I have been very fortunate in my career to have had managers who trust me, empower me, inspire me, recognize me and challenge me. I've learned so much from them.

Now that our team has grown 5 fold in the last 3-4 years, mentoring/managing is probably my favorite part of my job.

Especially when they are fresh out of school, starry eyed, full of ideas and energy, it's such a pivotal stage in their life. It's so important to support them in learning how to navigate the real world and empowering them to bring their ideas to life. Success should be measured by the success of those around you. Have you been able to inspire them to do their best work? Do they feel supported? I know I'm happiest when I see those around me do well.

This is my mentoring philosophy:

  • Help them gain the confidence to take on more responsibility by giving them projects and the autonomy to make mistakes. Most importantly talk about what went wrong and use it as an opportunity for lessons learned.
  • Be there for them when things go wrong! And praise them for bringing mistakes up early and openly. Don't focus on the error, understand the error and move on to working together to fix it. 
  • Encourage them to speak up and trust their opinions but coach them on what good delivery looks like.
  • Help them realize their dream job even if it's beyond your team or even your company and be open about it, you'll be surprised at what you'll learn. While it may seem counter intuitive, I actually find it's been great for employee retention. My theory is that when trust and transparency goes both ways, there is open dialogue to learn about frustrations and concerns. You can't fix what you don't know is wrong. 
  • Encourage them to volunteer their time on other teams (if they are able to manage their actual workload). The cross departmental knowledge can only help your organization, never harm.
  • Spend time with them. And not just to get a status update on their work. Get to know them personally, it's in those conversations that you see a person's true character and what motivates them. You don't get that when you are just asking them about a spreadsheet.
  • Recognize them. To their peers, to your boss, to the company. It's amazing how far recognition goes. I know it gives me an energy boost to keep plugging away when things get crazy. (side bonus: I've found that by attributing praise and recognizing people for their work and ideas, it rubs off on them and they start to recognize and attribute praise to others and it helps to build a selfless culture.)
  • Ask for feedback on what they need from you to be effective. It's about making them successful. Maybe it's a different style of communication, maybe they need more context on a project, etc. 
  • Give them context. Not every project will be exciting or fun, (let's face it data entry sucks) giving them the big picture view of how their work will make a difference helps.

I'm sure I have more musings on this... I'll save it for another post.