Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

The legacy of mentorship

I have written on a number of occasions in this blog about mentors and mentoring, and from multiple perspectives. In that I have addressed this complex of issues from the perspective of mentors and those explicitly mentored, and from the perspective of those who might see themselves as being left out of these arrangements. And I have discussed this complex of issues from the perspective of the businesses that mentoring might take place in and their policies and practices, and from the perspective of their corporate cultures as well where they might support and even facilitate such individually focused guidance, or challenge it as even just an acceptable possibility.

See for example, my earlier series: Developing Management and Leadership Skills in Others (as can be found at HR and Personnel as its postings 81 and following), as a working example of how mentoring can arise and take place. And I add here that I selected that particular background reference here as a relevant example for two reasons. First, this is an entire, if short series that is centered around the issues and challenges of mentoring and both for its How and Why. I have for the most part addressed mentoring in this blog as a recurring set of detail-level issues that I have added into other, longer series as special case contexts for their various lines of discussion. As such, most of what I have offered here on this has not been presented in as cohesively organized a manner as that series does, for mentoring per se. And second, I have chosen this series as a working example here because I focus on the positive virtues and values of mentoring in it, and a lot less on any possible implementation-level problems that it might bring with it too.

• I freely, readily acknowledge here that while mentoring can offer positive value and to all concerned,
• It can also become a masking label for nepotism or other forms of favoritism too, and that as such it or rather its use as a guise can become more of a problem than a positive solution.

Good managers: good leaders, look for talent and potential in the people they work with. And they seek to foster and encourage and develop those positive virtues, giving those who exhibit them, the opportunity that they would need in order to grow and develop to their fuller potential. This obviously helps those high potential employees who would be offered mentoring out of this. But just as importantly this helps those managers and supervisors too: the people who are most often in the best position to recognize untapped and undeveloped potential on their teams and who would be in a best position to act on that knowledge. And this type of mentoring help can also aid and facilitate the teams that these high potential employees work in too. Enabling the high potential members of a team to do more and to be able to do it better, can only improve the overall performance of all involved, and whether that means helping a hands-on non-managerial employee to start to develop managerial and supervisory skills as they work with their more junior peers there, or whether this means helping a higher potential hands-on expert who would continue on that track, to further develop their skills as they seek to advance their careers in a non-managerial direction. Mentoring as touched upon here, can help the business as a whole too – and certainly if it is merit and performance potential-based for who is brought into it, and not as noted above, simply a cover for bias and favoritism.

• Is mentoring egalitarian or is it elitist and exclusionary? That depends on how open and inclusive it is and on how fully it is based on merit and ability.
• And given the significance of perception as a shaper of resulting reality in anything like this, that depends on how palpably visible that lack of prejudicial bias is in it, for how mentors and mentees are selected and even encouraged to enter into this type of agreement.

I assume here, on the basic of my own direct experience as well as from my experience working with others, that mentoring can work and that it can in fact offer the types of 360 degree value that I have been writing of here. I know that it can because I have seen it work, offering value in essentially all directions. And I have seen how mentoring can offer value that is more lasting than any particular specific skills-oriented training option or opportunity might bring. New computer languages and coding skills in them come and go, to cite a more specific example there. But mentoring on how to more effectively develop and use soft people skills when working with the in-house clients who would use the software developed from that, to more fully understand their needs and issues and to more effectively secure buy-in from them on what a finished software product should do and how: that can offer value that outlasts any particular hands-on class-learned technical skills update. More than that, this type of more mentor-shared skill can be essential if those new coding skills are to offer any real value increase and for anyone involved, as they can increase the chances that a programmer actually work on the right problem and with a clear understanding of both how their software would be used and what it actually has to do.

I write this one-off thought piece at a point in time when I find myself looking back at my own career path: a perspective that is probably inevitable given how often I have been writing about jobs and careers in this blog, and given my longer-term career focus in all of that over the past few years. See my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and its Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 continuations and particularly my most recent several series offered there, as of this writing.

And I find myself taking stock in what I have done and sought to do in all professionally, and certainly from my active work life and my career path there but also as I have sought to organize and present something of what I have learned from all of that, here in this blog. What, looking back, has held the most value for me? What do I look back upon as having offered the most meaning and value to those I have worked with and worked for? There are times when my decisions and actions have literally meant a difference of millions of dollars on a monetary scale for the value that I have brought to the table. I have helped a few businesses to both survive and thrive. But all of that, for the most part has involved my stepping in and taking action, or preventing potentially harmful action in very specific and time-limited contexts.

I have benefited from mentors and mentoring and in ways that I would find difficult to explicitly capture in a few briefly stated words, for how this has impacted upon me as a professional and as a person too. And I have always actively sought out opportunities to mentor others too, and with a goal of bringing at least comparable types of value to others as a matter of perpetuating the flow of value that I was allowed to benefit from in this way.

I titled this posting “the legacy of mentorship.” And looking back, the impact when positive, that I have had on others, in helping them realize more of their potential and in enabling them to succeed and excel … that activity is at the core of what I would like to think of as my legacy from what I have done professionally. That, at least potentially is my lasting legacy, or it is at the very least the closest that I might be able to come to actually creating one.

Mentoring is obviously not the only measure or means of longer-term and even lasting value that we can bring to the work that we do as our contribution to larger efforts and longer-lasting values. But it is one that I find myself thinking back on now.

So I write of this as a stand-alone posting, rather than as yet another installment in a longer series. And I write this as an off-day publication where I am currently writing my more regularly planned and written postings to go live every third day and with planning and writing for that mapped out way in advance.

My intention here is to continue posting every third day, with a couple of “special exception” series intentionally scheduled and written for off days as a matter of course. But I will also start adding in more individual pieces to this blog-length puzzle, like this posting for off-day publication too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

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