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

President/CEO

Horizon Performance Solutions, LLC

Leaders Follow – Followers Lead: The Critical Relationship

Leaders Follow – Followers Lead: The Critical Relationship

Highly effective organizations have cultures that recognize the innate and critical relationship between the leadership and their staff or teams.  These organizations see the importance of workforce development and the tremendous potential of their people.  The future leaders are in front of them, laboring, working, and producing where they themselves once were.

The image of the iconic leader marshaling forces to a great cause, military or civilian, corporate or government, community leader or private citizen, can evoke common images.  We see great men and women possessing persuasive vision, outsized charisma, tireless commitment, and a steely confidence directing tremendous outcomes and exemplifying the title of leader.

But the other central part of that imagery is the equally iconic body of noble doers, the teams and staff that “get it done” and become part of something bigger than themselves.  They are the hard working and talented many who make things happen and satisfy the vision – Rosy the Riveter, is a famous example from an era of historic teamwork.  A time of big leadership and equally big followership.  That’s how big things got done.

The fact is, everyone works for someone.  The leadership in any organization started somewhere and that somewhere was very likely much lower in the workforce than the Board Room, the Wardroom, or the “corner office”.  They were at one time the doers.

Beyond that, most leaders, if not all, are also followers in their present positions.  Nimble leaders are equally effective at marshalling the action to advance the vision as they are in meeting the expectations of their boss and working to make that person successful.   Leaders do indeed follow, and conversely followers do lead.

The resonant importance of this workplace dynamic is that the skills and traits to be an effective leader are typically developed when “learning the ropes” in the workforce.  Said another way, the apprentice becomes the master and then lends direction and support to the future masters.  Healthy organizations recognize the uniquely valuable relationship between the leadership-followership roles and reward those who get it right on both sides of that equation.

The most effective leaders were very likely the most effective followers.  Certainly there are exceptions, but the ascension to leadership roles in any organization or profession is commonly found in “working your way up” – it is nearly a given in organizations of all types, large and small.  Admittedly, you can “hire for talent”, as senior positions are frequently filled from the marketplace, but the most compelling leadership candidates will have experience, and not just as an executive.

Leaders and followers should be consciously working for mutual success.  The subordinate, by definition, must be committed to the progress of their boss and organization, while the leader can only succeed by ensuring that subordinates are empowered and able to make effective contributions.

One important step to fortifying sound workforce management principles is acknowledging that the skills and traits that make a good follower overlap with the list of key leadership attributes.  Hard work, discipline, dedication, curiosity, focus, passion, integrity, courage, and loyalty comprise a short list of desirable traits that can, and should, be fostered in both leaders and followers.

This is a significant consideration to remember as you lead your team or organization – and report to your boss.

Steve Wischmann

President/CEO

Horizon Performance Solutions, LLC

“Be Successful Today”™

A challenge that we all face is what is sometimes referred to as the tyranny of the present – the seemingly all-consuming pressures on our limited time and energy.  We have so much to do, so many deadlines, so much work, and so many meetings.  We find ourselves churning toward “what’s next” in an all-too-often rush to be done.

In this experience we seek satisfaction in our work, the sense that we have accomplished something.  This end-point confirmation is often found only at the completion of the project, the sealing of the deal, our performance counseling sessions, or some other marker on our contribution.  In this sometimes dizzying work world, we often barely recognize the immediacy of our role, impact, and how all the little things add up to the big things.  We can do better.

Being successful today means taking the time to re-order your perspective so that the proverbial trees of your present don’t get lost in the forest of your deadlines and end-points.  We can be more effective in our work, in our interactions with colleagues, and in our engagement with clients by better embracing today.  We must be present – now, focused on the person in front of us, at this moment.

While you may need to achieve certain goals and measures of success by the end of the week, month, quarter or year, your results will certainly be based on how well you do today, and over the coming days – each one standing as an opportunity to be successful.

By seeing your performance in daily stages you are better prepared to maximize all that this day has in store for you while you continue towards larger accomplishments.  To paraphrase a once popular bromide, today really is the first day of the rest of your professional life.  Do not doubt the power of passion, consideration, focus, momentum, and leadership – right now.

We must work to establish habits of success that have a daily orientation and that help us concentrate on being fully present in our “performance moments” – those actions and interactions, large or small, which represent our professional engagement.  The steps and tools to be successful today are easy to embrace and perform, but they do require commitment.

It can sometimes be difficult to change mental habits and routine no matter how debilitating or self-reducing they may be – we are creatures of habit.  Take the time to examine how you are in your work.

Being successful today will ask you to identify what’s important in the big picture and then distill that down to clearly see your productive opportunities – your performance moments.  Get in the habit of doing the following each day:

  • check your attitude at the start – when everyone is talented, attitude trumps aptitude – it is the difference maker;
  • consider and identify 2 achievable professional commitments for the day that are not job tasks – make them focused and beyond your in-box, such as reconciling a misunderstanding, taking time with a staff member you have had little time for, reading that important journal article you have been putting off, etc.;
  • open yourself to growing – be a constant learner – read, listen, and consider;
  • embrace the power of humility – self-assess everyday – know that you can be better;
  • reflect on how you want to be thought of today – how you want to be remembered – see every day as a legacy;
  • see yourself as a leader, no matter what your position – ask yourself if you made a  difference;
  • reflect at day’s end – prepare for tomorrow by understanding today;
  • repeat – embrace the patterns of success in your attitude and orientation – re-commit – put passion in your action.

Finally, in this effort, bring your best self to work – everyday.  That’s not always easy, but critical to optimizing your performance and being successful today.

Steve Wischmann

President/CEO

Horizon Performance Solutions, LLC