How to Create & Sustain a Mentorship Program

Employers: I highly recommend working on a strategy now to retain the employees you have and hire top talent from the classes in the future. My suggestion? Start a mentorship program. It may seem like a daunting task to start up a new program, but ultimately, a mentorship program is a cost-effective way to make your employees more comfortable, productive and engaged.

Here’s how to get started:

Begin with the end in mind. What is your intent? You should have measurable goals in mind before starting your program. You also need organizational commitment from the top.

Decide who the participants will be. Who will be the mentors? The mentees? Will mid-level employees be mentoring interns? Senior level mentoring entry-level?

What will the nature of the interaction be?

  • Single leader mentoring circle: one leader and many mentees
  • Mixed level mentoring circle: a mixed group of mentors and mentees
  • Peer mentoring: each member of the group is on the same professional level
  • E-mentoring: use phone and e-mail to interact with participants
  • Reverse mentoring: junior employees mentor senior staff

How will you review the program? What will deem your mentorship program “successful”? What measures do you have in place? Have you committed yourself to a process of continual improvement?

The first 90-120 days is important to determining both short- and long-term success for new employees, and with a mentorship program in place they can start to better understand the culture, their fit within the organization, their associates and the commitment of the organization as a whole to their success. And, over time, a level of trust and candor develops where the mentor can tell the mentee “things they don’t want to hear” (otherwise known as tough love).

By developing a mentorship program, you will have a better grasp on attracting and retaining new employees. With an increased organizational commitment, employees will likely see that and feel that they can grow with your organization.Other benefits of a mentorship program include:

  • Employees gain better understanding of organization through mentoring relationships
  • Employees create trusting relationships resulting in a more comfortable environment
  • Mentees learn from mentors
  • Mentors learn from mentees
  • Helps on-board new entry-level employees to new organizations and the quality of the new hire experience
  • Organization benefits from increased retention, engagement levels and overall effectiveness of their employees
  • Creates a foundation for success

I have several mentors, and I’m always on the hunt for more! I have mentors in my industry, as well as outside of it. Without them, I doubt I would be where I am today, as their guidance has truly been priceless.

Does your organization offer a mentorship program or something similar? How beneficial do you feel such a program would have been when you were first starting out?

Leadership Principles Learned in Military: Communicating ‘Why’ is Key

Today’s guest post is by our talented colleague and friend Joe Sanchez. Joe is passionate about making a difference in government, business, and communities. He is focused on strategy, communications, marketing, performance management, and information technology. He loves cycling (I know this as we swap bike stories) and is a sports enthusiast. Joe’s special interests include public education, Special Olympics, and Veterans. You can follow him on Twitter @sanchezjb for more valuable insights.

I consider myself honored to have served with our nation’s finest young men and women in our Armed Forces.  It was an absolutely fantastic learning experience from many perspectives, the most important one being from a leadership perspective.

One of my early lessons was that while there are a number of foundational aspects of leadership often referred to as leadership principles, how these principles are applied and made “real” can and should vary based on environmental and situational factors.

In recognition of this Veteran’s Day, I focused on four leadership principles (among many) that I learned in the military and have tailored and applied in the private sector.  Their application is not limited to commercial enterprises; they are equally applicable to government, non-profits, and other NGOs.

These principles are focused on the relationships between leaders and the people that they are responsible for.  Effectively applied, they can help leaders establish a culture that values communications, leader and talent development, learning, and recognition.  Such a culture in turn should serve as a springboard for achieving organizational goals.

Emphasize the Importance of Communication

Encourage, and perhaps most importantly, respect and acknowledge the value of candid communication within your organization; this is a risk mitigator and an innovation multiplier.

Communicating the “Why” is just as important, if not more so, than the “How.”

When your people are challenged with decision/action points for which there was/is no specific guidance, understanding the “Why” can enable them to take the right action.

Communication is the foundation of innovation – and just about everything else the organization does, therefore, communicate early and often.


Do not underestimate the value of “breaking bread” with people in your organization; find opportunities to do this with people at all levels in the organization.

Above all, communicate confidence in your organization, enthusiasm about what your organization has achieved and is focused on achieving, and a passion for your role, to your employees, customers, and stakeholders. To paraphrase, General Colin Powell, these are force multipliers for success.

Develop Talent and Grow Leaders

Surround yourself with people smarter than you and leverage their experience and knowledge to the nth degree possible.

Challenge up and coming leaders with positions of increased scope and responsibility (“stretch” them as well;” this is another form of recognition) but make sure they have a mentor to assist them.

Advancing and promoting people within your organization should not be based on their past performance but on their demonstrated potential for positions of increased scope and responsibility.

Developing future leaders is one of a leader’s most important responsibilities.

Value Learning

Be a continuous learner and emphasize the importance of this in word and deed to your organization so that it values continuous learning.

Provide opportunities for cross-training your people in functional disciplines within your organization; besides contributing to their professional development, this will enable them to see the bigger picture and understand the “Why.”

Emphasize the importance of collaboration but make sure that people understand “Why” collaboration is important by linking that collaboration to specific goals or outcomes.

Seek diversity, not sameness, in collaboration.

Establish a systemic means of capturing and evaluating insights from your people on the front lines that interact with customers and stakeholders on a daily basis; these insights may present new opportunities and may impact your strategy and goals.

Reinforce success; get your people and teams to discuss and learn “Why” goals were achieved and what can be done to expand on that success.

Likewise, use failure as a learning opportunity.

