Warning: You’re Wasting Time by NOT Mentoring

[What’s that old saying? Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym…]

By now, you should know the importance of mentoring in the workplace. If you have an HR department, you may have a mentoring program of some kind — and even if you don’t, you  probably know mentoring is one of the best ways to develop in your career. Over the last 8 years, I’ve had a lot of experience as a mentor, tutor, and teacher. And luckily for me, I’ve had even more experience being mentored, tutored, and taught.

In my mind, mentoring is kind of a big deal.

Whether you’re in a leadership role at work or not, you have the opportunity to mentor others on a daily basis. But, the problem is…

Sometimes Mentoring Makes People Hate Their Jobs

Okay, you caught me; my subheading is misleading. Mentoring doesn’t make people hate their jobs, and being mentored can lead to some awesome opportunities for personal development. But when people don’t understand how the learning process works, they’re more likely to be frustrated when they’re asked to mentor — or manage — others in their workplace.

Some people don’t understand how mentoring and teaching intersect, and that can cause a breakdown in a team’s communication and productivity.

And that leads to the belief that mentoring is a waste of time.

I’ve seen this happen a hundred times with gifted, competent people who, because they shine at doing their jobs, are seen as experts by their managers and coworkers. Whether they’re in management or not is irrelevant — their skills and attitude place them in positions where they’re asked to help younger or more inexperienced members of the team.

It just makes sense: Krista is doing an awesome job! Man, if she could help Gavin learn how to work like that, our productivity would grow and we’d be more efficient!

And when these star performers agree — or offer — to train a coworker without understanding how to teach, they may end up doing the entire job themselves because they see it as faster than taking the time to teach. Now, a star player is doing 1.5+ people’s jobs, and they’re miserable.


Because by doing a task/managing a project/handling an emergency in front of someone — rather than working with someone and teaching well —doesn’t lead to real learning. Rather than coaching their coworker, the star player has created a new problem: their mentee has to come back for more help because they haven’t been enabled to manage the situation on their own.

Twice the time. None of the payoff.

That’s Why You Have to Understand How Teaching Works

Understanding the psychology of teaching isn’t confined to the classroom: it’s vital for happy teams. And mentoring is a part of networking, too, so if you struggle with teaching others or being taught, then you’ll want to work on understanding how teaching works. Teaching is more than showing: you have to explain and make connections for the person learning.

What’s the main takeaway?

Great mentoring takes time. It’s an investment in the person you’re working in, not the task they’re working on. 

Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.

Have any awesome — or horrific— stories about mentoring? Leave ’em in the comments below!

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