Hiring Mentees

Workers do what is asked of them. Mentees accomplish what must be done.

It is easy to find Workers. There are many people out there who can and will do what is asked of them. They show up, do what they are told, and go home. However, that process does little to make the organizations they work for more sustainable, more effective, more valuable for their communities, or more competitive. Whether they produce satisfied clients and donors and consistent results depends on the instructions they are given. In the past they were what manufacturing companies wanted. Most nonprofits have very little in common with manufacturing companies.

You probably have a few Workers at your nonprofit. They are easy to spot. When you think about the questions they ask, they are asking to be spoon fed. They want to know what they should do, how often, when should they stop doing it, and where should they do it. If something is needed outside of any of those boundaries, they assume someone else will do it. They rarely ask for additional responsibility or think creatively about the work they do. They lack a discernable drive for excellence. They regard anything new as a burden.

Mentees are rare and highly valued. After you describe a result you want, the Mentee disappears. When he or she reappears, it is with the results in hand. They take very little effort to manage because they are committed to following your lead.

Mentees have an entirely different personality from Workers. They want you to be proud and they know how to make you proud. They have studied you without being intrusive. They learned your priorities, standards, expectations, and preferences. Sometimes they achieve success in ways you would never have expected but they rarely disappoint you. Many times their results are exactly what you want but are different than you expected. Since they are passionate about your mission and their work, they put their own signature on their work. Their signature is excellence and their standards for excellence meet or exceed yours. They produce delighted and engaged donors and thrilled, engaged, and passionate clients. Their desire to produce superior results help to drive sustainability.

Mentees are rarely unemployed for three reasons. One is that when an employer hires or develops one, they do everything possible to retain them. Two, they are in demand. They seldom look for new opportunities because most of the time opportunities find them. Three, they make great leaders. They disappear quickly into the leadership ranks and often climb the leadership ladder rapidly.

Next Step:

Hire only Mentees or those who have the characteristics of a Mentee

Train your Workers to be Mentees or replace them

Cross-train your Mentees in multiple areas of your nonprofit and ensure they have the background to lead various groups in your nonprofit

Promote Mentees and require them to mentor others to be Mentees

Mentees make great leaders because they are attuned to what the organization and its leadership wants. In addition, they are able to mesh their strengths and desires with the organization’s needs, which creates a synergistic relationship. When they lead, they promote teamwork by expecting everyone to work for the common good just as they do.

The Mentee’s desire to create a synergistic relationships makes it unlikely they will engage with a mission unless they are passionate about it. Their passion makes them easy to keep as long as the nonprofit is committed to the growth and development of the mission.

In short, Mentees want all the same things you want (superior results, a high level of sustainability, and good teamwork).

Take It Further:

Ensure none of your leaders (board and staff) are autocrates (Mentees avoid autocrats)

Encourage your board development committee to recruit Mentees as board members to ensure you have mentors and role models for you staff, a culture of mentorship, and multiple candidates to succeed your board chair and other board leaders

Promote only Mentees to leadership positions within your board and staff


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