In Homer's Trojan War epic, The Odyssey, King Odysseus' friend Mentor epitomized the loyal adviser. The king's trust in Mentor was so great that when he set off for battle, he asked Mentor to become a counselor, educator and protector for his son, Telemachus.
From this ancient beginning, the concept of mentoring evolved. In modern vernacular, a mentor is an individual who shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague, commonly referred to as a protĂ©gĂ©, to facilitate proficiency in a chosen endeavor.
Today, our lives are sprinkled with mentors - family members, friends, teachers, coaches, clergy and bosses - guiding us at important junctures. Some relationships are more formal and last longer than others. But each mentoring experience has molded who we are today.
In business, more experienced colleagues often acquire a tremendous volume of information and personal experience. Properly channeled, these resources can benefit newer members joining an organization. Knowledge gleaned from dealing with merchants and vendors, understanding which skill sets and types of expertise are essential, and sharing core company values can go a long way toward building a strong organizational foundation.
In a study by the Center for Creative Leadership, 77 percent of respondents from U.S. companies that implemented formal coaching and mentoring programs said they experienced improved retention and performance.
Another CCL study revealed that 27 percent of high-potential employees believe their organization could increase personal engagement by "providing a clear path that identifies the next steps in terms of development, experience and movement."
For ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs), identifying mentor talent should be a priority. Consider the requisite time commitment for mentorship to be an investment in the future.
Mentor and protĂ©gĂ© pairings can be based upon areas of expertise and requested growth determined by candidates' answers to questionnaires covering education, training, experience, growth needs and goals.
Within ISOs, mentor pairings don't necessarily have to come from within the same department. Working with someone outside the protĂ©gĂ©'s own department who shares similar goals can offer a valuable, neutral perspective. This is not to say that a veteran sales manager wouldn't make an excellent mentor to someone joining the team. Having an open dialog beyond initial training can be integral to building the next sales superstar.
MLSs might begin a mentor search with a call to an industry expert who has contributed articles to this publication or offered advice in GS Online's MLS Forum. In addition, regional acquirers conferences and local business organizations offer opportunities to form alliances with veteran professionals, many of whom are willing to share knowledge with promising individuals who could become their own business or referral partners down the road.
Whether you are searching for a mentor or wish to become one yourself, remember, many of the skills used to acquire and retain merchant accounts also apply to mentoring. These include being an active listener to build rapport, having the patience to build trust over time, helping to establish goals, and offering the encouragement needed to succeed. With continuous monitoring and evaluation, mentoring relationships can stay on track until they run their natural course.
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