Mentoring

The Biggest Blown Opportunity in Your Business

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Please close your eyes and think of one of your employees, someone you think is full of potential. You see that they have so much to offer and have yet to really tap into all that is possible for them. If they just had the keys to unlock that potential there’s no telling the impact they could have.

Now I’d like you to open your eyes. Odds are that you will see that person today, either face to face or via Skype. Heck, if you’re a solopreneur, you’ll see that person in the mirror. How do you “mind the gap” between potential and performance?

"Mind the gap" is a warning phrase issued to rail passengers to take caution while crossing the gap between the train door and the station platform. It was first introduced in 1969 in the London Underground. If you don’t mind the gap and you fall between the train and the platform -- it could kill you. If you don’t mind the gap in your business, employees fall through the cracks and that can kill your results.

Related: Here's Why You Need to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

I hate to break it to you, but it’s already happening in your business. You already have the keys to unlock all that potential falling through the gap, you’re just not using it.

Recent research from the Gallup organization indicates employee disengagement costs U.S. companies $350 billion dollars annually. That’s a big gap. After transitioning from a 12-year career as a college professor and coach to a career as an executive coach, I can tell you from experience a massive part of that gap stems from a lack of ongoing coaching. Coaching is your key to minding the gap and a brand new national study by Gallup and Purdue University substantiates what I’ve been saying for years.

Gallup’s study indicates that only 14 percent of college graduates surveyed actually had a supportive mentor. Here’s the kicker, they found that if graduates reported that they had an emotionally-supportive mentor their odds of being engaged at work more than doubled. The study refers to this gap as the biggest blown opportunity in higher education history. It also might be the biggest blown opportunity in the history of your company.

Before you can do anything about the gap, you need to understand why this is happening to your people. From kindergarten through college we are transformed by mentors. Then after 17 years of mentorship, we enter the workforce and very often are suddenly left to sink or swim on our own.

This is precisely what happened in my career, for 17 years the most important influences on my life were teachers and coaches. Then an interesting thing happened, I entered the workforce and for a number of years my results stalled, big time. It wasn’t until years later when I was introduced to a mentor that I figured out the missing structure in my work life was having a coach.

The dictionary defines the words “coach” and “teach” both to mean “to provide instruction.” Whether it’s the locker room, the classroom or the board room coaches instruct, sometimes by the most unlikely means. The best ones often come from the most unlikely places. They see talent in us that we don't see in ourselves, they see people for who they can become rather than who they are. They're in the transformation business. Great coaches get us to do things we don’t want to do and say things we don’t want to hear in order to get us to become something we didn’t think we could become.

Related: 4 Ways to Keep Learning Beyond the Classroom

Sadly, as universities dump millions into the arms race for the nicest physical resources such as stadiums and dormitory amenities, they aren’t investing in their greatest resource, people. Corporate America shares this same issue. When CEOs contact me and are concerned with the expense of instituting a “culture of coaching,” I begin by showing them two things:

The cost of not doing it.

It costs roughly two and a half times an employee’s annual salary to replace an individual you are unable to retain. When was the last time you looked at your retention rate, why people left and how much it cost to replace each of them?

The return on investment.

Only 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work, and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is approximately two to one. Knowing this, have you evaluated the current ROI of your employees? What would it mean to your bottom line if you could double their level of engagement?

If you’re a small-business owner and think this doesn’t apply to you, perhaps this will change your perspective. Assuming you and a business partner are the only two employees, and one of you is fully engaged while the other is not, you’ve left half your potential laying there in the gap.

There is no more powerful influence than that of a coach. Quite simply coaches transform people. We all need coaches in life. Luckily I met mine fairly early in my career. Many people don’t get that opportunity.

As a result of my experience I’m on a mission, to the point that I wrote a book, Seeds of Success, chronicling my journey with my mentor. Simply put, my mission is to make sure two things happen in everyone’s lives: They find a coach and they become a coach to others. You can do the same, all you have to do is mind the gap.

Related: How to Make the Most of Your Business Mentorship