That old adage “you are only as strong as your weakest link” holds true when it comes to your leaders. Developing policies and strategies that help today’s leaders provide mentoring to employees within your organization is one of the best ways to reduce operational weaknesses. The trouble is that not all executives hold this view, and some may even see mentoring tomorrow’s leaders as a poor use of their time, or maybe even as a threat to their own future.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Mentoring offers organizations and executives many benefits. The key is first to recognize why there is a need for mentorship programs. There are enormous quantifiable benefits that include:
- Increased buy-in
- Productivity improvements
- Process improvements
- Reduced errors or defects
- Increased chances for innovation
- Higher morale
- Reduced absenteeism
- Decreased turnover
- A greater chance of meeting objectives
- Increased organizational sustainability
What are top executives doing to mentor tomorrow’s leaders successfully?
We found some top executives who were willing to share their experiences and views with PMWorld 360 Magazine about mentoring tomorrow’s leaders.
Stephanie Ciccarelli, the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com, says the way she mentors their future leaders is “by doing life together in the office.” Ciccarelli tells PMWorld 360 Magazine, “Leadership is often ‘caught,’ not ‘taught’: what you model or live out is what people will take from your leadership, not just the words you say.”
Phil Shawe, CEO, and Co-Founder of TransPerfect tells PMWorld 360 that they have had a long-standing focus on bringing up future leaders from within the organization: “I teach a Management 101 course to first-time managers at all of our company training events. And our entire executive team shares this commitment and mentor rising TransPerfect stars. I often say that even more important than talent is the ability to identify talent in others.”
Tammy Perkins, Managing Partner and Chief People Officer of Fjuri, shared these thoughts and tips about mentoring:
- Mentoring helps companies develop and retain top talent.
- Mentoring programs help tomorrow’s leaders gain more competence and confidence by allowing them to achieve development in their career.
- Mentors encourage and advise tomorrow’s leaders by sharing their own experiences and knowledge.
- Pair mentors who are passionate about career development and role model company values with tomorrow’s leaders.
- Find mentors who are willing to repay the debt of being taught by teaching others what they have learned.
- Match new employees with an experienced leader to amplify onboarding success. Mentors strengthen development and retention.
The demand for mentoring to improve overall team performance has been around for a long time and is well entrenched in many industries, including sports. In fact, in one study, Mentors’ Roles in Basketball Coaching, Dr. Paul Schempp and his colleagues share research that confirms that within the professional development in sports and business, mentoring appears to play a pivotal role in developing an effective strategy and ensuring accountability.
How has mentoring created a greater sense of accountability?
“One thing we focus on at TransPerfect is developing a meritocracy. That means the rules don’t change whether you’re a senior manager or a new hire. Everyone is focused on performance and incentives are aligned to encourage transparency and accountability,” says Shawe.
Perkins also believes that mentoring can go a long way to creating more accountability.
- Mentoring is one of the best ways to help a new employee get up to speed.
- High performers benefit from mentors who represent diverse viewpoints and experiences.
- When done well, mentoring can activate motivation and performance. Success can be measured through internal promotions, internal transfers, and retention of key talent.
What these executives wished someone would have taught them early on in their careers
“To speak up for yourself,” says Ciccarelli. She explains that it’s essential that if individuals need something or are confused about something it’s important to speak up! “Almost everything at work can be resolved through a conversation or two. Similarly, most opportunities someone receives come as a direct result of the individual putting their hand up, as those who want to grow in their career and purpose to, do so.”
Perkins wishes a mentor could have taught her early on about:
- How learning to lead, motivate and inspire others requires both commitment and focus.
- The importance of cultivating a positive mindset, being authentic, transparent and sharing your ideas.
- Finding ways to stand out and not just fit in.
Shawe explains, “Much of what I teach others about managers comes from lessons I learned in school and my early career, and I continue to hone these lessons over time. After 25 years at the helm of TransPerfect, there are some lessons I have picked up along the way. Chief among those lessons is that you want to build an organization where bad news travels fast so that it can be addressed. Good news has a way of traveling on its own.”
Additional tips for tomorrow’s leaders
Shawe tells us, “The most important lesson for all future leaders is that you must take a personal and vested interest in the success of your people. It should be sincere, and you must communicate this commitment directly to those whom you are trying to lead. Success can take many forms: financial rewards, managerial responsibility, knowledge, skills, and other intangibles. To be a good leader, you have to be committed to your employees reaching mutually agreed upon goals and earning the rewards that come along with that,” explains Shawe.
Perkins offers up these tips to tomorrow’s leaders.
- Be your authentic self and share your voice and passions. Ultimately, you will shine in a job where you feel passionate about the work you are doing on a daily basis. Finding your passion starts with recognizing what empowers you to love what you do. Perkins says, “I’m a firm believer that when people are motivated and inspired, they do their best work. Find a role that aligns with your strengths and passions.”
- Your voice is a unique character that differentiates your personal brand. When you let others know what is in your heart and mind, your personal brand and passion will shine through.
- Your purpose and differentiation will shine when you are authentic and transparent.
To quote the author C.S. Lewis, Ciccarelli says, “To lead well, you must understand that there’s a bigger picture that we all fit into.” She shares, “Humanity’s intrinsic value transcends someone’s job description. Everyone has a purpose, has been given skills and a placement in this world; each one designed to bring something special to the table, wherever that table may be. By remembering that few things in this life last forever, you’ll be able to focus your leadership on the long-term and on what really matters – people.”
Remember, developing a mentorship program does not have to wait until you have an all-encompassing program in place, it can start with small steps. Consider getting feedback from employees about what support they need to become a top-performing leader. Start with a pilot program and build it out from there. The key is recognizing that top-performing companies have strong leaders scattered throughout all areas and levels within the business: use them to help develop the next level or generation of leaders.
Moira Alexander, PMP, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P, is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PMWorld 360 Magazine, Founder of Lead-Her-Ship Group, and author of “LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership,” and other ebooks on Amazon. She’s a project management and IT columnist for various top-tier publications including CIO, CMSWire, TechRepublic (CBS Interactive), and a contributor to USA Business Radio and the Price of Business Talk Radio. She has over 25 years of experience in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada and has been quoted in various publications including Forbes. She writes about leadership, news, and project management products and services.