The mentor leader multiplies talent

The mentor leader multiplies talent
The multiplication of talent has become strategic for organizations, and mentoring leadership is one of the levers to achieving it. In a context of constant changes, increased turnover, and difficulties in having the necessary talent, the smartest strategy is not to replace, but to renew internal talent. Bet on its development, mobility, and updating. This means having people with a high capacity to learn and unlearn new skills. According to the World Economic Forum, around 50% of the workforce will need to unlearn and learn their knowledge before 2025 to adapt to the new context. And this forces companies to know how to connect their talent to the needs of the business strategy and the context in which it operates.

In the 2023 human resources trends report, published by Randstad, relevant figures are provided: 72% of companies perceive the existence of talent shortage problems; 9 out of 10 have faced difficulties in filling their vacancies; turnover has grown in one year in 45% of companies

In short, organizations need to multiply talent, bring out all the capabilities and resources of people and get them to put them at the service of achieving common goals. They need to move from focusing on performance to focusing on development.

When organizations are obsessed with performance, they focus on doing and on short-term results: all their actions are aimed at getting people to do more, produce more, work more, and obtain more results, which ends up causing them to feel overexploited but underutilized.

When the focus is on development, the gaze turns to the future: how to make today’s potential become tomorrow’s talent. Try to make the person more prepared to face future challenges or assume more responsibilities.

People need their talent to be used as this makes them feel that their work serves their purposes, gives meaning to their lives, allows them to contribute their ideas, and learn, stimulates them intellectually, and makes them evolve and grow. On the contrary, when they perceive that they are being exploited, they experience a sensation of constant load and pressure, an endless sequence of demands, demands, and tasks to be completed in impossible times, which frustrates and demotivates them.

Definition of multiplying talent

According to studies carried out by Liz Wiseman, those organizations that manage to multiply their talent have up to twice the capabilities, resources, and intelligence of a person.

The same company, to generate the same results, could need 100 or 50 people, depending on whether or not their talent is multiplied. Logically without those 50 people working the hours of the 100. Simply, productivity grows exponentially. This translates into a source of financial opportunities, growth, expanding markets and, ultimately, achieving much more solvent and sustainable companies over time.

For Wiseman, the reason for this difference is that a person offers the best of his intelligence, creativity, abilities, and resources when working in an environment that multiplies talent. He brings more than what his jobs and responsibilities required of them. And not because they feel compelled to, but because they enjoy it. They do it voluntarily, without anyone asking or demanding it.

In these environments where talent multiplies, people feel more capable, more proactive, more intelligent, more creative, with a greater desire to put their talent into action. Contribute with their abilities to the achievement of common goals.

Wiseman also warns us that the lack of involvement of people with their work and organization is not just an emotional issue. It is also due to an inadequate development of his talent.

  • That happens when people feel like they are wasting it.
  • When they do not find how to contribute in a meaningful, rewarding, and satisfying way.
  • Or, simply, when they can’t expand and update it.

It is in those moments when a person is disconnected from the organization in which they work, and they become emotionally disaffected from it.

Keeping talent updated requires knowing how to speed up and optimize the processes of learning, change, and development of people. It is not enough to learn at the same speed with which the environment changes, an extra speed is needed. However, according to Gartner surveys, up to 40% of leaders state that they do not find methods to speed up learning.

Too much to learn and unlearn, and little time for it. Organizations will have to create models of learning, change, and development that know how to stay one step ahead of their needs. These models can no longer be based on “having” or accumulating knowledge.

The great objective is to develop wisdom, which, as Bauman said, does not age, as well as being the top of the learning ladder.

Managing people is no longer enough in the age of learning

When the changes are faster, the knowledge becomes obsolete quickly. The good practices of yesterday are useless for tomorrow. The teams are becoming more diverse and the situations to be faced are more complex.

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The leader needs to be more inspirational and a developer, rather than just a managerial and executive. At this juncture, organizations need to bring together more autonomous, self-motivated people, with a greater capacity for self-control and self-regulation. Professionals who know how to make decisions and who dare to do so. With this, they can make the most of their talent: self-directing their learning and development.

A leader who gives instructions, supervises, controls and practices micromanagement and supervision, no longer makes sense.

According to a survey carried out by the Future for Work Institute, business dynamics reveals that most of the time leaders spend on activities associated with planning, task control, or reporting. Meanwhile, other capabilities, such as empowering your teams, receive less attention.

This is putting the focus on directing and not developing; Focus on performance and not on multiplying talent. The complex thing is that changing these approaches requires a different method, mentality, and skills or, rather, a different way of deploying them.

Managing and developing people are two different frameworks, but not incompatible

Leadership requires both capacities, directing and developing, as Ken Blanchard pointed out in his “situational leadership” model. But too much weight and importance has been given to the first approach: “directive and executive leadership”. This has neglected and stunted the skills associated with the second: “developer leadership”.

The great challenge for leaders is not only to learn the skills to develop others, but also to unlearn, at least temporarily, those that they are already deploying as managers.

Often they have been confused, or the difference has not been understood. It has been tried to direct what cannot be directed because it requires to be developed.

