| Interview with
Chip R. Bell
Author, Consultant, Keynote Speaker
world renowned authority on customer loyalty and service innovation. He has appeared live on CNN, CNBC, CNN, Fox, Bloomberg TV, ABC, and his work has been featured in Fortune, Business Week, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, and Entrepreneur. Dr. Bell is author of six national and international best-selling books. Berrett-Koehler Publishers recently launched his newest book (with Marshall Goldsmith), the revised edition of Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning.
This is the third edition of your book. How has your approach changed over time?
The approach has not changed but the application is new. Mentees are in general today more time conscious, more internet savvy and more interested in immediate gratification. Let's look at each of these in detail.
The pace of work today can be hectic. In a time's up work world, mentees sometimes prefer "drive-by" mentoring. The pace of learning can be much slower than the pace of work. Mentors need to balance the mentee's need for speed with the pace required to ensure internalization, not superficial learning.
Mentees today are internet savvy. That provides an opportunity to effectively combine face-to-face or ear-to-ear interaction with online learning. Given the vast resources available on the internet, there are now ways to bring the world's library to the fingertips of the mentee.
Finally, mentees often want immediate gratification. If learning is designed to help achieve upward mobility, an important credential, or recognition, mentees can be impatient if that payoff for learning is delayed. It means mentors must help the mentee view broader benefits for learning. It requires mentors to help moderate mentee expectations to ones that are realistic and achievable.
What are the biggest challenges facing mentors and mentees in today's workplace?
They face different challenges. Mentors must work to make mentoring a high priority, allocating sufficient time. As multi-task experts, today's mentors can let adequate preparation fall through the cracks as they split their attention among so many other pressures. Mentees can benefit from the face-to-face relationship but neglect to do the follow-up work and application that is needed to turn shaky new skills into well-honed competence. If my
They face similar challenges. Most work occurs under the shadow of major change. Work today happens in an anxious environment of expense squeezes, reorganizations, and shifting priorities. The distractions can cause a mentoring relationship to be short-term, superficial or unimportant. Building a relationship of safety and acceptance takes quality time and long-term focus. It means both mentor and mentee must retain the commitment and discipline to see it to productive fruition.
In your book, you talk a lot about mentoring in precarious situations and relationships. What might make a relationship precarious and what can you do to successful negotiate it?
The word"precarious" means uncertain or dependent on chance. I am a white male from the Deep South. If I am starting a mentoring relationship with another white male from the Deep South, I am confident I know the cues, manners and customs that give predictability to that encounter. However, if my relationship is with someone quite different from me, I am less certain of the interpersonal signals.
Likewise, in most mentoring relationships the mentor has the mentee's nonverbals to help manage the communication. If the mentee is being mentored at a distance, the mentor misses many of these nonverbals. Even using Skype denies the mentor the same "presence" she or he would have in a face-to-face encounter. It means the mentor must take more time upfront to build a strong bond. It means going to school on to learning about differences. But, most of all, it requires patience and acceptance.
What is on your must-do list for mentors?
Here is my top ten must-do's for mentors....
- Mentoring is about establishing a partnership that helps your mentee learn. It is not about your being an expert or the authority.
- Great mentors foster discovery, they don't instruct; thought-provoking questions are much more powerful than smart answers.
- Your mentee will learn more if you create a relationship that is safe and comfortable. Be authentic, open and sincere.
- Understanding is a door only opened from the inside. Build a relationship of trust that encourages your mentee to open that door and allow insight to occur.
- Your rank or position is your greatest liability-act more like a friend than a boss
- Great listening comes from genuine curiosity and obvious attentiveness.
- Give feedback with a strong focus on the future, not a heavy rehash of the past.
- Mentoring is not just about what you say in a mentoring session; it is also about how you support your mentee after the session. Focus on helping your mentee transfer learning back to work place.
- If your mentoring relationship is not working like you hoped it would, clearly communicate your concerns to your mentee.
- Mentoring relationships are designed to be temporary. When your mentee has met his or her mentoring goals, be willing to let the relationship end.
What are you reading right now that you would recommend to our readers?
I would recommend The Mentor's Guide as a powerful tool to improve mentoring skills. Additionally, I am currently enjoying Doug Sundheim's Taking Smart Risks and Becky Robinson's 12 Minutes to Change Your Day.