Recognition Begins with Accountability

Leverage collaborative decision-making but at the end of the day, recognize that you, as the leader, are and will be held accountable for what’s accomplished and/or not accomplished.

Credit your people publicly and privately when goals and objectives are achieved and acknowledge responsibility if they are not.

Authority can be delegated but not responsibility.

Find ways to meaningfully recognize people in front of their peers when they excel.

Don’t just recognize individuals; find ways to recognize teams and organizations as well.

People want to believe and feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves – that they are making a difference; look at how everything you do as a leader will address and support this need.

Challenge your organization with “stretch goals” and most importantly, prepare and enable them to achieve those goals.

Set aside a designated time each month to brief new personnel on where your/their organization has been, where it’s going, and the values that are going to enable it to get there.

Use organizational get-togethers to introduce new personnel to the larger organization.

Use storytelling to recognize people’s accomplishments and reinforce the organizational culture that you, as a leader, want.

If you’re interested in reading more about “Leadership Lessons from the Military,” that happens to be the title for the current issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Lastly and most importantly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in October 2010, the unemployment rate for Veterans was 10.2% vs. the national unemployment rate of 9.6%.   I have again been fortunate to have worked with a good number of Veterans since leaving the military.  I have seen these Veterans successfully apply these leadership principles (and others) to foster organizational success.  Consider hiring a Veteran, they have alot to offer your organization and are driven, as they were in the service of our country, to make a difference.

Of Gutter Slugs, Leaders and Love

“You boys are the gutter slugs; the front line leaders fighting in the trenches with all the guts and no glory. Be proud of that. Hold your heads high; love the game and each other. Each one of you is a leader, so let’s lead this team to victory. I love you guys!”

I remember those words well, one of many inspirational shout-outs my high school offensive line coach used to give us. A big ol’ Grizzly Adams of a man – SMU graduate and parole officer, Coach Sutton instilled in us a sense of belonging, of understanding our critical roles in the greater game.

Even after long, excruciatingly hot practices in the Central Valley of California where I grew up, when it was time to do the after-practice conditioning – and there was always after-practice conditioning – we complied with minimal grumbling and gave 110% no matter how dog-tired we were.

We loved him and the game. Tons.

That’s tons of love for a bunch of teenage Valley football heroes in the early 80’s. But the life lessons he taught us have stayed with me for decades:

  • Each of must learn to lead our self with love.
  • Each of us must learn to lead with others with love.
  • Each of us must learn to lead their teams with love.

Right on, brother. We knew no other way to play.

Segue – Why do we have such a hard time with leadership and love in the workplace? Lisa Earle McLeod from tells us why we don’t and why we should in an article titled Leadership: What Love’s Got To Do With It.

Myth No. 1: Feelings aren’t professional.

They are the embodiment of life and all things in the workplace. “Emotions are at the root of every human endeavor.”

Myth No. 2: Love is too mushy to measure.

Enough with the measuring; the bottom line will grow when we own our behavior. “It’s about taking responsibility for creating the conditions that will bring out the best in others.”

Myth No. 3: Love means no accountability.

Now that’s just a bunch of garbage. Love is the ultimate accountability. “Love is all about mutual accountability. When you love someone, you expect them to give you their very best.”

Lastly, Lisa writes: “The real secret of lasting success is taking a good, long look in the mirror and deciding that your people and your organization deserve a leader who has the courage to stand up and love them.”

Whether on the front lines or the team captains, everyone can be empowered to lead responsibly with love. Know no other way to play.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Social Community: Metaphor for the Workplace. Find Your Intent

Recently I wrote about models of interaction within cultures and social communities that foster progress. I’d like to push the theme a bit further and look at social communities – which are really communities of intent – and how they can serve as a useful metaphor for the workplace.

Intent is one of those words that have taken on new meaning with the advent of search and search marketing. The trick that Google mastered so well is serving up information to consumers at the moment of intent (thanks to John Battelle, Andrei Broder and others; see some older material on intent here) – intent to act, to purchase, to decide. “Intent” is not only an action the searcher takes; it is a commitment the provider of information (the vendor or service), and the search service (Google, Yahoo, Bing), make to the individual searching for information.

In social communities, intent is more than interest, more than commitment, more than an informed notion. It’s the true power behind the community, because people come to communities with a purpose, an intent. They are looking for a place to be, a place to learn, a place to grow and interact in a meaningful way.

The trick then, for companies, is to behave as social communities. It’s a powerful and new metaphor for the workplace.

In a typical workplace there are people with many different personalities, personal brands, goals, aspirations, skill sets and attributes. In a healthy workplace, meaning one that focuses on ensuring personality/culture fit between employees and the organization, people of diverse skill sets and temperaments can collaborate and succeed – because they have the intent to succeed, and the social context – the community – in which to realize their intent.

TalentCulture, for example, is a collaborative social community, a community of intent, a metaphor for the workplace. Our contributors come from many backgrounds: executive leadership,  human resources, recruiting, marketing, new media, research, public relations, law, branding, innovation, venture capital, career coaching, entrepreneurship and software technology. The shared intent is to create and share the very latest perspectives and trends on growing your business and reaching your individual career goals – using them to grow and foster innovation.

So here’s a challenge: find your intent. Share it with others. Be passionate. Be creative. Make every action resonate with the intent to do something positive, something to improve your workplace or advance the idea of what a collaborative workplace or social community should be.
And keep us in the loop.

Image Credit: Pixabay