How to Become a Better Mentor

“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” — John C. Maxwell

Tamra asks: When I asked my direct reports for feedback on my own performance recently, I was surprised by the answer one of them gave. He said he’d love more mentoring to help him get to the next level in his career. I feel like I always take time to check in about how my staff can improve. We have frequent one-on-ones, and I’m told I’m very approachable. How can I become a better mentor? What am I missing when it comes to mentoring them to the next level?

Joel answers: Mentoring has many dimensions, so it’s really not surprising that you’re excelling in some key ways but have room to improve in others.

Here’s what it sounds like the core issue is: It’s time to take the mystery out of the promotion process. Your people are getting a lot of support from you in their growth, but they need to know how to channel that growth into new opportunities. To become a better mentor, focus on how to provide that guidance.

Have you ever had a job in which you had no real idea of what it would take to get to the next level? If you’re now a boss, some of your people may be feeling the exact same way. Now that the tables have turned, it’s time to give them the clarity about the career advancement process that you always wanted from your own boss.

Here are three steps you can take to promote your star performers:

  1. Tell your employees exactly what you plan to do in order to help them get promoted.
  2. Give them action steps, and follow up on their progress in weekly or biweekly check-ins.
  3. Get proactive about promoting your people to your peers and those above you in the organization.
  • Know your messaging strategy around the promotion of your employees.
    To proactively share positive messages about your employees, clarify your messaging strategy. What three key traits do you want them to associate with the employee you’re promoting? Ask for her input on this, helping her to create a clear brand for herself. Consider the areas in which that person excels, as well as her goals. Consistent messaging about that employee’s brand will help her develop a strong reputation for those qualities.
  • Share impactful stories showing the value of that employee to the company.
    Think of examples of situations in which that individual has demonstrated those key qualities. Think of your favorite stories of how she saved the day or made your own life easier. Being able to tell a vivid story when you introduce her to a higher-level leader will make the intro far more memorable than “This is Jane from accounting. She does great work.” Jot down a list of favorite stories that put a spotlight on each employee’s best qualities, and keep it in the employee’s file for quick reference. If you’re sitting around the board room discussing that person’s qualifications, you’ll be prepared to eloquently explain why she’s the best candidate for promotion.
  • Set work performance goals with your employee.
    Make sure you prioritized setting work performance goals with your employees. Now, raise awareness about what your people have accomplished. Send out a monthly update to other leaders on what your team has achieved, describing what star performers have done to reach their goals. If they’ve taken important steps toward self-improvement, mention that too!
  • Introduce your employee to the key stakeholders.
    In regard to their own action steps, networking is a major priority. Come up with a list of key players across the organization for your employee to develop a rapport with. Give tips on how to approach them and where.
  • Give them detailed action steps to help improve their reputation.
    Give them homework, too, like creating a compelling elevator speech about their accomplishments. Have them rehearse it with you. Encourage them to take steps to promote their personal brand. Ask them to send you a succinct and persuasive list of major accomplishments they’ve achieved over the past year. Give them tips on how to take credit for their work, too, so it never goes unseen.
  • Find additional mentors to help them get to where they want to go.
    Employees may also need additional mentors to get to where they want to go. Connect them with mentors who can give them more guidance on their chosen path.

Even if you’re already doing some of these things, your people need to know it. When they know the specific steps you’re taking to promote them to other leaders, they’ll feel you’re part of a team that’s committed to their growth. As you learn how to be a better mentor, you’ll become a stronger leader who will motivate your people to go the extra mile to promote themselves, too.

Joel is an expert in helping bosses become better leaders who provide quality mentoring for their people. Contact him today to improve both relationships and results.

Talent Identification and Management

“Talent management deserves as much focus as financial capital management in corporations.”
~ Jack Welch

One of the best ways to strengthen your company as a whole is to devote attention to developing your employee talent. If your staff isn’t given the proper encouragement or assistance needed to help them move forward within your company, it can be more challenging for the company itself to continue growing in its capabilities. There are several ways that you, as a leader, can help to develop the talent at your company. Talent identification and management begin with The Four P’s.

