I need some help– will you help me?
One of the most important duties of a supervisor or boss is to provide mentoring to those individuals who either ask for it or who you recognize will benefit from it.
There are many ways in which mentoring or coaching can be accomplished. In business today, the most common form is to show junior employees “the ropes”! This may be something as simple as how to make a call, what to say, when to say it, etc. It may be as sophisticated and complicated as having a junior employee show you how to use some of the new features of the computer.
Let’s talk about both types of mentoring– direct mentoring and reverse mentoring. Both are very common in the business world today– and both types provide a tremendous amount of benefit for each individual– both the mentor and mentee.
As a previous Business College Dean, I have helped lots of students get ready to go to work, and once in the work world, answer questions that they were uncomfortable asking anyone else. If you mentor someone in/out of your organization, you have a duty/obligation to him/her to be able to provide the best insight and advice that you are able to provide. This may be as simple as how to network at a Chamber of Commerce function, how to attend a fancy client dinner or it may be as sophisticated as helping the mentee not only gain the confidence but the skill and ability to be able to supervise or take on additional responsibility.
With any human relationship, there is more than one way in which to accomplish the task! Some folks require a calm, easy approach, with lots of explanation and time required. Others are able to be told what/how to do something and are able to do it. The key here is that, in many cases, you may not be the direct supervisor of the individual who is asking for the assistance. If this is the case, you need to help the mentee without degrading or making comments about the mentee’s direct supervisor. In essence, you are the individual who is showing the mentee how to be successful in the world of work. A key point here is that there is always more than one way in which to accomplish a task or complete a project. Although the mentee may not agree with what he/she has been asked to do, it is important to be able to learn different points of view! This will come in very valuable when the mentee becomes a mentor!
One of my most recent mentees had graduated from a fine, very prestigious university and has struggled for the past 7 months trying to find his first job! I had met this individual at a university/industry networking opportunity which I attended with a client. The mentee was impressive, however, discouraged about his lack of success in finding a job. I decided that I wanted to help this young man. In the past 4 months, we have had several conversations, I have written and re-written several resume drafts as well as shared about how the interview process works. The bottom line is that after almost 8 months of searching for a job, he had success. Now, I am not saying that I want/need any credit for his success, however, I was very happy for him that he has found a good job in this dynamic economic environment. When somebody asked me what I got for Christmas, this is what I told them– and I meant it!!
The key here is to help those that are either just learning, or need some additional insight from those that have more experience, wiser judgement and have encountered a few “knocks” along the way. After all, is that not what we are here to– help our fellow man?
The converse is also true. Reverse mentoring allows newer, more junior employees to show/tell more experienced employees how the computer/social media/texting/cell phone world works!!
Interestingly, I had someone ask me the other day if I texted, or knew how to text!! I laughed at the question! Yes, I am very comfortable using all the latest forms of technology, however, I never hesitate to ask one of our younger associates if I either don’t understand something, read something that does not make sense or want to see how to do something that I seem to not figure out with the computer or cell phone!
With many more experienced individuals, they are afraid or embarrassed to ask for help from younger colleagues. I am not! My logic is that we all cannot know everything all of the time– there is nothing wrong or you don’t need to feel embarassed to ask for help/assistance/understanding on something that you may not have detailed familiarity.
Mentoring is one of the most rewarding parts of the leadership challenge– irrespective of whether you are in business, the non-profit sector or government. Being able to see other folks learn and understand something that they did not know previously is very exciting.
How do you do it? Are you open, willing and enthusiastic to help other colleagues learn, understand and relate to matters that they need help on? If not, you should be. These individuals are team members as well and your assistance will be invaluable in insuring that they make a greater contribution to the overall team effort.
Don’t be afraid to seek the guidance and assistance of younger colleagues. In most cases, younger colleagues will be excited to show you how to do something that you may not have done before, especially in the computer domain as well as social networking.