Sometimes the Grammy Awards recognizes a really odd partnership that really works. A few months before this year’s awards show, I remember doing a double-take when I saw them on TV together singing an old jazz standard. Of course, I recognized Tony Bennett. That made sense. But who was that singing with him? Is that Lady Gaga? That makes no sense. I mean, she’s known for wearing a dress made of meat. That can’t work. But it did. They sounded great together then, and at the Grammys. So great, they won the 2015 Grammy for “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.”

tony-bennett-lady-gagaOne thing that I have found endearing behind their story is their relationship. Honestly, I think it’s a great example of a mentoring relationship. Though sixty years separates the two, they found a commonality not just in their heritage (both Italian-American), but also, their music. They both have said that they understand each other. Several times, like in this Rolling Stones story, Lady Gaga has referred to Tony Bennett as a friend, someone who brought out the best in her, someone who gave her advice. She is deeply appreciative of what he has done for her and her career. She was yearning for “a truly authentic collaboration, a true artistic exchange” and the collaboration with Bennett helped fill that need. Gaga even dropped the word mentor in the way Bennett has helped her singing. But, this relationship also helped Tony too. It brought a legion of “Little Monsters” to know Bennett and his music. The Grammy was the ultimate symbol of how this mentoring relationship benefitted Bennett and Gaga, both [tweet this].

So what can leaders take away from this? Mentoring. Great leaders need to be mentored. And, great leaders need to mentor.

In 2015, CCL is coming out with The CCL Handbook of Coaching in Organizations. I was fortunate enough to write the chapter on mentoring. In it, I talk about what mentoring really is (and isn’t), considerations for setting up a formal mentoring program, and the future of mentoring, among other things. One of the things that really struck me while writing the chapter was all the research on the benefits of mentoring. Consider this:

  • Research led by psychologists Tammy Allen (University of South Florida) and Lillian Eby (University of Georgia) carefully examined 43 studies that assessed career benefits for those who are mentored by others (i.e., protégés) in the workplace. What they found may not be surprising, but should be reassuring: Those who are mentored reported higher compensation, more promotions, higher job satisfaction and higher career satisfaction, than those who had not been mentored. It’s the Lady Gaga effect.
  • Research conducted by Professors Rajashi Ghosh and Thomas Reio thoroughly considered 18 studies that examined career benefits for the mentor. They found that mentors were more satisfied with their jobs and more committed to their organization than those who were not mentors. Mentoring is not just for the mentee or protégé, it helps the mentor too. It’s the Tony Bennett effect.
  • One of those studies Ghosh and Reio used in their meta-analysis was a study I conducted here at CCL with Professors Todd Weber (now at Central Washington University) and Golnaz Sadri (California State University, Fullerton). We found a “Tony Bennett Effect” but in a global sense. Using data CCL has collected from 30,365 leaders from 33 different countries in over 4000 different organizations, leaders judged as effective mentors by their own direct reports had higher performance ratings from their own boss. In some countries, that mentoring-performance relationship was even stronger. A CCL infographic presents the findings and implications.
  • In my research at CCL on first-time managers, one of the biggest skill gaps first-time managers have is the ability to coach, develop, and mentor their own direct reports. Everyone says it’s important for their success, yet first-time managers are not as strong at it as they need to be.

tony-bennett-lady-gaga2Mentoring is a mutually beneficial relationship that helps both the mentor and mentee. We as leaders need to be both. Interestingly, Lady Gaga is doing just that; Lady Gaga is someone’s Tony Bennett too. That someone is Grammy Award Winner Sam Smith. In a Rolling Stone article, Gaga said that “the influence and inspiration my work has had on him has been one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had as a growing artist.” She gets it, mentoring is a gift, as good to give as it is to receive [tweet this].

Take note (pun intended) from Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. Mentoring helped them both. Mentoring can help you too. So who is your Tony Bennett? Who is the person who mentors you and brings out the best in you? And who is your Lady Gaga? Who is the person you mentor, that you give advice to, that you help be their truest, authentic self?



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