Editor’s note: International Women’s Day 2020 draws attention to the difference individuals can make with #EachforEqual. We asked our leaders to contribute their perspectives and are proud to share those here in this blog series. In this blog, Kimberly Sharp, Sr. Consulting Manager for Rizing Consumer Industries tells how she “caught” mentoring at Rizing.
Even though mentoring hasn’t always been called mentoring, it’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember, both personally and professionally. When I first began my career, formal mentoring programs weren’t really a thing. Back then you took the initiative to identify a tenured colleague that was doing well and hopefully they agreed to “show you the ropes.” As a young professional at the time, I remember being nervous just mustering up the courage to ask for help; but I am so grateful I did. Mentoring, regardless of whether I’ve been the mentee or mentor, has repeatedly proven to be a truly rewarding and invaluable experience in my life.
Mentoring doesn’t have to be formal
Each stage in my career has brought with it unique mentoring relationships. Some of these relationships have stood the test of time, lasting through career and life changes, while others were extremely beneficial but only lasted a short time. Some relationships grew organically, and others were clearly defined. Through them all, I’ve learned what I believe is the most important lesson in mentoring – be your own advocate.
When I joined Rizing, a short 18months ago, I knew I was joining a pretty special team. Rizing has a reputation of being full of consummate professionals who are in most cases, the foremost experts in their fields. My past experiences had me expecting to enter a highly competitive work force. In fact, what I found was significantly different; Rizing’s culture is downright collegial – filled with mutual respect and admiration for one another, a willingness to educate each other, and with the executive support for employee learning and development. This culture is inherently a culture suited to support informal mentoring each day, almost unheard of in this business.
Mentoring can be caught not taught
Most mentoring is “caught not taught.” If you are mindful of even the briefest of interactions with your colleagues, you’ll discover a wealth of information that will serve you well as your career progresses. For me, it’s been interactions with Tim Cooper from whom I’ve picked up PM tips and tricks, and from Maureen Cressler who’s helped me to understand evolving technology; from Brian Cederborg who executes relationship-based selling better than just about anyone, to Dennis Shinaberry who’s teaching me what great delivery looks like; and finally, from April Hendricks and Melissa Sigman who have taught me the ins and outs of managing teams remotely. These are all examples of informal thoughtful learning through mentoring in my daily professional interactions.
Mentoring the whole person
Not all mentoring at Rizing is informal. I’m fortunate to have found one of my best mentors through a formal mentoring opportunity. My formal mentoring over the last 6-months with Ralph Haffenden, Senior Vice President of Consumer Industries, has shed light on the need to expand mentoring to the whole person, not just on my professional development. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Bringing taboo topics into the workplace like personal values, behaviors, relationships, health, and even spirituality was extremely uncomfortable for me in the beginning, yet, I realized, with Ralph’s mentorship, that it is the only way to achieve my goal of practicing servant leadership.
Through his mentoring, I am learning how to harness and successfully use my emotion and passion (which he’s dubbed my “superpower”) in the pursuit of bringing empathy to the workplace. This flies directly in the face of what I’ve been told all too often, that essentially, “there’s no crying in baseball”. Mentoring the whole person takes more of everything – time, effort, and thought. I am very grateful to have Ralph walk beside me and support me, on my journey of self-discovery and improvement.
Closing the mentoring gap
Although mentoring has become more formalized and popular over the last decade, there remains a mentoring gap. A recent study shows that 75% of professional men and women want a mentor but a mere 37% actually have one. My hope is that by sharing my story you’ll be inspired to actively pursue mentoring and take time to give back to one another, because after all, #TogetherWeRize.
Blog #1 in Rizing’s International Women’s Day series is from Katie Obi, Rizing’s Chief HR and Transformation Officer who takes a look at the inherent gender biases both men and women hold.
Blog #2 in the series is Denise Powell’s take on how to achieve work-life balance.