In my experience with larger event companies, I’ve found there’s a significant gap between the skillset of executives and those of the non-executive staff. This applies to both the tasks associated with managing events, as well as those related to managing people. After I was first promoted at DCI (my first events company), I ‘learned by doing’ in terms of learning how to manage others. Although there was occasional help from others, I typically had to figure things out on my own. Not being shy about a trial-and-error approach, I progressed to the role of Group Vice President and company owner in my career, but I certainly had my share of embarrassing and bad actions and decisions, many of which happened in full view of subordinates. In retrospect, I wish that the path had been different so that I could have been a more effective manager earlier.
I have observed that people who are promoted either sink or swim quickly – somewhat capriciously. It’s prompted me to wonder if there was not a better way that, while not rigidly structured, can offer promising staff a chance to learn the ropes more quickly and effectively. And, in turn, they can provide more immediate value to their companies.
What am I proposing? Every company that wants to promote from within should support that goal with a voluntary mentor program. As part of that effort, the company should make employees aware of the program and provide a company-managed process by which applicants can be matched up with a senior executive who provides the mentee with the help that is needed. The relationship can be established for a fixed duration or, if appropriate, can extend throughout the mentor/mentee’s career at the company. And it can continue even if either leaves the company.
What are the resources necessary?
1) Access to executive networks – The mentor should be open to providing introductions to other people within their network to broaden the mentee’s perspective with insights that might not be available from within the company or access to other resources.
2) The ability to build your own network – The mentor should make it possible for the mentee to join industry associations that facilitate personal connections that assist with their current job and contribute to their future career. As an example, I found the ability to join the Krakoff Leadership Institute to be very useful. It’s provided a broad foundation for my network that has been very helpful.
3) Ad hoc access to executives – The need for mentoring will not adhere to a prescribed schedule, so essential to the success of such a program is the availability of the executive to answer questions and provide guidance “at the moment.”
This might seem self-explanatory, but ensure that Human Resources is involved, when needed, to offer guidance on how loose/strict, formal/informal the mentoring relationship should be.
As mentioned above, I have personally benefited from mentoring relationships. Given that experience, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank some of my many mentors. In no particular order, they include:
- Dan Horgan https://www.linkedin.com/in/
dan-horgan-35814b5/ (thanks, who also provided help with this article).
- Sean Guerre https://www.linkedin.com/in/
The more these programs are available, the more valuable your staff will become, the faster they will achieve that value, and the greater the loyalty you will build.
For me, developing mentoring programs is a no-brainer.