by Garth Bascom
Mentoring (training) is giving a lesser skilled individual a foundation for knowledge, understanding and growth and assures them they will have help in dealing with day-to-day job challenges. It makes them feel like they are part of the team. Solid mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on people in a variety of personal, academic and professional situations. Ultimately, mentoring connects a person to growth, development, social and economic opportunity. Yet many are not afforded this critical opportunity.
At some point in your life (and, if you’re lucky, many times), you’re going to find yourself playing the role of a mentor to someone, somewhere. It can be both exciting, and a little confusing. What exactly does it mean to be someone’s mentor and how can you really stand out in the role?
Mentoring is leadership.
The biggest mistake a mentor can make is diving in without having any understanding of what mentoring is—and what it’s not. At its core, mentoring is training. We all win when it works like it’s supposed to. Mentors should not feel threatened or withhold training information out of fear for their jobs and trainees should be able to expect solid knowledge from more experienced co-workers. Supervisors, Foremen Skills Trainers and Core Group Members should all be engaged in training activities.
Set goals and expectations each day.
During the morning safety meeting, mentors and trainees should discuss goals for the day. Mentors should lead the discussion and outline what job activities will be performed and how to proceed. Consideration should be given to what the trainee needs to learn versus what they’ve already learned. Care should be taken to assure that the goal is achievable for the given timeframe. In some instances, it is better to set reasonable goals than to take on too much. Otherwise, both the trainee and mentor could end up feeling frustrated and/or disappointed.
Communicate and conduct regular check-ins.
The key to any good relationship is effective communication. This includes periodic communication throughout the day to address questions and train or give insight on specifics with respect to the trainee’s current tasks. Always be clear and professional and avoid passive aggressive behavior. For example, don’t complain to another employee about your mentor/trainee. If there’s an issue, confront it head on with the other person. If you’re not working side-by-side, schedule a time and place to reconnect for a Q & A session. During those meetings, discuss what’s going well and what can be improved.
You can certainly borrow ideas from other mentors and trainees when/if they share their experiences. But remember that your dynamic is going to be different, simply because you and your partner are different from other pairs. Focus on your relationship and getting the most out of it. Don’t overthink what other people are doing.
Promptly resolve issues.
When two people work closely together for months at a time, issues and challenges can come up. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s simply life. But if no one addresses the issues, real problems begin. So if something comes up, address it right away. If you’re uncomfortable doing so, reach out to the Apprenticeship Administrator (Garth Bascom) or Project Superintendent for guidance. Can you think of any other ways to make sure mentors and trainees have a positive mentoring experience? Share your thoughts!