best utilize their knowledge? Finally, how do you become a good
HONING DIFFERENT SKILL SETS
Mentoring is important because some skills are complicated
and require time, discussion, and insight in order to develop.
According to Byers, there are three categories of skills:
● Content – specific knowledge necessary to perform your job
duties (for example, milestones in skiing and riding, a sample
beginner progression, learning preferences and teaching styles,
your school’s policies and procedures)
● Abilities – things you inherently do at work (for example,
listening, problem-solving, counseling, analyzing, organizing)
● Qualities – personal traits that help you accomplish tasks (for
example, intelligence, being conscientious, being caring and
kind, being focused)
In order to be successful, you need to have all three kinds of skills.
“My clients don’t just want training in content,” Byers says. “They
want to learn the abilities and qualities.” Learning these more
subtle and complicated skills takes a different kind of training – a
kind of training that involves a relationship and not necessarily an
instructor standing in front of a group. (Of course, a skilled trainer
can teach abilities and qualities, but these sorts of skills may need to
develop over time. This is where a mentor would come in.)
All ski and ride schools offer training programs for instructors.
Whether free or for a fee, in the early season only or ongoing,
instructors can usually find opportunities to prep for upcoming
certification exams, expand their teaching knowledge, or improve
their personal skiing and riding. I have never heard of a school,
however, that offers a formalized mentoring program – that is, a
program that matches or connects new instructors with seasoned
pros or knowledge-filled veterans in order to grow or develop the
abilities and qualities that are so important in performing our jobs.
According to Byers, the snowsports business is not alone. “In
my experience, there is very little formal mentoring happening
in the workplace right now,” Byers says. In fact, the complaint
she hears most often from her clients – people who are looking
to change their career – in regard to management or leadership
at their jobs is that they are not receiving any mentoring. What,
then, should an employee do?
First off, take Byers’ advice the next time you change jobs in
any field: When you are offered a new job, ask what mentoring
opportunities will be available. Then be sure to discuss those
areas of your professional life that you’d like to continue to grow.
Most readers holding this magazine, however, already have jobs
in snowsports instruction. For those of you who never talked to
your employer at your time of hire, what should you do?
“Sometimes employees need to seek out mentoring
opportunities,” Byers says. “They don’t always come to you.” One
logical place to look is to your snowsports school’s leadership. In
many cases, our directors, training managers, and supervisors serve
as mentors – teaching us, taking us under their wings, guiding
us. After all, they have the knowledge, expertise, and experience
we’re looking for. What they might not always have, however, is
time. Across the spectrum of workplaces, says Byers, people – and
particularly managers – are being asked to do more with fewer
resources. Mentoring takes time, and – whether they want to help
or not – bosses can have serious demands on theirs.
So, where do you turn next? The first step in identifying a
worthy mentor is to look within. “Ask yourself what, specifically,
do I want to improve?” Byers says. Then look around you. Who
do you see? Your colleagues. Maybe you have trouble holding kids’
attention for six hours in full-day lessons. You observe a colleague,
however, whose groups are always enraptured. The colleague seems
to have a way with kids and a gift for presenting information in a
kid-friendly way. That is someone you should be talking to!
Maybe you’re a part-time instructor who works only at the
busiest times of the season – when the lodges and slopes are
jammed and there are even liftlines in lesson express lanes. You
observe a veteran who never loses his cool, who navigates the chaos
with seeming ease. That is a potential guide for you!
MY CLIENTS DON’T JUST WANT TRAINING
IN CONTENT, THEY WANT TO LEARN THE
ABILITIES AND QUALITIES. — ELLIE BYERS