Kumbaya Anyone?

In our last blog series we examined the human capital trends of the past year.  One of the most dramatic trends shaping the workforce is the collaborative approach. This is a great shift in organizational structure from our traditional corporate ladder to a lattice structure, fueled by both the changing demographics of our human capital as well as technology and the psychology of employee motivation.   This month we will focus on how to build a collaborative workforce beginning with your inner circle of influence and extending to your entire organization.

While an at-large approach to a collaborative workforce seems appropriate, the magnitude of that undertaking can easily overwhelm.  Instead, we begin by looking at your smallest, but greatly significant inner circle of influence.  Mentoring relationships provide both the mentor and protégé an opportunity to collaborate and communicate effectively.

In three national surveys of nearly 4,000 professionals in large corporations, researchers Hewlett, Marshall and Sherbin offer great guidelines for creating successful mentoring relationships in a recent Harvard Business Review article http://hbr.org/2011/10/the-relationship-you-need-to-get-right/ar/1.  They found that the best mentors went beyond just offering advice and guidance; they provided advocacy and the tactical means of realizing goals.  They guide their outstanding junior colleagues through the organization, calling in favors for them and giving them access beyond their experience.  In return, the most successful protégés strive to earn that sponsorship with performance, loyalty, and consistency.

This relationship pays dividends to both parties by providing a communication link across corporate divisions and generations.  The researchers repeatedly heard CEO’s and top managers emphasize their reliance on both strong sponsors and loyal protégés.  In fact, one CEO provided a great illustration with his favorite interviewing question, “How many people do you have in your pocket?  If I asked you to pull off something impossible that involved liaising across seven geographies and five functions, who owes you one and could help you do it?”  He told the research team, “I’m not interested in anyone who doesn’t have deep pockets.”

In our next blog we will look at how to build a successful mentoring relationship to build your collaborative inner circle.


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