“Who have you helped most in their career?” A case for mentoring
Recently I read that if you want to determine someone’s innate leadership abilities, ask them the following: Who have you helped most in their career? Then listen for whether the people they list are in roles junior or senior to their own.
With a culture that places a high value on mentoring, whether informally or formally, reverse or traditional, or through organizations like the Sales Academy, SAP has given leaders and ambitious achievers an incredible opportunity.
In my fifteen years at SAP, the mentee/mentor relationship has been invaluable to my career, and I have been – and will continue to be – on both sides of that equation. June is a month when many university graduates will look ahead and think: What next? At a certain point in your career, you may ask yourself the same thing.
To my colleagues in leadership and managerial roles, allow me to build a case for being a mentor based on five things I have learned as one.
We always need mentors – No matter where we are, mentors provide the stepping stones, extended hand – call it what you will – to get to the next place in our work journey. Consider, at minimum, that each step we take brings new responsibilities, new challenges, new relationships (and dynamics) to navigate. At each level, a mentor can help us see through the new-role fog so we can find our way. And they can help us tap into something even bigger too: A network.
It’s about a network – Absolutely, you are bringing your hard-won skills and experience to the table, but you are also bringing your network. My journey at SAP started in Montreal, and today I find myself in Chicago heading up a fantastic team of account executives. I can tell you that invitations to meetings, events, for coffees, and quick “Have you met Greg?” impromptu introductions over the years paved the way for several of my career advances. For someone starting out in theirs who has yet to build their own, access to your career network can be the tipping point for incredible things for them, the company, and you may find yourself a new lifelong friend as I did.
Build a stronger SAP – When mentoring works, when people collaborate, network, connect and grow, the upshot is a more competent organization. The reality is any organization will thrive when people feel fulfilled, challenged and motivated. This is particularly true at SAP.
Understand what motivates people – What’s unique to the business world today is there are five (yes, five) generations working shoulder to shoulder. And by 2020 more than a whopping 50% of the workforce will be in today’s millennial age bracket. Twenty years ago, had someone said to me: The next generation will be motivated by purpose, not money, I’d have laughed. But I have learned it to be true. Want to know what motivates a younger generation? Spend time with them in ways that work for both.
It can take many forms – Biweekly or monthly coffees; texts, emails, phone or video chats – the beauty of mentoring is you can, to a certain degree, drop the formality that comes with being a manager, boss, or coach even, and the relationship can take a shape that works and is comfortable for both. This can be a refreshing change of pace when we are, at most times, myopically focused on the current quarter.
Before I formally issue a call to action to mentor someone, there’s a final lesson: Be all in. If someone approaches you with a mentoring opportunity, ask yourself if you can dedicate the time to this. Because what you’ll find in the relationship is someone motivated to grow and build their career, bringing with them fresh perspectives.
What’s more, you might find that person is you.
Greg Gillis is vice president of the S/4HANA Cloud team
let me make sure I can follow our initial thought: If someone helped lots of people to advance to a role senior to him, he is a good mentor and therefore also a good leader, that's the point you make, right?
Also, I like that you found out the more and more people are motivated by other things than more and more money. And I think it's a good idea to go and find out what motivates people, rather the just assuming what motivates yourself is the universal answer!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!
I must be a terrible leader since the question "who have you helped most" would just give me a brain freeze. 🙂 Usually I don't keep a tally or even follow the people I might have helped. It's just what you do.