What Are the Best Ways to Support Executive Mentoring in the Workplace?
Jonathan brings 25 years of hands-on operational experience in the upstream oil and gas industry in his role of Chairman & CEO of The Energists executive search and recruiting team.
Maintaining Open Communication Channels with Executives
Executive succession planning is critical to maintaining business stability and continuity during transitions. It’s something every company should be doing continuously, even if you don’t plan to have vacancies at the executive level. There are ongoing benefits even beyond knowing who will take over if someone quits or retires. It’s a lot easier to take a vacation as a CEO, knowing other members of the team can lead the company in my stead, for example.
I see open team communication as the most important factor in facilitating this type of mentorship. The more transparent you are with leadership decisions, the better other members of the team can understand how and why those decisions were made. An open two-way dialogue across levels of the hierarchy encourages team-level mentorship, even beyond more formalized one-on-one mentor/mentee relationships.
It makes it easier for lower-level managers to get guidance on challenges they’re facing and opens up the potential for them to “reverse mentor” upper-level executives, encouraging more sharing of skills and knowledge across all levels of the hierarchy.
Focus on the Positive
People learn better if they enjoy the process, and they are going to enjoy it if they feel that the mentorship was fruitful. Highlight their accomplishments. If they lack something, make it seem like another challenge to accomplish.
Furthermore, shaming a mentee will result in a decrease in performance. Shame is a destructive feeling. Some part of our brain turns off if we are feeling pessimistic. In other words, our mind has given up.
One on One Training with Management
The most important element of mentorship for high performers that we are trying to guide into leadership positions is one-on-one time with current leaders. What we have traditionally done is pair up people in our mentorship program with upper management when they travel for business.
This practice not only gives mentees a chance to observe and sit in on high-level conversations and see skilled relationship management in action, but it gives both the mentor and our high performers a chance to interact informally–going out for dinner, traveling, etcetera.
2 Ways to Encourage Mentoring
To foster mentorship among our board and throughout our executive leadership ranks, we do two things.
Whenever we add a new board member or someone joins our executive team, we provide them a copy of Mentoring 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know by John C. Maxwell. It is a thoughtful reference book on the benefits of mentorship and how to excel in your role as a mentor, as well as how to get the most of this relationship as a mentee.
We hope that the book inspires those in our highest ranks to seek out a mentee and convey the wisdom they have gathered throughout their years. People are moved by good books, and we hope the simple gesture of providing them a copy of this one encourages them to form a mentorship relation of their own within our company.
In addition, rather than holding virtual board meetings, we often host our board meetings in person at locations outside our office. I feel that by creating an atmosphere of collegiality and bonding, more mentorship relationships will form over the long haul. It is more difficult to connect on a personal level virtually. Hosting meetings in person moves people to develop deeper relationships.
Nurture A Culture of Mentorship
Executive-level officers in small startups or companies like ours play a very important role in the organization. We are responsible for almost all aspects of the business and sometimes even have to do some grunt work when necessary. As such, it is easy to get lost, especially if you are still new to high-level management duties and responsibilities. Learning from more experienced founders is key to understanding and knowing the ropes of executive work.
Hence, our more experienced founders and executive officers always see to it that they are available for calls and queries. We also do regular check-in meetings or daily standups to discuss issues relating to our jobs. This means that, in general, someone will always be there to guide or assist you with your concerns. We believe that through open and regular communication, we will be able to foster a culture of mentorship and collaboration at the executive level.
The Benefits of Formal and Informal Mentoring
We encourage mentorship within the board and upper leadership by highlighting the important role mentorship plays in cultivating institutional knowledge, developing cross-functional understanding, and ensuring cohesive decision-making. In the past, we have used a formal mentorship model.
Though effective, this model quickly proved to suppress free-flowing creativity and impede the natural navigation to the roles of mentors and mentees. Now, we use a semi-structured model which perfectly balances the need to encourage mentorship with the natural processes of connection required for productive engagement.
Develop a Simple Mentoring Strategy
A mentorship program does not have to be difficult, and the majority of the effort is done in the planning phase. In the workplace, people frequently devise intricate mentoring schemes. These strategies are both costly and ineffective. Whether it’s one person or an advisory board, a mentorship program requires leadership.
Your timeline will be determined by the size of the program and the number of people who will be involved. Remember that the most successful mentoring takes place on a one-on-one basis. As a result, have one or two employees in your firm map out potential mentees and mentors, and then begin the mentoring connection.
Ensure Mentoring Success
Encouraging mentorship in the board requires a healthy work culture where unity and collaboration are valued and nurtured. Making sure that everyone on your board has this kind of mindset will help ensure that your mentorship program is successful and that everyone in your company grows and is more than prepared to take on the future.
It’s also important for your company to set the proper programs and protocols that will make the entire process seamless and effective. You should also make sure to create a feedback culture, as it helps improve the program and makes sure that everyone is heard and valued.
The combination of the right mindset, the right programs, and the right protocol will help guarantee the success of your board mentorship program.
Developing Talent Through Mentoring
Often, the lack of information sharing, planning, and even emphasis on mentoring for succession within the organization is not even on the table. There is ample informal mentoring for building general technical skills, leadership, and navigating nuances of your role in the company, but not specified development plans for a pathway of succession.
Therefore, creating a structured plan that includes career development milestones, requirements of accomplishment, and a formal mentoring program is important.
The talent pipeline development should have entry milestones in the leadership track from onboarding through their first five years. Beyond those first five years, elevated tiers of engagement based on classifications or promotional positions should exist.
Consider Company Goals and Values
It’s impossible to create a succession plan in a void. To put it another way, you select and nurture successors [who] will lead your company into the future. Pick them with your company’s long-term goals in mind.
Your succession plan should also be in line with the company’s principles, ensuring that it stays loyal to its values while also maintaining its financial health and image.
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