Mentoring culture begins in the corporate office
Third in a series on exploring the impact of company culture
By: Jenna Lang Warford
You can’t tell your field to do one thing and then inside the four walls of corporate it’s different. You’ll lose all credibility.
—Logan Stout, Founder, IDLife
Creating a sustainable, growing corporate culture in the aftermath of the Great Resignation isn’t something “other industries and channels” face—direct selling companies are facing it, too. “It’s funny, direct selling is huge on ‘leadership development,’ but when you mention these words to anyone within the industry, their thoughts go immediately to the field,” says Sean Eggert, founder and CEO of Hanna Shea Executive Search. “It is vitally important for an organization to have a strong internal corporate leadership development focus.”
Logan Stout, founder of IDLife, believes that developing internal leaders is the only way to be congruent with the culture desired within the field. “You can’t tell your field to do one thing and then inside the four walls of corporate it’s different. You’ll lose all credibility,” Stout says.
Perhaps it’s because many direct selling executives experienced mentorship at a young age. “I was raised by my mom, and she’s my hero,” Stout adds. “But there’s something my dad was phenomenal at: believing in me and getting me to dream. Even to this day, every time he sees me, he asks, ‘Hey, what new company have you started?’ I’ll laugh and say that I have enough on my plate, I don’t need another one. He’ll say, ‘But you’d be so great at this!’ He is the one that instilled in me to dream. He’s never told me how to do that. He’s never taught me how to do that, but he modeled it.”
The majority of corporate employees—perhaps the majority of management and director levels or even executives—don’t experience that modeling or mentorship from a young age. That’s where mentorship can take someone from an above-average worker to an extraordinary employee that makes a difference in productivity, culture and the bottom line.
“Oftentimes the best person for a role is someone that is already a team member, understands your organization well, and has an intimate knowledge of its challenges and strengths,” Eggert says. “When your employees see a coworker promoted to a higher-level position, it embeds in them a sense of loyalty and comfort knowing that they will hopefully be given the same opportunity for growth as their coworkers if they are able to excel within their given role and even beyond.”
One obvious solution to developing internal leaders is mentoring employees.
Mannatech is another company that has a history of developing internal employees with a strong cultural fit and high performance into leadership
roles. “Promoting from within our company shows we are an organization that values our employees and supports an environment of growth and opportunity,” says Al Bala, CEO and president.
The company takes mentorship very seriously, and employees are experiencing the benefits. “Supervisors and managers identify high-performing employees during reviews who are then mentored by their immediate supervisors,” says Patty Anthe, vice president of customer experience at Mannatech.
Anthe began with the company as senior director of events, incentives and recognition, and after several promotions will be announced later this month as a prominent executive in the company’s North American business.
Companies looking for mentoring program models will find that Mannatech includes both formal and informal mentoring. The formal mentoring, as expected, includes challenges that stretch employees.
Anthe recalls a moment when a formal mentor, Landen Frederick, chief sales and marketing officer of Mannatech, took her out of her comfort zone and straight onto stage. “We were in Hawaii and he said, ‘I’m not going on stage today about the incentive. You go, you can do it.’ He has confidence in me, and he has built confidence in me. I love that. And I think it’s key that you have somebody behind you to support you. We all have doubt, but if you have that person always saying, ‘You’ve got this, we know you can do it,’ you can.”
Strong relationships with Mannatech’s external consultants is also an opportunity for gaining growth, she says. “Paul Adams (of Adams Resources) works with a lot of us here. I meet with him once a week. We talk about strategies—about moving forward. It’s mostly business, but it also impacts my personal growth. The company has also brought in other really strong, personal development people to help support us and mentor us, both from a management perspective and a personal-growth perspective. I think the combination of the two is key because you have outsiders that aren’t concerned about evaluating you at year end. I love that if you want to move forward, at Mannatech we have both internal and external resources to help support you,” says Anthe.
The Satisfaction of Mentorship
“There can be teachable moments within any relationship, but I’ve also (had mentees) who would schedule time with me, and we would address specific situations they were facing,” says Lela Tucker, a marketing and product development executive who has worked at four top direct selling companies. “It’s never about me. It’s about them and how they can shine,” she says.
Sharing an example, Tucker says, “I needed an intern for a marketing role, and found one on the team for the call center. I mentored him, working with him quite a bit. He launched some really great programs while he was on my team. Then he just moved up the ranks, and it was so amazing to watch that happen.”
But, she adds that keeping the focus on the mentee is key for good mentorship. “For me, mentorship is not about taking any credit. It’s about letting them take the win and celebrating them in a huge way when they do get that win.”
