How Do You Transform from a Manager to a Mentor?


The first sense of authority and responsibility sets into a professional when they are promoted to become a ‘manager’. They’re finally asked to handle a team, their seniors put them in charge serious tasks, and they’re answerable for all changes and decisions undertaken.

When they get promoted further, they’re in charge of bigger teams- teams that aren’t made of employees who carry out the jobs, but people who are in charge of them. When they’re a senior professional, they lead a team of managers. Their role broadens, and where they were solely in charge of getting work done and reaching or achieving tasks on time, they are now in charge of multiple dimensions. Being a mentor is not restricted to the number of promotions alone, but is composed of different layers. Expertise and obligations that are required to not only complete the tasks but also affect the culture, the behavior, and the harmony in the midst of their employees are required.

A mentor is many a time juxtaposed to a manager. However, one has to realize the complexity of the role of a mentor, and learn how to differentiate between the two:

  1.       The Manager Focuses on the Goal Whereas the Mentor Cares About the Players

The manager’s sole purpose in the company is to achieve goals- those that have been assigned to him by his seniors, or those that he has promised to accomplish himself. He is directly in charge of resources that he can use to accomplish his goals, and his job ends as ends the task.

The mentor, however, does not stop where the work does. A good mentor knows that the task was not about him, but about them. He actively indulges in follow-ups, learnings, and the betterment of the performance of the employees and their resources.

Every act or task that is assigned to the employee is a new opportunity for them to grow, and an effective mentor understands the necessity of maintaining an excellent relationship with his employees. He knows how important they are as people, more so, as they are executors of the company’s plans and actions. Robotic delegation of work has a high probability of wearing out the employees mentally, which is why they need to invest themselves in keeping the tasks challenging and the employees engaged.

  1.       The Manager Cares About Single Dimensional Growth Whereas the Mentor Cares About Guidance

Delegation of the same kind of work that your employees are good at will lead to monotony- and the task of the manager is to realize how good they are at what kind of work.

The role of the manager is to achieve his targets by the deadline assigned to him- to optimize the entire process, he breaks the task into little manageable pieces, and delegates the same to those who he thinks will be the best to handle them.

His job ends where every employee out-performs the task that he was always good at. The manager has complete faith in the capabilities of the employee in that aspect. However, that can lead to monotony and growth in just one single aspect of his job.

A mentor does not stop there. Since he is in charge of leaders, he expects his employees to be well versed and familiar with all the different aspects of the business. There is no ‘one department’, or job that they belong to once they handle the project in its entirety.

A good mentor will guide the manager through the process of the task, and make sure that his employee (the manager) figures out the flow of the process. He helps the manager build a mind frame that helps him optimize the work so that it is efficiently achieved through delegation. To monitor the thought process of the employee to make him an efficient problem solver is the job of the mentor.

  1.       The Manager Wants Them to Be One-Sided Whereas the Mentor Wants Them to Be Focused

The manager’s job is contained to getting the best man to do his job in the best way possible- getting him to do any other job is the root cause of distraction, and can make the entire process of delegation inefficacious. The manager does believe in helping his employee grow, but his primary aim throughout the process is to make his employee even better than what he is right now- so that when his team is asked to handle the same job again in the future, the employee performs better than he did previously.

His intentions are completely benign, but that can lead to the employee only channeling his thoughts in one particular direction. This can lead to the most common case of ‘that’s not my job’, which can be a problem later on.

A good mentor, however, requires his employee to be completely focused. A focused employee is well aware of his job, the other departments involved in the job, and the exact job and amount of responsibility that is required by the other departments.

A mentor understands the importance of focus- it gives the team a central point that they can work around collectively. They know a generic, yet specified goal for their actions. That helps provide them a direction, without making them undiversified

             4.       The Manager Teaches Them the Skills They Need Whereas the Mentor Teaches Them the Skills They Want

The manager is appointed the task of teaching his employees the skills that he believes will be necessary to get the work done. After the employee gets a hang of the procedure, a mechanical repetition of the same will be enough to get the work done again, maybe a few more times. This will only work until the day the employee is allotted something new/bigger that requires more skills to be learnt. Once that happens, the manager gets back to work and teaches the employee additional skills that are required to get the work done.

However, a mentor does not believe in ‘teaching skills’ or making his juniors ‘learn’ the procedure. A good mentor equips his employees with a thought process, a flow of thought that helps him solve problems on his own. This pattern of thought comes to use to the manager even outside the workplace, for a mentor who incorporates a rational and strategic flow of thought has ensured an employee whose expertise is not limited to his cubicle.

  1.       The Manager Aspires to Solve the Problem Whereas the Mentor Cares About the Root Cause

Problems in front of a manager are roadblocks that are meant to be solved. Temporary fixing gets their wagon moving, and the task is back on its way.

The manager uses his own problem-solving abilities to deal with a problem. Since his employees are not as experienced as him, it is only wise to step in himself and find a solution for the same.

A mentor, however, takes a different route.

The famous ‘5 Why analysis’ is commonly used by mentors, to help reach the root cause of the problem. The roadblock is questioned- why did this happen? When the cause is discovered, they ask why that happened. It is believed that after 5 whys, they reach the root cause of the problem.

The mentor realizes the importance of the root cause of the problem and works with his team to eliminate that cause. The solution is never temporary, for the root cause is usually something that can cause a similar kind of problem later on. He then progresses to amend the same at the base level.

It is not mandatory for the mentor to be someone incredibly senior to a normal manager. Anybody with concern and rationality of thought, who wants their employees to become future leaders, will work towards incorporating these skills into them.

Knowledge imparted may be limited- but the experiences gained, and the opportunities to channel this very knowledge to application are not. Every senior who is in charge of his employees should aspire to become a mentor so that their employees become the best version of themselves.

Vivek Seth
Influential decision-maker who optimizes business processes, operations, revenue growth and profitability on a global scale.

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