It’s always surprising to me how, as communications professionals, we frequently fail to communicate with those closest to us – our co-workers. We get busy. We get stressed out. It’s easy to complain and let the days get away from us.
At every workplace, there are the folks everyone goes to when something goes wrong – and maybe even when things go right. If you’re fortunate enough to work in an office with an official mentoring program, you’re ahead of the game. But even then, the “official” nature of the program could get in the way of total honesty. Real “communication.”
If you’re in public relations, you’re going to do a lot of “wondering,” especially if you’re just starting out. “I wonder why nobody is answering my emails.” “I wonder if anybody else has ever been hung up on.” “I wonder what my supervisor really wants.” We all need to wonder aloud from time to time, especially when we’re feeling discouraged. If you’re a supervisor, at times like those, it’s important to practice a “mentoring attitude.” It will benefit everyone in the office.
How do you adopt a mentoring attitude? Try these six things to get started:
Have an open-door policy
Okay, your door doesn’t have to actually be open all the time, but it’s important never to be “too busy” to help out a colleague. If someone comes to speak with you, take a moment to hear him out. You’ve always got five minutes – especially in cases where someone is feeling insecure and could use advice. If you turn him away the first time, odds are good he won’t come back. That’s a missed opportunity.
You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the shining example of everything everyone in our business wants to be. Who is, really? Share your own fears and concerns with others. Show them who you are. You’re likely to learn more about the other person if you are willing to open up about yourself. And, maybe you can even get help from the person who thought they needed it from you.
If you disagree with someone, keep listening. The worst thing you can do is jump in and try to convince that person that what she is feeling is “wrong.” It’s an automatic conversation ender.
Listen without judgment
Maybe you disagree. Know the time and the place to offer a contrasting opinion. It may well be in your current conversation, or it may be the next day. Whenever the time feels right, make sure to frame your response in a way that offers “another way to approach” the issue.
Make their issue your issue
When someone comes to you with a problem, or even if he just needs to vent, make an effort to be part of the solution. It’s true, there may be times when all you need to do is listen. However, if you think there’s a way you can lighten your colleague’s load, or show him that his concerns are being heard, do it. Actions will speak volumes.
Just because somebody made the choice to tell you something doesn’t mean it needs to be shouted from the rooftops for all to hear. If you want to engender trust in others, learn to keep confidences. Unless someone is in danger or requests that you share something, keep it between the two of you. Let what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas.
My best mentors in the communications field have always had my back. They know how to listen, and they never ever lay a problem at my feet that they aren’t willing to help me solve. They teach me how to be not only a better professional, but also a better person. Try to make a difference for someone every day by communicating and practicing your mentoring attitude. It’s worth the time.