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In my over four decades of leadership, I have found that if you are willing to share your knowledge there is someone willing to learn.

During my time in the Philippines, I met the Queen of Chocolate, Raquel T. Choa. She shared with me the long, rich history of her family’s love of chocolate and how a business was built from the seed of a cacao tree. I learned a very important lesson about how cacao trees are shaped for growth. 768w, 940w" alt="Grow Mentor Invest with Dr. Troy Hall" width="500" height="419" class="aligncenter wp-image-2725" style="box-sizing: inherit; border: 0px; height: auto; max-width: 100%; vertical-align: middle; clear: both; text-align: center; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" decoding="async" />

Cacao is the seed found in pods grown on trees from which chocolate is made. In Spanish, “cacao” is adapted from “Nahuatl cacaua”, meaning bean of the cocoa-tree.

Without any intervention, a cacao tree matures and bears fruit in 5 years. But, the farmers of this chocolate bean learned something very interesting about how fast a tree can grow and how quickly it will produce a hearty bean for harvesting. It happened through trial and error.

Today, when the cacao tree is just a seedling, it’s fresh green leaves are snipped off leaving a flat-edged stalk. The farmer then slits the stalk and graphs a piece of mature cacao tree into it. Wrapping it carefully with a material to keep bugs from getting into the fresh cuts, the tree is now left to grow.

Surprisingly, this cacao tree will now bear fruit in 2 and 1/2 years. The time to mature was literally cut in half. All because a piece of a mature tree was graphed into it.

Mentoring builds bench strength.

When I first launched the trademarked Cohesion Culture™️ program, roughly 63% of employees were looking for growth, development, and advancement.

Today, that number stands at 71%.

A staggering two-thirds of employees want to learn and grow. These folks don’t necessarily want to take over, they want to be prepared for the next opportunity. They want to grow as quickly as possible.

According to a SHRM study, 30% of employees consider career development opportunities for learning and personal growth very important, yet only 30% were happy with their current situation.

Leaders should think of these employees as seedling cacao trees who are ready to learn and grow from a seasoned leader. Knowledge is power … when it is applied. Wisdom is formed when information is shared and put into action. Otherwise, it just becomes a collection of facts that may be helpful to clear a Jeopardy! category or win free beer on Trivia Night. Mentorship is the key to transforming knowledge into practical wisdom, helping individuals flourish and succeed.

Learn through the lens of experience. 

A formal mentoring program gives emerging talent (mentees) access to wisdom from someone (mentors) who has been there and done that. Whether they earned a T-Shirt or not, these seasoned individuals have a good deal of knowledge that can be passed along to help others succeed.

Colleague and author, Dr. Keith McNally focuses his book, Walking the Path – A Leader’s Journey, on a young man’s mentoring journey to break free from being average. Dr. Keith equates mentors to mirrors, explaining it is the mentor’s role to help mentees reflect. Mentors challenge thinking, and help mentees turn dreams into accomplishments.

Mentoring promotes an environment for the safe exchange of ideas and self-discovery. A successful mentoring experience should:

1) Foster collaboration by acknowledging that both mentor and mentee need each other and both will trust each other in the process. Both parties rely on each other’s insights, experiences, and guidance to navigate the intricate pathways of personal and professional growth. The mentor offers wisdom, and the mentee provides fresh perspectives, creating a synergy that propels them forward on their journey.

2) Build learning through self-discovery. The mentor asks open-ended questions and digs deep to uncover what the mentee needs to know for the next role. The mentor’s role is not to merely provide answers but to guide the mentee towards their own realizations. This is achieved through open-ended questions that encourage introspection and exploration. By delving deep into discussions, the mentor helps the mentee uncover insights and skills they need for their next role. This process of self-discovery empowers individuals to take ownership of their growth, fostering a sense of autonomy and a deeper understanding of their unique strengths and capabilities.

3) Promote challenges. Growth comes from those times when individuals go beyond their comfort or go-to zones. The mentor’s role is to encourage the mentee to take calculated risks and explore uncharted territories. In doing so, they help the mentee expand their skill set and broaden their horizons. This process is akin to bending, not breaking. The mentor provides the necessary support and guidance to ensure that the mentee faces challenges with confidence, ultimately emerging stronger and more resilient from these experiences. Through these trials, individuals uncover their true potential and unlock opportunities for remarkable personal and professional development.

Mentoring builds cohesive teams.

From my firsthand experience, I have developed successful mentoring programs that align with the three strategic elements of cohesion: belonging, value, and commitment. In 2019, my Global Leadership Exchange (GLE) program created a unique mentoring opportunity between Cebu, Philippines and Charleston, SC. The GLE was recognized as an international development educator program and received a proclamation from South Carolina House of Representatives for being the first program of its kind in the state.

If you want employees to have a reason to stay, adopt a mentoring program that gives them a sense of inclusion, builds meaningful work, and offers plenty of opportunities for collaboration.

A well-structured mentoring initiative not only facilitates professional growth but also fosters a deep sense of belonging within your organization. When employees feel supported by mentors and engaged in a learning journey, they’re more likely to find their work meaningful and purposeful. This, in turn, leads to increased job satisfaction and a greater commitment to the organization’s mission.

Moreover, mentoring creates a collaborative environment where the exchange of ideas and experiences flourishes. It breaks down silos and encourages cross-functional cooperation, which can lead to innovative solutions and a more cohesive, harmonious workplace. In a world where talent retention is vital, investing in mentorship not only helps employees thrive but also enhances your company’s overall retention rates and competitive edge.

Ready to set up a mentoring program in your shop, connect with Dr. Troy for a “no-strings attached” outline on how to get a mentoring program started.

For more insight on this topic, please refer to these blog posts:

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