The Power of Mentoring: Growing Your People

Developing people and supporting their growth and increased responsibilities are central themes in successful organizations. You can grow your organization’s capacity and cohesion by fostering and rewarding a deliberate mentoring framework.  This investment is particularly important given that roughly 6 out of 10 people look for new jobs because they feel underappreciated or marginalized.

In fact, research shows that people “leave their bosses, not their jobs”, a situation made evident by those 6 people typically seeking work in the same field but with a different employer, rather than changing careers.  The tone of the workplace atmosphere is set by the management – “the boss”.  It pays figuratively and literally to foster a supportive and positive climate at work.  The organization retains trained and experienced people and limits the cost of workforce churn.

Among the many things that can be done to positively influence the workplace and conditions for employees is to nurture their developmentMentoring is a direct acknowledgement of an employee aimed at cultivating their potential and guiding them to success.  The mentor provides counsel and guidance to the mentee.  This process grows the employee while building trust in the workplace – an invaluable dimension to a positive climate.

  • You cannot demand trust – you build it.

There are three terms worth sorting out to better clarify the role mentoring can play in your organization.  First, professional mentoring is hierarchical by definition and is meant to share the experiences and insights of a senior member with a junior member.  The mentoring relationship and process is typically somewhat informal but must be mutually acknowledged to be fully effective.  The mentoring relationship can last a very long time – often over a period of years.

  • The term mentor is derived from the epic Greek poem, The Odyssey, in which the character Mentor was asked by Odysseus to care for and guide his son Telemachus – to impart wisdom and counsel.

Second, workplace coaching is also seen as “training” and can be between workers of relative equality in the organization but with one being more established in the workforce.  This is often seen when a new employee is being shown the “who, how, and what” of a company or agency.  The process is relatively short-term and is meant to indoctrinate an employee into their new or expanding position.

Finally, professional coaching is a formal, goal-based process in which the recipient works to achieve greater capacity and professional growth through a mid- to long-term agreement with a coach.  The coach, who generally possesses considerable workforce development experience and training, is most often hired from outside the worker’s organization as this approach allows for greater freedom of expression by the client and increased objectivity by the coach.  Professional coaching is driven by identified objectives framed in a development plan.  This approach is particularly attractive to more senior workers through what is otherwise known as executive coaching.

Of these three common workforce development processes, mentoring provides the broadest benefit to both the professional growth of an individual and the strength of an organization for the following reasons:

  • it is framed by the professional enthusiasm of the mentee and commitment of the mentor;
  • it is relationship-based, meaning the mutual trust and commitment is found between the mentor and mentee and typically expanded upon in the process;
  • it harnesses the existing insights and experiences of the more senior staff;
  • it can be relatively informal and therefore flexible to the workplace demands and availability of both the mentor and mentee;
  • it can be sustained over very long periods of time; and,
  • it has no financial costs to the recipient

A workplace culture that encourages and supports mentoring will reap tremendous gains over time as, 1) experience is widely shared across the organization in comfortable professional relationships, 2) trust and confidence are enhanced within the workforce, and, 3) potential divisiveness between the senior and junior staff can be reduced.

Establishing a policy that values mentoring, and rewards it in various ways, will give your organization an additional tool to support your workforce and assist them in growing professionally, seeing additional opportunity, and forging better relationships with the leadership.  You can be part of reversing the workplace flight undertaken by so many people who quit their boss, if not their jobs.


Steve Wischmann


Horizon Performance Solutions, LLC

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