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Mentoring: How to Successfully Adapt the Process to the Need

Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about mentoring.

One of my most valued organizational affiliations is WithIt, the leading women’s educational, networking and leadership association in the home furnishings industry. In 2015, they honored me by presenting me with the Mentoring Award in recognition of my contributions to the development and success of others. To this day it remains one of the most valued awards that I have received.

Lorri Kelley receiving the WOW Mentoring Award for WithIt (Women in the Home Industries Today)
Lorri Kelley receiving the WOW Mentoring Award for WithIt (Women in the Home Industries Today)

The most valuable asset that any company has is their team of employees. Richard Branson so perfectly says “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.” And yet, we always seem to get that backwards. Taking care of our customers is very important. But how do we believe that will happen successfully if we don’t first take care of our team?

Ensuring that they feel engaged, energized and empowered should be a focus and priority. However so many times this important need is overlooked and gets bypassed by the never-ending list of tasks and items that need to be done. As a result, this critically important part of the employee-development process does not happen.

First, let’s look at a definition: The root of the word Mentoring is ‘men’ which means ‘to think’. Helping team members ‘think’ about not only what they are doing, but how and why they are doing what they do, will undoubtedly improve the overall results they achieve. What they ‘think’ overall about what they do impacts HOW they perform in their roles.

One of the biggest challenges in implementing a company-wide mentoring program is that our team is often in different places individually in their trajectory with the organization. Everyone’s needs are different at any given time. Therefore, it's important to meet them where THEY are to ensure the effort has the biggest chance of overall success.

Here I’m describing three different methods that can be deployed to ensure everyone is met with what they need based on their position in the organization:

Career Progression Mentoring:

This is offered to all team members who are interested. It focuses on helping them right where they are now with a specific eye on the future and where they could be, in terms of next-step planning, to offer the corresponding experience needed. It provides an organized structure to groom up-and-coming team members to prepare them to step into future leadership, senior management and executive roles. It also creates a nicely defined succession planning program which is critical to future viability and long-term success of the company.

It's good for the employee and the employer, as the team member appreciates the efforts and focus of the company to help ensure their long-term success and career plan.

All team members should be given the opportunity to participate in this program if they show interest, however every company has a list of ‘stars’ or ‘A-players’ who should automatically be selected to participate.

On-Boarding Mentoring:

Getting new team members off to a great start is so important. It is expensive to hire, train and retain new employees, so instituting this connection is a very important part of that process. This program allows new employees to acclimate more quickly into the company.

The new team member should be paired with a more experienced employee in the same area to train, counsel and provide feedback on a consistent basis.

The association with the more senior team member also provides an opportunity to network and meet others within the company which allows them to integrate and connect to help ensure their success.

More importantly, it gives the mentor an unique role to play with an opportunity to give back what they have learned, and help with their own career growth as well.

Reverse Mentoring:

This is an interesting twist on the traditional process of mentoring. It utilizes younger talent in the company to provide assistance and counsel with new technologies, social media applications, online advances and other current trends in communication and the all-important digital world.

It allows the company to stay better connected and current with what is happening not only internally but in the larger community and world.

It provides the younger mentor the opportunity to train and provide a platform to educate others

It can also possibly provide some fresh new insight and ideas into new business practices that might not otherwise have been thought of by more senior employees

And, it gives visibility to these younger mentors into the larger organization for possible career advancement and opportunities as they occur.

Regardless of the approach taken, having a structured and comprehensive mentoring program is essential to company growth, employee satisfaction, succession planning and overall health of the company. Retaining talent is one of the most difficult tasks any company has, so why not take the steps now to do all that is possible to allow your team members to feel valued and supported! Start now - its never too late!

Lorri Kelley Advisors is a consulting firm dedicated to helping companies continue to be better at what they do. Lorri is passionate about working closely with her clients to ignite strategies for growth and business excellence through collaboration, team building and leadership development for those inspired to become exceptional. Connect directly with Lorri at

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