Recently, at a friend’s insistence, I was reading Meg Kay’s The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—and How to Make the Most of Them Now (which, despite its cheesy title, I recommend highly to the under-30 crowd). In a section on developing career confidence, she talks about work mentors and shares some truly awful stories. One woman had a volatile boss who constantly made her feel incompetent by berating her for things she had no control over, such as when he was bumped from first class on a flight. Kay also talked about one of her own supervisors, who always seemed distracted during their one-on-one meetings. During one session the supervisor chopped onions for that evening’s dinner party, never once even looking up at her mentee, who was crying from both the fumes and her frustration.
Kay’s point to readers was that you can’t necessarily control your boss, and sometimes it’s a bad match, but you just have to make the best of it. That’s a valid point, however, it doesn’t excuse those bosses’ and mentors’ bad behavior.
Whether you’re an official mentor or not, the way you treat your employees can play a large part in shaping their careers. Are you building their confidence and helping them learn from their mistakes? Or are you doing the opposite? While this is probably most pertinent to your youngest workers, the way you respond to all employees can affect their future success or lack thereof. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I give my employees my full attention when they talk to me?
- Do I keep my composure when things go wrong, or do I lash out at those I think are responsible?
- Do I treat employees’ mistakes as teachable moments?
- Do I coach employees on the hard and soft skills that they need to move forward in their careers?
If you answered “No” to any of those questions, reflect on how you can be a better unofficial mentor to your employees.
Share your stories of your best or worst mentors in the Comment section!
Learn what it takes to be an excellent coach and mentor to your employees in Orlando this August at Coaching Training Camp! Early bird registration ends July 30.