How to Mentor Effectively?
One of the most common complaints of sales and marketing managers in Indian pharmaceutical industry is the rising rate of attrition in field force. Not only that, most of the managers come to know of their team members’ departure after they join their competitors. Often, they do not even inform beforehand let alone discussing them about why they are looking out. This clearly shows a lack of a relationship between two people and lack of trust and mutual respect. How can we change this? Effective mentoring can address this issue.
Mentoring is a relationship. A relationship between two people where one person (the mentor) believes in the other’s capabilities and talents and is committed to that person’s success. The other person (the mentee) is open and willing to learning and growing to become the best he can. As Zig Ziglar rightly observed: a lot of people have gone further than they thought they could, because someone else thought they could.
Mentoring, thus is a journey and expedition at the same time. Mentoring is a process. It does not just happen. It requires reflection, planning, and above all concern for people.
Mentoring and Coaching
Mentoring and coaching are often used interchangeably although there are key differences. Mentoring is much more relational, whereas coaching is functional. When you are coaching your focus is on teaching a skill or two for improving current performance. Mentoring is not limited to current performance or current activities. It takes on rather a longer term and broader focus. It focuses more on preparing a person for future challenges and helping him or her gain life skills as well as technical skills. The key difference is that while a mentor may also coach, a coach is not a mentor.
What is Good Mentoring?
A good mentor focuses on the mentee’s needs. While there is no single formula for effective mentoring, there are key characteristics and behaviors that form the basis of good, effective mentoring. A mentor should be approachable and let his mentees know about it. The concern for the progress and success of mentees should be palpable. A mentor should also be willing to share information and be open in communicating to earn the much needed trustworthiness and respect. A mentor should also give appropriate, honest and timely feedback to mentees to chart the course of progress. It is important that a mentor remains current and up-to-date in the area of knowledge and skills. Furthermore, a good mentor is always supportive, encouraging and empowering.
A mentee on his part should be open with the mentor and take a keen interest in learning and growing. It is the trust and mutual respect for each other’s competencies that determine the success and effectiveness of the mentoring process.
It is useful to have a mentoring agreement with specific time-bound goals, mutual expectations to remain accountable.
Three Vital Steps
- The first step is about setting the stage for success. Meet your new team member right away to earn his trust. Note down his strengths and areas of improvement.
- Create a winning plan for success. Prepare a blueprint for his success in writing based on his strengths and improvement areas. Make it an actionable plan with clear goals and specific timelines. Help him get organized. Make sure that he understands the science and share your most effective tips. Help him with computer skills. Emphasize the importance of promptness in providing feedback on all his activities including his daily fieldwork. Teach him proper communication skills: how he needs to communicate to all his customers – physicians, stockists, retailers and others. Teach him how to do a proper prescription monitoring and how to target customers for specific products and how to effectively detail and use promotional material.
- Follow up regularly with your new representative or manager on a daily basis for the first twenty-one days. Report back to your managers regularly.
Many companies have their own process of inducting a new team member into the organization. These are carefully thought out processes. Follow them without any deviation. The degree of genuine concern you have for your mentees determines the success of the whole process.
In essence, good mentoring is about doing to others what you would have others done unto you. Just as other people mentored you in different ways you will mentor others in your own unique distinct way.