THE BLOG

How To Use Mentoring As a Business Development Tool

01/20/2015 05:36 EST | Updated 03/22/2015 05:59 EDT

January is mentoring month. Bet you didn't know that. For most people, mentoring is the frilliest of workplace frills. A gray-haired veteran in the office has great wisdom to impact, and may one day import it to a select few. When time permits, of course.

Mentoring is seen as the heated steering wheel in your next car. Nice to have but you could live without it. It's not airbags or anti-lock brakes of the business world. But it can be standard equipment, just as formerly high-end safety features are standard on the cheapest of cars.

Mentoring can be a business development tool, a tool to increase productivity, a process to increase workplace happiness.

People just don't know it yet. A former business acquaintance who I like to privately call "the meanest woman in America" not so long ago said to me: "It's not like mentoring is important to our business, it's not going to change the world. People need jobs so they have to work for us."

Not only does that attitude make my teeth hurt, she's completely wrong. Her Fortune 500 company is in freefall and her Marie Antoinette attitude toward her employees -- shared to a lesser extent among others in management -- is one of the reasons. From the lowliest hourly employee to the fastest rising star, employees know when they are not valued.

Kurt Lewin, the famous organizational physiologist found that behavior is a function between people and their environment. Today, because of our focus on quarterly earnings and short-term thinking, we have created an environment that is focused on task not people. This had led to the finding that "nine out of ten" people hate their job.

My research has proven that when structured mentoring (mentoring with a purpose in which both sides learn) is applied in a workplace that workplace angst can be dramatically reduced, because we change the people and they change the environment.

Mentoring doesn't just help up and comers. It re-energizes tired management and, in rare cases, exposes destructive "black hole" managers who are unwilling to change and just want to tear the place down around them. My "meanest woman" acquaintance is one of those.

Mentoring when structured allows for conversations between generations not about generational gaps. Mentoring when structured builds trust.

Many people who have attended a series of speeches I have given over the last six months have said we don't have a trust problem in our workplace; we have very high engagement scores. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, the former President, "it's about trust, not engagement." I also believe many employees tell their employers what they want to hear; rather than the cold hard truth.

Think about this Mr. and Ms. Manager: Do your employees feel that there is anyone in the office that will go to the wall to protect them and/or their job. Do your employees believe that they are more than a cog in the wheel that makes money, or do they believe that their boss has their best interest at heart? A full 91 per cent of the people we have surveyed since 2009 believe the answer is no. That is why I was so taken with a new survey by Monster Canada. Their research states "four in 10 workers are still waiting for their dream job."

If 40 per cent of your workforce is spending their hours waiting for their dream job, how hard are they working for you?

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