Mentors can be the key to a successful career. In fact, a study from Olivet Nazarene University (ONU) found that more than three-quarters of Americans think mentors are important. Despite this, a whopping 70 percent of Colorado workers don't have a mentor. And, less than half say their supervisor helps them manage their careers, according to research from Pinnacol Assurance, Colorado's largest workers' compensation insurance carrier.
As Colorado's job market remains tight, employers know that the future of workers means taking advantage of any opportunity to attract and retain top talent. Yet while employees are clamoring for career guidance, let's be honest: Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day, especially for small business owners who wear many hats.
The good news is that nearly 60 percent of the ONU survey respondents said that a mentoring relationship that was “casual and loose" was preferable to one that had formal goals. Now that's a style even the busiest manager can get behind.
Here are four “casual and loose" ways you can fit mentorship into your packed schedule.
1. Invite your team member to a professional function
Industry trade events or Chamber of Commerce meetings present an ideal opportunity to invite a junior-level colleague to join you. They'll benefit from meeting other members, developing an understanding of the issues your industry is wrestling with and seeing great examples of effective presentations. As a side perk, it can burnish your image in their eyes as a respected member of your professional community.
2. Focus on what they need most
It's easy to picture mentoring as this amorphous commitment that entails you devoting yourself to answering “Big Questions" and offering input on their latest dilemmas. But guess what? You can be a fantastic mentor by focusing on just one key area where they struggle.
Schedule an initial session to set a very specific goal, and then ensure that any future meetings are laser focused on that one area.
One way to stay in touch when you don't have time for even an informal meeting is to set a Google Alert for the topic, like “effective presentations," and send related articles when they pop up. Your mentee will appreciate that you are thinking about them, and you can offer a quick touch base with minimal effort.
3. Combine mentorship with exercise
We live in Colorado, after all. Most of us love to get out in the great outdoors and enjoy nature's playground. We hear the “power lunch" is dead, so replace a sit-down mentoring session with a “sweatworking" activity. While you're walking, hiking or riding the chairlift together, you can share some of your own career tales and talk through issues they might be having with anything from job skills to client relationships.
4. Teach by example
Does your employee want to polish their customer communication skills or cold call acumen? Invite them to sit in on your next client meeting or sales call, and point out specific specialties you've honed, such as engaging every attendee at the table or politely overcoming rejections. Recommend they take notes while they observe, then circle back to see what they learned and address any lingering questions.
You can also add them to the “BCC" line of correspondence to demonstrate concrete examples of how you diplomatically handle certain situations, which they may want to emulate. This type of mentoring takes very little time and has the added benefit of further training your team member to make them more valuable to your company.
When you run a business, your team is one of your most important assets, and nurturing those relationships is key to building a high-performing team. The great news is that you can enhance their allegiance by helping them build their skills on even the most hectic of days with one of these double-duty mentoring activities.