Mentoring: top ten tips

officeIn my first career, I managed a restaurant. Over the years I trained a lot of waitresses, ice cream scoopers, grill cooks,  supervisors, and even managers. We had a three step process that worked really well.  First, she watched me do it. Next, I watched her do it. Finally, she did it by herself, but I was nearby; present but not hovering, taking more and more steps back until she was efficiently operating on her own.

That was it.

Now I am in a different profession.  I have been a trainer/mentor for many colleagues over the past several years. I recently have been on the trainee side of the equation again (hel-lo) and it’s helped me remember what is helpful and what is not so helpful from this side of the table.

  1. Listen to your trainee
  2. Choose your verbs carefully: “Struggling” is unkind. “Learning” is another word that expresses the same phenomenon but doesn’t leave your trainee feeling crushed.
  3. Rookies make rookie mistakes. Let them.
  4. Tell your newbie that she is doing a great job. Tell her frequently, every day, even it if’ it’s overstating things a bit. It’s very motivating.
  5. Adult learners process information differently (read: more slowly) than they did in their earlier decades of life, and they might be coming face to face with this difficult truth in a new and uncomfortable way. Give them frequent little breaks to absorb what is coming her way.
  6. Allow a little time to debrief at the end of the day.
  7. Chocolate helps. A lot. In large amounts.
  8. Introduce some fun; fun is good.
  9. Remind your newbie that you were sitting in the same seat that she is now when you first started, and look at you now!
  10. Never forget rule #9 yourself.

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