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Professional Development: Mentoring the Big Jump

As leaders in the asset protection industry, we have the unique opportunity to mold our star performers from their current role to the next stage of their career. This jump in their responsibility can range from taking the journey from one store to their first multiple-store assignment, or from district to regional management.

Our role in supporting this professional development is to prepare them for the vast differences they will face in their new position. Whether the changes are emotional, geographical, or functional, we owe our new leader the skills and insight to remain successful and build on the potential that brought them here. In most cases, our star is walking into their new role with limited opportunities to observe the behind-the-scenes functions that we sometimes take for granted.

When our promoted leader first takes the reins of his or her new team, they are often blinded by the whirlwind of changes that are taking place in their new world. In most cases, they are too busy trying to keep up with their transformation to stop and learn how to deal with the significant changes. Yet while these adjustments and life lessons are an important aspect of their growth and professional development, there are several things that we can do to mentor and assist in their journey to ensure that they are successful, and the stress of the changes are minimized.

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With job transition comes a change in communication. The new leader will be experiencing different kinds of discussions with a different level of leadership. Whether it is email, simple conversations, or conference calls, our mentoree should be prepared and know exactly what to expect. Here are some ways that you can help.

Conference Calls. Once you’ve identified high-potential employees, allow your mentoree to run your conference calls on occasion. This helps with their confidence level and gives them a rhythm for their own calls when the time is right. Get permission for your student to listen in on other leadership calls. Whether it’s your supervisor’s calls or another member of leadership that they will likely interact with, listening in on these calls prepares them for what they will be dealing with on a first-hand basis.

Email Communication. Send out practice emails that you typically get and respond to. This practice will help get them focused on the potential changes in upward communication. It might include anything from an email received from a vice president to one you simply make up. Have your mentoree respond to you and then set aside time to critique the response. This will improve their communication skills and might prevent a communication regret down the road.

Altitude Change

With upward promotion comes a different level of thinking. Professional development into a new role will also mean managing a different set of responsibilities. The thought process revolving around what is truly important will change and become more global. At a store or district level, asset protection specialists are flying close to ground level. The move to 30,000 feet can be significant, and often a new leader has not been prepared for this flight.

Taking time to start the mental transformation will be important and will decrease stress once your mentoree gets in their new role. Take them out of their comfort zone as often as possible during the process. Your current star will thank you for it later.

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Report Analysis. If possible, assign higher-level reports to be reviewed, analyzed, and reported back on. This practice will provide many benefits down the road. We must teach our future leaders how to lead a team and course-correct a store without having immediate physical access to the location.

Lead Store Visits. Have the mentoree lead store visits with you in other markets or stores they are not familiar with and have not previously visited. This not only gives them an opportunity to get out of their comfort zone, but also gives them a taste for the job prior to being thrown into the fire.


New leaders often struggle with prioritizing issues that need to be addressed. Fires can spread quickly and our mentoree will be trying to impress his or her superiors and business partners with every decision they make. The eagerness to please sometimes blindfolds the thought process, thus leading to poor and ineffective choices. This can also lead to trying to tackle too many tasks at once. We need to teach our future leaders to prioritize decisions and projects to get the biggest impact with the least amount of time and effort.

Teach the Numbers. Leaders should know where they stand in all areas of profit and loss at all given moments. This should be a consistent element of all decisions that are made. Does it make us money? Does it prevent loss? Will it make the job easier? If it falls into one of these categories, our leader should take a deeper look.

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Global Thinking

The decisions we make will often provide great benefits, but can also have the potential for adverse effects on our entire markets. New leaders often make situational decisions in one location that bleed over to other markets. Such decisions must also consider the needs, culture, and strategy of the entire business to best serve the organization as a whole. These from-the-hip decisions can cause headaches that take multiple actions to undo and can tarnish the reputation of the new leader.

