While mentoring programs are usually initiated by companies rather than individuals, the best relationships spring from a self-made match. Here’s how you can make that happen:
Lend expertise. Enlist technical experts to share their knowledge with older, wiser executives. Example: Match a young computer whiz with a senior officer who wants to learn about e-commerce. If the two hit it off, they can develop a mentoring relationship at their own pace.
Befriend retirees. After respected executives retire, keep in touch. Invite them to attend staff meetings or speak at retreats. Ask if they’ll take calls or respond to e-mail from your employees to give career advice or serve as a sounding board.
Cross-pollinate your teams. Create project groups that include a mix of employees at all levels and departments. You’ll expose workers to high-level execs they might never meet otherwise. This may not result in formal mentoring relationships, but it greases the skids.
Court VIPs. Identify leaders in your community, from executive directors of nonprofit agencies to elected officials. Ask them to serve as guest speakers or tour your facility so that they meet your employees. While one visit won’t lead to a mentoring relationship, a project that results from the visit might.
Circulate employee bios. Ask your staffers to write a few paragraphs on their background. Suggest they mention their birthplace, schooling, interests, etc. Then distribute these bios to senior managers throughout your company. They may find they share the same hobby or hometown. This can bring them together.