An important part of developing your business is developing the individual skills, knowledge and abilities of your employees. We all want the best team, but without investing time, effort and resources into our employees, good intentions can fast become forgotten ones. Mentoring and training your staff means being able to use your own skills and knowledge to nurture them to greater standards.
Get to know your team
Before we are able to guide and mentor someone, we need to know the path they are currently on and the one they wish to be on. Having a good understanding of your staff's goals, both short term and long term, is vital, as is determining a realistic time frame for goals to be met. It is also important to recognise if goals relate to specific tasks being completed (e.g. "I want to make more sales next month") or skill development ("I want to handle stress more effectively").
Have an action plan
Once you have a clear understanding of the goals of the business, your employees and yourself, it's time to take action. While levels of motivation are high when goals are set, they can quickly drop when an employee returns to their regular tasks. It can also be difficult for business owners to remember every goal discussed. It's therefore important to record the intended plan of action and ensure it's monitored and evaluated regularly.
Develop a system
For mentoring to be effective, a system - even a relaxed one - should be in place. This way mentoring and training of staff becomes an integral part of the business, and employees can make mental notes of concerns that can be addressed during allocated training periods. Each business will differ, so consider whether one-on-one or group sessions are more useful, how long you wish the sessions to be and whether you wish them to be a mandatory activity for staff.
Keep it relevant
Unless you are a business owner with endless funds and free time, it's a good idea to keep the development of your employees relevant to the needs of your business. Ask yourself how your business could benefit from the development of staff before investing yourself into nurturing specific improvements. It can also be useful to be aware of current gaps within the business and train and mentor your team with these needs in mind. For example, if you are facing problems with customer relations and you have an employee with goals to develop their self-confidence, combine the two goals and use accomplishments within customer relations to naturally boost confidence.
Develop your communication skills
Wanting to mentor and train your staff is all well and good, but without the necessary communication skills the process can quickly become a frustrating and unproductive one. Part of being a good mentor is ensuring that your own development is a priority, so be sure to regularly reflect on the areas you can improve as well. Remember also that although the role of mentor is yours, there are many things you can learn from your employees, so having an open mind is both important and beneficial to the development of your business.
The key to effective mentoring is to guide rather than command. Rather than simply telling staff what you think they should be doing, or giving simple answers to their questions, it's about guiding them through the thinking process and developing their own strategies. The aim is less about teaching your employees and more about your employees developing their learning skills. When you are able to act from this perspective, the process will be much more productive and satisfying for both employees and managers.
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This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Nick Petrovic is a registered psychologist and head of clinic at the Mind Profile Psychology Clinic and has more than 10 years' experience in the allied health and business. Nick has contributed to regular columns in more than a dozen business magazines and newspapers, advising on issues such as mental health, work related stress, strategic planning, business analysis and human resources.