Mentoring Skills for Managers
Mentoring skills for managers is about how you – the person with more knowledge and skills – pass these on to team members who know less than you.
Mentoring is an effective way to leverage your time and skills into the team you manage to enable your team to more effectively work towards targets and take work off your hands. You and the team can add a lot more value to the company this way. Mentoring is also rewarding, satisfying, enjoyable and fun as you are building a close professional relationship with team members.
This Article Covers:
- How mentoring helps team members and you
- Successful Mentoring Needs Time
- Setting goals and building a plan
- Be a cheerleader
- How to give useful feedback to steer and teach
- 10 Key skills to develop to be a great mentor
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Mentoring is not training although there are many similarities. Mentoring is more like being a guide for the other person’s learning and the relationship is much more two-way than training.
I personally think that investing in mentoring and coaching team members is one of the best investments you can make as a manager of that team.
How mentoring helps team members and you
If you are going to invest your time in mentoring at work, then you want to know it will be worth it for you personally and for your team.
You can use mentoring skills to teach a team member on any subject you know more than them or help them build skills you are better at that them.
Great uses of mentoring include
- Give the team member direction or help them avoid wrong turns etc
- Helping team members learn a specific skill or set of skills
- Pass on specific knowledge and life or professional experiences to them
- Help tackle problems – work on problems together or guide them through solving the problem
- Mentoring the team members to build their reputation and personal brand
- Help them navigate the personal relationships and politics of an organisation
- Provide career advice and guidance so they move their career forward faster
There are so many ways you can help others learn what you know and what you do well. A mentoring relationship can be very much a two way street. You can learn a lot from those you mentor too.
The benefits that you personally get from investing in building mentoring skills and spending the time to mentor team members include:
- Improved individual performance, feeding into improved team performance
- A happier, more motivated, and valued employee
- Stronger more positive relationships with your team members
- More ownership and accountability within the team
- Less employees leaving the team and more wanting to join from other teams in the business
- Passing on knowledge and skills to your successors so you can move your own career forward
As mentioned earlier using mentoring skills and investing your time mentoring is an effective way to leverage your time and skills into the team you manage to enable your team to more effectively work towards targets and take work off your hands. Upskilling the team keeps everyone’s careers moving and creates more valuable staff members for the company. A win all round.
Time and time again, I have personally experienced the benefits of this investment with my team, on my career and in terms of my satisfaction, happiness and motivation.
If you want personal career progression, make the time to mentor as many of your team members as possible.
Mentoring skills for managers: Successful Mentoring Needs Time
If you want your investment in mentoring your team members to improve your team’s effectiveness and have a real impact, you need to invest a lot of time into it. This can be really tough when you are busy in the first place.
Let me tell you about Dave. He took over a team of 35 staff and 6 direct reports. There was a lot that needed to be done by the team and it was impossible for Dave to get personally involved in more than a fraction of the work. The team members lacked the skills to deliver important results on their own. Rather than Dave rolling his sleeves up, drinking a lot of coffee and working late every night, he spent about half his week mentoring and supporting his 6 direct reports and insisted they spend some of their time mentoring their direct reports.
You may be thinking that 50% of Dave’s time is taken up in one-on-one meetings – how on earth would Dave and the team get what was needed done. Dave realised that he needed to multiply some of his skills into his direct reports so they could do the work needed. This meant more people tackling the problems. His direct reports worked in the same way with their reports.
The team delivered on 54 separate projects in that year, many that were significant projects. And that was over and above each person’s day job. That is what you can achieve with a happy motivated team while constantly building the right skills within the team.
So plan on investing a significant chunk of your week supporting your team members if you really want to see the benefits of mentoring in the workplace.
Mentor each person face to face and in person as much as possible. A video call is a minimum where this is not practical. Set aside a least an hour each week per person to meet in private. Keep the mentoring time and place consistent each week.
I would expect that you spend another hour or two in ad hoc meetings or helping with specific problems that come up. Successful mentoring takes a significant time investment on your part.
Always set goals and build a plan when Mentoring
As a manager, aim to set expectations in your first mentoring meeting: how often you will have diarised meetings; when the team member can get your ad hoc advice; what is expected from each party, etc. This is really up to you and the team member to agree on.
Next, set goals together. What is the purpose of giving mentoring from your side as a manager? Equally important, what does the team member want from it. Find out their ambitions and longer term goals. What skills and knowledge should you be transferring?
When you have both agreed what the goals are, then I suggest you as the mentor start planning out how you are going to help your team member achieve those goals. If you don’t create a plan, you will have a lot of unstructured chats which don’t move your team member towards the goals agreed.
For your plan, think about:
- What subjects you are going to cover in what order?
- What experience do they need to build specific skills?
