“Nobody would question the idea that the talent in any organization is a critical ingredient of success. But talent alone is not enough. It is the management of that talent that makes the difference between outstanding performance and satisfactory results.” Alan Middleton, marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University and executive director of the Schulich Executive Education Centre.
In a recent article in Marketing* Alan Middleton and another of Canada's leading experts, David Kincaid, managing partner and founder of Level5 Strategy Group, discussed the value of mentoring in developing talent in marketing:
Middleton: I would say the concept of mentoring has changed quite a bit in the past few decades. What would you say about the actual need for it?
Kincaid: In the past, corporate mentorship programs were a lot more like apprenticeships, where young talent was ‘groomed’ to learn the ropes and skills needed to take on higher ranked positions within their organization. This is no longer the case today. As times and technology have changed, the marketing industry has become significantly more advanced and sophisticated. I think this proliferation has resulted in an increased need for mentors with broader guidance to offer.
“My mentors didn’t tell me what to do or how they would do it. They were there to listen and equip me with advice to figure out the answers on my own”
It really is a powerful experience. There are tons of very talented people that never get a chance to develop their talent. They don’t have the same access that was available years ago. I wouldn’t be sitting here doing what I do if I didn’t have strong mentors throughout my career journey. My mentors didn’t tell me what to do or how they would do it. They were there to listen and equip me with advice to figure out the answers on my own.
Middleton: What people need to remember is that it’s a two-way street and not just about younger people getting advice from industry veterans. People often believe that mentoring is only beneficial for the mentee, and it can take up a lot of valuable time for the mentor. I totally disagree. Mentoring is a key management capability and an important management process that provides a valuable learning and development experience for both mentor and mentee.
“What people need to remember is that it’s a two-way street and not just about younger people getting advice from industry veterans”
Mentoring gives mentors an opportunity to work on critical managerial skills, such as listening and guiding beyond ‘command and control’hierarchies, as well as increasing awareness of personal biases, assumptions and areas for improvement.
Kincaid: I totally agree. Serving as a mentor has its benefits. The best relationships are reciprocal. Mentors benefit through developing important management skills (such as listening, providing feedback, communication and interpersonal skills), gaining fresh perspectives, and perhaps even achieving renewed enthusiasm for their role as an expert. Mentoring has the opportunity to serve as a transformative experience for both the mentor and mentee.
Middleton: Another point that I think needs to be made is that formal and informal mentoring may be similar, but they are also very different in terms of how you approach it. They have distinct characteristics in coordination, structure, timeframe, etcetera. While both forms of mentoring are valuable, research indicates that the best results come from good matching and regularly scheduled, planned discussions. The mentor exchange program is structured that way.
David, how do you look at the whole ‘giving back’ angle to mentoring?
Kincaid: I’d say it’s totally critical to ensuring that the Canadian marketing industry continues to thrive and flourish. We need to stand on the shoulders of the giants, as we create new giants. We have a commitment to invest in the future of the marketing sector in Canada and the
responsibility to cultivate the next generation of marketing leaders.
Middleton: Well put. Many of us have benefited from great mentors. It’s time to pass the baton by giving back to the marketing sector.