Plumbing Tricks of the Trade: How to Mentor the Next Generation
Updated: Jul 11, 2019
Plumbing is a profession for those that value hard work and working with their hands. Learning on-the-job skills takes time, but even with shadowing, how can an established plumber make way for the next generation?
Sharing plumbing tricks of the trade and your know-how as a mentor and leader is a great start.
We have compiled some tips below on how to use your skills to become a strong mentor to the next generation of plumbers so that you can pass on the torch with confidence.
Becoming a Strong Mentor
Like any job, being a mentor requires the right skills, temperament, and goals. Do you have what it takes to be a good mentor? Below are some key traits needed if you are considering mentoring.
Desire to Help Others
If you have decided you want to mentor the technicians in your shop you already have this quality. Helping the next generation succeed is the goal of mentoring.
Strong mentors don’t let themselves feel threatened by newer talent. They understand that everything improves when all are working together on a team and want to actively help the team grow together.
Willingness to Share What You Know
You may have worked years, or even decades, to acquire the skills, knowledge and plumbing tricks of the trade that you now possess.
Are you willing to share this information with others? If the idea of passing your knowledge along is an exciting one, then you would make a fantastic leader to the person who may eventually run a shop.
Clear Communication Skills
Possessing knowledge is the first step to mentoring, but the ability to clearly teach this knowledge is also key. You want your student to learn quickly and effectively; being a clear and concise communicator will help expedite the learning process.
Some ways to help improve your communication skills as a mentor is to listen more than you speak.
When posed with a new challenge that you know your technician could handle, let them by not providing all the answers or doing the work for them.
Guide your technician by asking “What do you think?” or “Tell me how you would handle this situation.” Listen to their answers and provide feedback on their solution. Be sure to remember that there isn’t necessarily a right and wrong way to do things. Of course, if how they want to do something is dangerous, incorrect, or otherwise highly questionable be sure to teach. But if the approach they provide is just different from how you would do it or you know it may take them longer than other but it could work, let them try it out.
If you coach and guide rather than talk and direct, it’ll help your mentees begin to find their own way of working, learn by experience, and still have the safe oversight from you.
Motivation to Develop and Grow
Being a mentor not only helps your mentee develop and grow, it helps you as well. Mentoring is a two-way street, so keep an open mind and be willing to learn as much from your mentee as they learn from you.
Not only will you be helping the younger generation, you will be helping yourself and your business too. Ask them to tell you something that you’re curious about. Perhaps their job is quite different from when you held a similar position. What challenges do they face and how have they solved them?
Being a mentor means staying on top of new trends, technologies, and processes. In order to pass down useful knowledge, it is key to stay updated on what is new in the plumbing industry.
Being naturally inquisitive will help keep you motivated to do your research, read journals, and join groups to stay in the know.
Mentoring can be an extremely rewarding process, but at times it can be frustrating and tedious. Remember where your mentee is coming from, and what it felt like to be in their shoes. Keep an objective mind and never assume that your mentee “should know that already.” Everyone learns at a different pace, and everyone has a different backstory. Being patient, compassionate, and open will give you the tools to help even the most challenged student learn from you.
Allowing others to sometimes fail is often the best lesson they can get from you. Delegate tasks they can take on with increasing difficulty knowing that if something goes wrong, it is still a net positive for both you and your technician in training.
Now you know what traits you need in order to be a good mentor, how do you make your mentorship a success? Follow the tips below.
1. Set Goals
Have clear goals to make sure you have an objective to meet. This approach will help you have a richer mentoring experience while passing on plumbing tricks of the trade.
What kind of progress do you want to see? What are the most important things for your young plumber to learn? What skills are most need developing and how long do you have to work together? What are they most interested in getting stronger in – where do their strengths lie?
If you can set up some goals for things to accomplish, training and preparing your next generation to run your shop will be much quicker.
2. Set Aside Mentor Time
This will assure that your mentee gets the time with you that they need, and that you are not taking time away from your business. Setting a consistent schedule is good for both of you.
Once a week, once a month; whatever works is better than “whenever we think about it.” Structure will make sure that your sessions happen and give you the opportunity to explore how the mentee is progressing against their goals.
3. Get to Know Your Mentee
This step can sometimes be difficult, especially if there is large age gap between you. But getting to know your mentee will be the key to successfully helping them in the long run. If you know their goals, their fears, their strengths and weaknesses, you will be better able to help them learn and grow as individuals. And along with helping them, you will forge a strong bond for life.
4. Be a Good Role Model
We all know the saying “do as I say, not as I do”. In a healthy mentorship this attitude will never fly. Setting a good example is the best way to establish trust with your mentee, and to teach how to be the best plumber and business person they can be. Showing positive plumbing tricks of the trade like professionalism, respect, a love for learning, a good work ethic, and a positive attitude will not go unnoticed by your mentee.
5. Give Feedback
Giving feedback is essential to the learning process. Let your mentee know how they are doing. If they are completing tasks successfully, let them know; likewise if they need improvement do not be afraid to tell them. However, be careful not to micro-manage your mentee. Give them space to try things out and make mistakes before you pipe in. Learning by doing can be very effective for many students.
Finally, do not neglect to listen to your mentee. What questions do they have? How is the process going? Have they learned what they need to learn? Be a sounding board for them; a safe place where they can ask questions and share fears and desires for the future. Creating a safe learning environment will give them room to learn and grow.
Being a successful mentor can be one of the most satisfying experiences of your plumbing and drain cleaning career. If you have the desire, the know-how, and the patience, consider sharing it with the next generation of plumbers. You will be glad you did.
What plumbing tricks of the trade would you share with the next generation? Share with us!