Business Mentoring Topics

By Barry Sweeny, April 7, 2011

Mentor Meeting the ProtegeWhat should a mentor in business be talking about with his or her protégé?

Well, there are always needs that the protege feels, and there are task- related issues, such as skills to be built, knowledge to be gained, and goals to be set for improvement. But, what about the bigger issues in business? What about more strategic and long-term topics? What should business mentors be sure that their protégés understand and put to work in their careers?

This page provides one such strategic topic and the issues it raises were illustrated just today by the announcement that the an (unnamed) News organization is dropping the daily Show of a well-known conservative spokesperson who was once a staple in their portfolio of sure “winners”. For obvious reasons, this person shall also remain anonymous – we’ll call him “Jim”.

Jim is outrageous. He’s unpredictable – no one EVER knows what he’ll say next. He’s very controversial, and he’s always entertaining, especially for the key demographic group of 18 to 40 year olds who like these qualities. Those qualities always ensure that the audience members have knowledge of the latest topics of discussion on the social media “channels”. To have watched Jim any day means you are in the “know’ – you can always interact with your friends on your phone, on Facebook, Twitter, on whatever, and that you will be seen as “with it” and current. That makes YOU the focus of the conversation, and that feels good. YOUR protege may be one of these folks too.

No wonder Jim is popular with as many people as he is!

However, apparently, Jim is NOT popular with his advertisers, the business managers, and the marketing folks at Fox News.

  • THEY don’t like unpredictability.
  • They hate controversy.
  • They don’t want to talk about the latest Beck outrage, rage, or rant.
  • They don’t like Beck’s insults to conventions, to the President, the Democrats, or even to the Republicans.

Those things make the managers, marketers, and their advertising clients very nervous.

And that conflict is what has hit Jim right in his career.

It’s a typical business career issue, for marketers and for business managers, for anyone who is trying to balance “popularity” with profitability. It’s a critical balance to maintain because it’s all about keeping the personal popularity growing and the dollars that results produce flowing in.

In other words, for Jim, and for any protégé YOU may be mentoring in your business, the question is, “Can a business person manage to get high ratings from colleagues and supervisors on personality, team work, and aggressiveness, AND also get high ratings during performance appraisals for results?” The true masters of business can do both, and they manage to do these both at the same time.

It’s the same issue in almost every business, almost every relationship, and in every walk of life you can think of – it’s called, “Maintaining a delicate, dynamic balance.”  It is “dynamic” because it is always shifting and requiring adjustment, and THAT makes it tough to do well.

  • We need to do it well in our careers, whether in business or not.
  • We must do it well with subordinates and supervisors.
  • We need to do it in our work teams, departments, sections, and partnerships.
  • We need to do it in our mentoring relationships and other professional growth-oriented experiences.
  • We must do it in our friendships, or we’ll lose our friends.
  • We need to do it in our marriages.
  • We need to do it in our parenting.

It is a KEY issue in life – maintaining a dynamic balance between opposing forces. It is this way because all of life is about balancing relationships and tasks, popularity with productivity and performance. Mentoring is ALL about that too.

Maybe Jim forgot it. OR maybe Jim hasn’t learned yet to do it, or never had a mentor tell him, “Popularity AND profitability – Popularity AND performance –  Relationships AND tasks.”

It’s a truth in business careers, relationships, and in life so every business mentor must understand, must model, and must help protégés learn and live that truth. Protégés must not just accept the need for it, but also must learn HOW to do it.

If not,  the clash leads to a crash.  Right Jim?