“Just because you have tasted success, Doesn’t mean there isn’t another way.
Just because you can’t see the pitfalls, Doesn’t mean that they aren’t there.”
©Ketan Varia, kinetik solutions
In March 2015, Sir Philip Green sold his retail chain BHS for £1 to Retail Acquisitions. While Green said that it was business as usual, a series of hearings painted a different picture of what the Financial Times described as “chaotic ownership”(1) It is clear that a lack of experience, lack of a functioning board and poor judgment all contributed to BHS’s demise. Moreover emotions rather then logic can be a key driver for senior executives, even if sometimes we are led to believe that decisions are made on ‘wholesome’ thinking.
During periods of change in any organisation, senior executives often don’t receive the type of support they need. Change processes are exhaustive; it affects the organisation as a whole. Executives need to be able to communicate change thoroughly to all parts of the organisation. In doing so, they need to be able to spot subtle issues that could make a distinct difference in the future of the process. A mentor can support senior executives to accomplish these tasks, in order to succeed at the change processes.
Looking at the process as an outsider, a mentor is more likely to perceive problems and provide unique solutions, than anyone from within an organisation. They can bridge the potential gap between senior executives and staff, as well as solving possible barriers to success. In their highly influential Harvard Business Review article, Janasz and Peiper say: “[Mentors] can offer timely, context-specific counsel-drawn from experience; wisdom; and networks that are highly relevant to the problems to be solved”. 84% of the CEOs they have surveyed said that having a mentor helped them avoid costly mistakes(2)
For example, financial advisor Suze Orman considers herself a mentor to personal trainer personality Jillian Michaels. For Orman, her connection with Michaels helped illuminate an important truth about the mentor/mentee relationship: “it’s not about creating a cookie-cutter mold of yourself. Instead, the best mentors help their mentees find their own paths and succeed on their own terms”(3).
Mentors have deep experience and insight in complex organisational problems and provide a more practical way for individuals to develop. Most importantly, mentors help senior executives to better formulate a sense of connection between the mentee, their staff and the organisational mission. In change processes, communication is key and oftentimes, small issues that can clog the information flow can be overlooked. Mentors can see these issues and offer creative solutions using their previous experience and access to networks.
Successful mentors not only give advice and stay out of the problem. They work collaboratively as a team with senior executives at every part of the problem, continuously providing advice and wisdom at every step. They combine experience and intuition to create a powerful insight for both parties. Not having a personal interest about the organisation, unlike stakeholders, mentors can provide objective advice, working with the executive.
A mentoring process should be sustainable in order to drive for its benefits and achieve results. In our view, there are three key roles of a mentor:
- Listening and replaying is a key role of a mentor. A mentor listens to the senior executive and replays it to him in different words. This allows the mentee to see the issue as an outsider and look at it from a different angle. The mentor mediates the deliberation process of the mentee and allows for a unique point of view to flourish.
- Help the mentee identify root causes/effects of problems/ideas and creates opportunities to solve them. Using his/her previous experiences and intuition (based on tacit knowledge), a mentor can help a mentee find the real reasons behind the problem and push for a change.
- Finally, mentors can generate solutions by identifying resources that might be hidden within the organisation or outside.
These three key roles provide the senior executive with information on where to focus and put effort; how to be self-aware; and how to grow his connections. With all these benefits the return on investment for the organisation would be very high.
At Kinetik, we firmly believe that mentors need well honed skills in listening, playback, reflection and questioning. Most importantly mentors must influence mentees to use their own powers and skills to discover sustainable solutions, overcome barriers and be resourceful. We also believe that some questions need collaboration and deeper thinking, not ‘text book’ answers. The mentor/mentee work which requires face to face meetings, can be supplemented by remote working using advance technologies such as video conferencing and collaboration tools which embellishes the value add.
Kinetik Solutions has a new value proposition on executive mentoring that can provide your organisation with the level of mentoring it needs. Read more about it here
(1) Valdelvede, Mark, and Jonathan Ford. “BHS: No Cash, No Experience, No Problem – FT.com” Financial Times. 10 June 2016. Web. 12 June 2016.
(2) Suzanne de Janasz, Maury Peiper. “CEOs Need Mentors Too.” Harvard Business Review, April 2015. Web. hbr.org/2015/04/ceos-need-mentors-too
(3) Entis, Laura. “5 Famous Business Leaders on the Power of Mentorship.”Entrepreneur. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 June 2016.