An organization, whether it is a family, Neighborhood Watch program, business or other, is as powerful and successful as the total of its pieces. Therefore, team members of any organization should be invested in via money, time and effort, not just infrastructure, inventory, and marketing. Having a catchy website and phone number cannot make up for a team of employees who flounder around and do not collaborate. Happy, valued employees want to and do invent, innovate and work to help their company progressively earn a competitive advantage. Why do some business leaders forget this? They take it for granted that the business is only about making money. Want to get everyone motivated? Start clearly sharing information, ideas, examples, guidance, and wisdom through mentoring.
The first step is to make clear to everyone in the organization just how important mentoring and the people involved in mentoring, the mentors and mentees, are. In fact, every employee can be a mentor and a mentee. Every person has strengths to build upon and share. Mentoring can be formal with strict procedures or as informal as a positive comment to a couple team members about one colleague who makes a good change or an interesting accomplishment in their work. That kind of casual, real, non-imposing type of mentoring just happens, and it is the most valuable. A spur-of-the-moment insight by a colleague, manager, or even someone outside the organization can create bigger results than some cookbook set of directions for mentoring.
I remember a time when a co-founder of a previous company mentioned to our COO how much people enjoyed my recorded videos of customers, vendors, and industry friends at conferences and how they give the company positive attention, encourage pride among our industry friends, and bring new and retained business, but that the company should buy me a better video recorder and a good boom mic. I did not know that people took the videos that seriously. I just enjoyed finding out about our industry and sharing with others on Youtube and Viddler and blogs what I learned. The colleague was right. I needed better equipment though. The comment was a type of mentoring that really helped me in my work from that day forward.
The mentoring relationship is cultivated organically as occasions present themselves. Newbie employees need a crash course. A team member needs to learn the changes in a new version of a software. Every mentor needs to be assigned to a mentee, and every team member needs this chance to be the mentor and mentee on a regular basis. Traditional mentoring and training processes are mainly when the manager or supervisor meets each employee on a recurring basis to discuss, suggest, teach and evaluate. Such is great for ongoing career instruction. On the other hand, informal mentoring happens every minute of every day with people in management to internee positions asking for help with issues and questions. Mentoring is not always a calm experience. It can be a bit rocky.
An old English proverb summarizes growing a business and how mentoring fits in: a smooth sea never made a skilled mariner. The best mentoring will include helping others to see what they are doing very well and ways they can improve, but it also involves mentoring the mentees to in turn, mentor others. We learn best when we teach others. Such is true of the CTO and NOC team, the marketing and social media department and more. Consequently, there is this contagious creative energy felt by all involved. Everyone buys in. Business can easily get started with this type of mentoring process, but get ready for a culture of togetherness and drive that will kick things into 4 wheel drive.