I was considering not putting mentoring and failed leadership on the same line as the title. I recall instances in some of the organizations that I was an employee of that mentoring was actually the solution that was needed to help strengthen the leadership development program. Mentoring has become a critical solution to a lot of business challenges facing organizations globally today. One of those challenges is the lack of leadership talent which is truly a global issue.
Where do we go wrong with our leadership programs? In most instances we see training as the means to end the problem when in fact the training may well enhance the problem. I have seen it numerous times where organizations spend big bucks to train perspective leaders. When they are done the training senior management says, “You are now a leader – go forth and lead!” Within a week or two they stumble and fall and do not have the support structure to get them back on track. This is where we interject an effective mentor who can spend time with this future leader to ensure that they are learning and developing. Ken Blanchard’s quote, “when we stop learning we stop leading” is one that I reference a lot – especially when it comes to leaders and leadership development programs. That is one of the ways that an effective mentor brings value. We want to change behaviour based on practical experiences versus theoretical experiences. It’s good to have the academic background but there are times when what is being suggested in the written word may not necessarily work from a practical sense. Your effective mentor can ask the right question to help you work through all of that.
I think back to some of the new leaders that I saw rising up through the ranks. There was a lot of potential there but it was crushed very early as the leadership development program was entirely focused on the theory. There was not any support structure in place that could take the practical experiences and translate them into a learning and development experience. That is the key success factor and one that the effective mentor can provide.
We really do need to look at this from a culture perspective. The organization and its culture must support the growth of its leaders – current and future. The focus must be on providing the practical experiences and the support structure to provide a learning and development environment for leaders to grow. Utilizing the effective mentoring process we can create innovative, critical thinkers in a culture where development is supported.
I have always said that effective mentoring must be a part of any leadership development program. The research clearly supports this position. You may well have a support structure of sorts in your organization for your leadership development program but it can only be enhanced with the inclusion of effective mentoring as part of the program going forward.
You will want to take a look at your current program and the culture that is to support that program. You will want to see where you can plug in effective mentoring – there is a place for it! Ensure that your mentors are trained and now the journey that they are going on. Understand that for this to be effective you are looking at weekly contact with the leader and perhaps more often for the first little while. There is no price that you can put on this investment in your future leaders and the future of your organization.
Let’s prepare our leaders for the challenges they are currently facing and will be facing in the future. Implement effective mentoring as part of your leadership development program!