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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

Succeed By Mentoring Your Employees

Nothing lasts forever.

Have you ever heard this? In this world, it’s certainly true, and it’s even more true in today’s fast-paced ever changing business environment. Most of the business people I encounter are trying to maximize their business model before it becomes ineffective or gets trumped by some new technology. Steve Jobs and Apple certainly trumped some developers this week as they unveiled a new version of their operating system and new capabilities that I’m sure some people had as works-in-progress.

Today, I want to introduce a thought to you about a resource which exists inside most businesses which isn’t being leveraged for all it’s worth.

Senior employees and junior employees.

Many times when we go into an organization to do training, we find a disconnect between senior-level executives and those who are toiling under them. Human nature can be interesting at times. We forget where we came from and how we got there. Some even believe no one can do what they do. So, is the entire organization going to collapse when you go to Florida? Doubtful. However, there may be a lot of work to do once you are gone.

Question: Why is it most times a replacement has to fix everything once their predecessor is gone?

Suggestion: Wouldn’t it be better to leave the organization better than you found it? Leaving it in good hands to be taken to the next arena of growth?

The reason some executives don’t do well when they replace a higher level person is that nobody ever trained them to do the next-level job. We promote people to their level of incompetence. In broadcasting, we did it all the time. If someone was a great sales person, we made them sales manager. Did they really know how to do the Sales Manager job? Some did. Most didn’t. Many employees are scared to death when they get promoted. Why?

Because nobody ever trained them in the competencies they need to succeed in the next-level job. That’s why you hear things like “I sure hope I’m ready for this” or “I don’t know the first thing about what I am doing!” Sound familiar?

On the other level, Senior level people are sometimes reluctant to pass on the “secrets”. Why would I want to show people how to do what I do? They will be able to do what I do. Wow, brilliance in action.

After all, no one told them how to do the job, everyone figures it out as they go, right?  I believe mentorship and succession programs in businesses are more important than ever. The state of many American businesses is shaky and we need to draw from senior experience coupled with an infusion of the best young talent to re-energize many of our enterprises. Let me flip this over now.

There are a few senior people who are perfectly willing to share everything they have experienced and know. But….nobody ever asks them. In my career, I look back on all the people I drew knowledge from, notebooks and notebooks of it and I still think of people who I wish I could sit down and talk with today, but sadly, many of them are gone.

If I haven’t thoroughly convinced you as of yet, let me reinterate. It is imperative that companies have in place a way to transfer knowledge. Put a mentor program in place to make sure your company is transitioning effectively into the future. I know one executive who, after putting a program in place, was so confident in his companies’ future, he increased his stock position and felt great about his pension and retirement because he became aware of how well-run his company would be in the future.

It is much less expensive to maximize and grow your current talent pool and add to it when needed than it is to completely turn it over and replace all of it every few years. Who knows? You might even pull some of your employees out of disengagement! Putting a training program, mentorship program and succession plan in place can only raise the level of talent in your company. See GE for the best example.

  1. Open the dialogue between the levels of the workforce to talk about the future

  2. Discuss ways to share expertise and knowledge across levels of the Org Chart

  3. Look into a Mentorship Program for those employees who want to make the company their home for the next several years.

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