Head Mentor Sinclair Dorman - Corporate Mentoring Initiatives
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Why mentoring skills are essential for managers today

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Managing people is difficult at the best of times, but has been especially challenging during the pandemic. The new world of work requires a different style of leadership that is more empathetic and human-focused – but how can we ensure our managers have those skills? HR must lead the way by encouraging the development of mentoring skills among managers.

10th Aug 2021
Head Mentor Sinclair Dorman - Corporate Mentoring Initiatives
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Stress, breakdowns, confidence annihilation, severe email dread have sadly been common work symptoms during the lockdown periods when working from home has been enforced. I have heard many stories from friends and my work network of extreme pressures put on employees as a direct result from poor management, exacerbated by the mandatory change in our working environment.

Did you know that 50% of employees leave their boss, not the company? That was in pre pandemic times – I hate to think what that figure is now.

Showing compassion is strength, and while everyone’s path is unique, tapping into your experiences to guide and support someone else is highly effective.

On the flip side, I have heard a few inspiring stories of managers who, despite entering the unknown, have created a healthy working space, encouraging, and accommodating employees to do their best as their own individual situations have been drastically affected due to the global pandemic. These managers seem to have taken the attitude of ‘forging through together’ which should not be strange as we are all on the same side with a common goal – to go from survival to success.

So how do we ensure that the managers in our organisations fall into the latter camp and offer that empathy and inspiration at a time when it is so desperately needed? The answer is to develop their mentoring skills.

Four key qualities for successful mentoring

I am no stranger to being responsible for employees, having directly employed over 100 people in my time across various businesses. In fact, I was the last to get paid on the couple of occasions where cash was tight. The enormous disparity in these stories made me wonder why some managers were able to inspire and engage, while others did the opposite. We all have the basic right to a work environment that allows us to do our job, carry out our work – at the very least. (I’d class the very most as the encouragement of a growth mindset and all that comes with that).

The origins of poor and negative management are:

  • Insecurity
  • Ego
  • Poor or lack of awareness
  • Weak and often non-existent listening skills

The solution is to manage with mentoring skills, which include these four approaches.

1. Empathy

One of the key parts of mentoring is having empathy. This means remembering what it was like starting off your career and the journey through to managerial promotion. Showing compassion is strength, and while everyone’s path is unique, tapping into your experiences to guide and support someone else is highly effective. Management should be doing this by asking questions and telling stories, especially of those key lessons learnt.

2. Vulnerability

Empathy leads naturally to showing vulnerability. A management myth is that we should have all the answers, and be infallible – but this is impossible. Showing and sharing vulnerability keeps ego in check. Those with a big ego are often hiding an insecurity. Being insecure is purely not being sure of one's own ability. Unfortunately, this tends to manifest itself in making others feel small or inept.

Culture Pioneers link

3. Awareness

Test your awareness levels. A mentee of mine recently declared that he knew his team inside out. Although impressed, I needed to check. “Pick one of them,” I said. He gave me a name. I asked two questions about this person. Did they enjoy working to deadlines, and how much did they enjoy team socials? He reported that this person did indeed produce very decent work to deadlines on a consistent basis. At team socials the manager tended to kick things off and then leave the team to it, however he always asked for a report on how socials ended up. He said one or two people tended to get over excited, but this team member was not one. From this, I could surmise that my mentee’s awareness level was zero.

Meeting deadlines do not mean enjoying them, and for all he knew this person could have left socials straight after him. My mentee digested this well and is addressing it.

4. Listening

Proactively better your listening skills. So many managers – and people generally – truly believe they are good listeners. Most people usually only remember about 17 to 25% of what they listen to. Listening with a mentoring approach includes being able to read the between the lines. What is not being said? To do this you have to be 100% present in the conversation. Then there is the doing – acting on what you have digested either obviously or via quiet engineering. Plus, the better we listen the more aware we become. The more aware we are, the more effective we are at managing. How aware are you of the effects of your management behaviour?

The catch 22

In my current role, upskilling mentors and mentees and providing support to mentoring initiatives of all sizes and purposes, I get to observe management styles and employee reactions. I have insight to where it can all go wrong as well as right. There are many ‘sliding doors’ moments.

In response to this knowledge and recent increase in reports of work burnout, I am kicking off the #BeThatBoss campaign, which offers mentoring skills training for management. It’s about turning your managers (and soon to be managers) into the boss everyone wants to work for through upskilling with mentoring skills. The catch 22 is that those who need to join the campaign are those who believe they are already that ‘great boss’, and the ones that already are will likely be the ones to join me.

My final message is that you do not need to work for a manager that does anything other than encourage and inspire you. Do not be afraid to move on – and when you get there, be that boss.

Interested in this topic? Read Mentoring prepares you for honest feedback – embrace it.

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