By Bill Yeargin
My retirement is not imminent, but I cannot help but be focused on the future success of our company, even for the time after I am gone. One of the best things I can do for our organization is prepare the next generation of our company’s leaders for the day when they will be in charge. I have a strong desire to make sure our team does even better after me than they do with me here; I want them to have even greater success when I am gone than we have achieved together under my leadership.
Our situation at Correct Craft is not unique. No matter how young and vigorous a leader feels, the reality is that he or she will not be in that role forever. It is leadership malpractice for a leader not to be developing the next generation who will one day be running their organization.
There are a lot of ways that we work hard to develop all of our Correct Craft teams. We drive learning in our organization by making it an essential part of our culture, providing plenty of opportunities, and modeling it as leaders, including myself. Correct Craft University (CCU) is the heart of what we do related to employee development. We have one full-time employee whose primary responsibility is making sure CCU gives our employees what they need to get better. She ensures our team members have a myriad of opportunities to develop. If you are not learning at our company, it is not because you don’t have the opportunity to learn; it is because you have chosen not to learn.
An essential element of our learning strategy is mentoring. Mentoring is low cost, very effective, mentees love it, and it drives both retention and results. It also transfers decades of experience to mentees, allowing them to operate effectively in a complex environment and, hopefully, avoid making the same mistakes their mentors made. Mentoring is also a great way to transfer culture and provide clarity around our mission, why, values and vision. The return on investment of mentoring is probably the highest of anything a leader can do.
We provide a lot of mentoring opportunities at our company. I spend several hours each week personally mentoring as well as providing opportunities for our team across the country to take ZOOM classes with me. Other Correct Craft executives also mentor and we have had tremendous success with mid-level leaders and even fellow production workers mentoring in our various companies.
Mentoring is one of the most valuable ways I can use my time so each week I invest several hours in one-on-one mentoring of leaders on our team. Often, I am asked how I personally go about mentoring so below are few things I have found helpful:
- Have a formal structure – when I kick off what are usually about six-month weekly mentoring programs with one of our leaders, we have a formal curriculum we follow. We start with focusing on self-awareness by spending time reviewing their Myers-Briggs, DISC and Working Genius assessments. We then spend a few weeks on mindset by discussing the book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. We finish by spending several weeks discussing my book Education of a CEO. I have found that this structure leads to great discussions and opportunities to help the mentee learn and grow.
- Have the mentee teach – Every mentoring session I lead starts with the mentee teaching me the material we will be discussing. Of course, I have been through the material a bunch of times but the point is that the mentee be able to teach it; any one almost always learns more if they have to teach the material.
- Ask questions – I do very little telling during my mentoring sessions. My role is to ask questions in a way that the mentee comes up with solutions or new ways of thinking themselves. As with anything in life, people embrace things better if it is their idea.
- Look for teachable moments – People are much more likely to learn if the moment is right. Finding the right teachable moment to share an idea or concept is hugely impactful.
- Share experiences – As a mentor it is much more powerful to share your experiences than just share your knowledge.
- Emphasize importance of mindset – Rather than telling the mentee what to do, tell them how to think. Part of this is being able to see the big picture. A mentor does not need to teach the mentee how to cut trees as much as they need to teach the mentee how to be in the right forest.
- Inspire – Inspiration may be the most powerful way to impact a mentee. A mentor should be constantly thinking about how to inspire the mentee. Don’t just give them tools; also give them energy!
Mentoring is incredibly valuable, and if done well, mentees will remember and cherish their experience for a long time. It is a great way to invest in others and ensure your organization’s future is bright.
Finally, I hope that one day the next CEO of Correct Craft will come from within our team. If we must look outside our organization for our next leader, it will be my failure. Mentoring is a great way to make sure that does not happen.
Bill Yeargin is CEO of Correct Craft and author of the best-selling book Education of a CEO.