Every leader should strive to hire people who embody their principles, their mindset, and their vision. For us at INVNT it’s things like a voraciousness for learning, passion for the work, risk-seeking, and zero tolerance for average. There’s also a sense of rebelliousness, a degree of hubris, and sense of invincibility in the mix. But employing these types of people is one thing. Retaining them is a whole other. This is particularly the case during uncertain times—such as a global pandemic like COVID-19—because even the strongest, most talented employees will require reassurance, along with ongoing growth. Something that the power of mentoring can deliver.
Aside from the progression plan approach we’re all familiar with, here are five mentoring practices to apply to your business:
- Share your stories. These personal, anecdotal experiences of overcoming a challenge or approaching a client brief—instead of generic textbook examples—not only make you more human in the eyes of your team, they’ll allow them to better visualize how they might apply your strategies in the now.
- Look beyond the boardroom. While there are no doubt invaluable lessons an employee can learn from their manager, in my experience and opinion, the best mentors are not always the mentees’ direct boss. So, encourage mentees to seek out a mentor perhaps within the same company, but different department, and ensure they develop a team of mentors who represent a range of contexts and attributes, from colleagues to clients, vendors, and those from their personal circles.
- Read, watch, listen… Mentors are great, but pro-active mentees also win out, and this has been especially paramount during COVID-19. We make it a must that mentees look to other resources to build on what they learn from their mentors—we’ve been recommending podcasts, e-books, and free or discounted online courses.
- Consider reverse mentoring. Despite your seniority level, there’s a very real chance you’ll learn a thing or two from your mentee, too. When mentorship is treated as a two-way street, its benefits multiply. Want to, for example, enhance your personal brand in the digital realm? Discuss it with your Gen Z or millennial mentee. The tips they share on photographing and hashtagging, for example, could just get your post trending, or help you gain more followers.
- Advocate for an open-door policy. Mentees will have more questions regarding their roles during times of change. Being in the business of face-to-face experiences, for example, we’ve engaged in a pivot to virtual experiences amid COVID-19. Make it clear that you’re available to your mentees and encourage your team to seek you out for insight and advice as they navigate the pandemic. The work they produce will be of a much higher standard as a result.
Mentoring is always important—we invest in it considerably at our agency because it helps us retain our best talent—those high performers who are eager to continuously grow and thrive, and in turn ensure our business does the same. These are the people you need most during the difficult times, so no matter how busy you become as you focus on re-structuring, pivoting…and probably pivoting again, don’t forget that mentoring is so much more than a professional favor or an act of altruism: it’s a canny investment in the future of your enterprise.