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Management minute -- Mentoring 101

Published on -12/22/2013, 11:18 AM

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My articles usually are about something directly related to agriculture production in Ellis County and the area. The article below was written by Chris Reinhardt, K-State Feedlot Extension specialist, and as the title infers, would apply to managers, supervisors and team leaders in the work force.

But I would suggest it applies to virtually any adult in the work force. Whether you are a supervisor or team leader, or not, most of us work along-side others and do some on-the-job training or mentoring of family members, new employees or co-workers, and interns. Our attitude towards our work place, occupation and co-workers can help set the stage for future employees' job success, job satisfaction and the success of your farm, company or organization as a whole. Heck, as parents, we all know we constantly are being watched by our children, and we try to set a good example. So are you doing this in your workplace as well?

Here is what Chris had to say:

Sometimes with the mantle of management comes an unanticipated but essential duty. One of these is especially for managers who are supervising younger subordinates. One reality of leadership, so subtle it often is lost on both manager and employee, is that, as leaders, we always are teaching something, intentionally or unintentionally, for better or for worse. The supervisor who makes an intentional effort to "catch" employees doing something right is not only motivating the team, but also coincidentally is "teaching" the team leadership doesn't only entail giving orders and enforcing discipline, but also engendering enthusiasm and camaraderie among the team.

In conjunction with this continual, coincidental teaching comes the obligation of the team leader to mentor younger teammates. Mentoring is not to be taken lightly. Mentoring means giving of yourself, with little hope to see a return on your investment. But it is important nonetheless. The future of your organization resides in the quality of your future leaders. None of us will live forever, and we should plan to work ourselves out of our job. By the end of your career, your hope should be you've intentionally and effectively prepared a young mentee to step into your shoes, and your chair.

No one can do this job for you. Only an effective leader can teach leadership. Leaders do lead by example, but they also must communicate clearly, intentionally and effectively. In the absence of a clear message communicated by the team leader, the team will create their own message -- be it right or wrong. This is true in day-to-day operation of the organization, but also in the process of mentoring young, future leaders. The intentional mentor continually will look for teachable moments to pass along leadership lessons to the mentee.

There's a reason someone once said, "It's lonely at the top." Leadership will be costly and taxing. The incidental leader will focus only on the daily, quarterly or annual production goals and the challenges that erupt along the way. But the complete leader, who sees not only the immediate goals and challenges but also sees clearly the future of the organization including future hurdles and challenges and opportunities, eagerly will seek out young future leaders and take on the mantle of mentorship. This is accepted not because it's some technique gleaned from a management guide, but because they clearly can see proper training of future team leaders is just as essential for operational success as meeting immediate production targets.

Seek out your future leaders. Every good organization has its future in its own hands in the form of its future leaders, to be raised up from within.

* Chris Reinhardt, feedlot Extension specialist.

Stacy Campbell is Ellis County

agricultural agent with Kansas State Research and Extension.

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