Organizational leadership should consciously and consistently be focused on developing employees. When organizations are only as strong as their leaders, they risk struggling, or worse: becoming irrelevant when those leaders are no longer with the organization. In many ways, exceptional leaders should always be working to make themselves dispensable by developing teams that perform at their peak.
These types of leaders recognize that people are the organization’s most important asset and they have learned to elicit great performances from their staff. Developing a mentoring culture is one of the main strategies we can use to develop people. Mentoring serves to increase the performance of both individuals and the organization as a whole.
A mentoring culture may be formal or informal, but it is the attitude of mentoring that must permeate the organization in order for it to be effective. A negative attribute of some formalized mentoring programs is that they are built to only select the top people in the organization to be mentored. At ACHIEVE, we take the approach that everyone should be developed.
We know that it is the collective efforts of everyone in our organization that will determine if we will be successful or not. Think about it, what do individuals really accomplish? Not much! Most of the important things we will accomplish are a result of a collective group of people working together towards a common goal. As a result, we need everyone contributing at their highest potential, not just the chosen few.
Leaders should look for the great potential that is within each person, and when it’s found, draw it out. A unique element of our own culture is that one of our internal values is to be Exceptional – Each of us Excels at Something. This means that we believe everyone working with us should be exceptional at something. And it’s true, I can identify and articulate specific skills that each employee is exceptional at. Our leadership is clear about each employee’s individual strength areas, and we are able to place them in situations where they are able to use these strengths to the greater benefit of our vision and mission.
One of the key aspects of mentoring is to be available. Leaders must be available to help employees succeed. I remember going to my manager’s office as a young worker to ask for a suggestion on a project, only to be met with a “death stare” that said to me, “Why the hell are you coming to see me?” I have seen firsthand how leaders become upset when employees don’t develop as quickly as they hope, and yet they were never even willing to be available.
Mentorship oriented leaders get more effort out of employees because they actually spend time with them – they think about them and care about them. I believe that developing others begins with developing relationships. Leaders should spend time with employees and get to know them beyond their work capabilities. As people get to know each other, organizations will be well positioned to thrive.
A key benefit of mentoring is that it is closely connected to motivation. When people are entrusted with responsibility, and when leaders give time to those they are mentoring, they feel empowered. When mentoring occurs it tells people that leaders believe in their abilities and, more importantly, that they believe in them.