As a small business owner, you forge strong bonds with your staff and serve as their teachers, whether you realize it or not. Foster better, more honest relationships with those team members with these great tips from our recent panel on small business mentoring.

1. Be respectful. Maria Contreras-Sweet, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s current chief, says mentors should avoid ‘gotcha’ moments. Instead, see critiques as a chance to be someone’s champion and to offer help and guidance.

2. Seek to understand, not judge. Poornima Vijayashanker suggests you lead with compassion and the desire to understand your staffer mentees to know what’s driving their decisions before rushing to judgment. Jenn Piepszak, a national sales executive at Chase, agrees. “Truth-telling is very effective when combined with empathy,” adding that understanding the context of the development opportunity is essential.

3. Be good to them. Truth-telling depends on trust. Build trust with staff you’re mentoring by removing obstacles in their path and giving them the resources they need, suggests Contreras-Sweet.


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