Your employees are the backbone of your company. They keep things running smoothly and make it possible for you to actually run the business from behind the scenes instead of standing in front of everyone explaining everything you do all day long. If you’re committed to growing your business and ensuring that it stays healthy and profitable, you need to give back as much as you take. Here are ten ways to mentor your employees so they can perform at their best no matter what position they hold in your company.
Put Yourself in their Shoes
There’s no better way to understand how employees feel than by putting yourself in their shoes. Mentoring employees starts with talking with them and getting an understanding of what they want and need out of your relationship. Ask questions that help you find common ground, like: What are you looking for from me? What do you want to learn from me? What skills can I teach you? How can I help you reach your goals? Asking good questions will not only open lines of communication, but it will also make employees feel valued—which, ultimately, will foster stronger relationships and encourage stronger performance.
Ask What They Need
As you try to mentor your employees, it’s important to realize that not all employees are alike. Some may need a lot of help; others may want more support than you can provide. To figure out what they need from you, ask them directly how they think you can best help them in their career development. You might be surprised by what you hear!
A special thanks to my good friend and business mentor Jeanie Brown for helping me write these examples.
Listen Before You Talk
Do you have a mentor or coach? If so, take notes: You can learn a lot about effective leadership by listening. Don’t dominate every conversation, don’t give advice until asked for it, and never underestimate how much your employees want to know what you do and how you do it. Listening is not just an act of politeness; it will help your employees get more out of their work day. And that means they’ll like coming into work more often than not—which will naturally be good for business.
Make it Personal
Never treat a mentee like just another employee—connect with them on a personal level. You can do this in many ways: attending their wedding, celebrating their birthday, or even inviting them out for lunch when they’re having a bad day. This will make you stand out and show your mentee that you care about their personal life as well as their professional one. Your caring attitude is invaluable to an employee, especially during their first few years at a company.
Be Patient with Them
Be patient with your employees, as they may not understand everything right away. Take a step back and give them time to learn their way around whatever you’re trying to teach them. And remember: This is more than likely their first job out of college, so there will be times when they feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. Try not to react defensively and make sure that you keep showing patience in these situations.
Offer New Opportunities
Give your employees new opportunities to learn and grow, such as letting them take on more challenging projects or coming up with new ways to solve old problems. A little challenge goes a long way toward helping your staff develop new skills and expertise. Once they have developed those skills, it’s also a great opportunity for you to consider giving them additional responsibilities—like mentoring others or leading a team—that will help keep their skills sharp.
Give Constructive Feedback
Be positive and encourage employees, but it’s also important that you give negative feedback as well. If your employee does something wrong, let them know immediately (rather than letting a small mistake snowball into something much larger). A good rule of thumb is to always communicate in person whenever possible. As you’re discussing their performance, try using I statements (i.e., I noticed…) instead of pointing fingers or placing blame on your employee.
As a new manager, you’re going to have a lot on your plate. But it doesn’t help anyone when you take on tasks that should be delegated—because not only will it hurt your productivity and stress levels, but also because you don’t want to run yourself into exhaustion so early in your management career. So think of what are things that can be assigned and delegate them. It might seem like more work at first, but over time you’ll see that managing is less about doing everything yourself and more about guiding others in their duties. That way, everyone wins!
Celebrate Their Successes
When an employee has a big win, be sure you let them know you’re happy for them. It sounds simple, but as with many things related to business, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks and lose sight of why we’re working—namely, it’s because we want our employees to succeed. When they do succeed (and they will), let them know that they deserve it! Remember: success begets success. So when your team members start racking up successes, their confidence grows—meaning they’ll work harder to try new challenges and ultimately move their projects forward more quickly. Give Direction at Weekly Meetings: A weekly meeting is often one of the few times during the week when everyone on your team is together in one place.
Keep Track of Their Progress
Keep a record of your employee’s progress throughout their learning. Not only will they appreciate it, but you’ll also have something that can show them where they started and where they ended up! Additionally, it will give you material that you can use to discuss their progress with them and see how far they have come along. If an employee has questions or if there are aspects of their work that need improvement, then you can point out what they are doing correctly and focus on areas for improvement. It is a very easy way to maintain open communication without having one-on-one meetings all day long. This strategy also helps in preventing confusion among co-workers who may not be working directly with your mentee every day.