The Boss as a Mentor

At the heart of mentoring is encouragement.

By Jeff Kortes, President, Human Asset Management LLC

The boss as a mentor is a crucial aspect of the growth of any employee. As I always emphasize: The ultimate responsibility for development of an employee lies with the employee himself. That being said, the boss who is a mentor can take that development to the next level. Mentoring is one of the major responsibilities of any boss—regardless of whether it is listed in the job description or not. (Pull out your job description and see if it is!) It is also critical to developing a “high-performance” work culture because without people who can perform beyond “average,” you will never get to the point of having that even if you have the latest technology and are trying to use the latest management tools at your disposal. Ultimately, your people are the ones who have to use that technology and those management tools. Without highly competent employees, you are going nowhere!

At the heart of mentoring is encouragement. Creating a climate where people feel they can grow will eliminate much of the fear that often exists with growth. A boss needs to set a positive tone and encourage his or her people to grow…constantly! Without that growth, you are at a competitive disadvantage. Many people will not seek out growth or are afraid of the risk associated with it. They need to be encouraged and, in some cases, pushed to grow. As a boss, your goal is to drive that growth regardless of how motivated your people are.

Another important element of the growth is eliminating the fear of failure. When employees extend themselves, they are bound to have times when they will fail. If they are crucified every time they fail, you soon will have people who are afraid to stick their necks out and take any chances. This can be devastating in the performance of your department because you will never go to the next level with a group of people who are merely plugging along.

Mentoring can be a lot of work. It also can be tremendously rewarding for a mentor. Not only do you get to see someone’s growth, you also reap the benefit of the expertise the person acquires. When an organization builds that expertise across multiple employees, a miracle occurs: Everyone is working at a higher level, and things just seem to somehow get accomplished with greater ease. As a boss, you will look around and soon realize that you have developed a “high-performance” work culture in your department. Another reward for you as the boss is that your work life also becomes much easier when you have great people who are working for you. In the end, everyone wins—your people, you as the boss, and the organization.

Jeff Kortes is known as the “No Nonsense Guy.” He is the president of Human Asset Management LLC, a human resource consulting firm specializing in executive search and leadership training. He has trained hundreds of first-line supervisors, managers, and executives during his career. His approach to training is no-nonsense and practical. Kortes is also a member of the National Speakers Association and a regular speaker on the topics of retention, recruiting, and leadership. For more information, visit

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.