Happy New Year! Happy National Mentoring Month!

Happy New Year. I wish you all a year filled with happiness and prosperity. It’s an especially exciting year for us at WOMEN Unlimited, Inc. since it marks our 20th Year Anniversary helping organizations foster the success of their talented women. In the weeks and months ahead you’ll be hearing much more about how we plan to keep upping the ante for our participants’ individual and organizational success.

I’d like to start the year off by honoring the fact that it’s National Mentoring Month. I’ve blogged previously about mentoring, a critical cornerstone of our WOMEN Unlimited programs, but this time I’m going to approach mentoring from a different angle.

Last June I completed my doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school and focused my dissertation on “Women’s Mentoring Wisdom.” My research, which focused exclusively on the mentee perspective, brought to light some interesting findings which I’d like to share with you. The research was qualitative in nature with in-depth interviews of 26 alumnae from the WOMEN Unlimited LEAD program, who were all at mid-career stage and from Fortune 1000 companies. They reflected a broad spectrum of positions and industries, with no two women from the same company. Here are the key findings:

First and foremost, we found that effective mentoring relationships were a definite asset to career advancement for women. BUT the key ingredient to that success came from the mentee NOT the mentor. The operative word for success was “intentional,” which for our research meant deliberate actions by the mentee to make a positive outcome happen. Mentees were MOST successful when they acted intentionally in three specific areas.

1. Intentionally preparing for the mentoring relationship The greatest success occurred when mentees carefully laid the groundwork for their mentoring relationships with preparations that included clarifying goals, focusing on their aims and ambitions and creating a strategy to ensure their encounters with mentors were open and productive.

2. Intentionally leveraging their mentors’ insights Applying what they learned from their mentors to their organization, allowed mentees to “show up” in new ways that advanced their growth and development. For example, they became proficient at enhancing their visibility, pinpointing the right risks to take and when to take them and developing an effective leadership style that was true to themselves.

3. Intentionally building relationships Mentees who transferred what they learned from their mentoring relationship to over-all organizational relationships enjoyed increased career success for a variety of reasons. They became more adept at spotting key people and developing relationships with them. They were less reluctant to approach those who could be of help to their advancement. Their increased involvement with key players gave them a “better line of sight” on the corporate big picture.

These findings are an important breakthrough in the understanding of mentoring relationships in the growth and development of women leaders. Previously, there was little or no research focusing exclusively on mentoring from the perspective of the mentee. The implications and opportunities are significant for mentees, mentors and their organizations, which I will address in future posts.

Dr. Rosina L. Racioppi
President & CEO
WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.