Mentoring in the Workplace: 3 Keys to Being a Good Mentor

Mentoring in the Workplace: 3 Keys to Being a Good Mentor

Mentoring in the Workplace: One of the Strongest Drivers of Employee Motivation

It’s not a secret that high levels of motivation can result in higher levels of performance. This principle applies in all aspects of life, no matter how young or old one may be. Examples include a child learning how to walk at an early age, a student studying in college with the hope of receiving distinction or mastering a skill, or an employee performing exceptionally well in the workplace.

The question is — what factors lead to higher levels of motivation? There may be many answers, but one salient factor that strongly influences motivation is the power of mentorship from an exceptional leader. In the examples above, this could be a parent, teacher, or manager who has taken great interest in their child, student, or employee to help them succeed in achieving their goals.

3 Keys to Being a Good Mentor

The focus of this article will highlight different strategies that managers can employ to motivate their teams in the workplace so that all members are driven to do well in their respective roles, thus increasing the overall team and organizational performance. The three factors, autonomy, mastery and purpose, stem from Daniel Pink’s work which focuses on the key drivers contributing to performance and personal satisfaction.

Great leaders and mentors provide employees with guidance and direction by offering work-related opportunities that encompass elements of autonomy, mastery and purpose. Learn how to be a good mentor for your employees by focusing on these three key elements.

1) Autonomy

As mentioned in my earlier blog “Employee Retention Tactics, Part 3: Employing Autonomy and Paving Pathways for Career Advancement”, providing employees with higher levels of autonomy can lead to them feeling encouraged and more confident about their own abilities. It can also foster innovation and creativity in the workplace without making employees feel they are being micromanaged or told what to do.

A recent article on LinkedIn titled “The Difference between Managers and Leaders” highlights how successful leaders have the ability to motivate or mentor their teams by using some of the following approaches:

  • Ask questions versus giving answers. Avoid giving direct orders and allow employees to participate in brainstorming methods to resolve issues. Asking employees a few pertinent and thought provoking questions will help them develop critical thinking skills and arrive at the answer on their own.
  • Avoid criticizing. If a task is not accomplished correctly, don’t criticize. Instead, ask employees what can be done to improve the situation or task at hand. Share examples with employees to illustrate how a similar task was completed in the past.
  • Emphasize the positives. When providing feedback, praise accomplishments, provide some constructive feedback, and end with a positive note. This will ensure employees remain engaged and focused on completing the task at hand, without getting discouraged and demotivated.

2) Mastery

A manager wishing to operate in a mentoring capacity can help employees master difficult concepts through deconstructing a complex challenge and assigning smaller components of a larger problem. By doing so, employees have an opportunity to master one element of the problem without being overwhelmed by competing challenges.

Over time, as the employees encounter similar challenges with increasing levels of scale and complexity, they will move towards mastering the subject by understanding the nature of its structure and depth. This is highly valuable as this type management encourages employees to demonstrate higher levels of productivity and capability of addressing even more complex challenges that the organization will undoubtedly encounter in the future.

3) Purpose

An emerging characteristic often found amongst Gen Y and Millennials is the desire to have some form of meaning associated with their work. These cohorts of employees are demanding that their work contribute to some larger purpose or make a valuable impact on the overall objectives and performance of the organization.

Mentors can play an instrumental role by helping employees foster a sense of purpose that aligns their individual work with the broader objectives and goals of the organization. This effort can not only help the organization achieve its objectives, but steer and motivate its employees to contribute meaningfully to some form of higher purpose that enables the organization to create value for all of its stakeholders.

What are ways you’ve been successful in establishing / improving mentoring in the workplace?


Head of People Operations
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