Are you one of the lucky people that have gone through work life working with wonderful people and managers who mentor you and whom you fondly remember as those who encouraged you to be your best?
Sadly many managers are more like tormentors, largely as a result of their upbringing or role models from their work. Sometimes the most oppressed become the worst oppressors.
If you are a manager the last thing you want to be is a tormentor, so find out how to transform even the slightest of those tormenting attributes.
Here are seven steps to transform from being a tormentor into mentor.
1. Don’t ignore – Listen with interest
Do you remember Jim Carrey in Liar Liar as the self-centred lawyer, brushing past a colleague and blurting ” You’re not important enough to remember”? By ignoring people, you are transmitting this message. Stop, and listen with interest instead. This is the one skill that done well sets you apart from others and you learn from unexpected sources in many surprising ways. Listening is something many of us have to consciously remind ourselves to do! I am sure it won’t be long before the popular expression moves from active listening to mindful listening!
2. Don’t overlook – Acknowledge effort
All offices and workplaces have attention grabbers who are mighty good at ensuring everyone notices what they’re doing. High achievers, the noisy and the needy may be good at extracting acknowledgement, but that doesn’t mean the quieter ones’ efforts should be overlooked. Acknowledge their efforts consistently and you’ll feel unmistakable sunshine in the room.
3. Don’t be selfish – Discuss their goals
Is the company all about you and your work? No matter how integral your role may be in the scheme of things, the culture doesn’t begin and end with you. It’s very easy to assign more importance to oneself and forget the importance of how others feel, how they are going in their careers and whether they are satisfied with their goals and achievements. Whatever you believe your personal importance to be, make time and the commitment to discuss your colleagues’ goals. See where and how you can progress, together.
4. Don’t demand – Encourage progress
Don’t be a diva! Remember the crazy teachers who were loathed? In the 60s one of my teachers had an perspex rod, a kind of acetate weapon (very modern at the time) which she used to hit me across my hands and legs before sending me outside the room, to discourage talking and I suppose encourage me to work harder. It was another (wonderful) teacher, different year, who turned my “extra energy in class used to disrupt others” into being a coach in maths, helping other kids complete their work. Instead of sending me out and admonishing me in front of others simply because I had finished and was bored, she was creative in encouraging me.
A worthy mentor recognises there is much to be said for the many skillsets and temperaments that make up the office. Encourage progress on all fronts and watch people go the extra mile.
5. Don’t demean – Be constructive
Some managers get great results putting people down, like the late Steve Jobs, a notorious perfectionist who liked to describe lesser souls as “brain dead”. High achievers are frequently impatient, failing to realise how many they upset in the process. Being jaded can also lead to a high negativity quotient. Ease up, and open your eyes to what people are accomplishing in their myriad different ways. Be constructive when you speak and act, and it’s amazing how many more will listen and observe your example. Offering constructive feedback on how to fix things and improve is much better for development than abuse, apathy or accusing. Or maybe offer Steve Jobs’ top songs for self-motivation!
6. Don’t avoid – Offer support
There will be times when you just want to get on with your own thing, and you feel “pecked to death by a million pigeons”. You feel overworked and want to “just get clear of the deck” before you start trying to help others. You tell yourself you are no good to others while you are so busy. In fact, that’s your cue in some instances to actually stop, and do the opposite: offer support. This might seem counter-intuitive, but when you’ve figuratively got your fingers in your ears and are saying “I can’t hear (or see) you”, you’re actually making it worse for all. Do the role-reversal and start being present and available for colleagues. By helping them you will feel good, they may, in fact, help you and you can end your torment and theirs.
7. Don’t neglect – Celebrate success
You wouldn’t ignore your toddler’s first steps. That little person is precious, right? So why neglect other people’s milestones and achievements, no matter how (seemingly) small? Who are you to say what’s momentous and what isn’t? Sometimes we are so busy we forget what is a milestone completion and relief for those in the team… maybe because the milestone was not our own and lower down the personal hierarchy and because we are so busy trying to get to the next milestone ourselves. This is a fast track to burnout for everyone. Celebrate others’ success, and watch them (and yourself) grow enormously.
So, how do you want to be remembered – as a tormentor or a mentor?
Maybe it’s time to boost your emotional intelligence!
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.