Mentor Capital: Growing A Company’s Most Precious Resource
“Why is mentoring important for an organization’s future? Who should be a mentor, and what does that require? This article examines these and other issues. Mentors can provide a number of valuable functions within any business group: role model, teacher, listener, coach, and all-around supporter. Mentoring can also assume many different forms, but fundamentally, a mentor’s job is to enable others by sharing experience and knowledge. It is widely acknowledged that an organization’s ability to mentor or coach others is a corporate asset, so logically, we would expect most companies to make teaching others an
integral part of their culture. If they invest working capital (cash, for example) to maximize its worth and help drive their business, why wouldn’t they do the same with their people?
Unfortunately, too often organizations either overlook or just plain ignore this critical aspect of corporate investment,
which is a huge mistake. In fact, some promote the opposite of mentoring: By placing too much emphasis on looking good in front of the boss as well as constant demands on employees to prove themselves in order to preserve their jobs, they encourage people to hoard information and skills so others can’t “steal” them. This is shortsighted; without “mentor capital,” an organization has a dim future. The reasons for this are quite simple: Unless everyone is on the same page, executing against the same goals and owning responsibility for their actions, teams can quickly become fragmented and internally focused. This is a characteristic of a low-trust environment, in which people feel the need to protect and preserve their own interests above those of the team.
For software development organizations, mentor capital is especially crucial because they typically cannot take advantage of “economies of scale.” Most software projects, in fact, suffer from a “diseconomy of scale,” which means they can’t achieve improvement (in performance, quality, schedule, etc.) simply by applying more resources to the problem. Therefore, they have a great need to leverage the improvements mentors can help bring about — in skill sets, communication and cohesion, data sharing, and focus — if they want to improve software development performance overall.
This article addresses the basic requirements for growing “mentor capital” and providing a sound foundation for an organization’s future. It explores the fundamentals of mentoring, discusses the benefits, and suggests criteria for good mentors.”
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