Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

Definition of MentorNote the definition of mentor, above, copied and pasted out of the Cambridge dictionary. It’s a slightly confusing word because it can be a noun or a verb. The noun is the person actually giving the help –
A Mentor. The verb is the act of giving help or advice – to mentor. 

All those years ago when I started this gig at SRG, I had never had a steady writing opportunity. I had had other articles published in different places, but nothing steady where I had deadlines every month and specific guidelines that needed to be followed. It was different. When I had problems or things weren’t working out or I needed advice I had my editor Larry to fall back on. Back then he was a big help. 

He was a big help for a lot of reasons. He was clear about what he wanted. He was open to dialogue. He wasn’t vague about how he needed things to be and he always made sure I understood what was expected. All these years later, he is still there but I don’t need him for advice quite as often as I used to. These days mostly I just check in with a “Hi, how are you?”

However, there was a time when I was writing about something that was a bit out of my league. I put it on paper and I hated it. I knew it wasn’t right but I didn’t know how to fix it. That time I turned to another writer on the SRG - Peter. Y’all know him as Peter Marcucci. He’s on the cover of the SRG a lot and he turned out to be a great help and resource when I needed it, every time I needed it.

What is the point to all this? The point is that we should not throw the “newbie” to the wolves or let them figure it out by themselves and we shouldn’t leave their training up to just one person. Everybody needs to pitch in. It’s not uncommon for someone to say that the new person slows them down or they are too busy to train. It’s quicker and easier to just let the more experienced/trained person do it. Unfortunately that doesn’t help anybody. The new person gets frustrated because they can’t help or do anything. The boss doesn’t want to pay someone to do nothing, and the person who is supposed to do the training and doesn’t, can’t get help when they need it. It’s a lose – lose – lose situation for everyone. 

Before the new person starts have the head of their department come up with a training plan and who is going to help. If someone says they don’t have time or they are too busy, lighten their load a little bit if you can until the “newbie” is going down the right path. 

When the new person comes on board, sit down and talk to them. Don’t point out the shop door and say “Go see the guy in the pickup. You’re riding with him.” Make sure to have a conversation about exactly what you expect and who they can turn to for help. If you hire a helper for a truck and you have multiple crews, let him go with all your crews a couple of days so he can see how things work. If you hire a fab guy, show him your set up from start to finish. Don’t just stick him in a position and leave him. Let him understand how the job gets to him and what happens after it leaves him. If you hire an office person, let them sit with everyone for a couple of days to see how the flow goes and what gets done by whom. Even if you hire someone with previous experience, remember, all companies are not alike. They each come with a different set of rules and expectations. Make sure yours are clear and there is no confusion.

After a week or two, sit down with the new person and ask them how things are going. Ask them how you can help them. Walking past them in the hall and asking them  how things are going is not the way to get the best answer. They are just going to say “Great” and keep on going. Make sure they understand that if there is any kind of issue, they can say it without fear or repercussion. If the new person is part of a team, talk to the team leader. Get their feedback as well. If the new person is a leader or manager, talk to the other team members and get their feedback on the new leader’s performance and attitude. Not everything always goes 100 percent great from the beginning. It’s better to address small things in the beginning before they become big things down the road. 

Granted, every person is not right for every job, but the “right” new person’s success will benefit the company and the other employees. Keep in mind that is not instant. It takes work and communication from everyone. It’s on all of us to make a new person successful.

Please send your thoughts on this article to Sharon Koehler at