Why Mentorship is Important

Leadership involves more than making key decisions. As a leader, you must do five things:

  1. Build your team
  2. Have the hard conversations
  3. Coach and mentor your direct reports
  4. Hold remarkable meetings
  5. Scale your communication

In this lesson, Schroeder addressed the third key task of leadership: mentoring your people. Your team needs mentoring, and they need coaching. If you want to be an effective leader, you cannot avoid that responsibility.

The Dirt World doesn’t have a worker shortage problem.

It’s a myth that there’s a worker shortage problem in the Dirt World.

“We have a worker utilization problem,” Schroeder said. “Because it’s not that there’s a shortage of people who want to work, it’s that they don’t want to work for you. People typically don’t quit a company. They quit their boss, the person they report to. They quit because they’re not happy. People want to work for the Googles of the world. They want to work for people who treat them with respect.”

So how do we solve this worker utilization problem? We solve it by mentoring our people the way they want to be mentored.

The magic formula.

There are three things our people want from us as mentors: connection, relevance, and measurement.

“It’s the magic formula,” Schroeder said. “I know it sounds basic. But if you want to summon a bag of magic out of nowhere to help your people, that’s it right there. Connection, relevance, and measurement. It’s a pattern. Everything in life is about pattern creation. So create these patterns with your people.”


But what do these three concepts mean? Let’s start with connection.

“We need to form connections with our people,” Schroeder advised. “Your people aren’t numbers. They’re not assets. What I’m challenging you to do is to really get to know your people, and start connecting with them.” How do you do this? You ask your people questions: How is your family? What are your interests? Are you doing okay, right now, mentally? Are you depressed?

People often have concerns about asking questions. After all, isn’t it discrimination to ask such personal things? “You can ask any of these questions, because the only thing you can’t do is discriminate based on a protected class,” Schroeder advised. “So for example, I can know somebody’s military status, I just can’t discriminate against them based on this status. So I can know how someone lives their personal life, but I can’t discriminate against them based on the personal things about them that I know.”

Connecting with your people means knowing them. That’s what people want: to be known, and to be seen. “They want you to know them, even if it’s just one little thing about them,” Schroeder said. “So you ask them, how are you doing? How are you really doing? Because you want to get to know them, and form that connection. Everybody needs connection. The toughest person in construction needs human and emotional connection, even if they pretend they don’t.”


Relevance is the second thing your workers need. And relevance means every worker on your crew needs to know that they’re important to the success of the crew, that what they’re doing supports you in your role as foreman.

“So how do you show them they’re relevant?” Schroeder said. “You look them in the eye and you say, you know what? If you weren’t doing this right now, we would be having a heck of a time. You are so relevant. You enable me to do my job, because you’re doing what you’re doing.”


The third component of the magic formula is measurement. What does measurement mean in this context? Schroeder illustrated the concept with a story from The Truth about Employee Engagement, by Patrick Lencioni:

A restaurant owner went to the person manning the restaurant’s drive-through, and asked them how they determined if it was a winning day for the business. The worker replied, “Well, I guess it’s when I take cash from the customer and make a sale.”
But the owner pressed for more, and the drive-through worker said, “I’m not sure how else I can measure it.” And the owner said, “Well, what’s really going to drive the business? How about looking at how many of the customers smile when they’re going through the drive-through?”

“And with this, they had a metric that the person working the drive-through could use,” Schroeder said. “It was something he could track every day. ‘How many customers can I get to smile, regardless of how they showed up initially?’”

The end result? “When the people in that restaurant started looking for these kinds of metrics, the restaurant’s sales started to skyrocket,” Schroeder noted. “Why? Because they ended up with highly engaged people solving problems together to support and care for the customers, which in turn benefited the business.”


If you want to be a leader and you want to keep your people, you have to mentor them. And you mentor them by providing them with the following three key things:

  • Connection. Connect with them on a human level. Get to know who they are as people, and build that relationship.
  • Relevance. People need to know they’re relevant to the team. And the best way to show them? Tell them what a difference they make to the crew.
  • Measurement. When you give people metrics they can use to measure their success, they will become more engaged. This engagement means they’ll work together to solve problems for the benefit of the company.