For most organisations, traditional training courses have two big weaknesses: They teach skills rather than experience, and they tend to be “one size fits all” processes. You can address both weaknesses with a simple but highly effective way of accelerating the experience curve for your team members: mentoring.
Mentoring is a one-on-one relationship, where each learner (mentoree) is paired up with a more experienced person (mentor). They meet regularly for the mentor to share their experience and guide the mentoree, who asks questions and uses the mentor as a sounding board for their ideas.
The benefits for mentorees are most obvious: They learn new skills, fast-track their development, identify new areas for growth, access new networks, have a sounding board for ideas, explore issues in a safe environment, and develop their career path.
Mentors get benefits as well: They develop listening and coaching skills, enhance their leadership skills, understand people better, stay in touch with other parts of the organisation, and give back to others.
Even if you don’t have a formal mentoring program in your organisation, mentor your team members anyway. But don’t just stop there – encourage others in the organisation to use mentoring for their own teams’ growth and development. It’s in your best interest as well, because it opens up the range of potential mentors for your team (and you). Here are some practical things you can do:
- Offer your service as a mentor. Be a role model and ask peers and colleagues if you can mentor any of their team members.
- Invite them to be mentors. Discuss mentoring with your peers and colleagues, and invite them to offer their time as mentors.
- Share success stories. Showcase stories of your team members who have benefited from mentoring.
- Conduct “career days”. Invite others in the organisation to present their work to your team members, to bring potential mentors and mentorees together.
- Invite Human Resources to participate. Invite an HR person to be involved with your team from time to time, so they get to know the team members, and vice versa. Your team members are their “human resources”, so a good HR person should welcome the opportunity.
Finally, look for existing mentoring programs – either within your organisation or elsewhere – so you can tap into them, rather than doing everything yourself. However, if you do need to do it all yourself, do it! It’s not a difficult and time-consuming task, and it can bring great rewards for you and your team.