Mr. Miyagi and Daniel Larusso. Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. Dadabhai Naoroji and Mahatma Gandhi. History (OK, and the box office) is full of examples of people who have accomplished tremendous feats—far more than they could have done alone—with the help of mentors.
That's why I find it odd when I see CEOs spending so little time mentoring their employees. You may not find it in the required curriculum of a fancy MBA program but mentoring is crucial to business success.
I don't have a polished and refined mentorship program like Zappos (yet). Nor do I set aside the day-to-day to spend hours locked away in intense mentorship discussions with my employees. But I do some mentoring.
You can too. Here are a few ideas to get you started
1. Mentor the entire company.
I host weekly 15-minute sessions called "SayJay" where I, well, say things to our entire team of 130+ employees. Things like updating people on company business, calling out top performers, asking for feedback on recent projects, and sharing ways that I, personally, work to help achieve our company values. They are fast, fun, and meant to keep the whole Blinds.com team informed about where the company is headed—and fully invested in that direction. They are a blast and infinitely valuable to our business.
2. Open door, open mind.
How many bosses claim to have an open-door policy? I have one, but I find it works best if I keep an "open-mind" policy, too. It took some time for me to realize that my employees often have better ideas than I do. But now that I do, I'm passionately committed to growing my team as leaders and idea generators. My open door is one of my favorite impromptu mentorship tools.
3. Set the tone for your managers.
I meet monthly with my direct reports to discuss their needs, concerns, and big projects in the queue. In advance of the meeting, they send me their agenda so I can think about how I can help. We then can dive into a one-on-one session about leadership, priorities, and anything in the big picture that one of us might be overlooking. Even better, they carry this idea forward to their own teams, too. This creates layers of mentors throughout the company that empower everyone to grow and share with one another in ways I could never anticipate.
4. Ask questions. Don't give answers.
When you're a mentor, it's tempting to wax philosophical and share old war stories of business days gone by. But remember your goal: to prepare your mentee to tackle future challenges with his or her own brain. When discussing past challenges or trip-ups, ask open-ended questions, helping your mentee to make the connections that will solve future problems. Mentor yourself out of a mentorship, so your colleagues will grow and stand on their own.
5. Make mentorship part of your company's DNA.
One of our core values (maybe yours, too) is "Improve Continuously." It's not just a phrase on a business card: It's a constant activity that we consciously engage in. When you make personal growth everyone's job, leaders will emerge, connect with their teammates, assist new recruits and help your business grow.