    1. Pinpoint individual strengths
      While specific roles at any company often require a specific set of skills, your employees will likely have additional strengths within those skill sets that can be utilized and honed whenever possible. Assess your staff in order to pinpoint each employee’s individual talents and areas of expertise, then find ways to incorporate those abilities into their daily workflow. This will not only make employees stronger contributors to your team, but will also likely provide them with greater job satisfaction, as they’ll be performing tasks using skills that can bring greater value to their team’s output.
    2. Practice engaging leadership
      Truly great leaders possess characteristics that encourage and inspire their staff. In order to bring yourself to a higher level of greatness as a leader, explore your existing strengths and see how you might be able to improve upon them and add new motivational elements into your leadership style. Above all, be a leader who provides adequate support for your team. Regularly engage with each of your employees and ensure their needs are being met so they can be better equipped to perform their jobs at an optimized level.
    3. Prioritize talent management
      Another way to ensure the continued development of your staff is to incorporate effective talent identification and management tools and practices into your business structure. A human capital management solution, for example, can have modules specifically geared toward optimizing your talent management practices. These kinds of software services can simplify the creation of career development plans for your current talent and improve your ability to monitor their progress throughout them. These tools can also automate components of your recruiting operations, like sending out application notifications, in order to speed up the process of cultivating and developing new talent alongside seasoned employees. By improving your company’s talent management practices, you may find it easier to determine what additional steps you can take to aid your employees in continuing to grow.
    4. Provide opportunities for growth
      In order to truly develop into more skilled and knowledgeable employees, your staff must be provided with opportunities to exercise their own leadership and to strengthen skills that might be important in the roles they aspire to. Sit down with individual team members and help them set work performance goals for themselves. Once they’ve established concrete, attainable goals for both the short and long terms, do what you can to aid them in achieving their objectives each step of the way.

For instance, if one of their goals is to expand their understanding of the daily responsibilities of your company’s executive team, create an opportunity for them to shadow you or another company leader so they can gain insight into whether an executive career path could be a good fit for them. The more your employees are able to broaden their comprehension of your company’s functionality beyond their own duties, the greater the likelihood that they’ll be able to develop into well-informed and well-rounded contributors.

High Performing Employees

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”
~Jim Collins~

Arthur, a manager at a mid-size firm, read a troubling statistic: According to Harvard Business Review, one in five high-performing employees plans to leave their job in the next six months. He wanted to groom his high-performing employees for success, growing their leadership skills. But how do I know I’m not just priming them for a job with some other company? he wondered.

High-performers are 400% more productive than average employees, says the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Arthur knew he couldn’t afford to lose his best people.

Then he read another stat: High-performing employees are only a little more satisfied with their jobs than other employees. He had an epiphany: His high-performers should get more from their job and workplace than they’re currently getting. If he gave them more, he’d increase their loyalty. Working with an executive coach, Arthur devised the following strategy.

  1. Implement a Thorough Onboarding Process
    Thorough onboarding greatly improves retention, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). When employees understand how to contribute, they feel more satisfied—and stay longer. Onboarding ideally lasts around a year—it’s more a talent development process than an orientation, says SHRM.This process should thoroughly help employees to understand the workplace culture, how they’re evaluated, the tools at their disposal, and how their roles relate to the company’s vision, SHRM adds. Taking these steps will help mitigate the main reasons why employees leave their jobs early on.
  2. Provide Plenty of Guidance
    According to a 2015 Gallup study, half of all employees who resign leave because they don’t like their bosses. Managers who give little guidance in setting goals and priorities, and who aren’t consistently available to answer questions, are the primary reason behind their choice to leave.The younger generations of employees particularly expect a great deal of feedback and support from their supervisors. Giving them what they want will keep them from seeking it elsewhere. Hold regular one-on-one meetings with all employees to discuss their progress, challenges, and expectations.
  3. Create a Succession Plan (and Communicate It)
    If your high-performing employees don’t know your succession plan (or if you need to create one), they’re probably thinking about other career moves they can make. Involving them in the succession plan will give them more incentive to stay. Start preparing employees for more advanced roles early and pairing them with mentors who can support their development. Provide leadership training or executive coaching to help them get ready to handle the increased responsibility. Choose your trainer wisely, selecting someone who will do the legwork to understand your employees’ challenges and offers ongoing mentoring. Help your people improve their perception, visibility, and influence so they can go further.
  4. Support Flexible Career Paths
    The standard career ladder of generations past doesn’t always apply anymore. More often than not, once employees are exposed to a variety of job roles, they begin redefining their career objectives. In your one-on-one sessions, make it clear that you support such changes, as you want everyone to follow their passion. Help employees find appropriate mentors within the organization who can help them prepare for a new role, if they choose a different path.
  5. Don’t Put a Cap on Incentives
    According to Harvard Business Review, 73% of high-performing firms choose not to place a cap on bonus pay. When rewards are not capped, it signifies that the possibilities you can achieve together are unlimited.
  6. Minimize Stress
    Employees who regularly feel stressed are more likely to leave their workplaces, says the APA’s 2017 Work and Well-Being Survey. Ask your employees what creates stress for them, like organizational changes, interpersonal conflict, or work/life balance issues. Then create a plan together for addressing it. Reducing work stress will also give you more star performers, as it boosts productivity.

