Building Great Leaders

Mentor, Coach, Advocate: Why Leaders Spending Time with Their Employees Pays Off

Spending time with employees pays off—not just for them, but for the leaders and the entire organization. The question of how much time can be explored in a Fast Company post, “Why Managers Should Spend Exactly 6 Hours A Week With Each Employee.” But here at ELM, we’ve found that it’s not necessarily quantified time that’s made the biggest difference—it’s qualified time.

Simon Casuto, our co-founder and one of the leaders of the company, schedules 30-minute coffee meetings with every employee. In that short period of time, he acts as a Mentor, trying to get an understanding employees and providing a space for them to share ideas. Then he becomes a Coach, focusing on employees’ latest wins and things they’re challenged with. After, he may become an Advocate, as these meetings sometimes lead to him implementing new ideas or changes to internal processes. This small amount of time and what happens later creates better relationships with staff who feel valued. It makes them want to stay in their jobs and helps make the company more efficient and innovative.

Spending Time Mentoring Employees

In the onboarding phase, HR trains new employees on processes and systems they need to do their job—basically all of the nuts-and-bolts stuff. This is important, but nothing’s more intimidating than being the new kid. At this early stage, new hires need solid mentors to put them at ease. Mentors first help familiarize mentees with company culture and then give sound advice as for how to get the most out of their careers. The relationship between Marc Parker, CEO of Nike and Kobe Bryant is a perfect example. In a 2016 article, Kobe Bryant is quoted as saying: “Even though he has a pretty large business to run, he still finds time to mentor me…” Bryant left Adidas in 2003 to sign with Nike and has stayed with the brand ever since. Mentorship creates a healthy corporate culture based on mutual respect and loyalty. When employees believe their employers will take the time to hear and advise them, they stay.

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Investing Time in Coaching Employees

When a typical employee masters the job, they reach a decision point: settle in or look for another challenge, even if they have to leave the company. In a 2016 Gallup report entitled: How Millennials Want to Work and Live 59% of the millennial respondents said that “opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them.” A different Gallup report found that 93% of millennials left their employers the last time they changed roles. Coaching is highly nuanced, as it’s not just about how they should perform the job, but how they can make the job into a career. CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, is known for his coaching/leadership style. Hsieh successfully tasked his head of product development, Zach Ware, with setting up the new Zappos headquarters in Las Vegas, even though Ware had zero experience in urban development. By sitting down with employees one-on-one, leader/coaches can provide them with customized growth opportunities, like seminars, or special projects.

Advocating for Employees

What good is all of this great mentoring and coaching if it’s never applied? Advocating for employees implies action. Advocating is time not spent with employees, but for them. Effective leaders hear and discuss employees’ new ideas with them, and afterward, work to put them into action. When employees receive new training or knowledge and are eager to apply it to their jobs, advocates make that happen. Advocates inspire their employees to keep learning and contributing, as they feel like their contributions are valued and applied. Without this final investment of time, employees feel undervalued and underutilized.

A small investment of time and following up with action creates a positive, supportive company culture. Millennials employees, making up the bulk of the workforce, value jobs that allow them to grow and develop in their career. Companies that train leaders to invest time in employees with mentoring, coaching and advocating create a healthy working environment beneficial to the employees and the success of the company.