- What projects and problems are they involved in now?
- What projects do I need to get them involved with?
- Which people should I help them build relationships with?
Plan out how you are going to get the best out of your team member through your use of mentoring skills.
Mentoring skills for managers: Be a Cheerleader
A big part of using mentoring skills is to be a cheerleader for the individual you are mentoring. Build a positive mindset towards them, use positive language with them, encourage their efforts whenever you can and praise them for good decisions and actions.
You want your team member to learn as quickly as possible, to improve as quickly as possible. There is no way this is going to happen if you are constantly pulling them up on all the mistakes they make – regardless of how well intentioned your comments are.
Offer a lot of encouragement. Learning is hard work. Changing is hard work. As a mentor, your job is to help them overcome any personal resistance they have. Tell them what they have done well and explain why they have done that well.
Praise good choices, behaviour and results
Praise their good choices and good behaviours in preference to praising natural talent or things that they can do well already. Positive reinforcement really works. The more you praise choices and behaviours that you want to see, the more they will do them.
Make your feedback, praise, and compliments specific.
Don’t say “well done that was great”.
Say, “I was really impressed you chose to really push into the detail and kept looking at different angles. Doing so gave you several really valuable insights that I don’t think you would have got otherwise. Those insight have helped us add £40k in sales to the account in the first month of using your insights. Really well done!”
Remember, to keep a team member happy, you need to encourage and praise at least 3 times more than criticise.
With mentoring at work, be their personal cheerleader and encourage them to learn and change.
give useful feedback to steer and teach – a key mentoring skill
A lot of managers and team members are afraid to give really honest feedback. They are worried about offending the other person, damaging relationships and making their own lives more difficult. So instead they water down what their feedback or shy away from making it specific.
If you want to successfully mentor team members, to help them improve, you can’t afford to give feedback that is not useful.
Useful feedback in my view is:
- Intended to steer direction, actions, and behaviour,
- To explain why a particular choice was not as good as others that could have been made – i.e. giving instruction and teaching
- Feedback needs to teach, to give the other person better tools, approaches, and skills
- Feedback should be specific with examples and facts where possible
- Feedback should be focused on choices, action and behaviour, NOT the person themselves
For example, you don’t say
“How you dealt with the James situation was a bit of a disaster” which conveys almost nothing useful and is far from encouraging. How is the other person going to learn from this?
You should say something like:
“The way you dealt with James – bluntly telling him that his work was not up to standard and then explaining in detail how he needed to change what he was doing – was better than not saying anything. Well done for having the courage to have the conversation.
From your description of James’ subsequent behaviour and body language I suspect he is unhappy with the conversation.
Would you mind if I walked you through a different way of approaching the situation? …”
Note the asking for permission to provide an alternative.
You could then go on to describe the approach you recommend. You could finish with, “try this approach at the next opportunity and then let’s discuss how you feel this went in our next session”.
Comparing the approach taken to alternative approaches gives you lots of scope to praise the parts done well and also teach or encourage an approach that should work better based on your experience.
When giving feedback, you can’t afford to beat around the bush or water down the feedback. What you do need to is make sure your feedback is kind, considerate and useful. You can still be direct while doing this.
Make your feedback honest, specific and useful to the other person as much as possible.
10 skills to focus on when developing mentoring skills for managers
This list is not an exhaustive list – I think these skills are a great place to start to build the essential mentoring skills for managers and to teach and support your team members as effectively as possible.
10 essential mentoring skills are:
- Empathy – putting yourself in their shoes and thinking through what they might be thinking and feeling
- Self-management – your ability to control your reactions, body language and manage your emotions
- Building trust – an essential skill to build any relationship
- Observations skills – so you have a better idea of what the other person is thinking and feeling. You can then adjust your mentoring approach for the situation
- Planning – increases the chances of achieving goals and doing so faster and with less effort
- Active Listening skills – essential for coaching and mentoring.
- Communication skills – being able to effectively explain and teach knowledge and skills to a range of different people
- Encouraging and praising – surprising few managers are good at this so do practice praising and encouraging others until it is second nature. It is a great skill to have.
- Giving honest useful feedback – there is an art to giving honest direct feedback without offending the other person. Practice practice practice.
- Analytical and problem solving skills – are very useful when working on problems together with or when you are guiding them through issues they are facing.
Working on these improving skills so you can use mentoring skills for managers very effectively with your team members and help the team deliver more which of course helps you too.
Enjoy developing and using your mentoring skills with team members.
As a manager, I think investing your time mentoring your direct reports is a brilliant way to enagage, motivate and upskill your team members.
During the process, you find out loads about what is going on in the team which makes your job of managing a lot easier.
Make the time to invest in your team. Doing so will pay you many times over with a better stronger more loyal team.
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