You look at your employees and you see what’s possible. They’re capable of even more. But what’s in the way of coaching and mentoring employees so that they can get there?

There are lots of reasons, but the biggest one is you.

You have to make the time for coaching and mentoring employees if you ever want them to reach their potential and serve you, your agency and your clients at the level you’re looking for.

In a recent solocast, I walk you through some ideas that can help you find the time to become part of the solution, rather than contributing to the problem. The solution is actually pretty straightforward and is critical to not only the employees’ success but your agency’s as well.

In this solocast, I help you explore:

  • how to be a good mentor and teacher on a regular and consistent basis
  • how to set priority or growth goals for your employees
  • how to provide your employees a time and place to ask questions and relay important information
  • how to give your employees the opportunity to toot their own horns or those of their co-workers
  • how to identify obstacles for your employees before they become overwhelming

By putting these ideas for coaching and mentoring employees into play, you will not only create an environment where the employees know they need to keep getting better but they’ll be hungry to do so.  It will also help you keep your best employees.

 Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency over the last 20-years. And all through the year, he straddles the fence of working in his agency and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies in a variety of ways. He works with agency owners in peer network groups, teaches workshops for owners and their leadership teams, teaches AE bootcamps, and does a lot of consulting. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site ( and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.  

If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below.

If you are going to take the risk of running an agency shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invest in employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you please welcome your host Drew McLellan.

Drew: Welcome back to another episode of Build a Better Agency. This is Drew McLellan. I’m glad to be with you again today. Today is a solocast. Unlike our normal episodes, there won’t be a guest with me today. Just going to be you and me and we’re going to be talking about a topic that some of you have emailed me about. It’s also come up in several of the recent AMI network meetings and as I have been traversing the country speaking at conferences and that sort of thing, it has also come up there. We want to make sure we spend some time on it.

If we have talked at all before or you are familiar at all with AMI and myself, you know one of the things that I am a big proponent of is the idea that your employees are really hungry to learn from you. And this is something that agency owners are constantly telling me. I hear all the time, “I wish my employees behaved like owners. I wish they were more strategic. I wish they, I wish they.” And I hate to tell you but one of the big things that is getting in the way of them becoming employees that you wish they were, is you. And it’s not that you’re not a good mentor. It’s not that you’re not a good teacher. It’s that you don’t make the time to be a good mentor and a good teacher on a regular and consistent basis that they can count on.

There is a really simple solution to coaching and mentoring employees and I just want to dive into that today and tell you a little bit about it. I’m also gonna make sure that in the show notes (and at the bottom of the transcript) there are samples of what I’m talking about so you can download those and then modify them to your heart’s content for your tools. At AMI, one of the things we teach in our AE boot camp, so we’re teaching it to your employees, quite honestly, and one of the things that we teach in the owner’s workshops, is the idea of creating one on one meetings with direct reports.

Let me just explain to you how that plays out. So, everyone in your agency should report to someone. If you’re a small shop, everybody may report to you or you may have a layer of management between you and your least experienced employees. However that works, everyone’s got someone that they are a direct report to. Every employee should meet with their supervisor once a week.

Those meetings are no more than 20 minutes long so, in and out. And here’s why it’s important to do it every week, and I can hear you groaning now but the consistency is critical. And if you want to keep them sort of short and sweet, doing them more often will prevent the two-hour meeting that sometimes you experience when you have not spent a lot of time with an employee.

Get it on your calendar, book it, commit to it. But here’s what’s interesting about these one on one meetings for coaching and mentoring employees in your agency. The one on one meetings are actually owned by the employee, not the supervisor. So what I would suggest you do is that you meet with your direct reports and you say, “Hey starting next week or next month,” how quickly you can do it, not more than a month away because otherwise it won’t get done, “We’re going to start meeting once a week for 20 minutes, and it’s going to be your meeting. You own it. If I have to reschedule it or you have to reschedule it, I want you to be dogged about getting it back on the calendar, but we’re going to lock and load a date and time every week. So Mondays at 10 in the morning and Thursdays at 2 in the afternoon whatever it is, we’re going to lock it into our calendar so it’s a reminder that it’s there. Hopefully, we can honor that meeting on a regular basis. If we have to move it, we’re going to move it, not cancel it.”

