As I’ve written before (see https://courtleader.net/2018/06/19/tips-for-staying-fresh-or-dont-get-left-behind-part-one/ and https://courtleader.net/2018/08/29/legendary-leadership-advice/), mentoring is an important activity for court leaders (and followers!). Below I offer a few more thoughts about mentoring, including a caution for mentors as well as some tips for prospective mentees and mentors in finding a helpful and fulfilling mentoring relationship.
I was impressed by a recent Keep the Joint Running post (http://issurvivor.com/2018/08/14/it-aint-what-you-know-its-who-you-know/). In this post Bob Lewis pointed out an often overlooked, negative impact of mentoring. Sure, mentoring can really help the mentee develop, but the focus on a particular person can adversely affect the chances of others getting increased compensation and promotions. This can happen because the mentor gives the mentee special attention, the mentee gets better in the job, and then the mentee is favored as being the best qualified in future personnel decisions. As Bob wrote:
It’s a virtuous cycle if you’re the protégé; a vicious one if you’re anyone else. How, as a leader, do you solve this? It isn’t complicated: As a business leader you should think of yourself as mentor for all of your direct reports. What’s easy is the concept. What’s hard is that you inevitably have better rapport with some of the men and women who report to you than you do with others. My recommendation: Invest the time needed to develop rapport with the ones who are harder.
All of this assumes that the mentor:mentee relationship is within the same work group, or perhaps organization. Some organizations recognize this problem and in their mentorship programs do not allow mentor:mentee pairings in the same divisions (e.g., the mentee cannot be within the management scope of the mentor). Nevertheless, the advice to “think of yourself as mentor for all of your direct reports” is excellent – part of being an effective leader and role model.
Being a mentor or a mentee can be very rewarding. I have greatly benefited from both roles in my career. But, how do you get involved? If your organization/court has a formal program, take a look and participate if the program meets your needs. If not, take the initiative on your own and seek out a mentoring relationship with someone you think would be a good fit. This can be tricky, so be careful to avoid problems like having a mentor who is also one of your managers (see above). You can also seek out a mentor in a similar organization or court within your system (e.g., state), which can be very good because that mentor would be familiar with your job situation.
Another great way to establish a mentoring relationship that completely avoids the issue of the mentor:mentee being in the same organization is to take advantage of an outside mentor program. For court staff, good mentor programs are available from the National Association of Bankruptcy Clerks (NCBC) and the National Association for Court Management (NACM). Here are the links:
Both programs have a good track record and are a great resource to members of NCBC and NACM (another reason to join, if you aren’t a member).
In conclusion, I strongly recommend participating in mentoring, no matter what point in one’s career. The effort is worth it.
As always, comments are welcome!