Podcast

LS International 09 January 2023

The Secrets Behind Successful Mentorship with David Clutterbuck

On this episode of the career success podcast, David Clutterbuck, professor, author and serial entrepreneur shares his secret behind increasing the success of retaining talent, recruitment, succession planning, and diversity management.

If you would like more information on how you can find a great mentor, please email lauren@ls-international.com to find out more about our group of executive mentors.

David Clutterbuck:

One of the things that’s been fascinating is looking at companies which have introduced a mentoring program and just told people, “Go away. Mentor.” And the failure rate is extremely high. We estimate that, if you don’t educate people, only about a third of relationships really deliver any value.

Lauren Stiebing:

From LS International, this is The Career Success podcast. I’m Lauren Stiebing, and on today’s show, David Clutterbuck, professor, author, and serial entrepreneur shares his secret behind increasing the success of retaining talent, recruitment, succession planning, and diversity management. Yeah, I really wanted to invite you here today to discuss mentoring. It’s a big passion of mine as well. I think, if I recall correctly, that you had written 75 books by your 75th birthday?

David Clutterbuck:

Correct. Yes.

Lauren Stiebing:

And I saw that, I think it was your research that had proved what I personally suspected was that mentoring has positively impacted organizations, in terms of retention, recruitment, succession planning, as well as communication between silos, et cetera. So yeah. What have you found to be the reason why mentoring is so beneficial?

David Clutterbuck:

Mentoring’s been around for a very long time. The concept of a mentor goes back to the Odyssey. So 3000 years or more. And modern mentoring comes to us through the court of King Louis the 14th, who continued the story of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, having conversations with people to help them think things through. So it’s all about wisdom. We’ve got a wisdom deficit in the world right now. We can see the very clearly people are making stupid decisions, people, conspiracy theories, you name it. There’s a deficit of wisdom. And mentoring is all about helping people to reflect and become wiser. So we can see the benefits of that for individuals, for organizations, and for society as well. Once people begin to think and reflect in a structured way, then we get all sorts of positive benefits. What does a mentor do?

A mentor’s a sounding board. They help you to think things through. They challenge your thinking. Salespeople, number piece of research, in their first year, sell, on average, 20% more than people who are not mentored. We find that, although in the states, people tend to be back at work before they’ve even changed the first nappy, in many countries, you have a year or more of maternity leave. Coming back to work is hard, but mentoring actually helped that transition. People are more likely to come back and they’re more likely to fit in and hit the ground running when they do return to the organization. I’ll give you an example of my own experience.

When I was a young journalist, then working for McGraw Hill, I was taken aside by my mentor, who said, “David, just go and look at the managers in this company.” And he didn’t tell me any more than that, so I did. And he said, “Well, what do you see?” And I said, “I don’t see anybody who’s got hair down to their shoulders.” He said, “Yeah, so there’s a piece of information for you. You do with it what you like.” So I’ve got a haircut and I got promoted. And it’s this ability of the mentor to help you see what’s in front of you.

Lauren Stiebing:

Yeah. As well. I know you mentioned the piece of wisdom. I would say very trendy now, and also, I think, beneficial, the reverse mentoring. So you don’t necessarily need to be the oldest to be the wisest, I would say. So how have you found, let’s say, more junior individuals, 18 to 25 year olds, doing reverse mentoring? Are they just as capable as more senior individuals?

David Clutterbuck:

Absolutely. And in fact, we’ve got a whole program. We are aiming to get 5 million school age mentors. So if kids can learn the skills of being a mentor at an early age, when they come into the workplace, they don’t have to relearn it. They’ve got it already. And organizations, by the time people get to be their first manager, they’ve probably learned a lot of behaviors from a bad manager themselves. They don’t know how to mentor. They take commander control and so forth. If you’ve already got the skills of being a mentor, you come into the workplace with them, and it’s so powerful. But reverse mentoring is something that’s evolving. It started off linking junior and senior people and the junior person being more computer literate, which actually help us to be able to find all the [inaudible 00:04:22] on PowerPoint or whatever.

But it evolved from that dramatically. Much more now used as a vehicle for educating very senior people in the organization to look at the world through the perspective and the eyes of a different gender, a different generation, a different cultural background, but even certainly, which develop beyond that as well. So reciprocal mentoring now is much more about changing the systems inside an organization. So if you think about reverse mentoring, a more senior person gets a deeper understanding of the way other people think and different perspectives and their own privilege, and they’re able to use that in their own immediate area. The more junior person gets an insight into the politics of the organization and how to manage your career, how to work the system basically, to manage their own career. But that just affects a few people. And in fact, you could say that it actually reinforces a lot of the barriers to advancement for people from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Then everybody can say, “Well, look, he or she got through the system, and they’ve been successful.” And so, what reciprocal mentoring now does is to say, “Mentor, mentee.” Well, you’re both mentors to each other. You come together, all of the other things that we’ve talked about are there. But you have additionally the responsibility to identify the barriers to advancement. For example, for people of color. We bring together mentors and mentees, a whole group of them, and say, “How can we address that system?” And this is the leading edge of mentoring right now, and it’s very powerful.