A decision as simple as removing one SKU off the sales floor due to external theft concerns can not only affect sales and profits in the store, but also bleed to other stores and other markets replicating the mistake. Teaching our mentoree to refrain from making these quick and rash decisions and keeping a focus on the bigger picture will allow our new leader to make better decisions and eliminate pain-points with our business partners.

Practice Exercises. Put your mentoree through a series of professional development exercises and scenarios that will allow them to think about the decisions before they are thrust into the role. Your experience as an effective leader should give you plenty of scenarios to work with.

New Market Visits. Have your mentoree visit other markets with you. This experience will give them an alternate view of the world we live in and dial in the larger perspective that is needed to successfully manage multiple markets. The contrasting picture will also open their eyes to the pitfalls of reacting too quickly.

A Clear, Concise Plan

Moving upward into a new role requires pinpoint planning to make the necessary changes seamless for the new leader and their team. Ensure your mentoree understands the significance that the change can have on their business partners and how this might impact their teams. Proper planning starts with understanding what needs changed, then devising a plan that will tactically and strategically implement the changes to get the most desired results.

Slower Is Faster. Many new leaders start changing simply for the sake of change. The best advice I ever got from a mentor was that sometimes slower is faster. Teaching the planning process will ease a tremendous amount of pain for the duration of their professional development and career.

Planning Practice. Have your mentoree construct their own plan for your area of responsibility using reports and information that can be made available to them. This will allow you to see their thought process and give them practice without consequences. Who knows, you just might see your market differently after the exercise.


One of the most important changes that should be taught is the personal organization that is required to make the big jump. Keeping up with calendar invites, staying current with email, returning the 57 phone calls that were missed during a flight, ensuring that all work is turned in on time, and being where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there is something that you have mastered. It will be new set of skills for your mentoree to learn. This is critical for professional development success. Providing sound advice and direction to help them manage through the organizational needs of the position will pay huge dividends for them in their new role, and for the rest of their career.

Professional Development Partnerships

Effective leaders in asset protection understand that powerful things get accomplished when we build strong partnerships with our business leaders and our team. Careers can be built or destroyed by the partnerships that we gain or lose.

Our mentoree needs to understand that trust and mutual respect will drive the partnerships they enter into. These important relationships are built over a period of time and need consistency to bloom to their maximum potential. Proper communication will establish the foundation of these partnerships when the correspondence is open and timely.

Teach the Same-Day Rule. Our new leader should make a consistent habit of responding to emails and voicemails on the same day they are received. This can make for some long days initially, but the benefit our new leader reaps from this habit will far outweigh the upfront cost. Business partners will admire the dedication to the role, issues will be handled promptly and respect will be gained during the process.

Reveal the Agendas. Partnerships cannot survive without trust. If our business colleagues uncover hidden agendas, that trust can be damaged. Our new leaders need to understand that premise and be honest about their intentions with all aspects of the business.

Influencing Change

Considering the fact that our mentoree is successful in their current role and being considered for more responsibility, they most likely have developed a strong acumen for managing through influence. Often, we have few people reporting to us, and we must rely on influence to carry out our objectives. This skill becomes more difficult to master as we move up the professional development ladder. Navigating these waters can be challenging and discourage the new leader.

Shared Vision. Leaders, new and experienced alike must create a shared vision with our business partners. This shared interest will provide a vested interest in the outcome for all parties.

Everyone Must Benefit. Teach your mentoree that small sacrifices lead to big wins. In order for new initiatives to take flight, everyone must benefit. The customers, the organization, the stockholders, and the business leaders must all gain something. If not, the change will be met with opposition. Understanding where the opposition will come from will allow them to cater the change prior to initiating the adjustment.

Helping your team reach their full potential and arriving at the next level is an important role that you play in your own professional development as a leader. Reach out to your mentoree’s weaknesses and make their strengths even stronger. Decreasing the stress level on their initial career move will make them more comfortable, better decision-makers, and stronger leaders. Teach them to succeed, and your career will grow as well.

This article was originally published in 2014 and was updated October 23, 2016.

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