Sally Coates, CEO of Retail Mentors, fell in love with the retail industry at just 11 years old. Tenacious and ambition, she set out to identify people who could help her land a job in her dream industry. She didn’t know it back then – but what she was actually doing was looking for mentors.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and that search has now become her job.Having worked in senior level roles for the world’s most popular retail and wholesale businesses, Sally is currently CEO of a leading wholesale accessories brand as well as the Retail Mentors community.
Retail Mentors is a group of savvy industry experts who believe that mentoring can have a positive influence on the industry they know and love, and was born out of a realization that frontline retail employees often feel stuck in their career, or lost in terms of what their future could look like.
“Tomorrow’s retail leaders are the frontline workforce of today, so it’s imperative that retail staff are not only empowered to deliver value that creates rewarding shopping experiences that keep customers coming back, but also that talent is nurtured to create rewarding, long-term careers.” (Engage Employee)
For an industry that relies on people to advocate for brands, and build connections with customers, it’s the last place you want employees to feel stuck or lost – so how can mentoring support frontline people, and businesses to thrive?
Mentors who speak your language
Finding a mentor isn’t just about career progression – it’s about understanding your goals for your career.
“Some people want to be a CEO and some people simply want to do a really good job in the role that they are in; and feel fulfilled where they are.”
By asking the right questions, a great mentor can help to get to the hub of what a mentee really wants for their future; and support a clear roadmap to get there.
Mentors who have walked a mile in your shoes
What Sally found from talking to frontline employees is that regardless of their position, career progression or experience, most of us have one thing in common: we’d love the advice of somebody with more knowledge; somebody who has walked a mile in our shoes and is a little further along in the race.
“Sometimes, we can't see what the future could look like alone - but others who are already there, can.”
Mentors who see beyond the now
We’ve shared before about the importance of development for employee engagement – and mentoring is a great addition to traditional workplace training. Compared to workplace or operational training, mentoring supports an employee’s long-term strategic goals – beyond only the role they’re currently working in.
“A mentor provides a fresh set of eyes to concerns, challenges, goals and perspective to accelerate future thinking and allow you to move forward.”
Here are Sallys top tips for creating a positive mentoring culture:
- Focus on people – they are the most important investment for your business.
Engaged teams, who love your brand, and share your company values will always = success. Mentoring is a great way to build that engagement.
- Focus on one thing at a time. There can be a lot to unpack in someone’s future aspirations! Keep it simple and work on one goal at a time.
- Define the roadmap and accountability. A great mentor is there to be a sounding board and give fresh perspective – not give all the answers or do all the work. Ultimately, mentoring keeps people accountable for their future, because now they’re accountable for somebody else’s time as well. That’s a powerful motivator.
- Have fun! Most mentors are equally fulfilled by the experience of supporting someone else and having an impact on their career, as mentees are grateful for the guidance. Enjoy the journey.