Mentor, don’t instruct

How often does someone try to delegate up to you? Hey boss, how do I get on the shared drive? Hey boss, what should I say to this difficult customer? Hey boss, should we get a different supplier? Being in a hurry, or knowing the answer is so available to you and it would take them such a long time to learn, how often do you just give them the answer? Hmm, you just trained them to come back to you next time instead of learning how to do it themselves.

Yes, it will take longer. And, yes, sometimes that is the best answer. However, are you in this for the short term or the long term?

How did you learn all that you know? I suspect that you are not giving new team members or new supervisors enough training. And, you do not allocate enough time to mentor. If you are already allocating 1-2-1 time to your team members, good job. How are you using it?

Many times it is easy to fall into reviewing progress on their work rather than using the time to mentor. They may look at you like a deer in the headlights when you ask them what they need to talk about today. One hack would be to make notes on your calendar on their 1-2-1 appointment about questions they came to you to discuss and use that time to go deeper.

“Hey, Joan, last week when you asked about the supplier, we didn’t have time to tease out the issue. Let’s talk about how to choose the best suppliers-what we did in the past and how we could do better now.”

“Alex, I noticed that you pass the difficult customer to me rather than handle it yourself. Let’s role play that conversation and see if we can come up with a list of strategies to use next time.”

If you want to get that life balance you’ve been talking about, stop doing the job of the people who report to you and focus on the most strategic issues that will help you and the company.

Schedule time this week to mentor a promising team member. It will pay off long term.

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