Building Care in mentoring
A relationship based on caring
Have you ever been in the position of supervising someone and found they were not paying attention?
What at first may seem like a loss of focus may be related to other issues. In this article we will look at ways to build capacity by showing our new and young workers that we care.
While working in a cabinet shop with a young worker I noticed a common theme of inattention.
I looked at Bill again. He was standing looking at the table saw with a distracted look on his face. The saw was not running and he was holding the board like he had never seen a piece of wood before.
"Bill, come on!"
Bill snapped out of his daze, looked at me and smiled and turned the saw on and proceeded to rip the wood.
A while latter I had the opportunity to talk with Bill.
"Bill I've noticed a couple of times today you were gapping out. I'm worried about you. It's hard to stay safe at the best of times but when you are lost or not paying attention it is even harder. This has got me worried about you. You OK?"
Our role as a mentor involves much more than just teaching or coaching. A mentor has the ability to impart knowledge and wisdom through a variety of mediums. One of the best ways to build rapport and trust is to show someone that you care.
There is a common sales strategy that states, "People don't care what you know, they want to know that you care". This adage can also be applied to the mentoring process as well. Having a trusted advisor care about you can make you feel special, and important. When you feel this way you are more likely to reciprocate and follow the instructions or give the focus needed to complete the task. Psychologists have been studying how reciprocity works. They have found that when a person receives a gift or a favor they are more likely to give back and favor the other person. Sales people have been using this technique for ages giving away presents in return for your good will. You, as the mentor, can use this to your advantage.
When you feel that someone has given you special attention and caring you are more likely to listen when they speak. You are more likely to copy their behaviours and think favorably upon what they are saying. Or you may want to show them that "Hey I got this- thanks" Remember how you responded to a teacher, parent or coach who showed they cared?
We often hear about "soft skills" those personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.
The primary soft skill is the ability to care and supports all the other skills –ultimately building capacity.
Lets look at some simple ways to build care and use it to develop a stronger mentoring relationship. Ultimately we are talking about building relationships that will keep your mentees safe and productive. Caring about the whole person not just work factors will keep new and young workers safer on the job site.
1. Listen carefully.
Listening carefully means that we not only have to listen to the person's words and phrasing but we also have to listen to content and try to derive accurate interpretation. How are the words spoken? What is the body language saying? How do they look- what does their general self-care show? (Tools, clothes, personal hygiene) Observe the person when they are talking. Are they distracted, focused, animated or excited? When a person is in a certain emotional state what techniques can you use to help them better understand your lessons? Do they need to be told again? Are there other factors going on in this person's life that are interfering with their overall effectiveness? You must listen to everything- not just the words but also the meaning. There will be a reason behind every action.
2. Modify your delivery.
I have often heard supervisors repeat the same instructions over and over again using the same words and getting the same results. Sometimes these people raise their voices thinking that maybe the person didn't hear their instructions the first time. A common mistake when dealing with a language barrier is just speaking louder- like the person couldn't hear you the first time! We may have to modify our delivery. Try speaking softer. Move the person to a quieter location if possible when talking. Maintain eye contact.
3. Look for the value in other's points of view
Only with empathy and compassion can we really understand where others have come from. "Walking a mile in their shoes" will help you get inside the mentee and assist you to develop unique tools and techniques that will assist the mentee to move forward
4. Give a warm greeting and use their name.
In this era of personal body space we can loose the ability to really connect with our employees. The mentor is aware of how powerful personal human interaction can be. I have seen a mentor calm a very agitated youth with the gentle use of their name, calming the youth down and de-escalating the problem. Greeting people with sincerity is also a useful tool for building rapport.
I often spend time away from the work site thinking about my mentees and how I have helped them. I wonder if I have given them all the tools they need to be successful.
I watched Bill in the afternoon. He just seemed to slow down. A nice guy, respectful and wanting to learn but in the afternoon around 2 he went into reverse. Drove me crazy. I had several talks with him to no avail. One day at lunch we were sitting around comparing sandwiches and commenting on one of the other crewmembers lunch. This guy had the most amazing lunches. He would have little cut up things and small containers with different sauces, fruit, nuts and yogurt in a lunch box sized cooler. That day it sort of tweaked for me. I looked at Bill's lunch and saw that he had a bag of chips, a chocolate bar and a coke. I realized that the reason for his poor afternoon performance might be attributed to his diet. I started to talk to him about nutrition and performance. We spoke about athletes and food energy. Bill, like many of us, was a marginal cook. To produce a healthy dinner and lunch leftovers seemed like an insurmountable hurdle.
The next day at lunch I included Bill in a discussion and asked the other workers what they did for food and lunches. We started to get some ideas. Many of the other workers had some great easy tips and recipes on how to prepare food and come up with a nutritious lunch- one that could sustain them throughout the day. All of us could relate to not having enough food and feeling drained and tired working. Bill even got a dinner invite and a cooking lesson.
Bill came to the understanding that to be successful at work required not only an attitude of continuous learning but also of proper nutrition. Through the process of asking questions and using the resources of our coworkers I helped give him the tools that he could use to make his afternoons more productive and ultimately safer. I showed him that I cared.
So when you are mentoring remember that you are giving the mentees many valuable lessons- lessons beyond the job site. The mentees are observing and learning from your behaviors and characteristics. The ultimate gift is the one of yourself and your wisdom. Give them the gift of care- you will be rewarded with a gift from them- the gift of respect