Mentoring to Elevate Your Team
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published November 19, 2020
In life and the workplace, the pressure is on to meet goals and achieve success. Everyone has their own set of skills and strengths, and mentors often have been down the same road you’re on. Mentors are there to be a guiding force, reminding workers that obstacles can be overcome. Author and speaker Dondi Scumaci hosts this week’s #USAMfgHour on Twitter on mentoring that takes the workplace to the next level.
Lessons to Learn
Hindsight is always 20/20, right? Scumaci opened the chat by asking the group to reflect: What do you wish someone would have taught you long ago? Most of the answers pertained to acquiring job skills and learning how to niche down sooner.
She then asked the group: What important lesson have you learned from a mentoring experience (personally or professionally)?
“Personally, I've learned from mentors to not rush success,” said Zero Surge. “Sometimes failing a few times is key to establishing a path forward. It's important to not be bogged down by failure and embrace the learning experience for what it is. True success will come with time.”
“I had an amazing mentor in a different work field I was in 20 years ago,” said DuraTech. “To this day, I still stop and think, "How would she handle this situation?" What would she think of this?" I think I just learned to listen.”
“That I am not the point of reference and I need to be more understanding of the different point of views--also that everyone learns and understands things very differently,” said Radwell International.
“It is not a one-way relationship,” said Chenango Valley Technologies. “As much as a mentor is helping you develop, they are also learning from you.”
“Never (over)complicate it,” said Ruby Rusine of Social Success Marketing. “Focus on what matters.”
“I just mentioned getting more specific with niche marketing, but it truly is the biggest lesson I learned from a mentoring experience,” said Paul Kiesche of Aviate Creative.
“Stay true to yourself,” said Gwen Bradley of Momentum.
“When mentoring it's most important to listen, not just try to impart knowledge and then listen some more as it’s a 2-way street, you’ll learn from them too,” Truturn Precision.
Mentoring equips and empowers, Scumaci said. “It gives them the confidence to explore, take risks and grow,” she said. She then invited the group to check out some compelling statistics on the impact of mentoring.
Mentoring has many faces and formats. What does mentoring look like in your organization?
“Education. I try to educate everyone here what I do and where we are going as an organization,” said CVT. “I also try to get feedback from employees on what we could be doing better as a company. 2-Way Feedback & Communication.”
Making feedback a natural way of doing business sets the stage for mentoring, Scumaci said. It becomes part of the organization's DNA.
“Pairing a senior employee with a newer employee to help them adjust to their work role from a development standpoint and ideally this mentoring relationship is ongoing for continued development,” said Radwell.
“Mentoring for us means education, accountability, strategy, a new perspective, guidance, leadership, setting an example, and help where we need it,” said Kiesche.
“Open-door policy. If anyone doesn't understand something, they can always rely on someone to help them out,” said Crescent Software. “That type of communication & trust is crucial for any company. Our company owner is also always willing to listen to our feedback & accommodate, as necessary.”
“We have ‘Investors in people Platinum’ status and each apprentice has a mentor and the General Manager oversees it all,” said Truturn.
Mentoring can be structured, informal, or situational. It can be tailored to individuals or groups. Mentoring prepares people to go bigger, drive more value, and make themselves the natural choice for the opportunities they seek, Scumaci added.
How could mentors make a tangible difference on your team? What would it enable you to do and achieve?
“It would speed up processes and cut duplication,” said CVT. “We can all learn from one another limiting mistakes and wasted efforts. LEARN FROM OTHERS, LEARN FROM THE PAST. Allowing people and the company to grow faster as a whole.”
“Mentoring can pair people together who can gain from one another--the mentor can gain experience sharing their knowledge and the person being mentored can gain insight and knowledge from the mentor's experience,” said Radwell.
“Mentoring certainly provides smooth transitions among employees, offers a positive pathway for personal and professional growth, and inspires employees to do better every day,” said DSI/Dynamatic.
“It can break down barriers and engage people who normally don't engage others,” said business consultant Bill Garland. “It binds a team together. More experienced team members have a role to play that should not be overlooked. It creates a culture second to none which people are empowered to take risks.”
“Not only does mentoring build a personal relationship between you and your team, but it also helps develop important skills for everyone involved, including the mentor,” said Zero Surge. “Mentoring can definitely help boost productivity and efficiency in every aspect of the workplace.”
