For decades, psychologists have been researching what they call the “Pygmalion effect”: how one person’s expectations of another can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. This is as important in the realm of career and business mentoring as it is in education.
When you’re mentoring, it’s vital for you to regard your mentee as someone with great possibilities for professional growth and advancement, to see her as capable and worthy of your time. When you do this, you create a learning environment and a sense of partnership that allows them to be more confident and capable of reaching goals they may have had no idea could be possible.
This can be difficult in those corporate mentoring programs that don’t include a tangible path to advancement. When the program is simply a way for the organization to check a box on their “diversity list” of things to do, participants feel as if they’ve been placed in the “Victim’s Unit.” Rather than being seen as high performers who are being given an extraordinary opportunity to advance, they instead believe they are poor performers who management believes needs extra help. Their low expectations of the program are no accident in that scenario. As a result, participation in these programs is low and the programs don’t produce the desired results for participants or the organization.
However, in organizations where mentoring programs are in fact designed to support and nurture high performers, the expectations for advancement are high and results are outstanding. Both mentors and mentees blossom. I’ve worked with programs where 70 percent of participants, both mentors and mentees received promotions within three years of their participation. That is a program worthy of your time and commitment.
Regardless of the quality of your mentoring program, or if you’re in an informal mentoring partnership, mentors and mentees can raise their expectations of their relationship and accomplishments. You may not have a tangible path to advancement in your current organization, but that doesn’t mean you can’t advance your career in your next job, especially if your mentoring partnership supports and nurtures your professional growth. You don’t need to wait for the perfect program to come along. You can make your mentoring partnership the perfect one for you and your career. Start by raising your expectations and blossom.