A friend once told me, "I'm too busy to develop people. They just leave anyway -- it's much easier to just do things myself than to have to take the time to mentor people."
you? How much are you doing yourself because there's no time to develop
others? Do you have your radar up, looking out for the next great stars
for our industry?
It's totally understandable if you feel so overloaded that it's hard to make time to delegate -- it seems it's always easier to do it yourself. The problem, of course, is the more you do yourself, the more things pile up, and eventually you become the bottleneck. I know, I've lived it, and I'm as guilty as anyone. Training people, correcting their mistakes, and deliberately creating a learning environment is one of the hardest things we have to do. But do it we must.
When I was being mentored, it never crossed my mind that was what was happening. Fortunately, that baptism of fire by my mentors resulted in a thorough and expedient education. Though I'm sure my mentors would rather have just handled things themselves, I was fortunate they chose not to.
My great mentors did several things that made a difference. These are the things you too need to consider doing:
1. Lead by Example: People are always watching you, and you need to be on top of your game and doing your best in every instance. Most people have no training when it comes to knowing how to handle people. They only know how they like to be treated, and they see the responses of others to the treatment they receive. Look for specific places to demonstrate specific actions. Dwight Case once walked me through a trade show as he said, "Here's how you can touch base with everyone in about one hour. Watch and learn." He then proceeded to walk through and show me how he did it.
2. Be a Living Example of Ethics: People who could go either way ethically will typically follow your lead. How you handle people, clients, tough situations, and your communications with others will set the tone.
3. Look for Teaching Moments: Use tough situations to take your mentee aside and ask their opinion, what they would have done, and why they think you handled things the way you did. I try to take certain people aside and say, "Here is why I did what I did and what my thought process was." Real-life examples help. More importantly, when people screw up, rather than berating them, use it as a teaching moment: "Here is how you could have handled this differently."
4. Delegate with Expectations: Telling someone to do the job isn't enough. It's important to tell them the outcome you expect, then let them accomplish it in their own way. Rather than telling people how to do it, make it known that the end result is what matters -- unless, of course, the job entails critical steps that have to be followed a certain way. But in most cases, you can lay out the parameters, timeline, budget, and as exact an expected outcome as you can. After the fact, do a debriefing. What did they learn? What could they have done differently or more efficiently?
5. Allow Mistakes: Mistakes are like the punctuation marks of education. Don't forget that you make them, too. If you don't allow mistakes, you'll never help people grow.
6. Don't Be Selfish: You have hired well-trained employees that, in most cases, others have trained for you. Be willing to do the same. No one stays forever. People leave when they are unhappy, which is usually because they are not empowered to use their brains, or when they see no room for growth. Delegation and training are part of their growth and maturation into better places. Sometimes they'll leave because they need to know they can do it on their own in a different place.
Our industry has a huge need for mentors. Where will the next generation of leaders come from? Where will the next generation of programmers and talent come from? Some say there's no need to mentor because there are fewer opportunities. Yet in spite of the current trends in the industry, there will always be a need for strong people in all roles. At the least, you will have trained someone who will do well in other industries.
If we care deeply about the future of this wonderful industry, it's critical that we help others make the leap to success. The best reward for me is to see people I've trained do well enough to replace me.
The MIW Group has set very high standards and specific programs for mentoring women, and the NAB has a strong mentoring program. Dan Vallie has put together a wonderful training institute, and Neuhoff Broadcasting does an annual summer camp for mentoring. What about the rest of us? I know I can do a better job. What about you?
And as you look for new potential stars to mentor, radio's rising stars of today should be recognized: Do you have an AE, sales manager, general manager, program director, engineer, DJ, or talk show host working at your station, under 40 years of age, that you believe will be one of radio's next great leaders? Send details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Radio's Rising Stars will be recognized in the August 19 issue of Radio Ink magazine. The deadline for nominations is Friday, July 26.