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The Importance of Mentoring to Build Leadership

Patrick Sondreal

January is National Mentoring Month, and while IWCO Direct has strong ties to local youth mentoring, we wanted to share how our Continuous Improvement (CI) efforts impact our internal mentoring initiatives. In a previous blog, I discussed how Continuous Improvement is used to help develop strong leaders. When strong leaders are present in organizations, it’s important to make sure their skills, expertise, and insights are transferred to others in order to keep improving. That’s where mentorship comes in.

The Mentorship Process

Some mentorships at IWCO Direct are formed organically. Through conversations and meetings, people connect and naturally form partnerships and relationships. Others are formed with the help of a supervisor, manager, or other leadership figure who connects a mentee with someone who they think they could learn and grow from.

Regardless of the way mentorships are formed, it’s important that the mentor has the skills, experience, and knowledge that the mentee needs. They should be available, invested, and committed to the success of their mentee. In that same manner, the mentee must be excited to learn and willing to go outside of their comfort zone in order to grow. But it’s not just about the individuals—it’s about how they work together. Trust must be established between the two and the pair should be comfortable enough to talk freely.

At the beginning of the process, the mentor meets with their mentee in a one-on-one meeting where they talk about career aspirations. From there, the mentor identifies different skills that should be learned, people they should meet, and experience the mentee should gain to support their growth and career trajectory. This can’t be just a one-time discussion—it must be ongoing and occur frequently enough to ensure that the mentorship is accomplishing the goals of the parties involved.

The Benefits of Mentorship

Mentoring has a lot of benefits. It helps people understand what their strengths are and helps them figure out where their interests lie. This allows them to find the right career path and place where they can contribute and grow the most. It also helps them develop skills and strategies on how to be successful, mainly by teaching them to think about problems differently and employ new strategies.

How Mentoring Impacts the Individual and the Business

The benefits of mentoring extend beyond the mentee and mentor. For a business, mentorship engages employees and finds what motivates and excites them. It gives them an outlet to develop further by having tenured and experienced employees sharing their knowledge and experiences with those eager to learn.

Mentoring also plays a role in succession planning, as we develop qualified people to take on more leadership roles and prevent a loss of knowledge during turnover. It also helps us retain employees with high potential because they are more.

How CI Benefits Mentoring and Vice Versa

If people have the desire to improve their skills, being part of a CI initiative can give them exposure to gain new abilities. It encourages flexibility through inter-departmental work and opens up group activities that allow them to identify mentors and future paths. It also provides plenty of learning opportunities and chances to put that new knowledge to work.

For instance, one of the most valuable tools offered by CI is helping build people’s problem-solving skills. The fundamentals of training, Kaizen, and Lean events—most notably, problem-solving skills—are transferable into any of line of business. Regardless of the area or role, there will be issues—giving an employee an understanding of how to properly identify, scope, and define an issue, coupled with tools for how to solve that issue (issue framing, fishbone, Kaizen, etc.), gives them a resource to tap into no matter what problems they face.

CI isn’t something that can happen in a silo; we become more powerful in numbers. When we train others how to identify and solve problems, we all become more successful. It also offers a great opportunity for engagement. People get motivated when they see that their voices are heard and their solutions to problems are implemented. In this way, mentorship has just as much of an effect on CI as CI does on mentoring.

If you’d like to learn more about our mentorship programs, feel free to contact me here. Happy Mentoring Month!

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2018/01/16/mentorship-month-building-leadership/
Patrick Sondreal


Patrick Sondreal

Chief Production Officer. Graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison with an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Commissioned officer of the U.S. Navy who brings a commitment to teamwork and continuous improvement to IWCO Direct every day. Wisconsin Badger fan who loves being part of his kids’ activities.

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