Business viewpoint: Bob Rock advocates company-sponsored mentoring
BY BOB ROCK Business Viewspoint
Thursday, February 14, 2013
2/14/13 at 4:53 AM
Oil and water don't mix, but corporations and classrooms do. Here's how - mentoring.
It's not only rewarding, it's easy. Reading to a child once a week is sometimes all it takes to make a lasting difference in their life.
Children are born with an innate desire to learn, and all children deserve the chance to get a solid education. In the business world, we're perfectly situated to help.
Company-sponsored mentoring programs are not only a way for students to gain confidence and focus, but they are also beneficial for employees.
When mentoring is embraced by employers, it makes all the difference. Employees feel good about working for a company that gives back, and it gives them the support and structure they need to get started.
I'm seeing the positive results of mentoring first-hand. About 40 of us at WPX Energy work with students at our adopt-a-school, Hawthorne Elementary. One of our mentors, Sarah Walker, does a super job coordinating the program, which makes it even easier for the rest of us to participate.
We mentor students in kindergarten through second grade. We've committed to provide mentors at Hawthorne for five years, so the students will reap the maximum, long-term benefits.
Research shows that students who are mentored are more likely to have good school attendance and go to college. The results of some studies, such as research from MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, show that mentored students are less likely to skip class or use drugs and alcohol.
Mentoring might seem like a big commitment, but it takes only about an hour a week. The young man I mentor is a first-grader. He has been a delight to work with and has such great potential. Usually his teacher will provide a book or worksheet for us, and we always take a little time just to talk.
The students take pride in having a mentor "all to themselves" for a while. They feel special because our mere presence says, "I believe in you." It's very rewarding to see the immediate impact of a little praise and encouragement.
But these programs require the complete support of companies. We couldn't do what we do at WPX without the support of senior leadership. This is not an activity that can be achieved after work or on weekends, so it takes time out of an employee's day. The enthusiastic support we receive from the administration and teachers at Hawthorne is also critical to our success.
It's basically the same approach a business takes with an intern or new hire. People are much more prone to succeed personally and professionally when they are valued for who they are and what they can do with their God-given talents.
As business leaders, we can encourage our staff members to participate. It's also a great way to recharge in the middle of the week.
Mentoring is contagious, too. My wife is now a volunteer at Hawthorne, and she feels as enriched from the program as I do.
Mentors are greatly needed at many local schools, particularly male mentors. It's a great way to not only help a student but also help teachers, who are the true heroes.
Mentoring creates successful students and successful employees. I should know. After 35 years in business, I'm going back to school and loving every minute of it.
Original Print Headline: Being a mentor says, 'I believe in you'
Bob Rock is the vice president of tax at Tulsa-based WPX Energy Inc.
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