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Creating a Culture of Mentorship

I've had the pleasure of working with the IQPC team who heads up the Customer Contact Week events, putting together webinars and training sessions for high potential leaders. When I worked with them the program covered a host of different topics such as leadership, financial acumen, communication, technology, innovation and operational excellence. The key point of the series was to help develop and prepare those managers as they move from a management level to a leadership position. It’s a big topic and certainly most leaders have their own spin on what they wished they knew, but it has me thinking more and more about the value of mentorship and more specifically how do we ensure that as our leaders grow, they give back to the people coming up.

Mentorship is a proven strategy for employee retention and high performance. I am not going to rehash the benefits of formal mentoring programs, they are important and have big impacts on the employees and the organizations that take them seriously. I want instead to focus on mentorship from an organization standpoint. Specifically, the importance of establishing goals and expectations for leaders at all levels to be both a mentor and mentee. This is beyond establishing a development plan for your team, its really about the concept that we need a personal objective that you take the ownership and accountability to be both a good mentee and good mentor.

For the mentee, this means engaging with your mentor systemically and demonstrating through your behaviors that you are developing as a person and a leader. This also means that you are held accountable for those actions on a performance level. How many people have “being a good mentee” listed in their personal development goals? I would wager not many, yet we would all agree that having a mentor and learning from more senior people benefits the person as well as the organization.

On the other side of the equation, is the goal of being a good mentor. To be held accountable to be a good mentor and to ensure that you are working with your mentees to actively develop them and make them move valuable to the organization. This way, both parties have skin in the game to make the relationship deliver on the outcomes for the business. Think of the power that type of leadership expectation would have across the company. How would your talent assessment and succession planning evolve as you shift the accountability for your leadership skill gap to the mentors in addition to the mentees. I think it will also help highlight those leaders who are making the effort.

How serious does your business take people development? Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is by tying a performance metric to it? I think you should. To use an often quoted Jack Welch missive, “You get what you measure, because what you measure is what you manage and reward”.

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