Lauren Stiebing:

And what do you think that mentors should think about before becoming a mentor? It may seem easy from the outside, but what do you think they should be prepared for?

David Clutterbuck:

One of the things that’s been fascinating is looking at companies which have introduced a mentoring program and just told people, “Go away. Mentor.” And the failure rate is extremely high. We estimate that, if you don’t educate people, only about a third of relationships really deliver any value. And they keep slipping into sponsorship, which has nothing to do with mentoring. Sponsorship and being a mentor. Sponsorship is about taking charge of your career for you. Being a mentor is helping you to grow and to develop and become the person that you can become.

And so, the mentor needs to understand the limits of the role and to get some skills and a toolkit around it. It’s important that both mentors and mentees, because they’ve got to take responsibility for managing the relationship, have appropriate training. So if you don’t train anybody, the maximum that we’ve seen in any organization is that 30% of the relationships deliver any significant value. If you train just the mentors, you double that. If you train mentors and mentees and then, you educate the line managers, you push that up, in almost all cases that we’ve been able to see, to over 95%.

Lauren Stiebing:

Those are some pretty impressive numbers. And yeah, I think that, at least from what I’ve seen from organizations, that the mentoring program seems like a great initiative, but the amount of work, maybe they’ve underestimated the amount of work that actually needs to go into it and the amount of full-time employees that need to be supporting it, et cetera. So I guess you’ve probably seen something similar, that they just underestimate the amount of work that needs to go in it. If you want to have 500 people from an organization, that’s a tremendous amount of people.

David Clutterbuck:

But there are lots of ways of actually making that burden a lot easier. If you take graduates, for example, into an organization, what’s the best way for a graduate to learn the organization and what’s going on? Make them at least part-time, part of the steering group of the work group that supports this. There are lots of mentoring platforms out there. Most of them are not very good. And one of the reasons they’re not, it is because they’re basically a matching process, rather than the supporting process. And there needs to be some system in place to support people in the mentoring relationships, to check everything’s working.

Relationship goes through clear phases, and you want to make sure those transitions are all happening. One thing that happens a lot, for example, is what we call relationship droop. You’ve talked about all the easy things, but you haven’t gotten enough of a trusting relationship to get into the really important deep things. And so, having the support network there can be really helpful. Having a steering group and having volunteers using your graduates and so forth, these are all ways that you can actually quite radically improve the impact of the mentoring program, but also, the cost of it. It doesn’t have to be incredibly expensive.

Lauren Stiebing:

And I know there’s a lot of confusion around mentorship, sponsorship, but also, mentorship and coaching. What would you say are the difference between coaching and mentorship?

David Clutterbuck:

The word “coach” didn’t appear until the mid 1800s, and then, it was a joke all the way up to the mid 1980s really. Coaching was seen as a highly directive form of instruction. And basically, coaching has become powerful by adopting a lot of the tools and techniques from mentoring. There’s a lot of misunderstanding. For example, the idea that mentoring is directive. You’re telling people and advising people. That’s never been the case. The reality is both mentoring and coaching are there to help people achieve clarity. So if you help somebody understand their internal world and what’s going on there, their fears and their hopes, their aspirations, their strengths, their weaknesses, and so forth, and you help them to understand that outside world, “what are the opportunities out there? What’s changing in our sector? Who’s looking out for me to be able to achieve what I want to achieve?”

Mentoring and coaching, they bridge that gap, the conversation that links your clarity internally and your clarity externally. The only difference really between coaching and mentoring is that mentors are likely to empathize more with the situation you are in, be able to ask more pointed questions, and be able to give you more context than a coach. Because they can, they’ve been there, then experienced it, but there’s an enormous difference between giving somebody context, which helps them with the quality of their thinking, and giving something advice, which is doing the thinking for them. And this clarity in mentoring programs, once mentors get this idea that actually they’re to create this clarity for people, so people can make their own choices and their own decisions, then the relationships just blossom.

Lauren Stiebing:

And what advice would you give to those who have never had a mentor and are looking for a mentorship relationship? Them, as the mentee, what advice would you give them?

David Clutterbuck:

It’s thinking about the transition that you want to make. Who made that transition already? Yeah. Who do you admire and respect? Who will challenge you? And perhaps, the most important thing in all of this is not to follow the instinct and find somebody who’s like you. You’re going to learn a lot more from somebody who’s not like you.

Lauren Stiebing:

Well, David, I think that’s great advice for anyone that is looking for a mentor. And yeah, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and insights on this topic.

David Clutterbuck:

It’s been a pleasure.