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Easy Ways to Start Mentoring Program

If there is one aspect of business building that has confounded even the smartest of entrepreneurs, it’s developing the team. The reality is that we simply don’t have the skills to develop their skills, and that can have a long-term and negative impact on the business.

Where Are You Today?

In 2015, we conducted research for the FPA’s Research and Practice Institute and Financial Advisor IQ that focused on team compensation and benefits. As part of that study, we examined team development, and I was impressed to see that almost all respondents support their team members’ personal and professional development, through training, financial support or continuing performance reviews.

At the same time, I noticed that most development initiatives were informal. Although 60% of respondents administer formal performance reviews, development activities such as new-employee training are overwhelmingly informal. The same is true for mentoring.

Have Your Considered Mentoring?

Mentoring is one development option that is generally considered very effective. Like all such development tools, of course, it’s only effective if it’s done well. Remember that mentoring can mean you being a mentor to the team, someone else on your team being a mentor to others or simply helping your team find outside mentors. It isn’t just an option for large businesses.

The reality is that mentoring doesn’t have to be a “time-suck” for you personally, despite its reputation for being exactly that. Today, I want to help you think about taking the first step to understanding where your team needs help and the role that mentoring might play in helping them maximize their potential.

See also: The Keys to Forming Effective Teams  

What Are Your Gaps?

An obvious first step is to figure out what gaps mentoring (or any development activity for that matter) is going to bridge. A performance review process is clearly an important first step. You may opt for a formal tool (such as DiSCPredictive Index or any of a range of tools) or you may opt for a good old-fashioned conversation with a team member.

Whichever approach you take, consider the following in evaluating your team members, ensuring that you cover three potential types of objectives.

1. Performance Objectives

  • Success in meeting specific, measurable objectives based on role
  • Joint accountability: the ability to work well with and support the entire team
  • Attention to detail within sphere of role
  • Timeliness in completing work
  • Initiative: goes above and beyond defined role

2. Competency/Development Objectives

  • Customer service skills
  • Sales
  • Time management
  • Public speaking
  • Business writing
  • Leadership
  • Software skills
  • Graphic design
  • Financial planning

3. Personal Development Objectives

  • Personal improvement goals that the team member sees as important to moving career forward, for example:
  • Professional designations
  • Training courses
  • Advanced Business Training

You might also consider skills assessment tools, which differ substantially from performance review tools.  These tools can be helpful when you are thinking more about getting the right people in the right roles – or who to hire in the first place.

Consider the following:

Kolbe. The Kolbe A Index is designed to measure the conative faculty of the mind — the actions you take that result from your natural instincts. The index validates an individual’s natural talents, the instinctive method of operation (M.O.) that enables you to be productive.

VIA Strengths Test. VIA has identified 24 character strengths that are universal across all aspects of life: work, school, family, friends and community. Whereas most personality assessments focus on negative and neutral traits, the VIA Survey focuses on what is best in you and is at the center of the science of well-being.

Strengths Finder. Based on research from Gallup, you access this assessment by purchasing the book. It’s designed to help uncover your talents and incorporates strategies to leverage the strengths you identify.

Mentoring Options

Mentoring is an option (whether delivered formally or informally, internally or externally) that I believe has a strong potential to have significant impact. Of course, it’s not always easy to get moving.

In an interview with Rebecca Pomering for our Spotlight program, we reviewed the three types of mentoring available at Moss Adams. This is a helpful way to think about what you are trying to accomplish and highlights that mentoring can be more or less involved depending on your needs.

At Moss Adams, Rebecca explained that there were three types of mentoring available:

1. The Buddy

A buddy might be assigned for a new employee. That individual may or may not be involved in the actual job training, but is there to help navigate the office and company. The buddy is someone a new employee can ask any question of and not feel judged in any way.

2. The Mentor

A mentor is more traditionally defined as supporting the team member either on a specific topic or skill or on a longer-term basis. Employees may be asked to identify a mentor or go to management if they are looking for support on a specific issue. On some teams, mentors are assigned, but the jury is out as to whether relationships that are not explicitly chosen are as effective.

3. The Sponsor

A sponsor’s objective is to actively support and promote the individual in career advancement and development. Sponsors are typically individuals who have the political and organizational connections to make that sponsorship effective. Sponsors may or may not be mentors and vice versa.

See also: How to Pick Your Insight Team  

Talk to Your Team (First)

If you’re considering implementing a mentoring program, ensure you start with clear direction from the team on what will work and what won’t. Below are a series of questions that could form the basis of a survey or a conversation:

  • Have you had experience with any form of mentoring? If yes, what form did it take, and how would you describe the impact?
  • Do you think it would be valuable for us to consider implementing a mentoring program, which we’ll jointly define?
  • How do you think a mentor could help you?
  • How would you describe your ideal mentor? What skills, experience or personality traits would he/she have?
  • Specifically, what kinds of issues would you hope to address with a mentor?
  • Would you prefer to be assigned a mentor or to have support/guidance in finding someone yourself?
  • How would you describe the outcomes of a successful mentoring program for you? What would have to happen for you to describe the process as successful?
  • Is there anything that you feel definitely wouldn’t work when it comes to implementing a mentoring system?

Talk to Yourself (Not Literally)

You’ll also want to get clear on your own goals and objectives for providing or facilitating mentoring. To that end, consider the following questions if you are thinking about finding your own mentor. Or, if it’s for your team, ensure both the mentor and mentee clarify exactly what they’re hoping to accomplish and how they know if they’ll be successful.

  • Exactly what are you trying to solve for? Are you looking to develop a specific skill, gain general insights into a specific topic or have someone you can go to for continuing advice?
  • How long do you anticipate the mentoring relationship to last?
  • How often will you meet, where and for what length of time?
  • How will you both prepare for those meetings?
  • How do you define success?

Personally, I consider team development one of the most challenging aspects of running a business. We surround ourselves with these incredibly talented people, and it’s easy to feel like you are letting them down. Ultimately, development is about prioritizing and booking the time to do something, even if that something isn’t perfect.

Thank for stopping by,

Julie