In addition to your regular supervisory duties, you’ve decided to personally mentor the new junior associate in your department. Naturally, you’re eager to get started in your new role. But there are some things you should be aware of before you start dishing out direction to your protègé. For starters, there is a right way and a wrong way to mentor.
“Some people feel that as mentors, they can teach without having to practice what they preach themselves. It doesn’t work that way,” says Robert Morton, vice president and district manager at Summit Bank in South Plainfield, New Jersey, who actively mentors members of his staff. He advises mentors to “lead by example, not a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ philosophy. Remember, your protègé is watching you and following what you do.”
Another trap to avoid is becoming an “all-knowing, all-telling, and come-to-the-rescue” savior, says Marty Brounstein, author of Coaching & Mentoring for Dummies (IDG Books, $19.99). He writes, “Many managers fall into this . . . mode of operation. . . . What they create is a great deal of dependency, with little initiative and problem solving coming from their staff members.”
Brounstein offers six actions you should steer clear of when it comes to bringing up your employee protègés in the way they should professionally go:
1. Telling them how to do their jobs. Avoid any form of micromanagement (i.e., standing behind their shoulders and/or requesting progress reports of every step in their daily duties). Focus on the result, not the process they employ to get there.
2. Giving solutions for their operational issues without getting their input. This is another form of micromanagement that kills skill development. It eliminates the need for your protègés to be able to think or solve their own problems.
3. Making decisions for them that they could make for themselves. Before long, you’ll become the “go to” person for every question or problem. If things go wrong because of your decisions, you’ll also be the scapegoat.
4. Giving frequent advice. Stick with the old adage: Advice is best given when-and only when-it is asked for.
5. Taking over situations they are paid to handle. You’re a mentor, not a savior. Let them figure out what to do, and come to you for instruction when necessary.
6. Criticizing them for their mistakes. Without errors, there is no learning, but be careful of how you criticize. Protègés are, after all, only human. Allow them room to mess up-and pick themselves up. You’ll be there to help dust them off.