The Mentoring Advantage
by Daniel Elash, P.h.D
· Mentoring makes organizations more competent and proficient
· Mentoring imbues an organization with sophisticated problem solving capabilities
· Mentoring increases the value of your brand and the strength of your team
· Mentoring allows you to maximize your return on your investment in your workforce
· Mentoring creates an organization strong enough to thrive after a leader moves on
The Business Case for Mentoring
There is a business case to be made for creating a mentoring people within your organization. Mentoring key people in your organization enhances the capacity of the organization to deliver value. Expecting the people in your organization to learn from thinking about how they work, not just what they do, increases adaptability. Expecting leaders to teach creates an organization that is strong from top to bottom rather than depending upon a few thinkers at the top to solve all problems.
The people who work for you have agreed to sell their work energy in return for your dollars and benefits. How well are you doing at optimizing your return on that investment? There are two major components that comprise that return. The first is getting an employee to deliver their work effectively and efficiently. We generally tend closely to that. This is about your management skills. The second is developing the employee’s ability to grow as the business grows; to evolve with changing customer expectations and market demands; and to become smarter as the demands on the organization become more complex. We usually hope for the second, not really tending it the way we look to manage performance. We are lopsided in our focus. There is a long-term cost to this imbalance.
For one thing, if your organization is growing, either in size or in the complexity of the value that you promise to deliver, your organization must be prepared to change to new realities. While these demands are seldom major upheavals in how you work at any time, the gradual accumulation of new realities can often be masked by our focus on what’s in front of us. People are creatures of habits and routines. Over time we can get locked into delivering our work in ways that are becoming outdated or even obsolete.
Another reason for the leader of a company or an organization to mentor key elements in the workforce is that as time passes, so do your needs and ambitions. Are you creating successors at each level of the organization? Are you grooming your own successor effectively? Can you take a new role in a new organization without gutting the one that you are leaving? Do you have an exit strategy in place that leaves a strong organization in place after you sell your business or pass the leadership baton?
Third, establishing a culture of learning builds your organization’s ability to think nimbly; to proactively anticipate both threats and opportunities; and to solve problems at their root cause. Leading is teaching. Organizations whose people think well together make fierce competitors.
A leader, who isn’t mentoring a successor, or even the leadership cadre, isn’t fulfilling the requirements of his or her leadership responsibilities. A leader who isn’t expecting rigorous learning throughout the organization is subobtimizing the strength of her organization. From my perspective, that’s a major shortfall. Learning is a requirement for continued success. Mentoring represents a personal connection for face-to-face focused attention on a subordinate’s ability to grow into a new role, competently.