Those from diverse backgrounds often need particular types of navigational support to advance their careers but are less likely to get what they need. For example, next gen women are often over-mentored and under-sponsored relative to their male peers. But more mentoring, while it supports career satisfaction, on its own does not lead to career advancement. Also, those from diverse backgrounds are more likely to be supported by others from similar backgrounds rather than being given broad exposure to a range of senior leaders.
If organisations are serious about developing next gen leaders, they need to embrace two basic assumptions: one size does not fit all and all high potential next gen leaders regardless of their background or experience need access to the same level of support – both in terms of who it comes from and how much they get. While these assumptions may sound self-evident putting them into practice is less straightforward.
One of the challenges organisations face is that women, in particular, tend to gravitate to mentors with whom they believe share their values. This means that women can take themselves out of the mix in terms of seeking support from senior leaders, often men, who may be the most influential.
Deliberately exposing next gen leaders to a range of way-pavers enables them to gain insight into a range of leadership styles. The added bonus is that both senior leaders and next gen leaders learn to appreciate the value of a diversity of thinking styles and approaches. In short, showcasing the best of diversity and inclusion in action. And next gen leaders get an up-close view of the political savvy required to thrive at a senior level.
To address the potential downside of this for next gen leaders those who may not be as initially robust, careful and deliberate matching of senior leaders with next gen leaders is critical for the relationships to deliver. And simply having a mechanism for re-matching if next gen leaders are not comfortable with the person they are paired with is not always a good outcome, as simply by choosing to opt out they invariably send a clear message to both their mentor/sponsor and others at senior leader level which infers information about both the next gen leader and the senior leader who was seeking to support them.
Matching is part metrics, it is also part magic for, as in any effective developmental relationship, chemistry plays a key part. Getting this right from the get-go requires both parties to go into the relationship already understanding themselves, their roles and what they need and have to offer, as well as the beliefs and behaviours that will potentially get in their way.
So … what does your organisation proactively do to ensure that those from diverse background can access the type of navigational support they most need to advance their careers?
#diversityandinclusion #mentoring #waypaving