Accountability and Mentoring…The Perfect Partnership for a Great Leader




American Income Life Regional Sales Director Steve Kafkis

American Income Life Regional Sales Director Steve Kafkis

Accountability’s definition is an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. In many, if not most mentoring relationships, accountability rarely comes into play, causing an ineffectual, stagnate relationship that eventually ceases prematurely. As learning is the primary purpose of mentoring, accountability must be a major part of the relationship. Building this accountability into the mentoring relationship takes some time, but is certainly worth the payoff. Accountability is a way of living and doing business, especially at American Income Life, that recognizes that we perform our best when held to high standards. In a mentoring relationship, both parties should not only be held accountable, but should have a complete buy-in to the concept of accountability, recognizing that it brings with it high performance and effectiveness in the relationship. In the accountable mentoring relationship, each party plays an important role by focusing on four primary areas; goals and expectations, progress monitoring, and measurement and feedback. By working on each of these areas, both mentor and mentee will maximize the effectiveness of the relationship, providing each with a high level of satisfaction.

Goals and Expectations
In a mentoring relationship, it is important to clearly establish the goals and expectations as well as a specific timeline. In doing so, both the mentor and the mentee understand what is expected from the relationship. A few ideas for setting goals and expectations are:

1. Concentrate on learning as the primary goal of the relationship. The mentor should realize that his/her goals may be more specific, however, given his/her life experiences. While the mentor drives this part of the process, he should make sure the mentee both understands and agrees with the goals.

2. Be clear with one another about what each is trying to accomplish. Lack of clarity at this stage will cause expectations to be unclear and most likely not met.

3. Don’t worry about covering everything at this point. Goals and expectations will be readdressed at every stage of the relationship as each discovers what does and does not work.

Progress Monitoring
Progress monitoring is crucial to the effective accountable mentoring relationship. As the business of life takes up much of your daily routine, it is important that both parties monitor progress and predetermined times. Some ways to make sure progress is being properly monitored is to:

1. Have specific outcomes to accomplish by specific dates. This takes some thought up front, but is worth the investment. Be specific, but don’t be hard on yourself when you fail to meet these deadlines. These deadlines need to be fluid and should only be used to guide you. This does not mean, however, that the timeline should not be taken seriously. These dates are for your benefit and sticking as close to them as possible will help you get the most, and give the most, from your mentoring relationship.

2. Have a pre-determined time to meet. This can be weekly, monthly etc, but should be consistent. Make sure it is a time that works for all concerned and is unlikely to be cancelled because of schedule conflicts. Have a backup time set for those inevitable conflicts.

3. Always be honest with one another about how things are going. Remember, this is a relationship that requires time, dedication and a certain amount of work.

Measurement
There is an old adage; you can’t manage what you can’t measure. In the accountable mentoring relationship, this is certainly the case. To insure you are able to measure (and therefore manage) the outcomes of your relationship you should:

1. Using the goals and timelines established earlier, measure where you are compared to where you thought you would be. Don’t get discouraged if things are moving more slowly than anticipated. Keep your focus on the end goal. This relationship should be organic and move at a pace that works for everyone.

2. Keep a journal of progress. This will keep you motivated when things seem as though they are not going as well as you hoped.

3. Revisit your timelines and measured outcomes to reflect where you are. Keep things fluid enough to be flexible, but not so fluid as to allow poor performance to go unchecked.

Feedback
Communication is key to a successful relationship, whether it is marriage or mentoring, so don’t be afraid to share what things are not working. Nobody has 20/20 foresight, so don’t be surprised when your goals need some tweaking. Remember, the end goal is for you to teach (mentor)or learn (mentee) or possibly both. If you find your specific short-term goals are not meeting that end goal, then make the change and make it quickly. If you fail to make changes, you will find yourself dreading meetings and ultimately falling away from the relationship.

Communication and feedback also include sharing what things are working well. Positive reinforcement is healthy for both mentor and mentee and gives energy to the relationship. Below are some ways to reinforce the relationship in this feedback period:

1. Show appreciation for one another by sharing recent successes. This works on both sides of the relationship. The mentee should share how he is learning from the mentor and vice versa. These shared experiences strengthen the trust between the parties and make for a much more effective relationship.
2. Keep a journal of your daily challenges and successes. Sharing your daily thoughts is a great way for the mentor to see how you are doing emotionally.

3. Keep in touch by telephone, e-mail, texting etc. Frequent communication builds familiarity and in turn builds trust. One caution, however, is to not let the relationship get too informal too quickly. Mentoring relationships require mutual respect with the mentee looking-up to the mentor. Being overly casual, which can sometimes happen in e-mails and texting, may lead to more of a friendship than a mentor relationship. There is only a fine line between parent-child, mentor-mentee type relationship, the line has to be drawn from the beginning….This is not to say that this is always bad, but you should act with caution. Remember, the end goal is achieving the goals set forth.

4. Bounce ideas off one another. An idea session is a great way for both to learn how you are progressing as well as learn about your growth. Make sure these don’t get unproductive, however, as idea sessions can get out of hand very quickly. The concept that there are no stupid ideas is flawed. Given enough time in a session, ideas can get silly and will no longer be an asset to your growth.

Whether you are an experienced mentor or an inexperienced mentee, putting accountability into your mentoring relationship will make it effective and produce an end product that is worthwhile for all parties. As you set goals and expectations at American Income Life, measure your progress and get feedback; you are investing in a mentoring relationship that will pay great dividends. The partnership of mentoring with accountability will maximize learning, providing a positive experience for all concerned and making them successful in whatever they do.

About Mark Ting

Mark Ting is a Staff Writer at Torchmark Corporation, writing about American Income Life and National Income Life Insurance Companies. Google+

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