Mentoring in the Workplace: How to Elevate Your Team’s Potential
The concept of an elevator is pretty simple.
You hop on at the ground floor, press a button, and go up to your desired location. Once you’re dropped off, it heads back down and follows the process all over again.
Mike Weast, Addison Group’s President of Information Technology and Engineering, uses this as a metaphor for how he has run things over the last 17 years.
“I tell everyone that to get promoted, they have to send the elevator back down,” Weast said. “As they learn the job and climb up through the ranks, they have a responsibility not only to do their job well, but also make sure someone else can take over that same job down the road.”
It’s because of this strategy that so many employees have progressed from entry-level roles to leadership positions under his guidance. Weast dedicates that to a togetherness, team-first mentality when hiring first-time employees, knowing that someday they could very well take the elevator all the way up to his position.
“The focus has to be on growing the pie, not trying to get more of the pie itself,” Weast said. “In theory, your percentage of the pie could shrink. But as long as the total pie is growing, then you’ve got more pie for yourself. It’s all about continuing to grow and expand, and when that’s the case, I expect folks to continue to send the elevator back down.”
Getting Face Time
Even with his high-ranking status as a President of Addison Group, Weast still makes time to mold young employees. When in-office, he’s continuously roaming around the main floor, giving pointers and getting to know new hires. It’s something he thoroughly enjoys doing, making an effort to have a relationship with every employee he can.
“You’d think people would get lost in the shuffle and he might not know who is who, but he knows all the business development managers, recruiters — everyone,” said Senior Vice President Lynnsey Wimmer, who started working under Weast in 2010. “To him, that’s super important. He makes it a point to get to know who the new hires are because from day one, he sees that everyone could be an Echelon [top tier recruiter] producer and wants to get the most out of them.”
Raising the Bar
Through building these relationships early, employees tend to build a natural affinity towards Weast. They want to come in early and stay late so they can impress him and surpass the expectations he set for them. His standard became everyone else’s standard.
“From the get-go, Mike was very transparent about what he wanted from you,” Wimmer said. “One of his biggest things was always giving 100% effort, and if you’re not willing to do that, then this isn’t the right role for you. But if you are, then he’s going to be there with you, helping you every step of the way. It really became a thing where I didn’t want to let him down. He always instilled in us that things are going to get messed up; it’s part of the job. But if you’re going to mess up, mess up going 100 miles per hour and we’ll fix it along the way. He just really instilled a hard work ethic in all of us and held us accountable, which we needed.”
Learning the Tough Lessons
Whether consciously or subconsciously, Weast’s effective management style rubbed off on a few of his now higher-up prodigies. It was always the goal for him to do so, but seeing it actually put into place was pleasantly surprising for former mentees and current recruiting manager for IT and Digital Marketing, David McFarland, and Senior Vice President, David Collins.
“He was always going to let us make mistakes,” said McFarland, who started working under Weast a decade ago. “And I realized, to be honest with you, a lot of people learn that way. It’s hard to look at your team and know someone’s going down the wrong path on a phone call with a candidate trying to close on a deal. You know they could be doing something better and it’s so hard to restrain yourself from stepping in and taking it over. Watching someone falter in front of you, then using it as a teaching moment is painful, but I’ve used it plenty of times and seen so much success from it with so many people. And I learned that technique from Weast.”
“A lot of it comes down to making sure we’re training people on our team,” Collins added. “We’ve got to ensure we’re demanding a level of effort out of people, but really training them so we can get the most out of them. A big piece of it is they have to be willing to learn and be uncomfortable on the phone, if you will. We’ve sent a lot of people to Echelon because of the way he’s taught us things. There’s quite a few that have learned from him and have been to Echelon — that’s no coincidence.”
Surely if people continue to learn from Weast and his mentees, Addison Group will continue to grow. From sharing a desk with multiple other people when he started 17 years ago, to seeing the company grow to a multi-million dollar, nationwide company, Weast knows it wouldn’t be possible without training people the way he and other leaders have throughout the years.
As he always says: “If you get the people right, you get a lot right.”