Leaders are busy, and with so many tasks, projects, meetings, and activities competing for their attention, any time spent away from their day-to-day work is often viewed as lost. But the most effective organizations recognize their leaders must perform another role within their teams. They need to be a mentor.
Mentoring creates a culture of continuous improvement, allows the mentor to practice new skills, and empowers employees to take on new challenges. With so many benefits, it’s simply irresponsible for leaders not to dedicate time to mentoring others. If you need to reframe it for yourself, think of it as your leadership team development time.
Developing Future and Current Leaders
We’ve talked before about the importance of developing and nurturing the high performers and future leaders of your organization. Mentoring is one of the most cost-effective and high leverage strategies you can deploy to keep your future leaders engaged, challenged, and productive.
Top performers want to do better, and they want to know they are being supported in their career and development goals. Providing them with mentorship opportunities and investing in their success demonstrates your commitment to them and their future growth.
It’s also a highly effective way to keep your top talent in your organization. When employees feel engaged and supported, they are less likely to look elsewhere for their next career move. Mentees are empowered to take on new projects, tackle difficult problems, practice their leadership skills, and grow beyond their current job responsibilities.
Through mentorship opportunities, you’re rewarding these future leaders for their performance, recognizing their value, and positioning them for long-term success over the course of their career. And, you’re improving the overall strength, skillset, and culture of your organization in the process.
It’s not just the mentees that benefit either – the mentor also gets a unique opportunity to practice and improve their own skills. Many leaders find themselves too busy with day-to-day work to be able to properly dedicate time to practicing critical leadership abilities. Mentoring others provides a highly effective way to take a step back from daily tasks and consciously and intentionally focus on professional development.
By becoming a mentor, leaders can develop and improve their listening, communication, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. They can take a more strategic view of situations and look at challenges from a new perspective to form new ideas or solutions. And, they can build new, stronger relationships at all levels of the organization, position themselves as thought leaders or experts, and open up future opportunities to take on increased leadership responsibilities.
Building Trust Between Leaders and Employees
The most important relationship within an organization is the one between an employee and their manager. This relationship impacts everything, including engagement, productivity, satisfaction, and performance. Mentorship programs are one of the most effective ways to strengthen this relationship and build trust.
Leaders and future leaders are able to connect in a more personal way and pick up on each other’s experiences. Through open communication, employees can understand how the work they are doing fits into the organization’s larger objectives, and become more involved in the strategic decision making process.
When implemented alongside other strategies such as internal and external onboarding, performance and leadership coaching, and team and cohort leadership development programs, mentoring can play an important role in creating a culture of continuous improvement, performance, and collective learning and growth.
For these reasons, mentoring needs to be a fundamental, non-negotiable part of the way your organization operates. The benefits are simply too great to ignore.
My Challenge To You – Dedicate Time To Mentorship
Effective mentoring, like anything else, is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and developed. While some people may be more naturally inclined than others, the truth is that everyone has the capacity to be a mentor.
Through intentional and conscious effort, support from coaches or mentors of your own, and dedicated time to engage with employees, your leaders can become valuable mentors that inspire emerging talent. Here are a few ideas to help you get started in your organization:
- Identify top performers and future leaders you want to invest in
- Engage current leaders who will take on the role of mentors, and provide them with support or coaching to help them improve their skills as a mentor
- Schedule regularly occurring “strategic time outs” with your direct reports that are dedicated to mentoring
- Encourage mentorship as an opportunity for professional development, and frame it as a critical component to the success of your business rather than a distraction.
Marilyn Osborne is VP, Leadership Strategy at Hazell & Collins Associates. Learn more about our Leadership Strategy services.