Mentoring Doesn't Have to Be a Formal Process
NATIONAL REPORT — While some companies have formal mentoring programs in place, being a mentor or finding one can also be an informal process.
In many cases, word-of-mouth or personal recommendations can start the process rolling, and lead to benefits for the mentor, mentee and the company.
"I didn’t even know I was a mentor because we don't have a formal program," Carolina Felici, area trainer for Southern California at Chevron Stations Inc., based in San Ramon, Calif., told Convenience Store News. "I was a store manager when I started here and my stores were doing very well. My boss pointed out that everybody calls me for advice, and I think it’s because I brought a fresh perspective coming from Starbucks prior to Chevron."
Oftentimes, someone who has been a mentor in the past will be approached by others for advice, and is sometimes asked to work with a specific employee by a supervisor.
Other times, mentoring relationships develop based on a connection where a mentor has the desire to take someone under his or her wing.
"It works both ways," said Treasa Bowers, vice president of human resources at 7-Eleven Inc., based in Irving, Texas, where a formal mentoring program is in place.
"Often, leaders or managers will want to mentor someone on their team. I have sought out people to mentor," Bowers explained. "Other times, people will seek me out or refer other people to me. The foundation for what makes a mentoring relationship effective is not really the orientation of it. It’s more about building trust and commitment."
Those who have been mentored themselves — and seen the tremendous benefits to their own careers — are typically more open to offering help to others.
Sarah Alter, president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, which is based in Chicago and offers a number of networking opportunities to its members, views mentoring as "paying it forward."
"I often make myself available to people going through career transitions because I’ve been through some myself and people were so forthcoming with their time, information and contacts. Now, when I find others coming to me, I help them in a heartbeat, even if it’s just 30 minutes on the telephone or forwarding their resume to a couple of key contacts," Alter said.
At 7-Eleven, the Young Professionals group has been a facilitator of mentor and mentee matches. There are also informal connections made throughout the company. Both have benefits to the individuals and the company as a whole.
"It augments the development of talent, helps to strengthen the pool of future leaders, and helps the organization gain insights," Bowers said. "It's ongoing, and an effective relationship is one where both the mentor and mentee maintain the relationship for a long time."
Mentoring relationships can lead to better productivity, with employees performing at peak levels, because the employee is working off the direction of someone providing the right path, answers and references to help him or her get the job done, Felici explained.
"Structured classroom training has value in it, but experiential learning probably has more value," Alter noted. "Mentoring can provide that experiential learning because you are learning through others' experiences."
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