I spent eleven years of my career with an esteemed global audit and advisory firm. Those two words, audit and advisory make terrible bed fellows even just conceptually. (Before I continue, I am very grateful for my experiences and accomplishments with this organization and my remarks are in no way a reflection of my opinions of the firm but rather of the notion of performing audit and consulting work for the same entity.) When I began in the mid 90’s, providing business consulting services to a client whose books you audited was more commonplace than not. Though once I began getting in-tuned with the work in which I was engaged (I was quite green when I started) there was an up tick in the rhetoric around the conflict of interest of consulting for audit clients. (Enron reminds us that indeed in some places it was just rhetoric.) The short and sweet is that if you are tasked to assess, you cannot impartially counsel and vice versa. Many try and it is simply impossible to excel completely at both simultaneously for the same entity.
This leads us to the notion of people management in many companies. If you work for an organization that assigns a person’s manager as their mentor they may be a bit misguided about mentoring programs. It is no different than having a company being audited by the same firm that advised them on their business strategies. If you are serious about mentoring in your organizations, you must grant employees the opportunity to select there own mentors. Not all people are cut out to be mentors (just as many people are not cut out to be mangers no matter how hard to we seem to try to resist this fact). This will take a little longer than simply assigning them. In the end however, a stronger bond will form organically between mentor and mentee and that is a the single most important key to success in any mentoring relationship. Otherwise, if the mentor and performance manager are the same person, the mentee will likely be deprived of the counsel in managing a challenge that is especially common among younger employees at the early stages of their career – the upward relationship with their manager. Moreover, the manager will invariably have an agenda that will be of consequence to the employee.
On the heels of the above, I will refer to Samuel Colbert’s book, “Get Rid of the Performance Review”. Here, Mr. Colbert shares with us that the best way to grow our own career is to be in service to those for whom we have performance responsibility. He sees (and I advocate) managers and their direct reports approach their relationship as more of a partnership. Perhaps here manager can serve a limited mentoring role. Though for larger career – and I believe life – issues, an independent mentor is still optimal.
Thanks for reading. Comments are, as always, welcome. Have a Great Day!