So ideally, you would do this meeting in person, but you can do it certainly over the phone or over Skype if you’re traveling or your employee is traveling. The responsibility for rescheduling that meeting is the employee’s. There is also a form that needs to be filled out prior to the meeting. The filling out of that form is also the responsibility of the employee. The example I’m going to give you in the show notes is for a senior account strategist or senior account manager.

What’s great about this form is it asks them big picture things and also very specific things around what’s going on right now in their role in the agency. It’s going to start by saying, “What is your priority issue or growth goal for this quarter?” Which means that you and they have to set a growth goal or a priority issue for this quarter. So, part of your first conversation needs to be around setting goals for them that they can work on on a quarterly basis. And sometimes, you’ll have to extend that goal into a second quarter, maybe something that takes them a whole year perhaps to accomplish. But you want them to have some big picture goal that they’re working on that you are aware of and you are supporting.

This, by the way, should be one of the topics in your annual reviews, which I’m not going to dig too deep into today. But I think an annual review should be a little bit of looking backwards but it should mostly be spent on looking forward and saying, “Here are the things I want you to improve upon or get better at or really invest your time in in the following year, and here’s how I’m going to support that effort” whether it’s with training or time or opportunity whatever that may be. But let’s put that aside for a minute.

On the one on one, we’re going to assume that you have set a growth goal for the quarter. The first thing it says is “What is your priority growth goal for the quarter?” They’re going to just note on the report what it is and then they’re going to report on the progress of that issue or goal. They’re going to give you an update on where they’re at.  So, again, what this does is, it’s so easy when we’re busy and we’re putting out fires to forget about those big picture goals, those not urgent but important quadrant things that really do help your employees become better assets to your agency and your clients.

This forces them to think about it every week and to keep working on it in little bits and pieces all of the time. The next thing on this one on one meeting report asks them for is good news to report. One of the things that employees are sort of stunned by is how little you know about what’s going on in the agency in terms of things that are worthy to celebrate, where people have helped each other out. And the truth is you’re busy putting out fires, and you’re often not in the office very much.

You don’t know what’s going on every day and every minute. So, this is their opportunity to report on good news, things that they’re doing so being their own cheerleader and also being a cheerleader for folks on your team that they interact with. Might be good client news but, anyway, it’s keeping you in the loop. It also gives you ways to walk through the office and do some “attaboys” and “attagirls” to other folks, and it allows them to merchandise how they are working hard on your behalf.

One of the things I talk to AEs about a lot in the boot camp is that they can’t assume that you know what they’re up to every day and all the good stuff they’re doing and all the extra miles that they’re traveling on your behalf. It’s important for them to tell you and this gives them a safe way to do that.

The next thing for coaching and mentoring employees during the one on one meeting report is support I need to do my job. So, this is their opportunity to tell you where they are stumbling or they are concerned. This is a great way to identify a problem before it gets to be a big hairy problem. So, by talking to them every week, hopefully, there’s nothing too out of hand in this category on this report. This should be small stuff that if you give them a little bit of help or a little bit of direction, they can keep going on their way. Often times, partially because you’re busy or you’re out of the office and partially because some agency owners give off the vibe that they are too busy to be interrupted, that they’re so crazy busy that they shouldn’t be interrupted, sometimes your employees let things go too long, and they don’t tell you about them or they don’t ask for help. And then all of a sudden you’ve got a big fire going on inside your agency that could have easily been doused when it was a little fire, but you didn’t know about it. So this is a way to avoid that.

The next topic on this sheet is priority issues to discuss, questions that need answer or input. This is an opportunity for them to share with you what’s going on with clients or internally where they need some feedback from you. So they either want to discuss something with you or they have questions that only you can answer or they at least want some input from you.

