Managers play a key role in making sure mentors can do their work well and feel supported. In the pages about learning, personal feelings and looking after yourself, you'll find some tips for managers inserted in pertinent places. Don't underestimate the importance of maintaining communication with the education provider if applicable. On this page, I bring together the tips for managers that are embedded in the pages of the kit.
When considering 'knowledge brokering'
Mentor preparation programmes should enable mentors to explore their attitudes to, and experience of, workplace learning.
Consider whether you can help to create learning situations where people can make mistakes safely.
When considering 'letting learn'
Stay alert to signs of strain in workplace relationships where learners are involved. Offer support to mentors/buddies.
It is helpful to foster productive relationships with your education and training provider. Agree on mechanisms for learners to obtain information in advance and arrange informal visits if possible, before they start work.
Ensure your employees have thought about and documented the learning opportunities in your organisation. Make sure these opportunities are compatible with the programmes of learning you are supporting.
When considering 'visible or invisible learning'
If your employees are supporting learners, and especially if they need to assess their progress, ask them periodically what the challenges are. Make sure there are good links with the education provider.
Managing personal feelings
Managing guilt and conscience
Mentors are often in situations that make them feel guilty. They may feel stuck ‘between a rock and a hard place’ when their daily decisions can make them feel that they are not always doing the best for their mentees, if there is conflict with maintaining a service. They can feel torn loyalties if the needs and wishes of their mentees are not aligned with other work priorities or professional demands.
It can help to keep a watching brief with this in mind.
Understanding feelings and objectivity
If you are responsible for mentors, particularly those who are ‘professional gatekeepers’, be aware of the important place of feelings and intuitions. In a world where rational decisions hold sway, take time to listen to some of the less tangible intuitions of your experienced staff.
Working with hidden emotions
Emotional labour can be draining. It could help to arrange intermittent informal get-togethers where staff can have frank conversations about how they are managing their feelings in front of clients, colleagues and learners.
Supporting mentors to look after themselves
When considering Self-regulation
Ensure there are sufficient opportunities for your mentors (and other staff too) to take breaks during a working day. Mentors may need some respite from mentoring over the longer term.
Mentors may need additional provision for emotional support during challenging periods.
When considering stress
Be aware of any pressures associated with professional regulation to which your mentors may be subject.
Ask whether your mentors are finding it difficult to obtain all the necessary information about either their mentees or their learning and assessment needs.
Offer a sympathetic ear if a mentor appears to be challenged by job demands.
When considering trust
It helps if managers recognise the skills, attributes, commitment and vulnerability of mentors. Such open recognition, along with paying attention to mentors’ well-being, has the additional potential to strengthen mentoring practice.
Consider how you might promote psychological safety in your organisation. For example, organisations can actively promote psychological safety in teams by:
- being openly supportive towards individuals
- minimising conflict
- nurturing individuals’ potential
- nurturing a sense of community
When considering professional will
Employers and managers need to be prepared to facilitate an atmosphere that values, inspires and supports mentors. Take an active interest and make time to talk to mentors about their work. Try celebrating the work of your mentors in staff newsletters or through mentor awards.