March 1, 2017

Four Traits of Great Mentors

 |  By: Mike Opperman

Odds are there are people working on your dairy who are management material. They sort themselves out from the rest of your employees by showing certain traits that define their ability to lead and manage others. It’s your job to not only identify these people but act as a good coach and mentor to help them grow into their potential.

“The best leaders practice a form of leadership that is less about creating followers and more about creating other leaders,” says Anthony Tjan, chief executive officer, managing partner and founder of venture capital firm Cue Ball. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Tjan outlines four things that the best mentors do.

Put relationship before mentorship. “For real mentorship to succeed, there needs to be a baseline chemistry between a mentor and a mentee,” Tjan says. He says all too often mentorship evolves into a ‘check the box’ procedure rather than an authentic relationship. “Mentoring requires rapport. At best, it propels people to break from their formal roles and titles and find common ground as people.”

Focus on character rather than competency. One element of mentorship involves helping the mentee master an aspect of a specific job. On the dairy, this could be managing the transition pen, for example. “The best leaders go beyond competency,” Tjan says. “They focus on helping to shape other people’s character, values, self-awareness, empathy and capacity for respect.” Good mentors realize that value-based qualities matter more than skill enhancement.

Shout optimism loudly, and be quiet with cynicism. Mentors need to be givers of energy, not takers of it, Tjan says. Take time to consider why an idea might work before you consider why it might not.

Be more loyal to your mentee than you are to the company. There is a delicate balance between mentoring someone as a person and mentoring their career. Certainly you want to keep good people. But you have to realize that sometimes good people are meant to go elsewhere to potentially achieve more than they could on your operation. Tjan says to go beyond what your mentee’s strengths are and understand what they are passionate about. “Help them find their calling,” he says. “If an employee and a job aren’t a good fit, or if an ambitious employee realistically has limited upward mobility in a company, a good mentor will help that employee move on.”