When some organizations bring on new leaders, they offer those employees a few weeks’ worth of intensive training. However, after the orientation period, the organizations adopt a sink-or-swim approach designed to test new leaders’ mettle and gauge their natural capabilities.
You need to do much better than that. But how do you ensure the long-term success of your organization’s new leaders? The strategy is simple: Offer mentoring. Becoming a mentor to—or recruiting others to mentor—new leaders ensures that they don’t drown under the weight of their new roles. As those green leaders build their leaderships skills, they can trust their mentors to support and buoy them.
Before establishing mentoring relationships, it’s important for mentors to understand the role they are taking on—and to fully commit to it. Here’s what great mentors do:
- Offer guidance. They share their own experiences. They offer advice and steer new leaders toward effective solutions, but they allow the people they are mentoring to make their own decisions, build confidence and learn from their mistakes.
- Identify options. They teach new leaders how to identify and evaluate options and then choose and implement the best solutions. They don’t simply tell their mentees what to do.
- Share feedback. They close the loop, following up on each problem-solving discussion by asking each mentee about the outcome of a chosen solution, what the person would do differently next time, and so on. They offer positive and constructive feedback, even if the solution did not pan out exactly as planned.
- Treat failures as learning experiences. They focus mentees on the lessons they’ve learned and discuss how to apply those lessons in the future.
- Create connections. They help new leaders build their networks and connect them with people they know. They also aid mentees in building strong internal networks, by telling them who to turn to when specific situations arise.
- Listen more than they speak. They understand that their most important function is not to teach but to enable learning. Instead of providing answers and revealing solutions, they show new leaders how to connect the dots, test their own ideas, build their depth of knowledge and learn from their own experiences.
Have you mentored an employee? What did you learn from the process?