Waffle House Exec Shares Why Mentorship Is Essential for Successful LeadersRamon Ray
Bert Thornton has spent 40 years leading the growth of Waffle House, as its former President and COO. Mentorship has been an important part of his success. When Bert started there were a handful of Waffle Houses, when he retired, they had thousands. Bert’s passion is developing future leaders through mentorship.
His new book, High Impact Mentoring, A Practical Guide to Creating Value in Other People’s Lives, co-authored with Dr. Sherry Hartnett is a playbook for mentorship. The book outlines how companies (and individuals) can create a purpose-built business that pro-actively seeks to mentor future leaders.
Have a Love of People
The best leaders have a love for people. Yes, they know their team helps to drive the business. But they also have a genuine interest in their success within the company and understand their team members person goals in life as well.
Scott Simons, general manager, and partner at Carter Myers Automotive says this all the time.
You can’t be a company as successful as Waffle House, without having a steady flow of great leaders who are ready to continuously “move up” and lead.
This can only happen if they’re already mentored by other successful leaders.
Match Making Mentorship
Bert expressed that there’s often a gulf between the mentee and mentor. He said successful companies have a purpose-built program to help leaders find mentors and mentors find leaders.
In one instance, Bert saw how a young female executive was paired with a more experienced leader. They both loved tennis and were able to bond through that sport.
Ships do not drift into a port, and mentors and mentees often are not going to “drift” together.
Developing leaders is not an accidental function of just “giving them time”. No. It’s ensuring that an experienced leader is there to actively guide them in their career, life and overall becoming a better, future leader.
Leaders Must Have an Interest In Their Employees
The “great resignation” is happening in one way or another. Successful companies find that to keep their employees, or to ATTRACT the right employees, it’s important for leaders to have an interest in their employees and want to see them succeed.
Employees want a bonding relationship, at the human level.
Indeed it appears that we’re all glued to our phones, but maybe we’re all glued to our phones as there’s a lack of more meaningful human relationships.
Good hires often want the leadership at companies to invest in them and their future.
Bert said that conscripted mentoring doesn’t work. It can’t be forced on someone.
It should not be, “yet another task” list to do in someone’s day.
Gratefulness and Mentorship Go Hand in Hand
The book outlines a 7 step program that leaders can use to implement a mentorship program. In fact, Bert suggests that you hire someone to run the program for you, this person could even be someone already at your company.
A great mentor has an underlying desire to give back.
They live a life of gratitude and want to give back and help others become a success.
Furthermore, a good mentor has a demonstrated track record of success, they have knowledge and expertise and they have the respect of their peers.
Bert repeated this twice – the RESPECT OF THEIR PEERS is a key indicator of a great mentor.
Want to see clues of success in a leader or mentor? See who their friends are.
“Success leaves clues” is a phrase I often hear.
Every Successful Future Leader Needs a Mentor
Bert’s first book, “Find an Old Gorilla” is written for the mentee, to help them find a mentor. The gorilla reference, refers to that experienced trailblazer who has ‘been there and done that”.
That person can guide you.
Bert’s tips for us all and especially to those seeking mentorship is to be mindful of 8 great social tells about a person.
- Command of language
- Conversational bearing
- Body language
When you’re first meeting someone, you can tell a lot about them, often without them saying a word.
How they smile, nod, place their feet, how they dress and so much more can tell you quite a bit about someone.
Always be learning, in fact, Bert says you should learn every day.
If you’re business and position are growing faster than you’re learning you’re falling behind.