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January is National Mentoring Month, and what topic could be more important than leadership as we consider the concept of “mentor?” Almost by default, great leaders are charged with mentoring the emerging professionals in their wake. It is also through mentorship that the concept of leadership elicits a personal, visceral reaction in us all.

Aaron Levy, founder and CEO of Raise the Bar, spent the early part of his career digging into the models and methodologies on why people do what they do. Through that, he noticed that a lot of his friends – regardless of the seeming “greatness” of their positions – were jumping from job to job. The cause? Their managers. An employee’s manager is the key individual who has the biggest influence over someone’s development. This spurred Aaron’s mission to, at an organizational level, help empower teams to be better leaders of people. Read on for four questions with Aaron.

HR Leader: In your Forbes article (August 2018), you shared an impactful case study about the pitfalls of overspending on recruiting. Can you elaborate on this?

Aaron Levy (AL): Across all industries in Chicago we see well over 20 percent employee turnover. The costs that we don’t necessarily include, or even think about, are recruiting costs such as interviewing and onboarding. When we accurately think about it, it’s costing companies millions. The best way to retain your employees is to improve how they perceive their impact within their company, their connection to their boss and co-workers and how much their manager supports their growth and development. The best way to do that is by investing in the people – the leaders/managers – who are on the front line of impacting these perceptions within their organization and empowering them with proper tools and skills to lead.

HR Leader: Raise the Bar puts a unique emphasis on millennial talent and beyond. Can you share you share a bit about how poor leadership can affect all generations?

AL: What we tend to focus on and think about are the commonalities among all humans. All people want to grow, develop and feel that they are making an impact. Instead of worrying just about generations, think about how you learn about and understand people as opposed to assuming you know people.

Before you assume, learn. Before you judge, ask.

It’s important to break down the barrier of discrimination, and when we talk about generations or use them as a data point, it can often be a form of age discrimination.

HR Leader: As someone in the business of developing leaders, who is one leader – personal or professional – you look up to and why?

AL: One leader that I look up to is, actually, he’s my business coach, Richard Hill. He is someone who always stands into who he is and is unafraid to give the hard truth. We’ve been working together for years and he’s constantly challenging me.

I’m a firm believer that you can’t coach others if you don’t have a coach yourself.

HR Leader: What is your top tip for aspiring leaders?

AL: One of the biggest things that I’ve learned as a leader is to not worry about hurting someone’s feelings, and to understand that feedback is a gift. It also is a responsibility that leaders have to share in order to help others grow and be better.