We can teach, but we can’t always make people learn. Mentoring and coaching are a tricky business. We try our best to help others. But it doesn’t always stick. So here are five ways that you can mentor people and make the mentoring memorable.
Let people fail
Some folks advocate learning from the mistakes of others. But I think that’s overrated. You might learn from that, but it doesn’t have the impact of totally screwing something up yourself.
Learning from others’ mistakes doesn’t have the humbling effect that makes you never want to go through the experience again.
I’m not talking about setting people up to fail, or even letting them make a major mistake. But letting them make a mistake here or there and helping them learn and improve can make for memorable learning.
Force them outside of their comfort zone
People get into ruts and get comfortable. They get good at what they do, but it limits their growth.
Mentors and managers enable this behavior. They pigeonhole people based on their specialties.
A good mentor swaps people out to cross-train them on multiple skills. It makes the job more interesting. Workers also become better at their regular job when they have empathy for the roles they interact with.
Let them have input
When you have a decision to make, allow the people you mentor to participate. Diagram the situation on a whiteboard, whether it is a process flow or a bullet list of options.
This gives you some insight to their problem solving process. It will also give you a different perspective you may not have considered.
More than anything, it puts your mentee in leadership mode. It allows them to think as a problem solver rather than an order follower.
Tell them when you screw up
I know, I just explained above about the limited benefit of learning from the mistakes of others. There is still some benefit.
But the hidden benefit is for the mentee to learn that you never stop making mistakes. They learn that you never stop learning and that it is okay to make mistakes.
No one feels more important than the person who feels listened to. Listening is not just letting someone talk. Listening is the act of hearing and responding.
If they make a good point, tell them so. If you don’t understand something they say, ask for clarification. If you don’t see how something will work, ask them to explain how they think it will work.
Some people are afraid to disagree with someone they mentor for fear of shooting down an idea. But critical listening involves asking people to give more detail. If an idea won’t work, they will probably figure it out as they explain it.
It will probably help them come up with a better idea on their own.
What strategies to you use to make your mentoring memorable?
I welcome your questions and comments.
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