Agency owners are really good at a lot of things. Unfortunately, mentoring employees for growth is often not one of them.
I get it — you want self starters. You don’t have time to micromanage people. You want someone who can think/behave like an owner.
You know how you get employees like that? You create them. You hire smart people and then you teach them how to drive your agency’s growth, your client’s confidence and your AGI. None of that happens by accident.
It’s why you should be spending 20% of your time actively mentoring your team. So what does that look like?
Everyone on your staff should have a weekly (yes weekly) one on one meeting with their supervisor. So as an agency owner — you’d meet with your direct reports weekly. Here’s what mentoring employees should look like:
The employee owns the meeting. They schedule it and re-schedule it if necessary. If you’re traveling — do it by phone or Skype. The employee is expected to come to the meeting prepared. Use a form that outlines how the conversation should go — and they should have it completed in advance and bring you a copy and one for themselves. (Email me if you want to see a sample)
The meeting is 20-30 minutes long and focuses on quarterly goals and big picture progress — not a traffic meeting. This is their opportunity to pick your brain, run ideas past you, and get your feedback. It’s your opportunity to coach, ask tough questions and encourage them. This aligned beautifully with the EOS process or any system where you as an agency, department or individual are working on quarterly goals.
This is your chance to hold your people accountable and capable. It’s important that you build some metrics and expectations into the weekly report but it’s definitely a fewer is better situation. Identify a couple big To Dos or measurable outcomes and focus on those.
These meetings also keep you connected to your agency. No matter how much you’re away, in meetings, dealing with client issues or pursuing something else — these weekly conversations keep you grounded in your agency’s growth and what’s getting in the way of that growth. It is also the only way for you to get out of doing the work yourself. If you don’t create people who can do what you do — then you have to do it. It’s your call.
Don’t try to be the hero and do everyone’s one on one’s. Your mid level managers and department heads need to learn how to mentor as well. Remember — the whole idea of this is mentoring for growth. Everyone’s growth.
These one on one meetings don’t take the place of other professional development like workshops or lunch and learns. In fact, they augment them by giving your people a chance to apply what they heard/learned.
Modeling the way you think, how you approach a challenge, the kinds of questions you ask and how you make decisions will help you build a team of employees who are ready to lead and grow your agency in the future.
Without that investment of time and focus — you can pretty much count on being the same agency next year that you are today. And given enough time — your best people will leave (the #1 thing agency employees want is more of the leadership’s time/attention so they can learn) for an agency that truly is committed to helping them grow.
I know mentoring employees is a time investment. But it’s an investment that will always yield great dividends. If you’re serious about agency growth — you need to get serious about employee growth. Digiday had a great article on mentoring from the millennials point of view — check it out here.
Find a way to weave mentoring employees into your agency’s DNA. If you aren’t mentoring for growth, odds are you aren’t growing.