentiality. Expectations are much less clear. And there’s also the crucial difference that vendors hire spokespeople, and that analysts might have the incentive to behave differently with people from vendor organisations they might like to worth with or for in the future. Career leads might be a treasured aspect of trusted relationships, especially for early-career analysts.
Certainly there are similarities: listening, respectful flexibility over timing, preparing for discussions by reviewing past meetings and checking up on what’s going on in the other person’s life. The partners in the conversation might often have very different experiences, even if they have similar skills and interests. The similarity between organisations, generations and roles can be striking. Another benefit of seeing and learning how others successfully mentor is that the person being helped can learn how better to mentor.
That point of preparation is necessary for those who organise mentoring. Finding the right partner takes time. Creating a personal action plan for the people you want to help, managing the execution of the project and finding ways to evaluate the mentoring and to celebrate successes internally.
The difference was made very clear to me listening to a talk today at the Nice campus of EDHEC, a leading grande ecole with which I volunteer a little time each month as a mentor of Global MBA students. Sandra Richez explained how their process of managing and maintaining these mentoring relationships is done by mentoring angels, and supported by online learning curated by Ines O’Donovan. That means that mentors and mentees are better prepared for goal setting, awareness and reflection. asking questions, listening and giving feedback. Clearly this is also not part of tacit mentoring.
That means that some analysts are easier to mentor than other. Those who are interesting in learning, able to take feedback, open to new ideas, patient and honest can benefit from the mentoring that vendor-side colleagues can offer. Those vendor-side people who are offering mentoring also need to focus on understanding, respecting and maintaining the integrity of the analysts they meet, as well as celebrating analysts’ successes.
PS It’s certainly both unusual provocative to call it unsolicited mentoring, as I do, but many vendors have long-term buddy programs which are aimed at amplifying the careers of sympathetic analysts. True, most firms are stuck in transactional model of AR which focus on the next report, but mentoring is a mindset that makes it easy to explain how to refine these programs and give them measurable goals.