Written February 14, 2015

Managing as a Mentor

Building a team, one that is high functioning, efficient and effective, is without a doubt the hardest part of being a manager. Touching on every soft skill imaginable, the tides of team building, the hiring, the firing, the nurturing and the nagging, will give one the opportunity to equally celebrate and loathe the responsibilities. Finding balance through the swell is a matter of accepting that organizational evolution is natural, desired and can be leveraged to ease the challenges of team building.

The team that drives a new product to market is not the same as the one that comes back to a fallow field to till for new life; they are operationally different tasks and successes will not be measured by the same bar. By anticipating a crest, a manager can look for opportunities to adjust a team’s composition, thereby easing the organization’s transition into its next phase.

Team builders, in larger organizations, benefit by leveraging trades and transfers where disruption to an individual team member’s life can be better absorbed. However, the same cannot be said of small organizations where the business cycles are shorter, with higher amplitudes and potentially more risk. The savvy manager in that situation, must use alternate tactics to ensure predictable and amicable turnover within their organization, and playing the role of a mentor is one such technique.

The premise is to nurture an employee, bringing them up until their potential exceeds what the organization has to offer them. This approach requires being willing to have honest conversations with team members about their goals and aspirations and reminding them throughout their tenure that they have the skills to succeed outside of the organization. A manager having pride in their ability to shape an employee’s success makes this endeavor natural and effortless.

Having a thoughtful strategy to rotate talent through the organization provides options to reshape a team as business conditions change and ensures the success of all parties.