Are you over-mentored and under-sponsored? If you think that you can never have too many mentors, think again.
In a Harvard Business Review article published in September 2010, the authors took a new look at why women don't move ahead as rapidly or as far as men do.
They found that women actually have slightly more mentoring experiences than equally qualified men do. So what gives? Well they found that the big difference is that women often have mentors that are lower on the leadership hierarchy.
Consider Karen, one of my mentees through a formal mentoring program I participate in. Considered a high potential employee targeted for retention, Karen was suddenly on everyone's radar screen. She was asked and expected to participate in three separate mentoring programs, an outside program (working with me), her division program and a corporate program.
Karen's issue? There were numerous conflicts between the programs, there were concerns about the amount of time necessary to complete each program and more importantly, there were some internal political challenges as well. Which program did Karen want to participate in? The Corporate program because she felt it afforded her the most visibility, yet she felt obligated to participate in all three.
Here's something to consider. If your mentor doesn't also serve as a sponsor, then you're not going to get the assistance and the protection that is often provided as you continue to move up the leadership hierarchy to obtain top positions.
To move ahead in your organization in the most expeditious way possible, find yourself a sponsor who meets the following criteria:*
Is a senior manager with influence
Gives you exposure to other executives who may help your career
Makes sure you are considered for promising opportunities and challenging assignments
Protects you from negative publicity or damaging contact with senior executives
Fights to get you promoted
*Source: HBR, Sept. 2010, Why Men Still Get More Promotions than Women.
Keep in mind that mentors can and should continue to play a role in your career development as well. Continue those relationships only with mentors that provide you the feedback and advice you need to continue to develop both your confidence and competence. Remember, it's not quantity it's quality!
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