- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mentors play a key role to provide us with advice as we progress in our careers. However, traditional notions of mentoring are breaking down as today’s professionals face an ever-changing business environment, and management hierarchy gives way to more collaborative, matrixed structures. That’s forcing us to rethink our mentoring relationships, as we can no longer count on that single person who has risen to the C Suite to guide us throughout our business life. Also, rarely does one scale the corporate ladder as organizations today are incredibly complex and offer multiple pathways to successful careers.
Now, mentoring centers on a “collaborative relationship between two or more individuals that supports the career and/or personal development throughout one’s career.”1 We need to build a diverse network of mentoring relationships throughout our entire career, which includes our peers in the organization.
In fact, people who have peer mentors in addition to traditional mentors tend to rise faster through an organization than ones who don’t.2
We are peers working in different roles in Information Technology (IT) at Intel Corporation—Craig is an enterprise architect and Monique is a marketing and communications director—who have established a dynamic, reciprocal relationship that honors and embraces our individual skills and talents, as well as empowers us to learn from and teach each other new ways of solving business problems and creating value to achieve our common goals. As peer mentors, we get the best of both worlds—i.e., providing the support and understanding we need as colleagues, while conveying the perspective and insight of mentors.3
What does this look like in practice? Our first project was the development of an IT strategy presentation for the Intel management committee. We developed the trust and comfort to be candid with each other about how best to position IT for success with this executive audience. After building that foundation, we discovered that the keys to successful peer mentoring are:
Respect for Each Other’s Expertise, Experience, and Knowledge: Monique doesn’t pretend to know more about enterprise architecture than Craig, and Craig “stays in his lane” when it comes to marketing and communications. While we’re experts in our respective fields, we both are lifelong learners who share our best practices and insights, and feel we can always learn something new and interesting when we’re open to different perspectives and opinions. We recommend books and share topical, timely articles across a broad range of subjects to keep each other informed of interesting news and insights that foster our learning.
Honesty and Authenticity: Peer mentoring works best when colleagues are open, honest, and direct in their feedback, and have each other’s best interests at heart. We often debrief after meetings that we’ve both participated in, giving each other counsel on aspects that went well, as well as on areas for improvement. In fact, even when we’re not working on the same project, we consult with each other for the benefit of an outsider’s perspective.
Confidentiality and Boundaries: A peer mentoring relationship is only as good as one’s ability to speak the truth, freely and in confidence. In addition to respecting confidentiality, to maintain clarity and focus on the professional engagement, peer mentors need to understand the boundaries and what’s on and off limits in the conversation. In our case, we clearly state the expectations and desired outcomes of our conversations. In situations that could be potentially emotional or sensitive, we ask each other for permission to take the conversation in that direction.
Remember this: Feedback is an essential ingredient for your professional development. Who better than a colleague and confidant who’s invested in your success to provide you with insights and perspectives about how you’re doing in achieving your career goals?
Craig Chvatal is a Principal Engineer and Director of Platform Architecture and Governance in Intel IT’s Enterprise Data & Platform organization. Monique Hayward is the Director of Marketing & Communications for Intel IT.
1 “Five Key Steps for Effective Mentoring Relationships,” Audrey J. Murrell, The Kaitz Quarterly, Volume 1, Issue 1, Q1 2007.
2 “A Leadership Coach Says There's One Type of Mentoring Relationship That Could Help You Rise Faster in Your Career,” Shana Lebowitz, Business Insider, March 21, 2016.
3 “Want to Advance Your Career? Try Peer Mentoring,” Nicole Fallon, Business News Daily, January 30, 2015.