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Mentoring: A Little Help Goes a Long Way

Mentoring: A Little Help Goes a Long Way Mentoring programs offer companies an efficient and economical way to manage and develop human assets. A mentor can transform an average employee into an exceptional leader. A mentor can guide an up-and-coming leader through the maze of leadership skill acquisition. A mentor can even improve the production levels of low-performers. A mentor cannot, however, make an individual want to excel. Nor can a mentor simultaneously boost employee production and groom powerful leaders. Companies must, therefore, learn how to employ mentoring programs that make the most of limited resources. This requires that companies set parameters around the 'who' and 'what' of mentoring.

Mentors can give high potential employees an extra push or inefficient employees some needed discipline. Both groups are worthwhile subjects, but companies will find it difficult to simultaneously implement two distinct mentoring programs. Before employing mentors, therefore, companies must determine the subject of a mentoring program. As a company, you may prioritize leadership development over workforce productivity. If so, you will favor a mentoring program that produces top-line managers over one that yields efficient workers. On the flip side, a company that struggles to maintain a solid workforce may prefer to attain a stable employee roster before grooming employees for management.

Without clear parameters mentoring programs flop. Thus, once a company decides the subject of mentoring programs, it must then establish a process with defined objectives. A mentor for high performers will have an entirely different role than one whose focus is remedial. This is because employees in need of discipline typically are not next in line for management positions. A mentor striving to turn a productive employee into a productive manager will focus on the skills involved in overseeing a team. At minimum, this skill set will at minimum include communication, decisiveness and big-picture thinking. By contrast, a mentor for low-level employees will address such issues as attitude, production, efficiency, and time-management. Rarely will the skill sets overlap enough to permit a mentor to effectively work with both employee groups.

Every mentoring program needs a beginning and an end. The need to push an employee or groups of employees to the next level prompts the establishment of a mentor-mentee relationship. Mentoring could continue indefinitely, but at some point cost will override benefits. A company must determine the point at which mentoring will be deemed complete. It also must define indicators of effectiveness, the essential pieces of the puzzle. In other words, a company must have a clear understanding of the end goal, whether it is performance improvements or leadership readiness.

Arbitrary time frames are one way to mark an end, but may prove worthless if a mentee has not achieved the goal in the allotted time. Instead of concluding a mentoring program after six months, for example, companies should explore goal-based mentoring programs. A goal-based program focuses on an individual's capabilities and improvements rather than on some specific future date. A mentor will assess an employee's progress based on the skill sets needed to achieve the end goal. Every new skill set that an employee acquires marks a new milestone along the route to the finish line. Thus, mentoring will not be complete until every skill set can be checked off the list.

The selection of a mentor is an integral and definitive component to any mentoring program. A mentor can come from within the company if a person exists who is both capable and willing. Otherwise, a company can explore alternatives such as coaching, or contracting with retired business leaders. Each option has its own set of pros and cons. Whereas a mentor from within the company may have to relinquish duties to fulfill the mentor role, an external mentor can be costly for an organization. A company must decide how to best to use financial and human resources to accomplish the desired objectives.

About the Author:

Linda Finkle, CEO of Incedo Group, works closely with leaders and management to create sustainable productivity and organizational strength. She holds a Master Certified Coach designation through the International Coaching Federation. For more information on Linda and Incedo Group, please go to www.MakeSomeDamnMistakes.com

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