Early in my career, I was not excited about structured mentoring programs. I enjoyed the advice that I gave colleagues and more experienced managers and I was happy to help my peers when I had the time, but formal mentoring seemed go a little too far. What could it give me that my daily interactions with my colleagues could not?
I was wrong. After many wonderful mentoring experiences, I learned how useful and humbling it is to assume the role of a mentor. I can only hope that my mentees have made the most of my experience because mentoring has made me both a better manager and a better colleague. Here's why:
He helped me improve my managerial style
Have you ever seen a video of yourself and were you surprised at what you look like? Mentoring was like that for me. In our daily interactions with our colleagues, it is possible to avoid seeing ourselves, but when we take mentoring seriously, we need to think carefully about how our mentee perceives us and at what point. impact of our actions and words. their development.
When I started mentoring, I struggled to put myself in the shoes of those who did not have my training and my experience. I – and my mentee – have been victims of the "curse of knowledge". I was laconic when I should have been expansive, and I found it frustrating that my mentee was unable to grasp what I considered to be relatively simple concepts.
Of course, they were only simple because I had spent years learning the basic knowledge on which my understanding rested. As the mentoring process progressed, I began to analyze how I presented new ideas and realized that I was not an effective mentor. I've changed approach and, rather than talking to my mentees, I started talking to verifying that they understood each concept in a complex idea before moving on to the next. ]
Later, I started applying the same approach to managerial situations and sales meetings. This lesson, which I may not have learned if I have not become a mentor, has helped me to successfully communicate with my colleagues and clients for many years now.
He deepened my understanding
There is nothing more useful to our understanding than to be obliged to explain ourselves to someone else. I had not questioned my understanding of a particular technical subject for many years when I started talking to my mentee. She listened politely, and after finishing my long and winding explanation, asked, "But would not it be better to do it this way?" She detailed an alternative approach – a superior approach – that I did not have. I had never considered. Mentoring is a two-way learning process.
It can be difficult for the mentor to stop and listen to the mentee, and mentees can often feel too intimidated to offer their own ideas. Because I learned a lot through mentorship, it became second nature to me, but many new mentors will have to make a conscious effort to encourage mentees to express themselves and contribute.
I found that the best way to do that is to ask questions. Ask mentees how they could solve a problem and gently criticize their response. Give them a lot of praise and make it clear that you are happy to be interrupted if they have a thought. Cultivate an environment in which a healthy debate is welcome, and you will learn a lot from the mentoring process.
He helped me to trust my team
There is a confidence in one's own knowledge and abilities that is common to business leaders and entrepreneurs. This is what drives us to build businesses and persevere in the face of failure. But there are also disadvantages: one of mine was a reluctance to trust the judgment of others. I was inclined to micromanage, especially in technical scenarios. After all, I had the job because of my technical expertise.
While I was chatting with the people I was counseling, I began to understand that in many cases they were as good as I – often more. They lacked experience and applied knowledge to make the right choice in certain scenarios. But the more time I spent with them, the more it became clear to me that we could trust them with a degree of autonomy that would have been impossible before.
My company provides infrastructure hosting services for websites and web applications; This is a technical field and small mistakes can have serious consequences for our customers. I used to be a bit of a control freak, checking and checking my team's work before letting it go live. After mentoring the members of my team, I learned that they were just as assiduous and obsessed with doing things properly as me, which helps me relax. It's a win-win scenario because they feel confident and know that their expertise and autonomy are appreciated, while I have more time to focus on the general issues. .
If you want to effectively manage people, mentoring is a great way to cultivate soft skills like empathy and conversation. Spending some of your time on this rewarding activity can have a big impact on your own management style.
Author : Vik Patel is a prolific technology entrepreneur passionate about cloud computing and Nexcess' chief operating officer at Detroit.