I am an HPP (high potential person) in our marketing organization. About three months ago, our HR Director informed me that Mr. X, Finance Director, had been assigned to me as my mentor in finance. She told me that Mr. X had been informed about this and had accepted to be my mentor.
The HR Director arranged for the three of us to meet on a specific date. She and I were in the Conference Room at the appointed time and waited for Mr. X to join us. He did not. When he arrived an hour later, his excuse was that he had a meeting with a company client. A second and third appointment were set up by our patient HR Director. Sad to say, Mr. X always had an excuse for his absence.
With our HR Director’s nod, I decided to catch Mr. X in his office. I asked him if I might take a few minutes of his time since we had not been able to have a formal meeting in the presence of the HR Director. His reaction to my request was icy silence, something that surprised me. He didn’t even ask me to take a seat. Embarrassed, I asked for an appointment to see him at a later day when he would be free. Without even looking at me, he told me to see his secretary to make the appointment. I felt so demeaned by his attitude and behaviors. I was shocked by the way he treated me. I walked out of his door and did not talk to his secretary. I was determined not to go back to him anymore. And that’s exactly what I did. I talked to our HR Director about this incident. She was sympathetic to and supportive of me, advised me to bide my time, and to wait for her to talk to Mr. X herself.
But I am determined not to have anything to do with Mr. X anymore even if he is acknowledged as the finance expert not only in our local organization but in the Asian region as well. He has no manners, no respect for people, and is a rude person. So long as I’m in the organization, and I intend to stay in the organization for a long time, I will have to deal with him, not just as a mentor but as head of finance. How can I avoid interactions with him?
Is it necessary for an HPP to have a formal mentor, i.e., one assigned by the organization? Can I not look around for an expert in finance outside of our organization, and has him/her mentor me? Are there fees involved? Who will pay these fees? Or, can I simply just read books on and surf the net for, finance matters? How about if I enroll in a university and just take formal courses in finance? I will appreciate your advice.
Mr. Frustrated HPP
That you are deeply disturbed about your failed appointments with your formal mentor is understandable. That you are embarrassed about, and justifiably angry with him for his reactions to your attempts to connect with him with your initiative being met with icy silence and having to be waived aside to his secretary for an appointment.
I wrote a series of articles on mentoring, matching a mentor with a mentee/protégé, mentoring relationship, etc. These were published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer in April-May 2003 in its People at Work section. These articles were among those published in 2005 by New Day Publishers into my book entitled Managing Your Career To The Top. I will quote pertinent portions to respond to your present and future needs because someday you will also be appointed to mentor talented persons.
Formal appointment to be a mentor to an HPP, like you, should be perceived as a recognition for being an expert in a functional area. Even if a mentor doesn’t get any additional financial reward for taking an HPP under his/her wings, the rewards are both psychic and spiritual. Among the psychic rewards are the following:
- It is a recognition by the organization that the person has an expert status in his/her profession and has the mandate to contribute to the organization’s stability and growth by preparing younger talented persons to take future leadership roles.
- Mentor’s realization that he/she has the capacity to share and to give, without expecting any material return, from the protégé or from the organization.
- Mentor experiences joy and fulfillment when he/she sees the protégé showing increasing signs of competence and being able to demonstrate these.
- Feeling of pride when the protégé is promoted to a high position in the organization and being able to use what the mentor had shared with him/her.
- The spiritual benefits to a mentor are as follows:
- God is giving the mentor the opportunity to share with others the talents he/she has received from Him. On Judgment Day, God will ask the experts for an accounting of the talents entrusted to them. We perform a stewardship role on the talents and expertise God has given to us. These are to be used not merely for our and our family’s gain but to be shared with others so that these increase tenfold. (See Luke 19:13-26)
- Mentors are able to “pay back” to the profession what they had received from those who had mentored them in the past.
- Experts see mentoring as their mission in life for which God had equipped them.
- Mentors start a circle that does not stop. Research shows that those who had been mentored and who have had happy experiences with their mentors tend to be disposed and to be eager to mentor others also. And so the circle grows.
- The famous developmental psychologist Erick Erickson cited the stage of generativity as one of the eight stages of human development. The developmental tasks for an older person in this stage include a strong desire to leave a legacy, a longing for his/her work “to live on”. Nurturing an HPP to develop competencies so that they also develop expert status, like the mentor, fulfills this “generative” needs.
- However, not all functional experts are fit to mentor. The way you describe your potential mentor shows that he may be psychologically and spiritually unfit for a mentoring relationship.
- To be fit as a mentor, an expert must also have the following important qualities, and these your HR Director must be able to see when she taps functional heads for mentoring roles:
- Willingness to give or to share their expertise with a talented younger person in a non-competitive way.
- Loyalty to the organization; this loyalty is expressed in their desire to contribute to the leadership pool to ensure organizational stability and continuity by developing talented young people and preparing them for succession.
- Willingness to expose their protégé to new ideas, perspective and standards, and to the values and norms of the profession.
- Enjoyment and enthusiasm about their field such that they continue to update themselves in their profession.
- Recognition of the potentials of younger talented persons and encouragement of the latter to excellent performance.
- Emotional security i.e., they do not see their protégée’s as competitors; are not threatened when their protégées are showing progress and well on the road to excellence, accepting the possibility that the protégées might even become better than their mentors.
However, let me also call your attention to the possibility that your potential mentor is reacting to your attitudes and behaviors. There is the possibility that your potential mentor may have negative perceptions of you based on your behaviors from your past interactions with him or hearsays from others. This may explain his seeming hostility towards you. Sometimes HPPs are impatient to move up, so they behave in ways that “rub some people the wrong way”. An HPP may rush people, have an air of superiority, and have a competitive spirit. There is also the paradigm of potential mentors that their protégées end up not acknowledging or recognizing the role of their mentors in their career success. The “I did it all by myself with no help from anyone” attitude can discourage some potential mentors who do not see mentoring as a mission or a calling from God.
There is also the perception that HPPs want to be always on the receiving end of the line, i.e., they “pick on the brain” of the mentor and do not take the initiative to find out what they can also do for their mentors and how they can be of service to them.
Please reflect on your behaviors in past interactions with him and identify the need for possible change on your part.
You can certainly learn the competencies you need for your over-all development thru your own efforts, such as those you have cited in your email e.g., taking formal courses in a university and self-learning. However, the benefits of having a mentor from the organization is that the latter does not only impart knowledge and skills but also the systems and processes, standards and norms unique to the organization and its business; and share the values unique to the organization’s culture and to the profession.
So for the time being, it is a good idea to bide your time and allow the HR Director to smoothen the path towards your meeting with your potential mentor. She could get feedback from the Finance Director about how he perceives you, paving the way towards your increased self-awareness and the resulting behavioral changes that you may want to undertake. Meanwhile, be cordial and respectful to the Finance Director and do not talk against his back even if you are merely describing his actual behaviors.
God bless you.