Former IBM executive Jeff Powers knows the power of mentoring and coaching, and he now finds himself helping EMBA students develop the skills he gained throughout his career.
“The one thing I wish I would have learned earlier in my career, and especially while I was on campus, is the importance of building a network of relationships and advisors—a personal board of directors—to help guide me to a valuable and purposeful life,” says Powers, who teaches the Coaching and Mentoring immersion elective at Purdue University Krannert School of Management.
EMBA students, too, recognize the inherent value in this elective course. The idea for the elective comes from the students themselves, and they have selected it three times now.
“Because we consider our students our partners in their education, we never simply provide a predetermined list of electives from which they must choose,” says Donna Steele, senior program manager for the Krannert EMBA Program. “We instead make our students co-designers of their curriculum by surveying them for elective course ideas.”
Students rank order different topics for the one-credit immersion electives and then split into smaller groups based on their interests. They meet with faculty members before the course
Powers’ course focuses on the personal attributes of a good mentor and provides a framework for coaching others, he says. Students work individually and in groups remotely for the first eight to nine weeks of the course and then come to campus for a six-day residency.
They cover much ground: They complete a video exercise on building a solid mentoring persona, especially on social media, and take the Strength Finders assessment to increase self-awareness. They also work on finding a mentor and mentees. They discuss formally adopted, corporate mentoring programs and determine reasons for their success or failure.
“Students have commented that they like learning what makes a great mentor and how to become one,” he says. “They also found it interesting to see how other companies offer mentoring programs and how to set up such a program and measure its results.”
“Having worked at IBM where professional mentoring and coaching is sacrosanct and integrated into the fabric of our culture, I enjoy bringing many of those best practices we have developed to a broader set of future leaders.”