Bosses, Managers, Supervisors: Don’t Manage – Mentor!

Managers and supervisors have a very difficult job in today’s world of work. Everyone’s belt is tightened about as far as it can be, yet companies, educational establishments, even non-profits, want you to do more with less. No wonder today’s managers are scrambling to figure out how to do this all-consuming, unpredictable job in a rapidly-changing society.

Are you a dictator? Are you too easy going (and afraid your employees will walk all over you)? How can you get more productivity, “more buy-in”, and loyalty from entry-level workers without giving them more money or time off?

What are some specific, doable strategies to be a great manager? Here is my favorite! Be a mentor, not just a manager.

Don’t give up and let your employees flounder, not knowing exactly what they need to do the job well. Don’t be a dictator whom everyone secretly despises, so productivity plummets and workers’ lack of loyalty spoils everyone’s day (as well as the business’ bottom line). And if you try to make everyone happy, you’ll wind up making no one happy, never experiencing the satisfaction of a job well done. Instead of supervising the way you were supervised (default position) or, conversely, vowing never to do things the way your boss did, consider mentoring your workers. Here is the difference:

1. Do what’s best for the business, from a manager’s (narrow?) perspective. (No employee input)
2. Give orders, directions, explanations – how to do things one way (my way).
3. Do as I say, not as I do.
4. Power-over (motivate by fear and intimidation).
5. Perhaps bribe or threaten to get compliance.
6. Constantly look for flaws, mistakes; focus on the negative, don’t mention the positive.
7. Wonder if I’m doing the right thing (not asking for feedback from employees).

1. Listen to workers (30%-70%) to elicit input about what employees already know, want to know, and need to know.
2. Ask respectful yet probing questions; together figure out how to accomplish needed tasks.
3. I do, we do, you do (on-the-job training, gradual release of responsibility).
4. Power-with (motivate by gaining skills, confidance, genuine self-esteem, empowerment).
5. Plan together who does which jobs and how and when they’ll get done (team effort).
6. Celebrate effort and improvement; focus on the positive, use teachable moments to address problems in a way the employee can see, acquiesce, and feel encouraged and confident to make needed improvements.
7. Build positive relationships that last; employees feel valued apart from the tasks accomplished.

Employees, especially new hires, are quite dependent upon their managers. Ultimately, the goal is that they become fully-functioning, independent workers who choose to continue positive relationships with peers as well as those in authority. Great managers want each employee to achieve his/her full potential, (in work and in life) whether it is academic, emotional, social, relational, financial. Managers as mentors can help each employee discover their gifts, talents, interests, strengths, as well as help them discover and overcome those obstacles preventing success.

Shift your perspective. See your employee, not as an extension of yourself or the business, but as a human being with interests, personality, strengths, and challenges. Then mentor to bring out the best in that person. Your commitment to that persons’ ultimate development will build a bond of trust and motivation for each of you. That’s always good for business.

Laura J. Pickering, veteran teacher, parent, grandparent, and mentor reveals the missing piece; parents, teachers, even managers, receive no training on how to mentor to inspire others to do their best.

Author's Bio: 

Laura J. Pickering

I was born the eldest of four children to a working-class poor family. I got my looks from my Anglo father, but my intelligence, empathy, and positive outlook from my Latina mother. We grew up in trailer parks, but I took to learning like a sponge takes to water. I graduated with multiple scholarships, all expenses paid to my choice of university anywhere in the USA.

I earned a BA in English (summa cum laude), another degree in Curriculum and Instruction when my sons were in high school, and an MA in Teacher Leadership in 2008. I’ve been teaching 40 years (10 of those at home on a cattle ranch with my children).

I believe the most positive impact any human being can have for others is to mentor them to become their best. A mentor knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. A mentor encourages and inspires; they don’t manipulate or threaten.

This year I’m teaching a grand-daughter of one of my first students! My former students are FB friends and invite me to stay in their homes. Some phone, email, or stop me on the street to ask advice about their children or their lives. It feels good to love and serve so many and to know I made a positive difference in their lives.

I’m on a mission to help others learn how to be “difference makers” as mentors. How can I help and serve you?