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Learn from a Leader: Leading Interns

learn from a leader Jul 10, 2022

There’s value in being in a space where you can watch someone work. Learn from their example. But there’s additional value in having conversations through that process.

This is a leadership reminder from Kristin Scheelar, associate winemaker at Columbia Winery: “Create an environment where interns don’t feel insecure about asking elementary questions.”

The first step in that process is encouraging and inviting interns to ask questions, but if you want them to take advantage of those opportunities it’s helpful to go one step further.

Simply saying, “I’m here if you have any questions” sounds open and encouraging until you consider saying something like: 

“I love talking about _____. If you have any questions around ____ please come find me because that’s my jam.”

That is a very specific message. There’s no confusion surrounding what an intern should ask you about. The phrasing not only encourages questions but invites them. Being intentional and specific with your messaging creates a culture where people can ask the questions they need answered.

Here are a few other ways to invite interns to ask questions:

"I remember having questions about _____. I'm happy to share what I learned if that's helpful." 

"It's not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by ______. If you start to feel that way, I'm happy to be a sounding board."

"I felt embarrassed when I asked about _____ when I was an intern, but it was the best question I could have asked because ______."

Each one of these statements conveys the same message, “I’m here to help” but they also create an environment in which interns can confidently ask elementary questions that help them understand, grow and learn.

This approach to helping others shouldn’t be seasonal and limited to interns. Everyone in your office benefits from more intentional and strategic messaging. The next time you offer a helping hand, make it easy for colleagues by identifying projects you love to work on and topics you can share insights about. 



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