National Teaching Day is a great time to celebrate the contributions of not just teachers who taught us in school, but to express appreciation for the valuable lessons received from workplace mentors. Teachers and mentors both play a crucial role in our personal development. They provide plenty of teachable moments, from telling us it’s okay to make mistakes to teaching us how important it is to take risks.
The lessons we learn from teachers also frame the way we mentor in the workplace. Here, we explore five successful strategies that teachers can pass on to their students, who in turn, take the learnings straight into the workplace.
Making mistakes can be a good thing
Failure doesn’t have to be something that’s frowned upon. In fact, it is one of the best growth opportunities. Good teachers and mentors alike can help employees, especially new managers, realize that mistakes are one of the best ways to learn. What’s important is how we apply the lessons to our own personal development. Making mistakes can teach us to be humble, discover who we are and live without regret.
Making mistakes is part of life — in and out of the office. When we learn from our teachers and mentors that no one is perfect, we’re better able to take risks and transform us into better people. Good teachers and mentors can help students recognize when they’ve made mistakes and pass along strategies to avoid making them in the future.
Asking questions is the best way to grow
When we’re young, asking questions comes more naturally than when we’re older. In fact, children ask questions around 70 to 80 percent of the time, compared to 15 to 25 percent of the time for adults, a Harvard Business Review study found.
Unfortunately, many companies, whether intentionally or not, can easily send a detrimental message that accepting “what is” is a way for employees to stay safe and hold on to their jobs. Good teachers and mentors, however, encourage us to ask questions and stay curious.
Staying silent can lead to poor decision-making but asking questions is a surefire way to increase confidence and encourage creativity. By diving deeper, we’re better able to challenge assumptions. Companies should do what they can to foster and open environment and encourage employees at all levels to ask more questions instead of rushing to get the job done or hurrying to present an answer.
Give helpful, constructive feedback
We all remember what it feels like when someone tells us we could be doing something better. As awkward and uncomfortable as criticism can be, receiving helpful feedback is one of the best ways that teachers can help students and that mentors can help their mentees. Learning what we’re good at and what we need to work on is crucial to growth. Without feedback, we’re inclined to stay stuck.
Mentors should take care to offer feedback in the right way. Good feedback uplifts and inspires. Feedback can be considered constructive if it helps the person improve their work and encourages them to do better next time by offering a specific course of action. One technique commonly used by mentors is to start off offering positive feedback, then discuss areas of improvement before returning to end on a positive note.
Take smart, educated risks
Good teachers encourage students to stretch themselves and to take smart risks. This is crucial for all employees but especially millennials, who need to feel like they’re being seen and that their skills are valued. This is crucial if companies want to keep them at their organizations.
Companies that don’t encourage their people to take chances, especially up-and-coming leaders, are at risk of losing some of their best people. Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S., and they want to work for companies that value their personal growth and help them advance in their careers. A sign of a good teacher is one that encourages the student to take a risk and builds trust to do so.
Listen with an empathetic ear
Good teachers and mentors make time to listen and are always there to lend an ear when it’s needed. They are available to help when someone is facing a challenge or going through a difficult situation. When teachers ask their students about the problems they face, students stand a better chance of doing the same at their organizations if they decide to mentor young talent.
Often times, mentees can navigate their way through problems and come up with solutions on their own just by having the chance to talk through it openly. Having a good listener on your side is crucial for both students and mentees.
A long-lasting commitment
Mentoring, like teaching, is a way to give back over the long-term. National Teaching Day is an opportune time to express appreciation not just for teachers but for mentors, too, and the lasting contributions they make to our lives.