General Question

kitszu's avatar

Any tips on being an effective mentor?

Asked by kitszu (1311 points ) February 24th, 2013

I work retail and I’m the team leader of the patio department. My team is comprised mostly of high school and college kids. Wondering if anyone has any tips for me?

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16 Answers

BosM's avatar

This can be a tough age group. Are they responsible kids who show up for work on time, work hard, and are customer friendly? If they are then continue to encourage that. Hopefully they are becoming responsible young adults.

The best tips I can give – state clearly what your expectations are, encourage them to be accountable, to do things right, and to communicate with you about their schedules so you can plan staffing accordingly. Be approachable and encourage them, but don’t try to be their friend, they have enough friends.

Be their boss, be fair, recognize good work, and keep your sense of humor, remember, they are HS and College kids after all :)

Bellatrix's avatar

Are you their supervisor or their mentor? There is a big difference. If you are their mentor then your goal is to guide them. Help them to learn for themselves and to be self-reliant. So when they have questions rather than ‘telling them the answer’ show them how to find the answer or where to find the solution to their problems. Help them to be self-sufficient and responsible for their own work. You can also model good practice.

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fremen_warrior's avatar

I agree with Dwight Schrute @tiaratenn here~

Pachy's avatar

Managing and mentoring people can be immensely satisfying, but also frustrating. People don’t always respond to your input, at least not on your timetable. My best advice is to stay patient, avoid over-stating your experience and authority, and always be accessible to people no matter how busy you may be.

thorninmud's avatar

People have a tendency to confirm the expectations of their superiors. This has been demonstrated empirically over and over again. If your attitude toward them conveys confidence that they will do well, they will become protective of that positive image you have of them and won’t want to disappoint. On the other hand, if they sense that you see them as incompetent noobs, their behaviors will tend to confirm that assessment.

burntbonez's avatar

Treat them with respect. Coach them. Encourage them. Spend most of your time showing them how to do things, and very little time telling them they did something wrong.

And, as @thorninmud said. Expect the best from all of them, and that is what they will give you.

marinelife's avatar

Ask them questions designed to make them think about issues you want them to concentrate on.

Give them positive feedback.

Ask for their ideas for improving the department.

wundayatta's avatar

Give them instructions about everything. Do not assume they know anything. But also tell them that you are open to suggestions about better ways of doing things. Just let them know they must learn your way first, but then once they show they can do it, they can discuss ways to make it more efficient.

kitszu's avatar

@Bellatrix The answer is ‘yes’. My team leader is both my ‘mentor’ and my ‘supervisor’. He calls his managers ‘team leaders’ because he wants us to employ both aspects to our managerial styles.

kitszu's avatar

@tiaratenn “Being a autocratic leader has always been quality of a strong.. effective leader or mentor.”

I strongly disagree. Autocratic leaders demand obedience. How’s that worked out when dealing with an adult population, let alone, a handful of teenage boys?

Leadership isn’t about demands or ultimatums, it’s exactly the opposite. You lead by example, you ask questions and then decide what, if any, kind of discipline is appropriate.
You teach skills to create a self-sufficient employee, you teach initiative, ownership, communication. You also accept the responsibility when they screw up because you didn’t teach them well enough or you didn’t explain your expectations clearly enough.

To be a good team leader you need to develope a report with your team, you can’t do that if they are afraid of you. Yes, there must be consequences when the line is stepped over, that said the line shouldn’t be so short that your people are choked by it if they look at it wrong.

kitszu's avatar

I’m loving the feedback, it’s all very good. I have a pretty good report with most of my guys but it’s hard to get them to answer questions. I ask a direct question, they clam up. I ask for feed back, they have nothing. Being a ‘johnny on the spot’ kind of person myself, I understand why. I still do it.

Any advice on how to put them at ease when I ask these kinds of questions?

kitszu's avatar

@wundayatta Do you know what happens when you assume? I do, so I don’t, lol.

Bellatrix's avatar

I am very much a team player. I’m the boss but the best way for us to do a good job and improve the work we do is to operate as a team. I make this very clear when people start working for me. I let them know I value their input and want to hear from them when things go well but also when things don’t go well. I let them know I want to hear their suggestions for ‘solutions’. This works for me. I tend to take them for coffee when I can rather than sitting behind my desk. The informal ‘chats’ you have with people are also invaluable.

Lead by example. “I have noticed we seem to have a lot of xxx, what are your thoughts on this?” Once they learn you genuinely do want their input, they might be more forthcoming. Make sure if they come up with a good idea you communicate upwards that it was their idea. Give them credit for the work they do. I am sure you would do this but it helps to build trust in you as a leader.

I absolutely believe if people feel they have some ownership over their work environment and their contributions are valued, they will respond by being more motivated and engaged.

kitszu's avatar

@Bellatrix “I have noticed we seem to have a lot of xxx, what are your thoughts on this?” I’m not sure what you mean.

Bellatrix's avatar

Ask them for their input. For me it might be something like “I notice we seem to have a lot of student complaints about the marking criteria this semester. Why do you think that might be? Can we discuss how we applied the criteria?”

Encourage them to also identify potential problems and present ideas for resolving the problem.

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