Mentoring and Being a Protégé by Gary Opper

by 26 Jul 2011

Give back to Scouting more than Scouting has given to you.


- Boy Scout Motto

      When you are first starting out as a youngster entering the workforce, you might be so overwhelmed that you feel like a deer in headlights. Alternatively, when you hve been in the business for many years you may begin to feel that it is time to pass on your wisdom to a new generation. Having a mentor and being a protégé is more than just an informal gathering. It provides you with the opportunity to change a life for the better or to have your life changed. We continue an ancient tradition when the elders pass their knowledge to a new generation.   PARTNERSHIP   Many companies have mentoring programs. It allows for young staffers to be groomed for important positions. It also helps to prepare the company for the future by establishing a larger pool of potential employees that possess stronger technical and managerial skills. New employees even feel a greater assimilation to the firm’s culture and it helps to create an ongoing professional development of staff that will help these new individuals advance within the firm.   In the past, mentoring programs only involved information relationships between a senior mentor and junior protégé. A select few were solely allowed to participate and the two individuals that were paired up had to share common backgrounds and personalities. Today, there is a combination of formal and informal programs such as reverse mentoring (a junior mentor and senior recipient), peer mentors, team mentors and consultant mentors that individuals from all different backgrounds with different strengths can experience and learn from.   PROGRAMS   A mentor’s job is to assist their protégé by enhancing their personal and professional growth. The following types of programs are also available to implement:   The Buddy System   A new employee will often benefit from being matched with someone that is their peer who can show them ‘the ropes’ at the company. Having a peer mentor is beneficial since they will have similar day-to-day responsibilities. This system can be used as a supplement to formal training and orientation programs.   Team Mentoring   Mentoring has traditionally consisted of a two-person relationship, where each person offers assistance in a specific area. With team mentors, a specific area is discussed by each person. Other companies offer formal mentoring teams made up of an employee from human resources, department managers and senior partners. Each of these individuals will play a role in coaching a group of protégés.   Consultant Mentors   Some firms do not have employees that possess a specific skill set or range of experience that is needed to assist newcomers. Therefore, businesses sometimes will seek out the knowledge of a consultant to help expand their middle managers who are seeking to expand or take on new roles.   When choosing to use this particular program, a consultant should be balanced through mentoring from the inside of the organization. It is an especially important mix for individuals in financial departments because they are required to be familiar with organizational issues on a grander scale and of the corporate culture’s nuances.   Reverse Mentors   It could go without saying that there is no substitute for learning from individuals with experience; however, some firms have discovered the benefits of infusing their corporate strategies with a new form of knowledge. Employees that are at the beginning of their career are able to provide new perspectives on newly implemented products and services, as well as younger markets that will prove beneficial. They also may be more computer and technology savvy.   CREATING A PROGRAM   Mentoring relationships can be established and succeed on an informal basis, but there are several advantages to creating a formal system. A formal program will allow for performance based goals and boundaries to be set.   Determining the scope and how the program will be managed is the first step in creating a mentoring system. An organization should begin by evaluating their current and long-term needs. For example, the company could have a department that has recently suffered a high degree of downsizing. Through the creation of a mentoring system in this area, there is the potential to keep staff and improve recruiting efforts. It also allows for individual employees to greater concentrate on career development.   No discrimination should be shown when choosing program participants; however, there may be cases where mentoring is considered especially needed. A company may be worried about recruitment so they will want to, at the beginning, concentrate the program toward entry-level staff. Sometimes by pairing a more experienced manager with a newly hired junior employee, it will better help the new person acclimate to the company.   The coordination of a mentoring program is dependent on the size of an organization. A small company has the ability to create a companywide program that can be managed by one person; however, a larger firm may need to implement a program solely for individual departments. The beginning step to setting up a mentoring program is to establish a roster of potential individuals to be mentors that would be both capable and willing to participate.   