How To Be A Great Mentor: 5 Traits to Cultivate Now

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“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”

~ Robert Frost ~

Randy is more than a little anxious. He’s been moving ahead rapidly on the fast track with his company and he knows that his C-level managers see him as an emerging leader. Now, however, his boss has just presented him with a new challenge: mentor two employees who have just joined the firm. Randy has had a few good mentors in the past, but there’s a big difference between having one and being one. And he hasn’t been one since he tutored his girlfriend in math when they were high school seniors. He needs to be ready in two weeks. What to do first?

Like all creative leaders, Randy begins to brainstorm and research. Within a few hours, he has the outline of a game plan and knows exactly what he needs to do to become a great mentor:

  • Develop a servant mentality
  • Ask the right questions
  • Cultivate their strengths
  • Model executive presence
  • Put them in the spotlight

1. Develop a servant mentality. The mentee is the star of your little show, so always keep him or her in the limelight. They may not be comfortable there, at least in the beginning. Every actor has butterflies on opening night, after all. Your job is to cheerlead, comfort, and encourage. And stay in the background.

2. Ask the right questions. Robert Ridel, in his book Critical Thinking for Everyday Life, says that “to question is to understand.” Probing, open-ended questions often lead other people to discover answers and ideas that they didn’t know they had. Always approach questioning from the positive point of view:

  • Why do you think that worked so well?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • If you were the client, what questions would you ask?

3. Cultivate their strengths. Being in a new position, or with a new company, is challenging in itself. Fear of failure may lie pretty close to the surface. Now is the time to remind your mentee of what she or he has already accomplished. They landed this job, didn’t they? And that was based on a track record of prior successes. Get them to talk about those successes and how to translate them into the current environment. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the downside. As George Lucas said, when discussing Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, “Mentors have a way of seeing more of our faults than we would like. It’s the only way we grow.” You can see both sides but always accentuate the positive.

4. Model executive presence. You already have the right skills and attitude. That’s why you were chosen to become a mentor. You are not only talented, you create an impact when you enter the room. You know how to influence others, and you consistently provide added value to every project you manage. Always demonstrate these traits when working with your mentees. Come from a place of teaching, not from ego. 

Good approach: “We just made a really successful presentation. Why do you think it worked?”

Not so good: “Wow! That was fantastic. I just love it when I knock it out of the park.”

5. Put them in the spotlight. When your mentee scores a win, give him the credit. Let him know when he hits a home run. Don’t hesitate to brag to your peers and C-level executives about what a great job he’s doing. Then use that win as a foundation for continuing to grow.

Six months after Randy took on his first two mentees, he was asked to develop a mentoring model to be implemented company-wide. Today, mentoring is a way of life, based on the initial plan he put together.

Are you about to become a mentor? Or are you already a mentor and need some new ideas to motivate your mentees? Email Joel today for his suggestions.

Talkback: Have you successfully mentored employees or others in your industry? What tips would you like to share with our readers?

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The Power of Gratitude in the Workplace

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If [thankfulness] were a drug it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.”

~ Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy. ~

Client Malcom Asks: There’s such a grumpy mood in the office. Everyone seems so negative… and with all the news you can’t blame them. What’s one thing I can do to add some positive energy and get us all more upbeat? How can I turn my current job into my dream job.

Coach Joel Answers: If you’re you trying to change your attitude, and feel better both physically and mentally, I have a solution. It sounds simple, but hear me out.

Scientific studies back up what I’m about to tell you. The answer is gratitude.

First, I’m going to tell you what it does for you. Then I’ll tell you how to get it… and more importantly keep it.

You see, the things we focus on, enlarge. The more you… and the office… focus on negative things, the larger and more powerful they are. With that negativity comes increased stress and all the illnesses that accompany that.

  • Physical Benefits of Gratitude

When you start to fill your mind with positive things, you are happier and healthier. Amazingly, focusing on gratitude doesn’t just make you feel better, it actually makes things better. Your physical health, emotional and mental health, clarity of thought, fewer aches and pains, better sleep—all come with gratitude!

Gratitude actually changes the way your body works. It lowers cortisol and slows the inflammatory immune system. It can moderate blood pressure and blood sugar levels and adjust mood neurotransmitters. Duke University studies have measured the effects of gratitude in these areas.

Can you see the increase in workplace energy that would come as everyone felt better physically?

  • Emotional Benefits of Gratitude

But there are also emotional benefits. When people focus on gratitude they are happier and more willing to help others. It can translate into confidence. People feel more valued and appreciated. They see that they are moving toward success.

This change can make your office alive with possibilities and energy. Chances are you’ll feel more creative. And studies show gratitude increases feelings of cooperation and help build stronger teams.

Why does it work?

Again, that which you focus on gets stronger. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says that focusing on gratitude creates neural pathways in the brain that become superhighways to happiness and inner strength.

And when the brain changes, behaviors change. You take better care of yourself. Your stress level goes down. You stay healthy. You feel better. You have more energy to accomplish more things. You create a dynamic workplace that’s fun to work in.

