As a manager, mentoring is one of the most powerful ways of supporting your employees. Through it, managers can impact productive ideas in their employees in a way that's different from the normal boss-employee relationship. It's one thing to tell your employees that they have to improve and another to say why and how they can improve.
One is more of a warning from boss to employee, and the other is more in the mentoring line. Sooner or later, in your new role as a manager, you'll notice that employees who desire to grow professionally will try to engage you and solicit assistance to help them grow.
It could be related to expanding their skill sets or career advancement. As a manager, you should be someone your employees can look up to and be willing to share their professional aspirations and challenges with. You should be someone your employees can come to whenever they want to plan the next step in their careers. You should be someone they can ask for guidance when dealing with storms in their career.
Today's workplace necessitates this kind of quality. It needs managers to be more than just a bunch of well-dressed executives who tell others what to do and how to do it. Today's workplace needs managers to be role models. Suppose you want a team that consistently performs in line with your expectations. In that case, guiding the employee is a valuable tool, and it represents a means to develop your employees through guidance, inspiration, and motivation.
Unfortunately, most managers today are terrible at it. This is understandable to some extent. Guiding those who work under you is very different from coaching outsiders, and it takes greater maturity and skills to oversee people who report to you. This is because the role of a manager and of a coach have contrasting dynamics.
Managers have the responsibility of ensuring maximum productivity from their employees. On the other end, the latter's priority is to help their employees improve. This creates contrasting roles. The immediate need to get jobs done at the workplace may take precedence over a strategic improvement plan that a mentor may want to push.
While "manager in the manager" wants to squeeze out every ounce of productivity in an employee, "mentor in the manager" wants a way to develop the employee on a general level without necessarily paying attention to immediate needs. The manager side is responsible for enforcing discipline, but the other has to be a supportive friend.
Managers should be aware that not all employees want to follow the same career path. And should thus explore avenues through which employees can switch to desired areas. This will, of course, take into account current skill sets. Guiding employees typically revolve around issues related to career development and often emphasises role modelling.
It typically takes a long time and is much less task-focused than normal managerial activities. This usually requires a much deeper personal disclosure level between manager and employee than normally required in traditional boss-employee relationships. The list of contrasting roles is endless. Therefore, it's not surprising that it is much harder to be a role model to a direct report than any other person.
However, a manager can — and should — be a mentor. The key to achieving this amidst such contrasting dynamics is striking a healthy balance between the two roles. This balance can be achieved by considering your employees' professional and career advancement while you push them to do operational work.
Your aim should be to consistently expand your employees' skills and career standing with your organization's goals. For instance, if your organization is currently experiencing rapid growth, there could be a need for more employees and units within your department soon. There will likely be a need for either new supervisors or department heads with more employees and teams.
As a manager who is also a guide, you can help your mentee navigate their daily workload while also moulding them for a leadership position that might open up soon. That way, you ensure two critical things:
Immediate productive efforts - your employees are actively contributing productive efforts to the organisation
Medium- and long-term career advancement - your employees are also developing themselves for leadership within your managerial sphere - something that will contribute productive efforts to the organisation in the near future. This career advancement mentoring is in line with company goals.
You can read more about the roles the managers play as mentors and coaches in my previous post here or check out my book 'Management For Beginners'. Let me know what your experiences with mentoring your team members are. How do you find yourself in that role?