“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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“The real art of communication is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
~ Unknown ~
Josh is a sales executive at a medium-size software company. He’s always made his numbers and hit his quotas. As he advanced in the organization, his responsibility and the number of people he manages have increased. Josh’s career goal is to become VP of sales within the next year.
He’s always known how to get results, but his fatal flaw is that he has no idea how to manage his people. The bigger his team grew, the more his abrasive and combative style got in his way. Word got back to HR that he was a bully, a hard-ass, blunt, and intimidating. Ultimately, this information was documented and he was laid off.
However, his boss’s boss saw potential in Josh. He liked the work he did and could see he really wanted to learn and grow, to get past his weakness in managing people. The boss knew that, if given the right tools and support, Josh could be extremely valuable to the organization.
When a position opened up, Josh was hired back. This time he was provided with employee training in the form of an executive coach, management training, mentoring and sponsorship. Here are the initial actions his coach took as he helped Josh design a game plan for success.
- He appealed to Josh’s self-interest. The coach asked Josh one critical question: “Given how your co-workers perceive you, what do think will happen to your goal of becoming sales VP if you don’t do anything?’ Following Josh’s answer the coach replied, “So persuade me that there are advantages for you to make some changes in your attitude and behavior, if sales VP is what you really want?”
- He helped Josh see reality. Using his last 360 before he was terminated, his coach painted a clear picture of how he was perceived by others during his employee training. Abrasive people are prone to blame others for their bad behavior, since they often see themselves as superior and all-knowing. Josh soon understood that, in order for the situation to change, he must change. He started by planning his communication in meetings and one-on-ones in advance, which helped him avoid the sarcastic, off-the-cuff remarks that had alienated his co-workers in the past.
- He played to Josh’s competitive nature. The final question was, “So do you really think you can do this? Can you really change to the point where others perceive you differently?” Josh took that as a challenge. “Of course I can,” he replied.
It’s now been over seven years since Josh was hired back and he’s received performance reviews and thorough 360s. This sales executive is now a VP with a highly motivated and loyal team and he’s never been accused of being abrasive or combative during the whole seven years.
Do you need to change the way people perceive you at work? Write down three relationship issues that you think might be getting in the way of your career goals and start developing your plan to change.
Talkback: Have you turned around a difficult situation or relationship at work? How did you do it? Share your story here.
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“Promotion means finding new ways of being successful- and walking away from the old ways that defined success. A leader who tries to be the same leader across all levels is not going to be successful at all.”
~ Matt Pease, DDI Vice President ~
Client Jamie Asks: There are many people in my organization that could benefit from increased executive presence. What should I look for in a business leadership training program? What skills can I expect my people to gain from such a program?
Coach Joel Answers: This is an important step. Your executives and those you are grooming for leadership need to have a whole company perspective. To be successful they must move from a tactical day-to-day approach to a more strategic overview. Here are six skill sets you’ll want your business leaders to develop.
- Step away from the day-to-day. There’s a saying: When you’re up to your ankles in alligators, it’s hard to remember you’re here to drain the swamp. Executives face many compelling day-to-day problems that can eat up all their time. Help your executives learn how to set aside a specific part of their day to reflect on ways they and their team can contribute to the company’s bottom line.
- Look at the big picture. It’s no longer enough to excel in your area. You need a clear view of how your work contributes to the overall success of the company. Get your program to help your leaders elevate their sights.
- Gain self-confidence. This is a mind game, but it’s based on past performance. People need to know they are doing a good job. A key training program will help your leaders assess their past ideas and work. This builds self-assurance which will give then that executive presence that makes people want to follow them.
- Do the work. Find a program that focuses on teaching skills that give real, measurable results. People need to deliver on the high profile jobs they are given. When they manage every project so their work shines, they demonstrate their abilities to co-workers and supervisors. And it gives your people confidence they have the necessary skills to perform at that high level.
- Recognize and seize opportunities. Part of situational awareness is looking beyond current tasks. What else needs to be done? Is there a gap that someone is not filling? Can you take the initiative? Successful executive training courses help with the mind shift necessary to look beyond the average and take those opportunities.
- Focus on solutions. Far too many people spend lots of time discussing the problems. They may lament the shortcomings or complain about the problem. Good leadership seminars will show people how to find solutions.
