|Chet Ross and myself share a show|
I "met" Ross recently on Boomer Generation Radio, where I shared an hour's show. (You can listen to it here: He was interviewed during the first half of the show on the phone from Scottsdale, Arizona; I was on the second half, sitting in the studio, talking about this blog.)
Ross got into mentoring after he retired because, he quipped, "I was lousy at golf.'"
As someone who spent his career in the manufacturing end of the water treatment business, he turned to a national group called SCORE, under the U.S. Small Business Administration, to find mentees.
He quickly discovered that his particular business background didn't matter. "The problems faced by the companies," he said, "were really all the same."
Asked what characteristics make for a successful mentor, Ross was quick to reply: not being judgmental.
Even if you think that your mentee has a bad idea, they need to come to that conclusion themselves, he explained. "Rather than saying that's a dumb idea, you pose questions like: 'Have you thought about... ?' and cite an example where something might not work well. Don't be judgmental, try to lead them to come to that decision. But at the end of the day, who knows what's going to be a commercial success or not," he said, referring the the "chia pet" phenomenon.
Beyond being non-judgmental, "You have to be a good listener, organized. And from the mentor's perspective, it has to be satisfying. I've gotten more out of it than I've given," he said. "It keeps you involved with other folks, perhaps younger, and helps you stay relevant." And there's the satisfaction of knowing you've been helpful. "People have told me that they were picked up and dusted off after a disappointment."
While most of the mentors still tend to be men, more and more of the mentees are women -- about 60 percent female compared with a bout 40 percent men, Ross estimated.
Another example of how the workplace is changing. And how, if you reach out to groups like SCORE, you can help change it for the better.