PuzzleFor every team, in order to fulfill their mission – to satisfy their customers and stakeholders – it is important to stay focused on the value and continually improve the way of working. Having a Mentor can help in both and what’s more, it significantly boosts team’s productivity and efficiency. Let us have a look at three ways how the Mentor can help.

Mentor gives you external perspective so you don’t get stuck in a rut

Things look different when you are inside or outside. When you do a job it is difficult to stop, step back, forget everything you have learnt and take a fresh new look at what you do. A mentor gives you another perspective – especially by asking questions you wouldn’t ask yourself otherwise. Answering them honestly helps you to not get stuck in a rut and move forward.

Mentor brings experience and helps you apply it in your specific environment

Why to reinvent the wheel when you can accommodate someone else’s experience? The mentor shares stories about how other teams did your job, what problems they encountered and how they coped with them. He helps you to apply this experience in your job via training and hands-on coaching – all in specific context of your team.

One good example is daily Scrum meetings. Every team needs to be synchronized and identify and resolve problems as soon as they appear – no doubts about that. But implementing daily Scrum meetings by the book in a team of 15 people working on five different areas in a distributed environment might be a nightmare without previous experience. It can take a long time and can result in frustration of the team when they are forced to do something they don’t see value in.

An experienced mentor helps the team to understand the principle behind and take a shortcut when implementing it in their specific environment (e.g. how often should they meet, how to prepare, what questions to ask and what tools to use). This makes the implementation faster and smoother.

Mentor helps to align differing views of managers and workers to make them pull the same rope

Although both workers and managers are members of the same team and should have the same goal, their views often differ. Workers see the details of their job and concrete obstacles, while managers have more high level view – goals, strategy and dependences. Both perspectives are equally important and need to be merged. However, in practice they rarely meet. So despite both workers and managers are doing their best, they are not pulling the same rope.

Managers are often too busy or too far from the workers’ job

Managers often do not have enough time or comprehension of workers’ job to explain to every worker how does the chosen strategy affect her job and what exactly is expected from her. Or why her problem cannot be fixed now because we have more burning issues on the table. Or why a certain improvement idea cannot be implemented, although it would bring huge return on investment, because we are simply not making enough profit for such an investment right now.

Workers are often left with a simple “DO” or “NO” without “WHY”, which is very frustrating.

Workers are busy as well or think it is not their job to think

Workers, on the other hand, are often too busy with details or think it is beyond their responsibility to ask and try to understand the bigger picture. They prefer to “stay in their box.”

They often do not understand how they get affected by the strategy, what exactly is expected from them and how the whole chain they are part of works.

Therefore they cannot understand the impact of what they do and what they demand on the whole team and its customers. They do not see that by getting rid of “their pain” they can cause pain to someone else in the chain. For instance that demanding “doing things right” here and now (e.g. “the right testing”) could result in delivering everything so late, that customer will refuse to pay and there might be no business at all in future. Or that by not documenting their work they cause troubles to the future maintenance team.

Such a lack of context awareness makes it difficult for managers who need everyone to actively contribute and cooperate towards the common goal.

The Mentor helps both sides to better understand each other and work together

The mentor talks to both sides, thus understanding their perspectives – plus having an external one. Therefore he acts as a natural bridge between them.

He brings up-to-date information and “WHY” to the workers, helping them to better understand the big picture, their role in it and consequences of what they do.

He helps them to better formulate their ideas with respect to the needs and constraints of the managers (shifting their mindset from “my problem” to “our common goal”). The ideas are then more likely to get supported by managers and implemented.

By explaining the big picture again and again and focusing workers on the common goal, the Mentor helps managers to increase workers’ willingness to contribute to the effort necessary to implement the strategy and achieve the common goal.

Last but not least, the Mentor helps managers to understand what are the workers’ biggest concerns and pains, how they perceive the overall situation and how they feel about it, so the managers know how well their strategy is understood and followed and in which areas they need to communicate more.

All in all, the Mentor is your team’s best friend

The Mentor works as an information carrier, being the glue connecting the details and the big picture and making the whole team pull the same rope. He is your team’s thinking partner providing external perspective and experience. And he is always on duty to help you to not lose sight of your purpose and goal and to improve continually.

Do you have one? Would you like to? We are here to help.