High-performing employees might not always stick around forever, but more of them will stay for much longer when you implement these strategies. Arthur found that when he showed employees his commitment to their success and satisfaction, they displayed a great deal of loyalty to the company as well.

Retain your high performing employees by offering them an executive coach to show a continued commitment to their development. 

Employee & Manager Relationship

Achieving the highest possible return on human capital must be every manager’s goal.
~Brian Tracy~

Sebastian asks: As a new manager, I see that building relationships with my employees is way different than with coworkers. I don’t want to be that stereotypical boss who stays behind a desk except to give criticism. Can you help me figure out how to navigate these new waters?

Joel answers: Sebastian, you’re absolutely right in putting a lot of thought into this issue. Gallop found that one in two American workers has left a job to escape from a boss. Plus, 20% of workers would be happier if their boss left their organization.

Relationships between employees and managers are not only shaped by personalities—they’re also shaped by societal forces you have less control over. The constant demand for talent can shift the power dynamic between employees and bosses, notes Elizabeth Aylott in Employee Relations. Today’s employees expect a lot from a boss, because they know they’re not easy to replace. Here’s how to give them what they’re looking for.

  1. Be Trustworthy
    Trust is important to the employee/manager relationship. Make a habit of following through with all promises on time. When you’ve finished something you told an employee you would do, say so. If you said you would read her proposal, call her into your office and provide effective feedback so she knows you’re supportive of her efforts. Repeatedly being “too busy” to respond to your employees conveys that you don’t make them a priority. Following up with people about the things you’ve pledged to do shows you respect them, fostering good feelings toward you.
  2. Work Alongside Them
    Spend some time working hand-in-hand with employees, so you can really get to know each other’s working styles. You’ll see firsthand how they work best, so you can serve as a better coach. Their respect for you will grow when they see you’re willing to help out with the tasks that many managers may feel they’re above. Plus, you’ll gain a more in-depth view of each team member’s role when you actually see what they do on a daily basis.Use inclusive language, like “Look what we’ve accomplished together” or “What do you think we can achieve today?” This will emphasize that you’re a team.
  3. Help People to Grow
    Show each member of your team that you care about helping them achieve deeper fulfillment from their work. Make time on a quarterly basis to check in about their career satisfaction and any changes they envision in their trajectory. If they’ve decided to make a change, this will help you figure out together how it can mesh with the organization’s needs. These talks will help establish a strong relationship based on mutual consideration. In fact, Gallup reports that employees are almost three times more engaged when managers regularly meet with them one-on-one, either face-to-face or on the phone.As people push their boundaries, offer genuine gratitude for their contributions and efforts.
  4. Uphold Boundaries
    Recognize that the power you hold in your relationships with employees can make it hard for them to say “no” to social invitations. Hanging out with particular employees outside of work can breed resentment in others and signal favoritism. Thus, it’s best to keep employee and manager relationships professional. It’s okay to go to an occasional event at someone’s home, like a holiday party, but socializing with particular people too often can compromise your working relationship. The same goes for social networking—not everyone wants to use Facebook to keep up with professional contacts, so “friending” your employees may not be a welcome move.
  5. Watch Emerging Trends
    Keeping your pulse on emerging and future trends will help you meet employees’ shifting expectations. The younger generations expect a lot of coaching, training, and feedback, for example. Read the latest surveys and reports on what employees want, so you know how to boost their performance and loyalty.

