Stories

The Power of Self Mentoring

By Joe Cronin, DMSB’67

Young, ambitious professionals are seeking to reach the top of their company, but are finding fewer mentoring opportunities than ever before. This definite lack of mentoring in modern business has only intensified during the pandemic. 

There are several reasons mentoring is on the decline: 

First, management skills in general are lacking as people get promoted without proper training. Firms might try to implement mentoring programs, but even the mentors are often unprepared for the task.

Second, face-to-face interactions are reduced due to new technology. Before and during the pandemic, junior staff might have a harder time virtually watching, listening, and learning from senior leaders. Combined with travel restrictions, interaction with leadership is more limited.

Third, typically the younger generation has a different value system than more senior members of an organization. Mentors can’t expect a mentee to be “just like me” without finding a bit of disconnect. Women especially have fewer female mentoring options in certain industries.  

One of the key observations I made while doing business around the globe was that people who can’t manage themselves are also poor at managing others. Self-mentoring is an essential development skill for becoming a better leader and manager in your career.

Here are six steps to becoming your own best mentor:

  1. Know your three major strengths and weaknesses 

Honesty is the key—with yourself and others.  In my experience, those who filled out a self-evaluation were either too positive or overly critical and almost no one was accurate. For many of us, it’s helpful to consider whether a strength could also be a weakness. Learn to manage your strengths as you would any asset. Honestly identifying your weaknesses will help you begin the journey to converting them to strengths.

2. Understand your emotions

Identify the role of emotion in your decision-making process and see if it’s making a negative impact. I have found this self-awareness helps separate you from the competition. A good process starts with a precise definition of the real problem. Next, only consider realistic alternatives. For example, if you have a small budget, don’t waste time on million-dollar solutions. A strategic approach will help you make decisions with conviction.

3. Think how high you can rise, not how far you can fall

Don’t be afraid to be successful. The desire for safety often precludes people from taking a strong or daring position. They only view the negative and inaction replaces action. Instead, you want to be viewed by top management as a proactive problem solver who takes calculated risks for high return. When presenting to your boss, be sensitive and mindful of their perspective by showing potential for success not the potential for failure.

4. Plan and assemble your team early 

Great managers build teams before they are necessary. As you move forward to a manager promotion, assess those around you and determine who you want working with you. Three key items to consider are shared culture, good communications, and trust.  If you can check off these boxes, you will build a great team.

5. Don’t chase a bad decision 

We all make decisions that do not turn out as planned. Don’t waste time and money trying to hide or repair a poor situation. Face up to the problem, develop a new plan, and invest the firm’s time, money, and resources in a better direction. Learn from your mistakes—we all make them. Experience is the best teacher.

6. Write it all down 

Keep a file on you and your growth. Learn from your successes and failures. Prepare yourself for that big promotion, so when you get it, you’ll be ready to succeed at the next level. Confucius said, “the nature of man is always the same; it is their habits that separate them.” If we make good habits in business, we become better executives and therefore better managers.

Knowledge doesn’t pay, it is what we do with our knowledge that pays. 

 

To get a free e-book copy of Joe’s book, Theory You: Launches the Topic of Self-Mentoring, send an email to Katie DiMaio, k.dimaio@northeastern.edu; copies will be provided to the first 20 respondents.


Joe Cronin is a former global advertising executive and educator and author of Theory You: Launches the Topic of Self Mentoring. He was vice chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising and also held executive management positions with advertising giants DDB and BBDO. In his advertising career, he has been president of agencies in Los Angeles and Miami and had executive positions in New York, Boston, and Detroit. His extensive global experience includes work in Japan, the United Kingdom, China, France, Argentina, Hong Kong, Belgium, Venezuela, Namibia, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil.