I’ve had a bit of trouble mentoring team members in the past, especially when they’re not used to working within an environment with a lot of freedom. In this post, I have a few tips that will hopefully help you be a better mentor and ease their transition into a better work environment.

Understanding where they’re at in their career path

One tech that I have in mind as an example, has a lot of freedom to change his own work environment, experiment with different things, and develop his own skills. Unfortunately, likely due to past experience, he doesn’t take advantage of these things and instead wastes effort telling others about the issues he’s experiencing. From our perspective, it looks like he just whines and is too lazy to take action, but in reality, he’s just unaware of the options he has at his disposal.

It’s easy to forget all the lessons you’ve learned to get you where you are today. As a manager, part of your responsibility is to help your team through those same lessons, hopefully in a lot easier, less painful way than when you learned them yourself.

Earlier in my career, I was lucky enough to have a manager that would listen to me. I would come to him with an issue and a potential solution. I would be absolutely blindsided when he said, “That sounds great. When can you get started?” I didn’t realize that I would even be considered or given the opportunity to implement my own solution, let alone that my solution would be an improvement in the first place.

Try to remember everyone is not always able to affect their own work environment. There’s a learned helplessness that comes from working these types of jobs. In those situations, the best you can do to have any impact on your work environment is to bring issues and complaints to your manager. If you’re lucky, your managers will do something about it.

Start with what they know

Earlier in my career, the way I would have expected to solve this is to take the time to explain to this tech how his current expectations are wrong and what the correct ones are. With experience, I’ve learned that it’s best to start instead with what they expect and move forward from there. It’s a lot easier to work within their expectations, even if it’s ultimately not what they desire or need.

In this situation, for example, this tech is expecting management to come up with a solution and an action plan, rather than solving the problem on his own, even if he already knew the solution. I would do exactly that, but leave an opening for him to take a step closer to where I would want him to be, which would ultimately lead to him identifying problems and coming up with a solution on his own.

Giving them what they expect

I would start by coming up with a general action plan, if he’s ready for it. I would try to include him in drawing up the solution. Then, I would ask for his help in implementing this solution.

Once this project has been completed, some trust will be earned and he’ll gain faith in me as a manager (and himself in his own ability to affect change). The next time he comes to me with another issue, I can involve him in the process more and more, and do less of the work on my own until eventually he finds himself not needing me at all. This helps him become a better engineer and it takes something off my already heavily encumbered plate.

I Hope This Helps!

It may seem like a lot of extra work, but this is just the work of a manager if you want to do things right. When someone has an incomplete knowledge or incorrect assumptions, it’s very difficult to explain reality as you see it and get them on board with what it should be and discarding their old viewpoints. It’s much easier to start with their incorrect assumptions, then add information to that to help bring them to your level of understanding, hopefully eventually molding them to no longer have those incorrect assumptions anymore.

Thank you for checking this out. I hope you learned something new or enjoyed reading this. If you had any comments, questions, or just wanted to share your thoughts on this article, you can contact me at blog@e-mayhem.com.

Share this on social media:

Comments are closed