Most accounting & advisory firms with at least 50 partners have implemented some program where partners mentor staff. The quality of these programs, the levels of partner involvement and staff satisfaction vary from firm to firm. Our clients, seeking benchmarks, often ask: what constitutes a great mentor?
Partners become great mentors when the partner/protege relationship looks like this:
- • The partner informally assists the protege in setting annual performance goals and in writing the protege’s annual performance evaluation.
- •The partner makes a proactive effort to identify opportunities where the protege can acquire valuable experiential learning to further the protege’s career.
- •The partner’s role — industry, service area, business development, technical expert — aligns with the aspirations of the protege.
- •The partner takes a close interest in the protege, and the personality interaction of the two reflects a real “connection” between them.
- •The protege can come to the partner frequently for safe advice and feedback, freely admitting insecurities and mistakes.
- •The partner is a vocal sponsor for the protege’s advancement and success.
- •The partner will strongly support movement of the protege outside of the partner’s practice area where the new role assignment is good for both the firm and the protege’s career.
When we explain the role this way, clients ask: how many staff members should a partner mentor at a time? Our answer: preferably one, maybe two. Then, we encourage limiting the mentoring program at least initially to staff identified as having high advancement potential. Similarly, only partners who have gone through mentoring training and have shown that they can mentor effectively should be given a mentoring role.