Leadership

This is why no one follows you, and other thoughts on leadership.

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I recently had a conversation with an entrepreneur about her under performing employees. “I just can’t get them to listen to me, to follow my directions, to stay engaged,” she said, with a tone that let me know how exhausting the problem had become.

In Human Resources, employee performance issues are as common as FMLA, OSHA compliance, or any other HR acronym that gives employers heartburn. In the mentioned situation, however, I could see that something far worse was taking shape: this was an employee engagement issue. For my entrepreneur friend, this disengagement was both frustrating and perplexing. As a boss she’s involved, personable, and an overall “strong leader.” So, what could possibly cause this type of issue? The solution to this type of entrepreneurial dilemma is likely multifaceted, but it was clear that one major issue plagued this organization’s structure: leadership without mentorship.

One of the paradoxes of leadership is the epidemic of isolation. In the words of Randy Newman, “it’s lonely at the top.” Think about it, doesn’t it make sense that leaders experience isolation? Leaders are trailblazers, daring to reach for new heights and explore new places once deemed unreachable. Leaders are decisive, making them intrinsically polarizing figures. But the real reason that leaders are isolated is that leaders are subject to “busyness,” which is the enemy of intentionality, the hallmark of mentorship.

If you want your team to follow you, to be on board, to get plenarily engaged: mentor them. Stop being busy. Stop compromising your boundaries. A good leader understands the importance of (buzzword alert) pivoting and resetting their focus on someone else’s personal growth. Did you know that 100% of mentors have been mentored? Okay, that figure may not be backed by research, but here are some noteworthy statistics supporting the use of workplace mentorships:

  • The average retention rate for mentored employees is 22% higher than their counterparts. Mentors facilitating the process typically show a 20% uptick in retention
  • Goal attainment for employees increases by 70% when career goals are communicated between mentors and mentees
  • 84% of CEOs involved in a formal mentoring program agreed that the program rapidly increased their proficiency, as well as assisted them in avoiding costly business mistakes

With compelling evidence to back the value of mentorship programs, it would be wise to consider implementing them as a part of your employee retention strategy. Here are three ideas to help organizations increase employee engagement:

  1. Start an office book/media club. This may sound unimaginative, but this tactic helped my entrepreneurial friend re-engage her employees. An office media club won’t substitute a formal mentorship program but it’s a step in the right direction. Think about some of the most effective leaders in history—for better or for worse, didn’t they make it a point to control mass media? There’s a reason for this: by selecting and advocating the preferred content, such as books, videos, and newsletters, leaders can systematically shape the thoughts, discussions, and ultimately the culture of an organization.
  2. Hire a life coach to learn about your strengths and weaknesses. Use them to help strategize both business and personal goals. Having a personal plan in order will help prepare you to mentor others around you. Need a good life coach? Tilson is a proud proponent of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company.
  3. Pair managers with c-level executives for mentorship. In the same vein, be sure to have managers look for employees that they would consider mentoring. Here are some mentor-themed book recommendations to help facilitate the process: Boundaries for Leaders, by Dr. Henry Cloud; How Women Rise, by Sally Helgesen; The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, by Michael Bungay Stanier.

In business and in life, we create what we allow. Employee engagement issues are therefore a byproduct of unmentored talent. So, the decision is yours, are you going to remain in isolation, or will you choose to exchange busyness for an engaged and thriving business!