Dozens of my clients have used creative applications of mentoring and pairing not just for individual learning and development but also organizational growth and development.
Internal mentoring is a common best practice that well-run large companies use. Too often, though, we think of these pairings taking shape as older, higher-level managers coaching younger, newer employees on career management and the company’s internal workings. However, many of the best For-tune 500 CEOs have young mentors who coach them on topics such as technology, social media, generational differences and the realities of what things look like on their organizations’ front lines.
Creative pairing or partnering relationships need not only focus on learning, but they can also include healthy competition as a form of personal and organizational development. For example, in my sales innovation work, clients will pair sales team members to focus on improving a sales activity through creative competitions.
Rather than just comparing your sales team on revenue generated, have them compete on activities that lead to feeding their sales funnel. Recently, one client had the paired sales reps compete on four areas one at a time for a week each: setting appointments, gathering referrals, sending personal notes to prospects and cross-selling conversations with existing customers. The pairs changed each week, and they were charged with having a five-minute update at the end of each day.
Organizational transformation need not happen with everyone at once, but rather, it can happen by pairing individuals for three-, seven- or 30-day sprints. In these sprints, teams of two can focus on achieving objectives such as innovating better ways to see more customers or uncovering improvement areas in a specific part of the company.
Here are examples of pairing for profit and growth. Take the CEO or other C-level exec, and pair him or her with a sales rep. The exec has several one-on-one conversations throughout the 30 days and in-vests a couple of days in the field riding on major account sales opportunity calls. The exec can help direct on who are the better customers. Reps ask questions about strategy insights they can use in the field and what future competitive positioning might look like. The exec learns firsthand of perceptions in the marketplace and on the front lines of the selling effort. Customers feel special, and the odds of closing these opportunities are much higher than the odds for typical sales calls.
Consider pairing people from finance and production. By doing that, you can learn deeper insights about production constraints and where future investments may be needed. Teaming production with service staff can help each to understand more about the timelines and delivery challenges in both of their roles. Teaming service with executive management may give insight as to how you can innovate service improvements for the customer.
How do you know if your organization is big enough to use this tool? If your team has more than two people, then great. That’s the first condition. The second step is to set a common objective or set of objectives for the pairs to address. That will begin the process of dialogue and development, and you can watch your people and organization grow.