Everyone faces difficult decisions, and a mentor can be invaluable in keeping a person headed in the right direction. This is critical as the success of your people has a direct impact on the success of your company. Because of this, all of my senior team members devote time to mentoring potential leaders, and we encourage formal and informal mentoring and feedback throughout the company.
Ive benefited from mentor/mentee relationships in the past, so Ive seen firsthand how a good mentor can keep people motivated and focused. The one that stands out most for me was my previous boss, the late Terry Holt, then CEO of S3 Graphics, a leading PC graphics provider in the 90s. After our IPO and Terrys retirement, the company struggled due to various decisions and industry paradigms. The FUD (Fear, uncertainty and doubt)factor was taking its toll on morale, and people speculated that the companys future was pretty grim. The board persuaded Terry to return as interim-CEO role and help the company, and myself personally, through this difficult period by being: a challenger, an advisor and a developer all the best attributes of a great mentor. Let me take the rest of this article to explain.
Lets explore each of these capabilities to see how a good mentor exemplifies them.
They say geniuses bore easily; their skills are so strong they can quickly master a new task and become tired with it. Boredom can lead to frustration and a frustrated employee wont be an employee for long. We encourage our employees to seek out mentors (beyond their manager) and focus on one or two development areas for continued learning and growth. Often the mentor pushes the employee to think broadly and challenge their assumptions. In addition a mentor can keep an eye out for signs of frustration and either provide a mentee with new or additional responsibilities, or advocate with other managers on the mentees behalf to see if the employees skills and talents can be leveraged elsewhere.
Most mentors have years of experience in an industry and/or a company, and are familiar with the peaks and valleys that occur in any business over time. During the low times, it can be easier for junior team members to become demoralized as they watch their company struggle, or worse, reassign them from their current projects to more critical, short term matters. A good mentor can keep a junior team member motivated in situations like this by keeping them focused on the task at hand and not worrying or speculating about the future. More importantly, as that mentor has experienced rises and falls in the industry, they can also share what worked and what didnt in previous situations.
For the mentee, a mentor can coach them to not only build their skills, but also to understand that collaboration is key to the companys success, and in a collaborative environment you are encouraged to share your ideas. A mentor empowers a mentee to take a more proactive role in the company and creates opportunities for the mentee to get exposure to executives and share their ideas.
Ultimately, making an investment in establishing an environment that encourages mentoring will not only helps you build a bench of future leaders but also supports growth and innovation in your company.
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Rick Bergman is the President and CEO of Synaptics.
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