BEING A PROTEGE   Through mentoring, a junior staffer receives personal attention he or she will need to round out their professional and interpersonal skills. When starting at a firm, more and more applicants are inquiring about the various benefits and the corporate culture of the company when they are in a job interview. A job candidate may actually decide to accept a job at a firm that has a mentoring program because they feel like they will not get lost within the large organization.   By joining a mentoring program, mentors and protégés have the opportunity to develop a long lasting relationship. I am sure if you were to ask many senior-level managers who they feel deserves credit for helping to assist them rise to their success, they would credit some kind of mentor. In fact, individuals that are mentored often go on in their careers to become amazing mentors themselves, helping to pass on the best from their own experiences.   MENTORING   As a professional, you can benefit from being a mentor. As a mentor, be sure to provide your charge with motivation and truly listen to what they have to say. Make certain you display an enthusiastic attitude towards work. Positive feedback and constructive criticism in meetings and with other staff members will help to build confidence. Understand that it is important to support your staff person’s need for guidance and advice. Most significantly, you should point the individual in the right direction while also allowing them to find their own path. By mentoring a new employee, your firm also benefits by having you aide in the development of your company’s leadership.   The firm is not the only one that benefits from you being a mentor, but you will also get to enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you are responsible for shaping someone’s career. Those mentors that maintain an ongoing connection with their protégés even reap the rewards of getting to see their protégé grow professionally and often get to enjoy a lifelong friendship.         EFFECTIVE MENTORS   No matter the type of mentoring program implemented, success is dependent on the quality of matches made. There is a sense of trust that must critically exist between the pair and real learning is unable to happen when both individuals are not challenged. In traditional mentoring programs, pairings are typically done between junior and senior employees with similar personalities and skill sets based on their levels of experience.   Today, many companies have found that by matching people who are dissimilar have been better fits since they allow for maximum learning opportunities. A protégé can benefit from having a mentor with an opposite personality who can provide them with guidance where they are in need. Someone with an outgoing personality would be best matched with someone who is less sure of themselves.   Managers that have been selected as mentors, of course, are expected to offer their wisdom and information; however, they should have good listening skills. It is important to fully grasp the protégé’s strengths, weaknesses and career goals in order to help them grow. Individuals serving as a mentor should not hesitate to offer honest and direct feedback on their protégé’s interpersonal and technical skills, his or her approach to work and the rate at which he or she are progressing.    A senior employee will know what it takes to be successful at the company so he or she should be expected to offer a gentle nudge of guidance towards staff members that are less experienced. A mentor that can provide honest criticism to his or her protégé can prove to be of value to an up and coming employee. Assisting the employee in understanding attributes that are required in order to thrive in the company’s culture will better help the protégé have a greater understanding of leadership qualities.   MONITORING   The mentoring program that has been created can be monitored by the firm’s human resources department or through a group of managers that can act like a steering committee. Many companies even find that having both works best. If the mentoring program has been created to serve the entire firm, then it helps to have both of these areas involved. It will create a stronger and overall greater commitment to the program’s goals.   Before beginning to structure the program, make certain to receive the permission and support of the firm’s partners. It is more likely to succeed with the blessing and endorsement of the partners and senior managers. By receiving their approval, it sends a strong notice to the company’s employees that shows the firm truly cares about their staff members and that they are willing to give time and resources towards their employees’ professional and personal development.             Decide if being a mentor or having a protégé would truly benefit your life. Maybe you want to sharpen your interpersonal skills or even acquire a new set of skills. You might be in need of some career counseling or might simply want to shift your career focus. Being a mentor is about teaching and being a protégé is about learning. A good mentoring relationship offers the opportunity for both parties to change a life for the better. Take a chance and make a change.   Gary Opper is President of Approved Financial Corporation, Weston, Florida.  Approved Financial Corporation is a licensed mortgage lender.  Mr. Opper has been a Mortgage Lender and Note Buyer since 1984.  He is the Managing Member of Levie-Opper, LLC, a mortgage fraud litigation support firm.  Please contact him to arrange a speech for your event.  He may be reached at (954) 384-4557, fax: (954) 384-5483, or e‑mail:


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