Anthe agrees. She recalls when her plate became too full to handle the call center, which had been added to her plate as part of her responsibilities over customer experience. “There were three people reporting to me in the call center, three supervisors. I said, ‘you know what? I need to select somebody from that group that I think would step up, and have them put in applications for the position.’ ” As it turned out, she says, none of them wanted to risk failing and losing their job.
Anthe’s solution was to offer close mentorship. “I talked to (one of them), let her know that I’d coach her for a couple months and told her, ‘It’s plain to see, you can do this. I know you’ve got this. We have confidence in you!’ I also assured her that she wasn’t going to go anywhere if it didn’t work out; we would just hire a new manager.”
The result? With that mentorship, the data proves she’s succeeding: a 9.6 approval rate.
Anthe says, “She is absolutely rocking it. All the people love her. They respect her. She’s getting ready to have another promotion coming up in the next couple weeks.”
In fact, the mentored call center manager solved a problem many call centers in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex face. “When Amazon was hiring for $21 an hour to work in the warehouse, our people faced temptation to work for them. So we had to do a blanket upgrade. Now, with (that manager’s) ideas, all of them are working from home as well as received a pay increase. We worked together to make her shine within that group. And we have never had better reviews from our field on customer service.”
Law of the Lid
For executives interested in establishing mentorship within their companies, keep in mind that not all mentorship is face-to-face or even Zoom-to-Zoom. Tucker notes that when she needed guidance, she sometimes found it outside of personal connection. “You’ve got to find the mentor that works for you, and it doesn’t have to be a person. I find some of my best mentors have been books,” she says, citing some by John Maxwell. One of the most revelatory lessons gleaned from his books is “The Law of the Lid,” which taught her when the answer lay in finding someone with the experience and personal growth to take a team to the next level.
Eggert agrees. “Oftentimes, an organization can benefit from outside resources when they lack the internal experience needed for certain roles, or when there is a culture change needed, or more diversity required. Additionally, it is very common for us to see organizations that have simply ‘outgrown’ their existing employees. Sometimes people that have been so key to success in achieving a certain level of revenue are not well-equipped to help achieve your next level,” he says.
“We see this a lot when we work with companies that are at around the $50 million or $250 million per year point and have hit a plateau in their sales. They have stretched their team as far as they can, and it is necessary to bring in some new leadership to help navigate the challenges faced by these different milestones.” He adds, “It really is through no fault of the company or the employees, it just takes someone familiar with steering a ship of that size in order to effectively get over those humps and create a strategy that allows for greater growth.”
That said, Eggert believes that having a strong mentorship program within an organization has a much greater impact on the overall organization than on just the employees being mentored.
“It increases retention rates and job satisfaction,” he says. “There is a greater level of connectedness when an organization has a mentorship program. It gives everyone involved a greater sense of ownership and pride in doing their job and working for their employer.”
The Stats Agree
Information from LinkedIn cites that 94% of workers would stay longer if their employer offered more learning and career development opportunities. This includes workers at practically every level (individual contributor, manager, senior manager, and vice president), who are significantly less likely to consider quitting if they have a mentor, according to CNBC. CNBC’s information also shows that 90% of workers who have a mentor report being happy in their job.
For those who doubt that a mentorship program is a realistic goal, the Wharton School of Business found that 71% of Fortune 500 companies offer mentoring programs to their employees.
This is important because, per Gallup, the cost to replace an employee can be up to two times the employee’s salary.
“(Mentorship) is easily one of the most valuable things a company can do and can control to ensure the health of their organization and the job satisfaction of their employees,” Eggert says. “Every organization, no matter how small, should have a strong mentorship program and should always be pushing their employees to get outside their comfort zones and grow.
“I have found that companies that empower their employees and provide ongoing opportunities for growth are some of the most successful.”
Promoting Internally vs. Hiring Outside
That said, he adds that there is a balance between mentoring employees and elevating them to key roles within the company. “Having a strong understanding of your team’s strengths and weaknesses along with company goals, such as international expansion, may require you to look for outside help in order to try and make sure you are not making costly mistakes that could have been avoided by hiring someone that has ‘walked the walk.’ Having a hiring strategy in place that allows you to ‘weigh’ the benefits of hiring a possibly more experienced outsider versus promoting internally gives you the information you need in order to make a more informed choice regarding which is best for your organization.”
The Law of the Lid is a great guide in this scenario, also, says Tucker. “I’ve been able to really see, okay, this person has really reached their max. They cannot go any further at this point because of the Law of the Lid.”
Regardless of whether a company is ready to institute a fully operational mentorship program, Eggert adds, “Engaging your employees, training them well, treating them right, and offering them the opportunity for continued education and growth are all keys to a healthy organization.”
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