Mentoring Brings Better Employees, Better Results
NATIONAL REPORT — Whether it’s a store manager seeking to grow into a corporate position or a vice president looking to move further up the ladder, mentoring can provide guidance and insight to employees at all levels and, in the end, benefit the organization as well.
“Mentoring leads to better productivity for an organization, with people performing at their peak because they are getting the right answers and references, and they are getting the job done,” Caroline Felici, area trainer for Southern California at Chevron Stations Inc., based in San Ramon, Calif., told Convenience Store News.
Mentoring also creates camaraderie and new relationships within an organization, helping to build people up — something that is very important in a mentoring relationship.
“When you are a mentor, you never want to bring somebody down. You always want to build them up,” Felici said. “You need to listen and speak to people with kindness.”
Not only does mentorship guide others to achieve career success, but it also helps them grow as individuals, according to Cindy Rehwaldt, senior manager of training development at Circle K’s Texas Division in San Antonio.
“It enables people to grow within themselves which, in turn, helps them advance and grow in their role at the organization. It develops professional relationships that help the overall attitudes and moral of the team,” Rehwaldt explained. “Also, the company has a stronger workforce for promotions.”
Mentoring Best Practices
A good mentor provides coaching, guidance and support, but will also challenge and push someone to grow and move past their comfort zone. They lead by example and help mentees discover their strengths, while letting them learn to find the answers on their own.
Sarah Alter, president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women (NEW), based in Chicago, said she has been “blessed” to have a number of mentors throughout her career, to whom she would bring questions and challenges. She often received guidance and recommendations, but was also guided to find her own solutions.
“They didn’t always immediately tell me what to do or give me the solution to the problem. They challenged me to think it through and come up with the answer on my own,” Alter said. “Some of my most successful mentor relationships were those who didn’t give me the answer, but guided me through the process to get there.”
Research shows people sometimes don’t truly learn until they fail. A mentor should be the type of individual one can share failures with; someone who will talk them through a situation to see what they can learn from it – without judgement and with a lot of support.
“There are mentors and there are sponsors, and the difference between the two is a mentor provides your safe environment. They take the good, bad and ugly, and help you think it through to the other side,” Alter shared. “A sponsor is someone you want to bring your successes to, so they can help elevate your career. The mentor is preparing you to bring your best positioning to the sponsor. There is different value in both mentors and sponsors, but each is equally valuable.”
A mentor should also be clear that they are not leading their mentee, but rather “guiding” them as a trusted advisor. Their role is to inspire and encourage, and be a “truth-teller” offering honest feedback, Treasa Bowers, vice president of human resources at 7-Eleven Inc., based in Irving, Texas, pointed out.
“A mentor can question the mentee in a way that doesn’t necessarily have the same consequence as an immediate supervisor might,” Bowers explained, noting the mentor should also understand it is a relationship of intentionality. “They have to honor the confidence and trust the mentee is placing in them, and respect the vulnerability it takes for [the mentee] to ask for support.”
In her own career, Bowers said mentors have been extremely helpful in bringing her attention to blind spots, identifying appropriate risks she should take, and sharing how to recover from mistakes.
“They have also helped me pursue my current role and aspirational assignments, with clarity and the understanding needed to be excellent, but not always perfect,” she said.
Furthermore, a good mentor will encourage an individual, share their own work experiences to provide guidance and help, and assist them in developing core values to strengthen their relationships, Circle K’s Rehwaldt added. When she started in her current position years ago, she had a mentor who influenced her decisions and guided her to become the person she is today. Her goal now is to help others be successful.
“I have mentored different levels in the organization, from store managers to area managers, and mentored my team who also mentors store managers and area managers,” she said.
Rehwaldt, who joined Circle K as part of the company’s acquisition of CST Brands Inc., designed and developed an array of training programs for CST. She says her “pride and joy” is the comprehensive Management Development Program, which provides a career path for assistant managers and store managers.
“My development programs and my personal mentoring served as the launch point for the careers of numerous CST team members who have gone on to serve as leaders in store operations, marketing and accounting,” she said.
At Chevron Stations, Felici’s mentoring relationships have led cashiers and assistant managers to become store managers — with some being in the role of assistant manager for several years before the mentoring relationship. Often, within a year of working with Felici, they can reach the next level in their career.
She finds watching this process a very rewarding experience.
“I’ve developed many people and watching that, creating a career path for them and mentoring them throughout, is just wonderful,” she said. “I’m so happy with my new role as area trainer because now I get to engage employees from the very beginning, and I have managers calling me and saying, ‘What did you do, this guy is so fired up?’”
Look in the May issue of Convenience Store News for our full report on "Guiding the Next Generation."