Passing of the Torch: The Power of Mentoring

John F. Gravel

The intuitions, insights, and knowledge that are developed over decades of experience are crucial to an organization’s ability to continue improving performance, propelling forward, and maintaining momentum. This knowledge, this art of negotiating the complexities and nuances of project realities and challenges, is the currency of an organization and should be further developed through generations.

If you trust numbers, according to Gartner, both mentors and mentees are promoted five to six times more on average than those who are not mentored. Gartner also found that an employee with a mentor at work is five times more likely to get a pay raise or a promotion than an employee without a mentor. According to a survey by the American Society for Training and Development, 75% of executives say mentoring has been critical to their career development.

In short, mentoring has value.

The Value of the Spoken Word

Face-to-face communications are valuable. There is more speed, allowing greater ease of explanation, as well as the ability to employ soft skills such as active listening and observation of microexpressions. Spoken word leads to greater agility and development of both soft and hard skills, which is perhaps why mentored employees are five times more likely to get a pay raise, and 75%of executives say mentoring is critical.

Projects can be affected by unforeseen forces such as acts of God, politics, or labor. Learning how to learn, how to adapt, and how to be agile is an essential key to project success. This type of wisdom is impossible to impart through books or YouTube “How-To” videos alone. A human element and tales of experience help engrain the lessons learned.

The Passing of the Torch

“Over the course of my career, I learned more about management from Billy than I have from anyone else, and the company I started with three ex-Salomon guys is built on those lessons. Even though Salomon Brothers didn’t survive, the code that Billy lived by did — and it still does, in all of us who have been inspired by him.” – Michael Bloomberg

Much like finding a life partner, finding the right mentor and mentored partnership compatibility is paramount. Both relationships take commitments of time and communication.  Mentorship is a relationship that goes beyond the transfer of knowledge, although harmony is vital, the right mentor and mentored partnership will challenge both participants to see new perspectives.

The passing of the torch should not only be about leaving a legacy, but about learning through teaching. As much as one may already know, the chance to see the world through different eyes will develop a new vantage point.

Mentorship is a powerful tool in succession planning, bringing value to both the mentor and mentored that reach far beyond daily tasks and project objectives and even further beyond manuals and training programs. When done from the heart, mentoring can be life-altering and results changing, steering us clear of disaster and providing prescient views of the future that may otherwise likely go unseen. Mentorship a powerful tool.

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