/by Marla Lepore
What’s the number one thing your company can do to attract the best and brightest up-and-coming talent? Provide them with opportunities to learn and grow.
But what about keeping them once they join your organization?
More and more, companies are discovering that an effective mentoring program is one of the most powerful ways to build loyalty. According to Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey, millennial employees who intend to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%).
But it’s not as simple as setting up a mentoring program. Whether or not a mentor pair is successful is highly dependent on the effectiveness of the mentor-mentee match.
So, how do you make a good match?
Lynne Krause of BBTD Services has had terrific success using thinking preferences as the basis for connecting up mentors with mentees. Through her work with the U.S. Naval Command and others, she’s found that matching mentors and mentees with similar thinking preferences (based on their HBDI Profile data) leads to better communications, faster bonding and increased trust. The result is longer lasting and more mutually beneficial mentoring relationships.
During the first year of the program at the U.S. Naval Command, for example, matching mentors and mentees based on their thinking preferences led to a 99% success rate in terms of the pair “sticking,” a huge improvement over the previous success rate of just 50%. Hard to top those numbers, but they did. As the program has continued, they’re now reporting a 100% success rate, with 100% of mentors/mentees saying they have benefited from the program.
“Mentoring, like pairs in tennis, is not about dependency but rather independency,” says Lynne. “The HBDI data and focus on thinking preferences has been key to facilitating trust, leveraging strengths and supporting the less-preferred areas for both the mentor and the mentee.”
The tennis analogy is a good one. Just like a great doubles team, a successful mentor-mentee relationship is built a strong communication and trust. A pair that’s already “in sync” and speaking the same language has a head start. And because you feel comfortable with each other and have a sort of shorthand to work from, you can quickly get to the meaningful understanding, advice and personal development that mentoring is all about. That’s where the real work—and impact—happens.
But more than just going deeper into their thinking “comfort zones,” Lynne has discovered that, in many cases, these pairs are on parallel paths in both applying and expanding their thinking. Even though it’s great to be able to rely on your natural thinking preferences, particularly as people grow and progress in their careers, stretch is part of the game. You can’t win with analytical or detailed or interpersonal or strategic thinking alone. You need them all. And that means you need to learn how to tap into that diversity of thought within yourself to take on new challenges.
This process isn’t always comfortable. It requires intention, reinforcement and support. That’s why having an ongoing relationship with someone who naturally gets where you’re coming from and where you need to go—and is on a similar journey themselves—is powerful for both sides of the mentoring equation.
Tools of the Game
As a way of both applying and reinforcing the value of different thinking preferences, one of the tools Lynne uses is a model called the “4 Ps of the Mentoring Relationship,” which provides a Whole Brain ® view and discussion process for kicking off the mentoring relationship:
Give Your Mentoring Program a Head Start
Mentoring is an important part of any talent retention and development strategy today, but don’t just jump on the mentoring bandwagon without thinking it through. If you’re getting ready to implement a mentoring program, or if you’re wondering why your existing program isn’t quite hitting the mark, take a look at thinking preferences. By using that data to inform the mentor matching process and providing some supporting processes and tools, you can increase the likelihood that the mentor and mentee will be able to:
- understand each other more quickly
- build rapport and trust more quickly
- have a common framework to use for discussion, which helps build trust in the mentor’s suggestions and advice
It also allows the pair to quickly establish a common language early in the mentoring process, Lynne says. “Without this, one or both might feel uneasy with the other, or they may not be able to achieve the level of friendship and trust necessary for rich communication.”
It’s certainly been a successful formula at the U.S. Naval Command, where one-third of the early participants in the employee mentoring program have risen to higher level managerial positions. An even surer sign of success? Lynne tells us that many of the pairs are continuing to meet even after completing the formal program.