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Thoughts for the C-Suite: why smart CEOs have a mentor

Published by CME Manitoba on May 05, 2017

By Kevin Lusk, CME Advanced Manufacturing & Senior Executive Leadership Champion

Mentoring is becoming progressively more common, especially at the lower ranks. Companies assign formal arrangements whereby those who have been functioning well in their roles help novices learn their job. As a result, companies facilitate the experience gain, performance and career progress of their new entrants. It is mastery by observation, execution with supervision and feedback, and gain of tacit knowledge. By far the majority of companies who practice mentoring will tell you that this investment pays off. Research on junior to mid-level professionals shows that such programs enable them to advance more quickly, and gain more satisfaction in their jobs and lives than people without mentors. Company wise, the benefits include higher performance and greater success in attracting, developing and retaining talent. Many of CME’s LEAN and leadership programs not only emphasize skills learning but also provide a good basis for companies interested in developing a mentoring program. But, C-suite occupant, this column is about you. What about you and your development?

As the C-suite inhabitant, the reality is you didn’t get to the top on your own. You have had the benefit of mentorship along the way, in addition to other developmental opportunities and leadership programs. But if you are a typical CEO or other leader, once you arrive at the C-suite, more often than not mentoring for you came to a grinding halt. Paradoxically, since you’re running the company, this occurs at the very time when you must keep upping your game and progressively more and more is expected of you.

So, the question is, do you have a mentor? Do you have someone who has been where you are? Someone you trust who is prepared to speak into your life in total confidence, who will help you not only with your thinking, but also challenge you when required for the good of both your professional development and the wellbeing of your organization?

In your capacity, you’ve no doubt been required to make decisions concerning matters you’ve never before tackled. How good are you are resolving a crisis, or being the public face of the company when things get ugly? Ever dealt with a board of directors or absentee owners with divergent opinions? What about the bank when you’re over your operating line? These demands are just a few examples that often require new talents as your company grows. And what got you to where you are won’t necessarily get you to the next level. At such times, where risk is great, really successful C-suite occupants often have a senior mentor that they can discuss their challenge with.

An important note about senior executive mentors: mentoring is not the same as a coaching. Often executive coaches provide great feedback and close gaps in specific managerial skills. They can play an important role. However; few have actually worked in the C-suite themselves. Executive mentors, by contrast, are role models who have “been there and done that.” By hard earned experience they offer timely, context-specific counsel, wisdom and probably access to networks that are highly relevant to the problems to be solved. Also, unlike company-managed mentoring programs, C-suite executive mentoring is driven by the mentee (you). Since every C-suite occupant is unique, mentoring at this level requiring a level of customization rarely provided to people in the corporate ranks.

While not a senior executive mentoring program, CME facilitates Manufacturers’ Executive Councils (MECs). MECs are exclusive groups of up to eight manufacturing owners or CEO participants from non-competing firms who meet once per month for a morning or an afternoon to share their business issues and challenges among their peers for council, advice and insight. At present, there are three MEC groups with more opening in the fall. MEC is designed specifically for you as an owner or CEO. You would be wise to consider participating. For more information on the program, email              




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