Jamie, you are wise to look at training your leaders from within. You already know their work ethic and they know the company culture. But leaders don’t just grow on their own.
They need extra and different skill sets. They need a professional to coach and train them to perform at their optimum level. The abilities that have grown them to this point are not sufficient to get them to the top. Unless you train them in those new ways of thinking and acting, you will not help them acquire that executive presence.
Of course you and I both know it can’t be a façade. It can’t be for looks. That leadership, that executive presence has to be backed by a history of success and by skills and vision.
If you need one or two people to gain these skills, I recommend individual coaching. If you want a group of people to grow, a business leadership course can be brought to your executives and tailored to their challenges and the needs of your company.
For more information on how Joel can help your leaders gain that executive presence, contact him.
Talkback: Have you found programs that were successful in developing your leaders?
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“The best way to predict your future is to create it”
~ Peter F. Drucker ~
Samantha was ready to move up. But she was pretty much at a dead end at her current job. She knew she needed more executive job training before she’d be ready for a profitable transition to another company, but as a single mom, she couldn’t afford to pay for it. Her current job wouldn’t cover it. The executive training had to be free.
“I knew I needed to think and act like an executive before I’d ever have the chance to be in that position,” Samantha said. “I was close. But not there yet. I came up with 4 free sources for executive job training.”
1. Observation. “It cost me nothing to observe other leaders,” Samantha said. “I looked for executives within my current company—ones I liked and admired.” She made a conscious effort to watch their management style. She took notes on how they presented ideas, how they listened to responses, and interacted with team members. “I not only listened to what they said, I watched how they acted, how they moved.” She paid attention to details. “I even listened to their voice inflection and watched other’s reactions.”
2. Books. Samantha started with the free books at the public library. Those books she found especially valuable she bought so she could underline them, cross reference, and add them to her library. “There are a lot of books on job training and executive leadership,” Samantha said. “And they vary widely in quality.” Samantha spent some time on Amazon and other sources reading the reviews. While they were not always accurate, she found them generally helpful in choosing the best books for her.
3. Online Sources. While the quality also varies with web sources, Samantha found plenty of free executive job training there. Some sites offered free white papers on different aspects of leadership. She found blogs, articles, websites and business leadership books that delivered meaningful content. “I downloaded every piece of free training I could find,” Samantha said. “Some coaches and trainers are very generous with their information. It was like getting an MBA.”
4. Study Leaders. “I decided that my leadership style was like Meg Whitman’s—or I wanted it to be like hers,” Samantha said. She felt her personality traits and the way she liked to lead dovetailed into the way Meg was currently leading. So she did an in-depth study of Meg. “I watched her on YouTube. I read every article I could find on her. Then I “put on” her leadership style. I stepped up to a more direct approach. I realized I can be pleasant and still be insightful, deliberate, and exacting.”
Samantha was surprised at how completely her free executive job training paid off! “First co-workers started coming to me for advice and problem solving. Then the management actually created a new position and moved me into it.” Samantha realized that executive training requires work and application whether the training is free or paid.
But in this case, Samantha’s efforts paid off very well.
If you are looking for free training for your executive goals, be sure to visit Joel’s website and access the leadership articles and information there.
Talkback: Have you find great free sources for executive job training? Tell us about them.
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“Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.”
~ Japanese Proverb ~
Martin, a senior manager with a major financial services company, is facing a challenge. He knows he’s surrounded by talent. His younger, mid-level managers are performing well, and he knows some of them have the potential to be superstars. But lately they’ve been acting restless and he’s afraid some of them may be about to jump ship.
He’s tried talking to them one-on-one. He’s given them new, challenging assignments. But nothing seems to change the atmosphere. He knows they are focused on their own responsibilities and aren’t seeing the big company picture. An article about mentoring in one of his current business journals starts him thinking. He decides that corporate mentoring and training programs may give his managers a new perspective.
A conversation with his HR director gives Martin some helpful guidelines. She advises him that first of all mentoring programs need to be aligned with corporate goals and objectives. He needs to have a timeline and method for measuring results. And he needs to be sure he can get support and commitment from both potential mentors and mentees.
Martin comes up with three initial steps to take:
- Discover the talent pool
- Be a matchmaker
- Train for success
- