The Power of Mentoring

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”

― Plato

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” 

― Plutarch

In my work with clients, I assist them in letting go of control methods like being autocratic, dangling carrots (incentives), using pressure through judgment, and pampering; all attempts to elicit good behavior through extrinsic motivation. While these can all “work” at times, (like pointing a gun at someone might get them to empty their wallet), they cost us greatly. Instead, at LifeWork Systems, we promote a model that purposely develops intrinsic motivation within employees and transfers responsibility to them so they effectively manage their own relationships, motivation and productivity. A huge part of this involves monthly mentoring.

Mentoring is not chitchat with employees. It’s a time to appreciate them, discuss purpose and values, and support them in social and emotional intelligence, the resolution of problems and realizing their visions. It’s a time to help each one feel empowered, lovable, connected and contributing, supporting their full engagement.

I know a good man who lost a key employee; it wasn’t until this employee was leaving, that he learned of his frustrations. So he replaced him, going to great lengths to assure the new employee of his “open door policy”, and that he welcomed discussion on any concern. Yet, a few years later, he too left and again, only then did the employer discover many frustrations. He asked me, “How could this have happened? I reassured him he could come to me!” I replied, “It doesn’t work that way. We are so seeped in power-over dynamics that simply being friendly (as he is) and offering an open door policy one time, does not trusting relationships build.” I have many such stories as this.

Once I was sitting in on a mentoring session. A pre-set question was, “Are you and I at a 10?” (Meaning, is everything completely ok between you and I as boss and employee?) The employee paused but then reluctantly said, “Well, I expect you’re getting ready to fire me any day.” The manager was shocked and asked, “Why do you think that?” to which the employee explained, “You hired me 45 days ago, said my first 30 days was a trial period, and I would be informed if I was accepted then. It’s now 45 days with no word, and I expect you’re looking for my replacement.”

This is not an isolated case of unspoken fears, assumptions, and other concerns that desperately need to be unearthed, not to mention moving beyond problems to helping each person to cultivate their intrinsic motivation. All employees deserve, and will thrive with a minimum of 30-minute monthly mentoring sessions, but most organizations rarely consider this time well spent. I wish I could tell you all the many stories that make it clear this is the best investment any business could make.

One last comment: Not only do we promote mentoring of all staff by managers, we promote reverse mentoring; staff who mentor managers and staff who mentor new hires, no matter what their title and role. This is a sure way to help people feel empowered and contributing, build strong leadership within all, and help each to own the personal responsibility model and tools, keeping the practices alive and strong among all, without leaning on a larger-than-life leader.

I see so much unnecessary suffering and wasted resources of time, money and missed opportunities. These are so avoidable. By building a foundation of trustworthiness and consistent support through regular mentoring, you ensure the best competitive advantage you can have because you’ve invested in your greatest asset; your people.

If you are seeking to develop engagement and leadership in your team, call me today. I’ll help you to adopt a strong, proven system to help all your people expand into their greatest human potential!

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Why People Hire LifeWork Systems

Business owners, community leaders, and educators hire Judy Ryan and Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace. For a limited time, Judy’s book, What’s the Deal with Workplace Culture Change? is available FREE at www.GetMyCultureBook.com You can also contact Judy at 314-239-4727 or at judy@lifeworksystems.com.

This article was published in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly, November 2017