Founder and Chief Culture Officer of Ideal resultsInc. Author of new book “Culture Ignited: 5 Disciplines for Adaptive Leadership.”
I’ve always appreciated the value of mentorship programs, but their value really dawned on me one night over veal chops washed down with a bottle of Cabernet. It made such an impression on me and had such a profound impact on my life that I vividly remember everything about that night in Georgetown, Washington, DC with the man who would become my greatest mentor.
It was early in my career. I was a sales director, and I had spent all day talking to the chief of operations, John Covilli, a much more experienced businessman. I knew I could learn a lot from his experience and success, so at a business dinner I asked him a question I’d asked others without getting a satisfactory answer: “What’s the secret sauce?” In sales and leadership, what makes the difference between being average and being super successful? I can not get out.”
John took a sip of his wine, looked straight at me and said, “It’s the insatiable hunger for curiosity.”
He continued that you should be curious about the people around you, whether they be your colleagues, employees or customers. deal with them. Find out what’s going on in their lives and what drives them. Because it shows people that you care about them and that you are interested in them as individuals.
At that point, my approach to sales, customer relationships, and leadership changed in an instant. I stopped living in what was in my best interest –mine commission and mine salary – and focused instead on other people’s interests and keeping in mind what would be to their advantage. It is essential advice that I share with companies in various industries in my work as a culture change consultant.
At the heart of this story is the value of finding a true mentor like John. A recent study conducted by mentoring service company MentorcliQ provides some statistical backup: it found that 84% of US Fortune 500 companies and 100% of US Fortune 50 companies believe in the strategy so strongly that they have formal mentoring programs. Further in 2022 L&D Social Sentiment Surveyconducted by Donald H. Taylor, mentoring showed the biggest rank increase of all strategies, rising from #6 to #4 on their list.
The financial benefit of mentorship? According to one report, “Companies with mentoring programs had earnings that were 18% higher than average, while companies without mentoring programs had earnings that were 45% below average.” Mentoring is a proven approach when it comes to tackling one of the biggest challenges businesses face today: attracting, developing and retaining talent.
Multiple studies highlight the value of mentorship in employee retention. One earlier Deloitte study, found, for example, that 81% of millennials stay with a company for five years or more if they have a mentor. I see these benefits all the time in my own company and in other companies I work with.
When it comes to creating a culture of mentorship, there are several effective methods. I recommend matching up-and-coming individuals with more experienced employees who have the desired experience and skills. But those are not the only ones who need guidance. During the onboarding process, connect the new hire with a suitable mentor to walk them through the unwritten rules and help them understand your organizational culture. It can significantly speed up the habituation period. And while mentoring is traditionally a one-on-one affair, you might also consider group mentoring, where an experienced individual mentors a team so they’re all on the same wavelength.
Also remember that mentors may need their own mentors. No matter how far you rise in the hierarchy, mentorship can have a major impact on senior executives. I’ve increasingly found in my own company that the most successful members of the management team are those who embrace personal coaching and mentorship.
Good mentorship programs significantly improve employee retention and business growth. If you want to integrate mentorship into your corporate culture, I am confident you will see positive benefits.
Whenever I talk about mentorship, it brings back vivid memories of that dinner with my best mentor and his career-changing advice. Needless to say I was more than happy to pick up the tab!