Business Coaching: How Not to Mentor

Mentoring employees is a large part of business coaching — and knowing how not to mentor will save you headaches down the road. Many managers fall into an all-knowing, all-telling, and come-to-the rescue mode of operation, especially doer types. Unfortunately, these managers become burdened individuals with little time to do their own work. Having control of their time and providing quality time to their employees aren't possible.

When managers mentor the wrong way, they create a great deal of dependency, with little initiative and problem solving coming from your staff members: Not exactly the recipe for getting high productivity, but great for feeling important.

Following is a list of common management behaviors that foster dependency and kill initiative — stay away from these!

  • Telling employees how to do their jobs: This behavior is different than training. In this case, you tend to direct employees on how to do nearly every step of their jobs. The focus is on methods, not results. Employees often call this the dreaded "m" word, micromanagement.

  • Giving employees solutions for their operational issues without getting their input: In this behavior, you become the answer-person. If anything sounds like a problem, you have the solution. No need for anyone else to think, do research, or make any effort to help figure out answers. And often, you insist that your solution or answer is the right one. Employees call this imposing your will or authority, another form of micromanagement.

  • Making decisions that employees could make for themselves: Besides being all-knowing, you're all-powerful. What happens is that nearly every decision, from big to small, runs through you. Employees frequently come to you asking for approval or permission. Of course, when your decisions go wrong, the employees will have no problem blaming you, because they had no responsibility in the decisions.

  • Giving frequent advice: With this behavior, you find yourself making statements that start out like, "Here's what you should do," or "Here's what you need to do." You think that you're being helpful by sharing your great ideas and giving advice without waiting to be asked for it — and all free of charge. Of course in doing so, you overlook one important aspect about advice: It's best received when asked for. Any moment before that, and the advice is usually useless.

  • Jumping in to handle situations your employees are paid to handle: When employees make errors, who corrects them? When one of your staff members struggles a bit to deliver a service or perform a task, what do you do? Do you jump in, usually unannounced and without request, take over the duty, and get it done? If so, you go to the rescue, but no one is saved.

  • Criticizing your employees for their mistakes: This approach may work for training dogs, and it's often used in coaching football and basketball players, but it seldom has a positive effect on employees. Criticism, not constructive feedback gets delivered. To supposedly make a point, sometimes the criticizing is done publicly. But even when done privately, it comes with a sting. What the employee is not to do is emphasized, while learning how to make corrections is often overlooked.

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