“Mentoring benefits everyone as skills are transferred between the whole team,” said Truturn. “One person learns and passes that skill/knowledge on to others. Technology (software, hardware, techniques, etc.) moves on at such a rapid pace that it’s impossible for everyone to keep pace.”
“Through mentoring, we can learn to 'unpack' our successes and setbacks, explore new approaches and conduct tiny experiments,” Scumaci said. “Mentoring people through transitions is powerful. This could be a great action idea for some.” She then encouraged the group to think about where the transitions are occurring within the organization and how mentoring could be a support.
“This is powerful stuff!” Scumaci said. “When organizations make mentoring a priority, they see impacts on retention, performance, leadership development, knowledge transfer, diversity, and engagement. Mentoring is a wise investment. Knowledge transfer growing organizational capabilities and core competencies. Exactly right. This could be an action item too. Where does your company need to develop a key strength? Perhaps mentoring could assist.”
Scumaci then asked the group about where the mentoring opportunities are on their teams. How do you recognize them in real-time and over time?
“We often pair the fresh faces with our experienced techs on the assembly floor,” said RICO Manufacturing. “It benefits the new employee to learn from someone who has been doing their job for years and can learn their tips and tricks to streamline work!”
“This is so good!” said Scumaci. “Those tips and tricks can take a long time to find without a Mentor. Really impacts the learning curve.”
“For me, it is just a simple conversation,” said CVT. “Getting to know the people that work here and allowing them time to talk. As the relationship grows, more trust is added, and the conversations gradually become more dynamic.”
“It's all in the conversations we have,” said Dynamatic. “Everyone in our company remains available for conversation. Our "open door" policy is important to us.”
“Although it’s not official I guess mentor our estimator as I come from a technical background,” said Truturn. “They mentor me as I don’t have the experience of the systems or processes.”
“A great example of two-way mentoring!,” Scumaci said. “I do encourage everyone to think of a skill you would like to strengthen or learn. Who is good at this? Go find your Mentor!”
Mentoring builds a bridge to the future, she said. “A SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) can help you identify mentoring opportunities. Strengths and weaknesses are internal, Opportunities and Threats are external.”
The most impactful mentoring is development in action. What learning experiences could you design for your team (individually and collectively)?
“There are paid trainings that I encourage my team to attend with me to get better,” said Rusine. “There is also a regular check-in that I do. We have a P2P meet-up (we work remotely) but skipping that b/c of travel difficulties.”
“Give everyone a project to do that’s not in their area of expertise,” said Truturn. “That way they can learn and also have mentoring input from the person whose area of expertise it is.”
“That's a great tip! Do you find that people WANT to do this?” asked Dynamatic.
“No,” Truturn laughed. “But it’s good to get a little out of your comfort zone...sharpens the mind and focuses the attention somewhat.”
“Big LOVE for this answer! Mentoring isn't about making sure people are 'comfortable.' It's about getting a bit uncomfortable to grow,” Scumaci said.
“I have a lot of things that I am working on, lists of them, and by bringing the team in and getting feedback from all it will be more productive,” said CVT. “There is a lot we can do, but the more eyes we have on them the cleaner the process/projects will become.”
“Spot on! Get people involved in the problems and opportunities of the business,” Scumaci said. “Mentoring LIVES in these spaces!”
“We don't have a concrete training program in place for our new hires,” said Dynamatic. “(We don't hire that often.) But a half-day program could be helpful to talk through our products and their functions and applications.”
“Give people a problem to solve, a process to improve, or an opportunity to explore,” Scumaci said. “Ask lots of ‘How could we…, What if...’ questions. Consider cross-functional projects to break down barriers, broaden perspectives, and encourage collaboration.”
The group was then asked to share an action idea or a mentoring best practice.
“Broadcast mentoring success!,” said Dynamatic. “Give shoutouts on social media or just within company communications. People like to be recognized.”
“I'd say spend most of the time LISTENING,” said CVT. “Not thinking, not waiting to respond. Just listen.
Generate your thoughts and follow up questions once they have completed their thought.”
Scumaci said the best practices and strategies that make mentoring successful are:
- Find ways to measure your mentoring efforts.
- Ask versus tell. Mentoring should facilitate self-discovery.
- Master the "art of the debrief." Unpack success and setbacks.
- Test approaches. Conduct tiny experiments. Try stuff.
- Celebrate small wins on the way to massive ones.
Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.