Discovering Hidden Talent In Your Organization

Up-and-coming leaders may not be the obvious superstars. They can be invisible but may hold the key to helping leaders navigate some of the toughest issues facing their company.

“Mentoring is often the key to unlocking the potential in overlooked, seemingly average employees,” says former Waffle House president and COO Bert Thornton.

Thornton has tips on finding unrecognized talent and describes the benefits of mentoring in a new book, High-Impact Mentoring: A Practical Guide to Creating Value in Other People’s Lives, co-written with Sherry Hartnett, founder of the executive mentor program at the University of West Florida.

Consider some of the less obvious choices for mentoring:  An employee who lacks experience but shows leadership, someone who’s talented but may be in the wrong role, or maybe a new supervisor who has technical acumen by poor communication skills. Harnett asserts that mentoring can streamline the advancement process. “That’s an ROI leaders can’t afford to ignore right now.”

Among the benefits of mentoring a wide range of employees, according to Thornton and Hartnett, are:

  • You’ll attract and retain talent –A mentoring program shows employees that there’s a path for advancement inside the company. “Millennials in particular deeply value training and development,” says Thornton. “By sharing their knowledge and experience with younger employees, mentors help them grow and progress.”
  • New employees will understand the company faster – Assigning new employees a mentor early on can help them make meaningful contributions to the team quickly.
  • Mentoring can bolster training shortfalls –Training budgets often end up being cut. Mentors can share their knowledge and skills without a big price tag.
  • Mentoring improves resilience – Mentors can put a crisis in perspective (“We’ve lived through other hard times and survived”), share how they’ve coped and provide an outlet for employees to vent about their stresses.
  • Employees get more engaged –Those who are challenged to learn new things don’t get complacent. “They feel invested in and valued,” Hartnett says. “All of this sparks their passion and energy for their work and shores up their commitment to the company.”
  • Companies can execute plans more easily – Mentees can make better, faster decisions with the aid of a mentor who can help them cut through the information overload to what really matters.
  • Mentorship builds relationships –“Mentoring builds relationships in two ways,” Thornton says. “First, the mentor/mentee relationship creates a powerful bond as it evolves. But also, both parties apply the skills they learn in the process to other relationships. Eventually, a strong web of accountability, support and continuous learning spreads throughout the company.”
  • Mentoring helps organizations become more diverse and inclusive – If a junior person mentors someone more senior, older employees can learn how best to work with those from different racial and cultural backgrounds, belief systems and orientations.

“Often, all it takes is sincere instruction and guidance from a mentor to help them grow, thrive and drive your company toward greater success,” Hartnett says. “When you look at it that way, can you afford not to identify and develop the non-obvious candidates on your payroll?”





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