Nowadays, a good job isn’t a compelling enough offer for employees—they want to be challenged and to have ample growth opportunities. Many companies have realized the power of developing talent by building mentorship into their core values and employee programs. By helping employees grow into exceptional leaders, they stay engaged and can produce their best work while empowering others.
Building mentorship principles into your culture doesn’t have to be a big lift to have great returns. At MuleSoft, we’ve identified three aspects of our culture that foster the growth of our employees from before they even speak with a recruiter. Here’s how we do it:
1. Make personal goal-setting a priority
Setting personal and team goals consistently is a huge driver of high performance across teams. Before we even have a first touch with a candidate, we introduce this concept in the way we market our open roles. Every job description has a 30-60-90 day plan outlining the strategic objectives and goals that are expected for someone to be successful in the role. We’ve had abundant feedback from candidates and current employees that including a forecast of work for their first three months at MuleSoft is refreshing and builds confidence. The transparency allows candidates to know what they’ll be accountable for, how we work and, most importantly, that we care about their success.
Once candidates begin working at MuleSoft, we ensure that they stay on a path of progress by having quarterly career check-ins with their manager. These check-ins ensure that everyone is moving forward on their goals outside of their day-to-day responsibilities.We also strongly encourage employees to set their own personal and day-to-day goals, instead of having them come from their manager. We strongly believe that everyone at the company is an owner, and everyone should own their career. Allowing employees to set their own goals reinforces that aspect of our culture, and empowers employees to think creatively about the direction they want to go and how they want to get there.
2. Scale access to leadership
Leadership is core to company success, not only for business outcomes but people outcomes too. Leaders provide the vision and experience that inspire people to do their best work and live the company mission. Whether one-on-one or indirectly, leaders help to shape the way that employees grow in their roles and careers at the company; people always remember the great leaders they’ve worked with and will reference their principles throughout their careers. One of the best leaders I ever worked for was someone who pushed me to take on projects and work that were well beyond my stated experience. Not only that, but his depth of experience allowed him to set the vision for the team, and then the next minute sit with me side-by-side teaching me tricks in a spreadsheet. To him, a leader is never above any task, and it’s a principle I’ve taken with me to lead a team at MuleSoft.
As a company grows, typically so does the distance between employees and executives, and more people in between must serve in leadership roles. We build processes and programs that help scale the business during periods of growth. Why not make sure that employee access to leadership is scaling with the business itself? You can start by bringing top-level executives into the day-to-day of the company. At our San Francisco office, we like to say our leadership is “accessible”—no one has an office, and everyone sits at desks in an open floor plan. Additionally, our CEO frequently rotates where he sits to not only get a better perspective of what’s going on in different teams, but to also give more people the opportunity to come up to him and chat. This floor plan gives visibility to employees at every level and tenure in the organization and exposure to executives that support our culture of working on one big team where no role is more or less important than any other.
Another way of preventing leadership from becoming too distanced from the rest of the company is to build a strong pipeline of leaders at all levels of the organization. One way we do this at MuleSoft is within our Account Development (AD) team, which is typically comprised ofwhich is typically comprised of new grads, early career sales people, and experienced professionals looking for a launchpad to a career in tech. All first-time managers on the AD team receive formal leadership training through a curriculum that includes regular reading of leadership books, role-playing scenarios like how to deliver an annual review or coaching, and discussions of effective pathways to building culture and values. We informally liken this to getting an MBA on the job. The program has helped the AD team scale with the needs of the business by ensuring that capable leaders can take on new hires and carry over the culture and values of the business.
3. Embrace direct feedback across the entire organization
One tell-tale attribute of effective leaders is that they’re skilled at giving feedback, and they typically don’t have time to tiptoe around being direct. When cultivating the next generation of leaders, it’s important to empower them to speak up and use their voice. Core to someone’s ability to grow and improve is knowing how to give and receive feedback. Leadership needs to provide direction and guidance that’s not only pointed and direct, but demonstrates that they deeply care and want to help. It not only helps us to get more done, but it also exposes less experienced employees to the notion that feedback can be a powerful tool and shouldn’t be feared. We have baked into our culture and core values the notion of “radical candor,” a phrase coined by Kim Malone which is “the ability to give both praise and criticism in a way that challenges people directly and shows you care about them personally.” First, this means that we speak up when we see something that isn’t right, and we challenge it. This requires a sort of fearlessness that is critical in fast-paced, growing companies and doesn’t come naturally for most people.
However, with some practice and the knowledge that everyone in the company, from the CEO down, expects this kind of behavior, you can pick it up pretty quickly. No company is perfect, but we can’t get better and make progressive changes without our key stakeholders—our employees—calling out opportunities for improvement. Second, radical candor reminds people that we provide feedback because we care about the individual and the business. The direct nature of feedback isn’t just for the sake of moving quickly. It’s to help our colleagues work better and produce the best results possible. Negativity or critical feedback that isn’t actionable doesn’t meet the criteria at MuleSoft.
Mentorship is a critical way to ensure that your employees are learning and developing on a mutually beneficial path, and you can get pretty creative with how mentorship looks in your organization. Whether you implement deep-seeded programs or work to enhance mentor-like traits of your culture, they’ll have long-term benefits for everyone in your organization. Whichever method you choose, it will be worth the effort.