Strong employer and manager relationships require continual effort to grow. Remember that as a manager, you’re not just responsible for getting tasks completed—you need to foster relationships that keep your team strong. When you build these relationships, employees will feel comfortable coming to you with both problems and ideas, improving workplace culture and boosting your team’s capacities.

Are you wanting to gain new job success, or want to improve as a leader? Contact Joel in order to learn more about his background and personalized leadership coaching.

How to Increase Employee Engagement

“It is easier to motivate people to do something difficult than something easy.” ~Sheri L. Dew~

Lydia Asks: I don’t know how to make some of my people feel more invested in their work. I would have thought success alone would be the best motivation, but apparently not. How can I get people to care more about their work?

Joel Answers: Increasing employee engagement is vital to retaining your people and succeeding as a company. Yet many companies’ “employee engagement plan” consists of giving out a survey and then telling managers to make things better, says Gallup. That’s probably why 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged in their work—or are actively disengaged—according to the organization’s data.

Here’s how to build engagement, inspiring your people to achieve more than they thought possible.

  1. Be Transparent
    When employees feel the company is hiding something from them, they feel less invested in their jobs and may start to look elsewhere. If the company is going through a rough time, be transparent. Share your plan and what all employees can do to help. You might be surprised at how much this will build morale, not only helping you weather the storm but emerge from it in better shape than ever.
  2. Get into the Trenches
    If you’re hiding behind your desk all day, you’re missing opportunities to contribute more as a manager. Build your working relationships by wandering through the office, asking people how they’re doing and listening to their ideas. Ask them if they need help, showing you have no qualms about rolling up your sleeves and pitching in with whatever’s needed. It’ll earn you tremendous respect and create a true sense of working as a team, increasing employees’ engagement in their jobs.
  3. Allow Your Stars to Shine
    Give your team a problem to tackle, so they can generate their own creative solutions. If you need to bring an idea to upper management, create the idea as a team. Give credit where it’s due when you present it, of course—execs will be impressed that you’re fostering ingenuity among your people, and your team will feel valued. Your employees will also relish the chance to contribute in meaningful ways to the organization’s success, and your top talent will soar when their creative abilities are unleashed.
  4. Share Gratitude Often
    The power of gratitude in the workplace. Say thank you often, and be specific about what you appreciate in people. If someone just completed a project, point out the qualities and talents she used in seeing it through—and do this in front of her peers. Give frequent feedback about what people are doing well, along with guidance in areas where they’re growing.
  5. Give People the Chance to Self-Critique
    When an employee could have performed better, give him the opportunity to self-critique by explaining what he thinks he should have done differently. Then help him figure out how to get there. Failure itself usually gives people new insights; your job is to help them integrate these insights into their future performance. Addressing failures or shortcomings in this way feels empowering to employees, as you’re trusting them to help figure out a new plan.
  6. Create Social Opportunities
    Give people the chance to share about their lives and aspirations in a less formal way by creating social opportunities. Having a pizza party for lunch after a team accomplishment will encourage everyone to gather in one place and chat. Taking a few employees out for lunch each week will also give you a chance to connect—and by handpicking people who don’t know each other well encourages new relationships. Asking your team to select a volunteer opportunity to take part in together is another idea. By fostering relationships, you’ll increasing their sense of comradery, which will make motivation and engagement skyrocket.
  7. Get Silly
    If you just send a humdrum email about an employee’s accomplishments, coworkers might barely glance at it. Instead, celebrate these moments in unexpected ways. The Society for Human Resource Management describes how in one company, a group of people parade around with kazoos, horns, and cow bells proclaiming the news. Getting a little wacky turns it into a fun moment for everyone, and makes them take notice.

As you can see, these factors aren’t related to compensation. Higher pay and benefits don’t drive engagement—relationships and communication do. To further boost engagement, consider hiring a motivational speaker who is known for getting results. This will show your people that you’re invested in their success.

By boosting employees’ engagement, you’ll be increasing their loyalty to the organization and raising the bar for what you can achieve together.

Learn more by utilizing his articles and tips on motivating your team. Or, you can hire him as an executive coach to help provide specific methods to take your leaders to the next level.