According to Dale Silvia, director of human resources for the Americas U.S. CDO REM at Cisco Systems, many mentoring programs are typically an organizationally sponsored, mechanical approach that is limited by formal relationships and partnerships.
‘‘Instead of waiting for the organization to structure a formal program, we teach our people to seek out their mentors and engage those individuals who will help them better understand the areas in which they currently need help,’’ said Silvia. ‘‘There is nothing wrong with formal mentoring programs per se, but they can oftentimes be self-limiting. If you give people the know-how, you give them the permission and tools to go get what they need. You are flipping the pyramid upside down and suddenly you have a broad base of people that you can at least informally call your mentoring group. That is two-way sharing.’’
At Dale’s business unit, newly hired undergraduate and graduate engineers participate in an extensive leadership development program that relies heavily on the principles taught in relationship economics. Specifically, new hires are taught how to make deposits in relationships so they can draw on them when they need help.
‘‘I take these new graduates, give them direction and the permission to seek out the key people in the organization, and I challenge them to build relationships that will help them and others become more successful over time,’’ said Silvia. ‘‘They all come back and tell me what value it produced for them. Over months or years of doing this, you can really see the personal and professional growth.’’
Silvia’s message to the next generation of leaders is clear: ‘‘I tell them to go out and become famous for something. Build those relationships in a positive way. Show people what they can do. Go out of your way to help those people and you will have a solid foundation throughout your career because you will have people who want you to succeed.’’
It comes down to human capital, Silvia claims. It comes down to that personal connection and the perseverance to exercise that over time. Not in a greedy fashion, but in a way that you, those around you, and the entire organization will benefit.
To learn more, read the revised and updated Relationship Economics paperback edition with 40 percent new content, including an all-new chapter 10 on social media and business relationships (Wiley, Feb. 2011).