Mentoring can be transformational – personally and professionally — helping us gain perspective, ignite new connections, and encourage confident decision-making within projects and our careers. It can be formal and organized, as in internship programs and leadership development initiatives, or more natural, fluid and part of an organization’s culture where it is one of the ways colleagues show up to help each other. And the benefits are certainly not one-directional; mentoring relationships are complex and mutually beneficial, with Mentors often benefiting as much, if not more, than the Mentee.
Mentoring has always been central to Weichert’s culture and aligns with many of our guiding Corporate Beliefs: our Belief in Each Other, Winning Outcomes, and Raising Your Hand. We also consider it a pivotal tool for fostering leadership development and fortifying our pipeline of changemakers.
Effective leadership is not only about individual accomplishments but also about nurturing and empowering the potential of others. Through our mentorship programs, seasoned leaders collaborate with emerging talents, creating a dynamic exchange of knowledge, skills, and experiences. This symbiotic relationship imparts valuable insights and facilitates a culture of continuous learning and innovation. As mentors guide their mentees through challenges, share expertise, and offer constructive feedback, a robust leadership pipeline is cultivated, ensuring our company’s sustainable and resilient future.
We recently piloted our NextGen Leadership Initiative (2023 Mentees and Mentors) with a mission to identify and develop a small cadre of people managers from a variety of disciplines who we believe have the potential to grow and take on more responsibility in the future. The NextGen Initiative is one aspect of our long-term global leadership pipeline strategy to build leadership readiness and capacity going forward, especially as the business landscape changes and we embrace our own transformation to become even more competitive in the years ahead. Several of the Mentees have recently been promoted (talk about Winning Outcomes), and others have ‘Raised Their Hand’ to support future program Mentees.
The idea was the brainchild of WWM President Dave Bencivengo, who challenged me to build a structure and facilitate a set of experiences that would develop our talent without extensive face-to-face meetings and over-formality. He wanted to do away with the rigidity of traditional models in lieu of something more approachable, but it needed a framework that would bring purpose to the program and align both Mentees and Mentors. In a nutshell, it became a catalytic 8-month virtual and in-person process to expose the emerging leaders (mentees) to senior leaders (mentors) from all parts of the world with the end goals of creating a strategic perspective, building connections that would not have happened naturally, solving real challenges, and advancing projects.
Monthly readings and follow-up assignments included current thinking on strategy, personal branding, leading with purpose, culture change, business planning and innovation. Pairs met monthly or bi-weekly and many worked on real business challenges. The Cohort met at the beginning, in the middle and in the end – a heartfelt capstone session where Mentors expressed learning immensely from the Mentees. Many relationships remain strong even after the Program concluded.
But don’t take my word for it! Here is direct feedback from the very participants who made the first NextGen session a roaring success:
I believe the mentoring program brings great value to Weichert. Not only does it allow mentees to learn from the experience and direction of their mentors, but also provides greater insight into the workings and challenges of other groups within the organization. This insight is key to breaking down the silos that come as a byproduct of necessary compartmentalization. This drives greater understanding of our colleagues’ needs and will help align thinking and strategy to common goals and greater success.
While I’ve never been a “self-promoter”, this mentorship program taught me how important it is to build my personal brand and –more critically — how to communicate it! It helped me review my leadership style and focus on how to be an adaptive strategic leader – which is even more relevant today amid a world of work in constant flux! Working with my mentor also uncovered many new resources and insights I can use going forward with my clients. We’ve become so accustomed to being reactive as so much is happening around us; this program was a great reminder that I need to step out of the smaller details to be a more strategic leader. This includes reassuring my clients that, while they trust me, they should also trust that I’m confident in my team to manage the task at hand.
The NextGen Leadership initiative was a massively rewarding experience. It proved to be a humbling opportunity to bring pure and undistracted focus to the process of identifying and applying ways to share accumulated knowledge and experience with the very best of our next generation of leadership. I came to learn as much about the mentee as I did about myself, and I came away even more energized than ever about the future in our company.
I was fortunate to participate in the 2023 NextGen Mentorship program as a mentor who was paired with a newly promoted leader. The experience was highly rewarding and beneficial for me as we formed a strong relationship through this process, allowing us to explore the challenges we face in our respective roles. It became so beneficial for both of us, which led to our decision to maintain our mentoring connection into 2024. I’m hopeful this program will become a systemic part of our leadership development for the future as this will benefit many of our high-potential colleagues across the organization.
Mentoring can be applied at any stage of your career journey – be inquisitive, be open, and believe in your own potential would be my advice to future mentees. There is so much value in having someone outside of your day-to-day work, objectively challenge you and offer advice through their personal and professional experience. The authenticity of those conversations, with the only agenda of encouragement and guidance to be the best you can be, is a powerful experience.
If we believe in our corporate mission — To Master the Art of Mobility in order to Unleash Talent around the World — we need to take that to heart in our own organization. The 2023 NextGen Mentee-Mentor Initiative accomplished its goals, impacting our people and our future for the better. We are set to inspire our second cohort in early 2024 as we challenge all leaders to take us into the future with even more insight and opportunity!