Attitudes and behaviors that depend on the voluntariness of people cannot be directed: commitment, creativity, empathy, initiative, collaboration, interest, enthusiasm or perseverance, therefore, they cannot be controlled or imposed.

You cannot direct the learning, change, and development of a person, because they are processes that arise from the will and personal commitment. And not from extrinsic motivation, imposition, teaching, instruction, or direction. Churchill is associated with this phrase that helps to understand this idea: « learning occurs when someone wants to learn, not when someone wants to teach ».

Talent and mentor leader

Developer leadership, which is the one exemplified by the mentor leader, focuses on enhancing people’s learning agility. This allows them to learn quickly and effectively when faced with new situations that require different skills.

Let’s see an example to differentiate the “direct” approach, versus the “develop” approach.

A leader asks a professional on his team to prepare a presentation. Objective: to expand sales to a critical client of the company. When you receive the first draft of the presentation it seems that it does not meet your expectations. To solve it, he sends his collaborator an email and details everything that is not right, so that he can modify it. But the next draft still falls short of expectations. With the pressure of the day of the meeting, the leader decides to make the presentation himself.

The goal is achieved: presentation made and customer satisfied. But dissatisfaction floods the work environment. An upset team leader, because he has had to take over a job that he had delegated. And a collaborator who feels that his efforts have been in vain and that he has not contributed to the goal. But, worst of all, he still doesn’t know what the leader wanted. Neither party has grown professionally in the process. One, he hasn’t learned how to report and has managed to thwart his boss. And his boss continues to take over jobs that he delegates or wants to delegate and hasn’t learned to delegate effectively.

The leader in this story is caught in a very common trade-off: focus on meeting goals and delivering results or developing people so they learn to do it themselves. This tension between delivering results and developing people is experienced as a contradictory commitment, which generates a lot of frustration and discomfort. The pressure of time, to be productive, and to achieve short-term results is a mental pattern that we have very installed. It leads us to direct and not to invest in development.

This dynamic allows us to obtain immediate results but at the expense of future benefits. It prevents us from taking advantage of the pedagogical moments that our day-to-day work with our collaborators offers us.

Every wasted pedagogical moment is a loss of opportunities to multiply your talent

For many decades, the leader focused on short-term results has triumphed. Success was (and still is) achieving objectives, obtaining economic benefits, and increasing them year by year. The value in the market and its sense of competition and, even, the self-esteem of the leader depend on all of it.

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But the way of leading is not sustainable. We are under very demanding pressure to speed up people’s learning and development capacity. More to learn, and more new situations to face, in less time. The key is how to get people to learn fast, and well, in the workplace.

Leaders must learn to mentor the talent that guides the learning and development of their collaborators.

A leader with these characteristics, that is, a mentor/developer leader, would have acted in the following way:

  • When entrusting the task, it will be ensured, through questions, if the collaborator is prepared for the task or not.
  • He will ask, what do you need? How can I help you? Even offer help by showing a previous model or example.
  • I would explain, in case you see him not prepared for the task, what objectives are sought in these presentations, how he likes the structure of it, and the key messages that we should aspire to highlight. Is your collaborator currently prepared to face the elaboration of the presentation alone?
  • It is important to make the thought process explicit to the collaborator: “when I have to make a commercial presentation, I start by asking myself who and what is the client like? What worries him and what does he need? How can we make you see that our product meets those needs and eliminates those concerns? What reluctance can you raise with our proposal? how are we going to tackle them? What are the key contents to include? How am I going to structure them?….”

All this will help the collaborator to guide himself mentally. It will also allow the leader to identify what level of thought, knowledge, and ideas she has and determine the most appropriate actions to continue promoting her development.

If the first draft doesn’t deliver, you can have another conversation:

  • How did you feel doing the task? How do you think the result has been? What was the most difficult?
  • This allows you to know where you are and find ways to help more effectively.
  • In the same presentation, it is useful to ask questions: How would you improve this message? How would we include this missing? Could there be another approach to this? Involving both parties.
  • Do you think you can reformulate the presentation? What do you need? This will greatly help the person who has to continue working on the presentation, feel valued, and, above all, it is a necessary step for the following presentations.

In this case, the leader does not solve, does not do, does not say what to do and how, but intentionally invests in developing the collaborator’s skills. He creates bridges to improve the process of working together, giving independence and trust. It guides the process step by step, seeing how far the collaborator goes autonomously and where he has to intervene by contributing light, ideas, and resources, for example, similar presentations already made.

To achieve objectives in little-changing contexts, with certain doses of certainty and stability, directing through instructions on how to do the job can be effective. But this is very short in the current reality this can divide and not multiply talent.

Multiplying talent requires mentor leaders who know how to develop in their employees the ability to learn autonomously, agilely, and strategically. This is the meta-competence that will allow them to continue learning and acquiring other competencies.

How to Become a mentor leader and Multiplier

Leading is going to happen, imperiously, by knowing how to hold learning and development conversations. A quality conversation transforms our brain, expands our intelligence and multiplies talent, contributing to improving people’s well-being. Promotes optimal human development.

