Coaching: Be a Mentor, Not a Micro-Manager

As a leader within an organization, people come to you with questions often looking answers. They come to you for advice on projects, approvals on work products and often something more personal, to serve as a mentor. Acting as a coach or mentor to your employees is a delicate area because you don’t want to overstep your bounds. We all hate the idea of being micro-managed. If you hired someone for a job, it’s (hopefully) because you whole-heartedly believe they have the skills and education needed to succeed. Some employees don’t want a mentor, particularly those of older generations. That said, an increased number of managers are finding an unexpected generation who not only accept you as their coach but also prefer it. Your employees want someone who will teach them about being better at their jobs, show them the way and help them grow both as a professional and a person. So how can you coach your employees while allowing them to maintain their independence?

  • Don’t force the relationship. If they don’t want you to be their mentor, then don’t try to be. There will be an obvious chemistry between you and your employee if they genuinely desire your coaching advice. These relationships take time for trust to develop, so don’t jam your advice down their throats, let them come looking for it.

  • Don’t offer them help where it’s not wanted. If you’re an approachable manager, you don’t need to solicit your services to your employees. Asking if they need help may convey that you have doubts about their abilities, unless you sense a certain level of receptivity on their part. For the most part, even young professionals are savvy enough to ask if they need help.

  • Don’t correct their mistakes. This is crucial to being differentiated as their coach or mentor as opposed to a micro-manager. If they make a mistake, don’t jump in and fix it for them. Point it out and give them time to correct it themselves. Not only does this help them learn more about their own job function and the company, they also get to exercise their problem solving skills. If they’re not sure how to fix it, they’ll ask.

  • Be personal. Don’t be afraid to step into their personal lives a little. If they trust you and value you as a mentor or coach, they’ll start discussing problems outside of just work with you. This isn’t your chance to tell them how to live their life, but just listen and perhaps offer concrete suggestions for them to consider as they evaluate a solution – that way, they can take ownership of the decision.

Of all these tips there’s one common theme as a manager, be approachable. Great leaders in business don’t intimidate their employees, they don’t act like they’re better or deserving of any preferential treatment, but rather they treat their employees like people, not just colleagues.

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