How can I make it work for me?

The good news is that it’s easy to get started. Start looking for things to be grateful for. When you look, you’ll see them. Here are additional ways to bring gratitude into your life and the life of your office.

1. Hold yourself accountable. Keep a daily gratitude journal and commit to writing at least three things you’re grateful for each day. Every day. They don’t have to be big things. It might be a sunset, or getting the lights all green or doing well on a presentation.

2. Say thank you. And mean it. Show appreciation for all the small things people do for you at work. Thank the person who held the door open for you. Send a note of appreciation to the co-worker who helped you with a project. You feel good and you make someone else feel good.

3. Continually look for things to appreciate. Decide to tell one of your co-workers, your spouse, or friend something you appreciate about them every day. If you believe in a higher power, spent time sending appreciation that way.

4. Give thanks for what you have. Realize you have more than 9/10th of the rest of the world according to Forbes Better Life Index. You’re even better off than the richest 10% in France, Japan or Italy. When you find yourself dissatisfied or focusing on what you lack, stop and be grateful for what you have.

While it won’t happen overnight, you can expect to feel happier and more enthusiastic sooner than you might imagine as you consciously practice gratitude. The longer you focus on gratitude the more you will find health and happiness benefits.

You and your co-workers will create a more vibrant, energetic office as they join you in strengthening the gratitude pathways of the mind.

Tired of your office atmosphere and looking to feel better about it? Contact Joel for personal help to put gratitude to work in your life and office.

Talkback: What gratitude tips have you tried and seen the impact and value it’s had on your life. Please share examples below. Thanks so much.

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Challenge your Employees through
Coaching and Mentoring Programs

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“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”

~ Robert Frost ~

Dana’s staff is constantly asking her what they need to do to get promoted. Her four direct reports are especially anxious to move ahead in the company. Neither the company nor Dana herself has a definitive mentoring program. She realizes that she needs to make some drastic changes in mentoring her staff in order to help them grow and be offered the opportunities they deserve.

In the absence of a formal corporate mentoring program, Dana takes steps to develop a mentoring program of her own. She meets with her direct reports and together they develop a simple two-part strategy. First, Dana will make new, high profile projects available to all who want them and encourage them to volunteer. Second, she will raise awareness of staff members’ accomplishments by proactively messaging not only her boss and peers but those C-level employees above them.
The four staff members left the meeting with their own personal action steps, and they also knew exactly what Dana planned to do to help them. She coached them on self-promotion techniques, such as copying the boss’s boss on project-related emails and planning appropriate times to speak up in meetings when projects they worked on were being discussed.

The group agreed on a one-month, three-month, and six-month review of the program. By the end of the first month, new projects were put on the table and Dana’s direct reports enthusiastically volunteered for their own projects. In addition, they took on some related lower level projects so they could begin to coach and mentor their own subordinates.

Dana scheduled regular one-on-ones with each of her direct reports and also put together a schedule of informal communications with her boss and other C-level managers to keep them informed about what her staff was doing.

At the three-month milestone, Dana noticed that a high level of enthusiasm had developed among her entire staff. Not only was the day-to-day work being accomplished more efficiently, they were excited about the opportunity to work on new initiatives, and some had even volunteered for cross-training in other departments.

After six months, Dana made a list of the tangible benefits that had resulted from the mentoring program, not only for her staff, but also for herself and the company as a whole. This is what she told her boss:

Benefits to the mentees:

  • Opportunity to take control of their own learning and career advancement.
  • A chance to develop valuable contacts in other parts of the company.
  • Significant improvement in their productivity and enthusiasm.

Benefits to herself as the mentor:

  • She had greatly enhanced her coaching and listening skills by working more closely with her direct reports.
  • She had gained notice and respect of higher-ups in the organization.
  • She felt validated and rewarded by passing on the value of her experience to those coming along behind her.

Benefits to the company:

  • Productivity had greatly improved across the entire work group.
  • Employees who were previously perceived as being “stuck” at their current level were re-energized.
  • Cross-functional teams were developed as Dana’s people spent time in other departments.

Many companies have formal mentoring programs that are of great benefit to their employees. In the absence of such a program, a single individual such as Dana can develop their own, providing significant benefits to the employees involved, the manager, and the company.

Do your people need a mentor? This week list five different ways you could start a mentoring program in your own department.

Talkback: Have you been a successful mentor? Or have you been mentored by someone who made a difference in your career? Share your story here.

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Can Proper Employee Coaching
Turn a Problem Employee into a “Superstar”

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“If somebody is gracious enough to give me a second chance, I won’t need a third.”

~ Pete Rose ~

Kimberly, a free-lance marketing consultant, landed an assignment to temporarily replace Jennifer, the VP of marketing at a large financial institution for six to twelve months. Jennifer was taking a leave due to complications from a high-risk pregnancy.

Because of her medical condition, she had very little time to brief Kimberly, but as she was leaving she informed Kimberly that she had just fired Jerry, a young IT guy—and the only IT guy in the department.