Going from directing to talking and developing is not going to be an easy path. It will test the leader: his identity, his sense of competence, his security, his confidence, and his image. I have experienced it firsthand, and I relive it in the training processes of mentor leaders. It is an authentic “Paso del Rubicon”:

1.- Going from understanding learning and development as a purely intellectual matter to contemplating them from a multidimensional perspective.

Where the emotional, the cognitive, and the social influence each other, mediated by executive intelligence. For a person to learn to delegate, it will not be enough to teach them delegation techniques. You need to work on the fear of delegating, the need for control, or the lack of trust in others, for example. You must also take into account the context in which you delegate, in which other people and relationships play a very important role. In addition, to know the most common styles of delegating and how a culture of “delegating” is built, etc.

2.-Going from building asymmetrical relationships, based on the difference in status, power, hierarchies, or paternalism/maternalism, to building symmetrical relationships.

Build brother-to-brother, human-to-human relationships. Practicing the principle of accompanying, based on trust, openness, empathy, freedom, and mutual respect, instead of control and imposition.

3.-Move from going ahead of the collaborator —setting the pace and what to do and how—, to going behind.

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Adapting to their rhythm, asking questions before pointing out how to do things. Interested in how the collaborator would do it. Find out how far you can go before giving our master class, giving the solution or the answer.

4.-Moving from establishing objectives for our collaborators to helping them to formulate objectives with the personal and contextual fit.

That is, self-consistent with their potential and motivations and also aligned with organizational objectives.

5.-Moving from occupying the conversation with our discourse to letting it be the discourse of our collaborators who occupies it.

At least 60%, which means talking less and listening more.

6.-Going from listening egocentrically, that is, getting trapped in our worries, judgments, beliefs, needs, values, etc., to listening empathically.

What it means to be focused on the other, on what he says, on how he says it. What he doesn’t say and how it affects him. Find out what is important to him.

7.-Move from giving answers and advice to asking questions.

And that the questions be open, appreciative, and empathetic. Always following the collaborator’s responses and not following our assumptions, interpretations, or ideas.

Ask questions with the purpose of provoking the thought of our collaborators, expanding their intelligence and not to make diagnoses, solve or solve.

8.-Move from filling the space with our ideas and occurrences to stimulating the creativity of our collaborators.

To help generate and explore ideas and, based on them, co-create if necessary.

9.-Go from deciding at all times what to do and how to promote decision-making and commitments to action in the team.

10.-Move from micro supervising and controlling at every step to leaving space and time for our collaborators to experiment, try, make mistakes, learn, rectify, readjust, and be the ones who supervise and monitor themselves.

11.-Move from providing feedback, exclusively, to generating self-feedback processes through questions.

Questions like: how do you think you did it? What do you think was missing and what could you have done? What hasn’t worked? What has been useful and effective?

It is about developing the metacognition of our collaborators.

12.-Moving from intervening through opinions, advice, solutions, and instructions, to investing or intervening neutrally.

Before intervening, it is necessary to explore how far the collaborator needs it. Know how far he/she can go to the solution or answer. Intervene only with an idea, a point of view, or a piece of advice if, based on the previous inquiry, we see it as necessary.

After that, it is important to ask: how do you see it? To what extent has it been useful to you? How do you see yourself applying it?

This is how the inner wisdom of our collaborators develops instead of making ours present at all times.

13.-Go from being a motivator to being a motivational alchemist.

It means moving from extrinsically motivating to awakening intrinsic motivation, that which transcends our collaborators. That they learn to self-regulate their motivation to perform their tasks and achieve their goals. Only this type of motivation generates true commitment.

14.-To go from being a river to being a bridge.

Stop being the only channel of their development. Give them access to other people who can also help them and impact their personal and professional growth.

15.-To go from being a model of success to being a model of behavior.

We do not learn from the results and successes of people, but from how they have achieved them. What they have done or not done to get them and what their behaviors were.

Success may be due to variables external to the person, difficult to replicate. But the behaviors, yes. It is the latter that serves as a reference for learning and developing our talent.

It is all these behavioral changes in leaders that activate processes in their collaborators that are talent multipliers.

Leading, in the GPT Chat era, has ceased to consist of having all the answers to focus on knowing how to ask good questions. Questions that depend ‘on the pilot’, as the Javis would say .

Questions that stimulate self-knowledge, awareness, creativity, critical thinking, reflection, change of perspective, connection, intuition, decision-making, and learning from experience.

The model of leader who “knows, directs and says” must give way to one who “observes, listens, questions, awakens and promotes the capacities of others”.

There is only one option to progress at this time: understanding development as an investment. Investing in people means committing part of our time and effort. And as leaders, accompany them, listen to them, get to know them, and talk to them. Bring out their full potential and remove the obstacles that prevent them from deploying to add value.

Investing in people means focusing on their difficulties, needs, and motivations to achieve the team’s goals, not just ours.

It is not about being a leader who demonstrates his intelligence at every step, but about being a leader who empowers and makes the intelligence of others shine. The mentor leader is a leader who illuminates, not dazzles. 

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