Want your sales organization to up its game? Ask your best players to mentor a teammate. Why ask your top performers take on a mentoring role? Because mentoring makes everyone better.
Through the act of mentoring, the mentor improves. Want to get better at something? Get prepared to teach it to someone else. Knowledge gaps get filled and processes are distilled to their essence. Seemingly unconnected acts performed innately are unified through explaining what is, what was, and what shall be.
Those being mentored improve too of course. Their knowledge base broadens and deepens. The magic of translating knowledge into skill is learned. Causal links between ‘I do this and that happens’ are identified and learning occurs. Results improve measurably.
The company wins too. They get an empowered team of employees who have been sent the very clear message that the organization cares about them. That their contribution to the big picture matters. That they are being given every chance to succeed in their role. When this happens, employee engagement rises. Top performers tend to stick around.
Here is how to integrate mentoring into your culture…
Teach your mentors how to mentor. This obvious first step is often neglected. The presumption that skill competence or mastery translates into the ability to teach is incorrect. Make ‘The Elements of Mentoring’ by W. Brad Johnson and Charles R Ridley required reading. Additionally, send them to a basic coaching skills course [as the core skills to mentor effectively are similar to those used in coaching]
- Clarify the mentors’ role. Mentoring is closely aligned to coaching, but is different. Mentoring is “I have been down the road on which you are travelling. Let me teach you how to best navigate it”. Coaching is “I [may] have not been down the road you travel, but let’s figure out how to navigate it”. A mentor provides task specific advice, guidance, direction, and teaching.
- Explain ‘why mentoring – why now’ to the team. Explain the rationale behind the investment in time and money being made. Show the positive correlation between mentoring and results improvement for individuals and teams.
- Create a roadmap for the mentoring relationships. Outline suggested frequency and duration of sessions.
- Strive for transparency. Discuss disclosure and confidentiality openly. Be crystal clear about what will be disclosed to managers etc [business issues], and what will not [personal views or anything deemed confidential by the mentor and protégé].
- Thoughtfully match mentors to protégés. Assess the needs of the protégés and match a mentor to them that best meets those needs.
- Set goals for mentoring outcomes. Mentoring without a specific end in mind may feel good but will not produce a sufficient ROI. Define what should be taught, and the desired learning outcomes sought from mentoring engagements.
- Measure results. Check in frequently to ensure that the mentoring is helping both parties grow. If improvement is not happening, lift the hood on that mentoring relationship and look to fix it, or reassign the parties.
- Create a feedback loop between mentors, protégés, and managers. A quick ‘Recap of our session today’ email from the mentor to the protégé cc’ing the manager works well. The primary issues covered that day [save any deemed confidential] keeps everyone tracking forward.
In skill development group and on-line learning have their place, but mentoring is uniquely powerful. It improves the performance of all involved while forging special relationships that often become cherished. Channel the inner wisdom that exists within your team by making mentoring part of your culture.