A couple of days later Jerry emailed Kimberly and asked if they could meet off-site for coffee. By this time, Kimberly had heard a little of the backstory on Jerry, the principle fact being that he was the son of the company’s CEO! Kimberly was a little intrigued by this political hot potato, so she agreed to meet him. Here are the facts as Jerry presented them to Kimberly:

  • Jerry’s former boss had indeed felt pressured to take him on because of his father’s status, although his father never asked for that favor.
  • Jerry’s boss did not respect his expertise in IT and did not accept any of his recommendations for moving key projects forward, even though Jerry felt he had come up with good solutions.
  • Other people in the department put him down in order to appear to agree with his boss, so he felt he had no peer support.

Jerry asked Kimberly to give him a second chance.

Kimberly admired Jerry’s initiative in telling her his story. She agreed to look at his proposal for completing the department’s major project, a revamp of the internal employee intranet. After reviewing his proposal, Kimberly felt he was on the right track so she went to her boss, Larry, and told him she wanted to rehire Jerry on a temporary basis to follow through on the intranet project. When Jerry completed that project, Kimberly and Larry would meet and reevaluate the situation. Larry agreed.

Kimberly brought Jerry back into the department with little fanfare and no explanation, other than that the team needed his help on this critical project, which was lagging way behind schedule. In the meantime, Kimberly expected Jerry to meet with her twice weekly —once for project updates, and once for employee coaching sessions to improving his communication skills and reframing his mindset that “everybody resents me because I’m the boss’s son.”

Kimberly started including Jerry in formal and informal department meetings as part of his employee coaching and having him report to the team on the progress of his project. She also paired him up with a couple of new-hires who needed some IT training. When the project was complete, they staged a big roll-out announcement, a department party to celebrate, and Kimberly made sure Jerry got a lot of kudos.

Based on Jerry’s initial success, Kimberly quickly found another project for him to work on and he continued to blossom. When the Jennifer returned from her maternity leave, she told Kimberly that she didn’t even recognize Jerry as the same person. And she decided to keep him on permanently.

Here’s the takeaway: problem employees can sometimes be saved with good coaching and a willingness to undergo an attitude adjustment.

Take a look at your team. What problem employees might have potential if you provided good guidance and employee coaching? Schedule some meetings with them this week.

Talkback: Have you given a problem employee a second chance? What were your results? Share your story here.

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Tips to Save Yourself From being
Laid off or Fired From Your Job

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“You do your best work if you do a job that makes you happy.”

~ Bob Ross ~

Client Lindsey Asks: Lately I’ve had a funny feeling at work. I’m apprehensive because I don’t think things are going well. I’m doing my job, the same as always, but I seem to be left out of the loop. I’m not invited to meetings but later I find out through the grapevine that people have made decisions that actually affect my work. Am I about to get fired? This isn’t exactly my dream job, but it’s been a good job and in this economy, I don’t want to lose it. I’m feeling very scared.

Coach Joel Answers: There are several clear signs that you’ve fallen out of favor with your boss and your job may be in jeopardy. You’ve already mentioned one of them. If you suddenly find that you’re no longer in the loop about things, that’s typically a bad sign. It’s often the first and most subtle sign that your time may be short. When you’re being kept out of decisions and new information that you normally would have been involved in, that’s a red flag. And if you’re seeing a reduction in your responsibilities, it could mean you’re being phased out.

A more obvious sign that your job is on the rocks would be overt criticism from your boss, or a poor performance review. Often companies will “build a case” for letting an employee go in order to avoid a potential wrongful termination suit. This case building typically includes documentation of performance issues, as well as written warnings and documented disciplinary actions. It may also include mentoring or coaching from your boss. This could have one of two purposes: it could either bring your performance back in line with the company’s expectations or it could serve as more documentation to support firing you.

Other obvious signs include: seeing a job posting or ad that matches your job description; being notified of a pay cut, or being moved into a position with fewer or no employees reporting directly to you.

What can you do to turn things around? What can you do to turn things around? First, decide if this is the job you really want. You mentioned that this isn’t your dream job. Would being terminated open the door to new opportunities?

If, however, you really want to hold onto this job, you need to take immediate positive action.

If you know your performance has been sub-par and you feel like you’ve fallen out of favor with your boss, talk to him or her. Explain that you’d like to make an immediate course correction and really become a valuable member of the organization. Ask what specific changes s/he would like to see and write them down. Then develop a written plan based on what your boss has said and have it on his/her desk within 48 hours.

Keep your enthusiasm high and your attitude positive. Schedule a follow-up meeting with your boss to discuss your progress. Assuming that the decision to let you go hasn’t been written in stone yet, your actions could give you a second chance to turn your situation around.

Assuming you want to stay where you are, make a list of things you like about your job. Make another list of specific tasks or areas where you think you could improve. Within the next week, schedule a meeting with your boss to work out an improvement plan.

Talkback: Have you ever been almost fired? What actions did you take to avoid it? Share your story here.

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