Embracing the Transformation From Leader to Mentor

I’m drawing a line in the sand and proclaiming that leadership, as we know it today, will become extinct. Those who want to survive must transform themselves into mentors whose sole purpose is to breed success in those they lead.

Seem extreme? Perhaps. But, if you stop and think about it, I’m sure you’ll agree that there are far too many leaders today focused on hitting the numbers rather than developing their people. There are still too many “do it or else” leaders whose effect on the productivity and success of their respective companies and its employees is damaging.

Let’s face it, leadership as we know it now is as it was many decades ago. The problem is that the world has changed, is changing and at such speeds that we do not have time to sit idly by without being swept away by it.

So where do you begin with this transformation? Whether you lead many or just yourself, here are four things you should be doing now to secure your role as mentor:

  1. Focus on behaviors, not results. We have found that too many managers don’t understand behavior well enough to focus on it. Athletic coaches are better at pinpointing behaviors that lead to success than business managers are. A player for Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys told me that Landry had blocking and tackling down to a science. For a lineman the drill might be, “pivot 45 degrees on your left foot, take two steps, pivot 45 degrees on your right foot and then block that man.” Golf coaches watch the position of your fingers on the golf club, the width of your stance and the shift of your weight from one foot to another. Managers watch few behaviors, even when they know what they are, as they spend most of their time in an office or in a meeting. There are very few productive behaviors in those places. The bottom line for the manager and supervisor is to spend the majority of time observing what people do and giving them feedback and reinforcement to help them improve.
  2. Learn the meaningful positive reinforcers for each person. I feel like a broken record saying this, but what is reinforcing to one may not be to another. Every employee is different. If you are a positive reinforcer to your team, just observing performance can be a positive reinforcer. For another manager, the same behavior (observing) may be punishing. Words like “good job” or other “atta boys” are rarely reinforcing unless the person doing the reinforcing has a good (positive) relationship with the employee. There are thousands of potential reinforcers for everyone. Establish yourself as a positive reinforcer by making your interactions helpful to the employee. What is helpful and what is not can be learned best through relationships.
  3. Ask employees to solve problems with your help and coaching. Since employees are an organization’s most important asset, get their input on almost all problems and decisions. I know too many stories where front-line employees solved problems that plagued managers for months.
  4. Think small. You can never go wrong reinforcing improvement. Those who are able to see small improvement teach and improve performance at the highest rate. Starting small increases the number of times that you can deliver meaningful reinforcers. Since positive reinforcers increase behavior, the smaller the change that is reinforced, the faster the improvement. Although this runs counter to stretch goals, it is infinitely more effective.

By working on the items above, you are sure to develop positive and productive relationships with those you mentor. Everybody will be happier, productive and more engaged. Put it in the bank.

You may also be interested to hear about The Secret to Listening in this short video. Just one more tip for improving your effectiveness!