One of the great things about this question on this form is if your employees know that they’re going to meet with you every week, then this avoids some of the what I call “shadow in the doorway syndrome” that many agency owners suffer from, which is every time you look up from your desk, there’s someone in your doorway waiting to talk to you. When they know that they have time with you every week, one of the things this meeting does and this form does, is it trains your team to collect the things that they want to talk to you about and unless something is really an urgent, urgent issue, it can wait until the one on one meeting.

Actually, holding this meeting once a week will actually save you a ton of time and interruption throughout your week. Also, on the form is the heads up on client or internal issues. So, this might be something that they just want to give you a heads up about. Something that’s going on, something they overheard at a client meeting, whatever that may be.

The form just says anything else or anything else they might want to tell you and then some to-dos from this meeting, which they then will have to report in on at the next meeting. Very simple. Very easy to do. These questions, for the most part, I find that most agencies do not have to modify them for the position. That these are pretty generic enough and everybody regardless of the position they have in your agency has heads up issues and priority issues to discuss and support they need and, hopefully, some good news.

For the most part, I think you’ll have to do very little tweaking on these, but I think what you’re going to find if you implement this, is your employees are going to love it. They’re going to love that they get some coaching and mentoring time with you. That they get some mentoring from you. That they know that they have access to you. It’s going to save both you and them time in terms of trying to track each other down to talk throughout the week.

It also allows you to have a better handle on what’s going on in the shop. And again, you may not be doing all of these. Some of your direct reports may have direct reports. Nonetheless, the entire organization is better plugged into what’s happening around them where they may not hear about these kinds of things on a regular basis. And best of all, it will allow you to grow employees to be bigger and better and stronger to support the efforts of your agency.

Good employees don’t happen overnight, and yes, every once in awhile, you just get a lucky strike or you just hire somebody who comes out of the gate so hungry and so eager to learn that they’re such a self-starter that they don’t need you. But most agency employees really desperately want some input from their supervisor. As we approach the employee shortage that many of you are already banging your head against, I know a lot of you are struggling to find folks to fill empty positions and trying to desperately to hang on to the good people that you have.

Coaching and mentoring employees is a great way to build in growth. It is a great way to encourage retention. It is one of the number one complaints that employees have right now is that they don’t have enough of your time and attention so, as you look around your team and you identify folks that you really don’t want to lose, this is a great way to make sure that they stay.

It’s also, quite honestly, a great way to counsel someone out if they’re not a right fit. So, when you spend a little bit of time, 20 minutes a week, with an employee and you can continue to see this struggle that they’re having or that they’re not having the success that you need them to, these are the perfect opportunities to have that conversation with them to help them try to grow and if they can’t grow, to help them find a position where they can be successful. And you can get somebody better in that slot.

There is no downside to doing these one on one meetings. I know that it is some time carved out of your day, but I promise you it is a time that you will be very glad that you invested. And you will begin to reap the rewards of it very quickly. You will find a Word document in the show notes that you can modify, steal, use just as it is with your folks. I would love to get some feedback from you on how your one on ones are going and if there’s something that you thought of that would improve the form. Always open for that kind of feedback as well and happy to share that back out through a blog post or a later podcast.

I hope this meeting for coaching and mentoring employees is useful to you. I highly encourage you to do this even if you’re digging your heels in and saying “I just don’t have the time.” I promise you it will actually save you time in the long run, and it will build a bigger, better, stronger team which is what we’re all about.

That’s it for today. Thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it. Again, if you haven’t subscribed to the podcast, make sure that you do so you don’t miss an episode.

We’re always happy to have your reviews and ratings so if you can go over to Stitcher or iTunes and do that, I am always very grateful for that feedback. Anytime you have a question or want to give me some feedback directly, the easiest way to reach me is [email protected]. I always love to hear from listeners, so I would appreciate hearing from you as well. I hope you have a great week, and I will see you next week with another episode. Thanks much.

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