A reader [Thank you, Tim . . . ] reminded me that mentoring needs to be defined before companies launch into any formal program. That´s where asking questions and really listening to what people say comes in handy. Here´s a simple way to start: send an e-mail to your employees and ask them: If you could have a mentor, what characteristics would this person have? Give people a deadline and tell them, too, your motivation. Just asking the question lets them know that you care about their development. Sometimes people can´t get past the concept of mentoring, because they think their wish list is too long or can never be fulfilled. Let me tell you something about wish lists: they´re just goals. That´s all and without tangible goals many of us would just float along, grabbing at opportunities only when we could actually reach them. But what happens when a goal or a wish seems inaccessible? Some people simply give up. Others try to figure out how to get closer. A mentor can shorten the distance between having a goal and reaching one.
If you´re still not convinced of the value of incorporating a mentoring program at your company, consider your competition. Other companies do well (and better than our own) for all sorts of reasons many of which we´ll never know. I wonder, for instance, about the Apple Stores that have cropped up all over the country. Now, I am a self-admitted Apple fan and have been for years. Remember the "Lisa" anyone? Anyway, I realized something when I visited the store over the weekend. It doesn´t feel like a store. You can tinker, gawk, and dream all at the same time. And the employees dress like Steve Jobs-jeans and a plain t-shirt. They don´t sound like salespeople and they don´t look like them either. They look like tech people who can speak any language. I´ve sent an e-mail over to Apple asking about any mentoring programs they have in place along with general employee development questions. In the meantime, as you begin to receive input from your employees about their mentor wish list think about the obstacles that could prevent you from introducing a mentoring program. If you know ahead of time what´s likely to keep you from incorporating such a program then you´ll be in a better position to succeed.
Clearly, mentoring alone isn´t the panacea for employee development. All sorts of training goes into creating a program that will help your people-and, ultimately, your company-to grow. But it has to start somewhere. Here are my top ten reasons for mentoring. I use these for my mentoring workshops and when we begin to talk about the list other reasons arise. I hope these will help you as you think about your company´s mentoring program.
1. Discover a common ground.
2. Opportunity to learn from mistakes and setbacks.
3. Creating safe, nonjudgmental learning environment.
4. Ability to help others recognize and develop potential by facing, managing, and overcoming fear and self-doubt.
5. To gift someone with the passion and excitement that comes from growth, experience, and change.
6. Passing down corporate history and company/personal wisdom.
7. Show by example the importance of helping others.
8. Exercising your problem-solving/teaching skills.
9. Encouraging others while uncovering your own hidden talents.
10. Mentoring from the heart will always give you something in return.