The single greatest challenge that a successful organization faces is maintaining its success. Only three teams in the last three decades have won the Super Bowl in two back-to-back years. Less than 10% of the Fortune 500 companies from 50 years ago are still on the list today. And the pace is picking up, making it more challenging than ever.
Here’s the truth. Even in the age of too big to fail, past success is no guarantee of future success.
So what can you do to not only maintain your success but build on it to ensure your future success is greater than that of your past?
While there are several strategies that you can find on hiring, performance assessment, and deployment, the best way to pave the road to future success is to make sure those who have created today’s success are pouring directly into the lives of those coming behind them. Our future leaders need the wisdom and momentum gained by our current leaders to propel them into the future. You may have heard the following saying:
“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” – Greek Proverb
This truth is vitally important for the sustained success of your organization. You need to spend more time today working on building tomorrow’s success rather than protecting yesterday’s success.
And nothing does this better than mentoring and coaching.
However, there’s a catch.
The last thing your organization needs is another set of lifeless, time-stealing, soul-sucking programs designed to increase efficiency, ensure compliance, and squeeze out any remaining hope of innovative change.
And we’re in the habit of creating processes, writing procedures, and building programs with the hope of protecting the successful organization we’ve worked so hard to build.
So rather than create a mentoring and coaching program, I want to encourage you to create a mentoring and coaching culture. The difference is remarkable.
The difference between a program and a culture
Programs drive efficiency. They have requirements, deadlines, and grades. And don’t get me started on the reporting. Left to their own devices long enough, a group of people will begin writing reports about their reports. Ironically, the ultimate end of this relentless drive for great efficiency and predictability is predictably inefficient (take a trip to your local DMV, and you’ll likely see what I mean)
Cultures drive effectiveness. When you build a mentoring and coaching culture, you simultaneously give your rising leaders the benefits of the current organization and allow them the time and freedom to creatively destruct it as well. While this can be a painful process, we would do well to look back and remember creating today’s success was far from pain-free.
Today’s success, then, can either be a cinder block that prevents future growth as we work to protect what we have, or it can be an anchor that allows us to explore even through storms without losing our way.
By creating a culture when mentoring and coaching are normal throughout the organization, up, down, left, and right you’ll maximize the value of the anchor and minimize the drag of the cinder block.
Creating a mentoring and coaching culture
So how do you create a mentoring and coaching culture?
1. Start with new hire orientation
New hire orientation is undoubtedly the easiest first step.
- It is easy and natural to mentor and coach new employees in the organization.
- You have an existing structure to build on.
- It creates an expectation from new employees that mentoring and coaching are normal.
- They don’t know what else to expect and will have far less cynicism than existing employees.
2. Mind the gap
The Amsterdam airport is gigantic. I don’t think it’s the biggest or the busiest in the world, but I can tell you it is big and busy. My first time traveling internationally, I had a connection to Amsterdam airport, and I had to get from one end of the airport to the other. When I looked at the map, it said it was a 45-minute walk. And that was terrible news because I was on crutches, having broken and severally sprained my ankle bouldering in Colorado a few weeks earlier. Gloriously they had travelators, those moving walkways that are like a flat escalator. And at the start and end of each one, there was a recording saying, “Mind the gap. Mind the gap. Mind the gap.”
When starting something new (or wrapping something up), mind the gap. Look for the most significant or most common gaps because that is often where you can make the biggest impact the fastest. And those early wins are essential for getting any change initiative to take hold.
Where are the most significant gaps in your organization that you can begin to fill with mentoring and coaching?
- For some industries, it is generational. You have boomers and millennials and nothing in between.
- For some organizations, it is geographical; you have those in the field and those in the office.
- For some, it is functional; you have those who sell and those who fulfill.
- For some, it is organizational; you have corporate HQ and independent franchisees.
Pick just one of these gaps and create the space to bridge it relationally through mentoring and coaching.
3. Focus on top performers
The Pareto principle can be your friend or foe. You can do a ton of work with minimal benefit or do a little work with enormous benefit. The difference, in this case, is the “who” of the equation. Specifically, focus your early efforts on top performers. In the same way that it is easier to steer a moving boat, it is easier to mentor and coach someone into positive change by focusing on the movers and shakers that already exist, especially if they are making some harmful waves in the process.
There’s a verse in Proverbs that says, “The only clean stable is an empty stable. So if you want the work of an ox and to enjoy an abundant harvest, you’ll have a mess or two to clean up!” I have found the same to be true of many top performers, especially early in their careers. They get a lot done, but they can leave some collateral damage in their wake. It’s easy to shun these types, especially in an organization where the bureaucracy has started to creep in. But they are the ones who will keep the bureaucracy at bay.
Still, we need to round off some of those rough edges, and I’ve found mentoring and coaching outside of the chain of command to be the most effective tool for motivating change without demotivating results.
If you can get a few top performers moving in the right direction, their momentum will help carry everyone else forward, and you’ll be well on your way to building a strong culture of mentoring and coaching.
4. Consider Peer Relationships
There will be more on this in the next article, but it is worth mentioning here.
Suppose you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of changing your new hire orientation, fixing the gaps, or putting something else on the plate for your top performers. In that case, you can consider leveraging peer mentoring. It can be exceptionally easy to start with the least structure and planning necessary. Allow peers across the organization to step out of their department/role to watch how their peer works and ask questions about it. You would be surprised at how impactful a few simple questions can be from a pair of fresh eyes.
Apparently, I’m in a somewhat proverbial mood today, so I’ll leave you with one more.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” – Henry G. John
Take a moment right now and identify one actionable step you can start today to move your organization toward a mentoring and coaching culture.
And do it!