What Staff Mentoring Is and Isn’t

Man pointing at computer screen while woman works, both smilingChecklist: 11 things mentors do.

By Marc Rosenberg
On Staffing

The existence of a mentoring program is a statement by the firm that it doesn’t want to leave the retention, development and success of its staff to chance. Instead, the firm wants to be proactive about helping staff succeed and grow.

MORE ON STAFFING: Staff Need Meaningful Recognition | The Importance of Great Bosses | Do Flexible Hours Help or Hurt Us? | Why Flexibility for Staff Works (and How) | The 12 Reasons Your Staff Hates Your Firm | 8 Keys to Keeping Staff Engaged | How to Create a Talent Management Strategy | What Happened to the Relevancy of the CPA Profession? | Staffing: What CPA Firms Are Learning the Hard Way
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A mentor is a neutral sounding board for the staff person.  Ideally, a mentor should not be a staff person’s supervisor on work projects.

A mentor helps staff navigate office politics and shows them the ropes, helping guide them to their next roles.
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When Coworkers Fight Flexible Scheduling

Man's finger pointing to watchSaboteurs can step in when they don’t realize they can benefit, too.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

A talented, ambitious woman who works less than full time or takes extended family leave is extremely vulnerable to being derailed professionally.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Image Often Carries ‘Double Bind’ Baggage  | 9 Ways to Help Your Protégée Land Better Assignments | The Political Cost of Sponsorship | Don’t Let Gossip Interfere | Women Fight ‘Kids First’ Perception | 3 Changes for Men to Make | 4 Firm Benefits of Sponsoring Women as Leaders | Being the Best Means Including Women
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Whether because she is “out of sight/out of mind,” or because people doubt her commitment, she may be disregarded for promotions or high-profile projects.
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Image Often Carries ‘Double Bind’ Baggage

Black woman working at deskHow to provide ‘soft skills’ advice.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

Feedback is important at any level of professional development.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: 9 Ways to Help Your Protégée Land Better Assignments | Steer Your Protégée to Opportunities | 4 Keys to Pairing Sponsors, Protégées | 4 Ways to Help Women Seek Power | Women Judged on Performance, Men on Potential | 3 Ways Women Benefit When Seen as Leaders | Being the Best Means Including Women
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But for a woman trying to become a leader, honest, clear and practical feedback is essential. She needs to know both how well she is performing and how to project the image she wants others to have of her.
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9 Ways to Help Your Protégée Land Better Assignments

Woman shaking hands with a man as another man looks onHow are you promoting her to your coworkers?

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

Promoting your protégée to others is an important part of sponsorship.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Steer Your Protégée to Opportunities | Sponsorship Best Practices, Early and Ongoing | 3 Ways to Wreck a Woman’s Career | 4 Reasons Women Say No to Leadership | Fix Gender Bias at Your Firm | Sponsor or Mentor?
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Here are nine concrete steps:
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Steer Your Protégée to Opportunities

Stylized industrial 3D number 88 ways to guide her.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

Once you have identified a woman to sponsor and determined that you click, you may be wondering how to get started.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Sponsorship Best Practices, Early and Ongoing | The Political Cost of Sponsorship | Don’t Let Gossip Interfere | 4 Ways to Help Women Seek Power | 4 Reasons Women Say No to Leadership | Women Fight ‘Kids First’ Perception | Women Judged on Performance, Men on Potential | Fix Gender Bias at Your Firm | 3 Changes for Men to Make | 3 Ways Women Benefit When Seen as Leaders | Sponsor or Mentor? | 4 Firm Benefits of Sponsoring Women as Leaders | Being the Best Means Including Women
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Here are some concrete steps to take:
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Sponsorship Best Practices, Early and Ongoing

Younger businesswoman and older businessman smiling and talking in office hallway17 ways both parties can make it work.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

When you sponsor a woman, there are many steps that you can take to ensure that the relationship is productive and achieves its objectives.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: The Political Cost of Sponsorship | 4 Keys to Pairing Sponsors, Protégées | 4 Ways to Help Women Seek Power | Women Judged on Performance, Men on Potential | 3 Ways Women Benefit When Seen as Leaders | Being the Best Means Including Women
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Here are some tips for getting off to a strong start and following through effectively, especially by focusing on career opportunities and promoting your protégée to others.
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The Political Cost of Sponsorship

Woman and Man Working with CalculatorYou may be wondering if you can afford it.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

Most sponsorship occurs informally, without any structured or programmatic context. Informal sponsor-protégée relationships usually start in one of three ways.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: 4 Keys to Pairing Sponsors, Protégées | 3 Ways to Wreck a Woman’s Career | 4 Reasons Women Say No to Leadership | Fix Gender Bias at Your Firm | Sponsor or Mentor?
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The most common way is when a senior manager or partner

  • identifies someone as a star performer,
  • believes that she has what it takes to succeed and
  • wants to make that success happen.

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Four Keys for CPA Firms Pairing Sponsors with Protégées

business man and woman reading news in magazineLet the help go both ways.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

Most leaders engage in sponsorship and have been sponsored themselves, so the nature of a sponsor-protégée relationship should be familiar.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: 3 Ways to Wreck a Woman’s Career | Don’t Let Gossip Interfere | Women Fight ‘Kids First’ Perception | 3 Changes for Men to Make | 4 Firm Benefits of Sponsoring Women as Leaders

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Generally speaking, you sponsor women just as you do men. You may have to make a little more effort up front. And you might need to adapt to the impact of motherhood and other sex-related differences. But the strategies and tactics that sponsors use to help women move ahead are not much different than those for men.
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