Mentoring with multidimensional purposes

The Link Mentorship Program

by Melissa L. Schlimm

Mentoring with multidimensional purposes
The world is full of opportunities and sometimes these opportunities are blurred.

What if all that is required is someone who helps to clear the vision? Someone who is unbiased and without a hidden agenda. Someone who is able to see the opportunities clearly and who knows how to navigate towards that clear vision.

This person may not sit in the seat next to you, sleep in the bed beside you or know you since you were a kindergarten child. This person may be a total stranger and your best advisor: your MENTOR.

Many organizations, such as Bain & Company, 3M, GE or Caterpillar have a structure in place to offer truly impactful mentorship opportunities. The so-called classical mentoring program is useful for graduates, high-potential, talents and management development programs. Classical mentoring has famous advocates such as Richard Branson, who said that he benefited from the “…invaluable advice and guidance…” during the set-up of Virgin Atlantic of his then-mentor Sir Freddie Laker, a legendary airline entrepreneur. There are different mentoring structures though and what differentiates them is the purpose of the mentoring initiative.

The Link, a mentoring initiative in the UAE provides an active community platform where women at an early stage in their career can find support to advance professionally. It is a classical mentoring concept as it connects an experienced career professional (mentor) with a less experienced woman early in her career (mentee) to share knowledge, experience or their own network with.

At a second glance The Link mentoring program also benefits from aspects of Cross-Mentoring. Especially smaller organizations benefit from the advantages of Cross-Mentoring as they usually wouldn’t have the resources of a large mentor pool or infrastructure in place. In a cross-mentorship several companies collaborate and jointly run a mentoring program. Each company offers the same number of mentors as well as mentees and the pairs created are always from different companies, to ensure it follows the idea of cross-mentoring. Large organizations use Cross-Mentoring to benefit from new perspectives and ideas or to educate customers as well as suppliers with know-how connected with products or services of an organization.

The Link mentees benefit from the Cross-Mentoring element as they are carefully matched considering industry experience as one of the criteria and therefore additionally provides a platform to exchange knowledge across organizations. This learning may not only be valuable for the mentee but also for the mentor, who may learn tricks that wouldn’t have come up any other way. Another mentoring structure that comes in through the Link: reverse mentoring. Although the objective is clear at The Link: to support female early career professionals there is the element of reverse mentoring that may come into play for the mentor, without this being his or her intent.

What is reverse mentoring? Originally it is said, that Jack Welch, CEO of GE at that time, had the idea to train his managers in the new technology when the internet started. A German telecommunication provider had also used reverse mentoring to train their leadership team with technical well-versed talents and saw it as a great chance to break down the hierarchy barriers of communication and open conversations on an even playing field.

In the past The Link had mentors who openly acknowledged that one of the reasons for staying loyal to the program was the impact it had on themselves – a highly positively described emotion due to the intensity of their own learning processes. A study done by the Mentus GmbH in 2011 (Edelkraut and Graf 2011) revealed that 100% of the questioned mentors wanted to continue mentoring, mainly because of the impact the mentoring had. It correlated closely with the achievement of the goals defined at an early stage and the study revealed specific changes the mentees went through such as increase of confidence and serenity (40%), self-reflection (17%), increase of openness and trust (17%) as well as a more strategic way of working (15%). The Link is starting the next cohort in September and currently recruiting mentors and mentees to join the 12-months-program.

The question is not whether you want to become a mentor – the question is, whether you can afford not to become one.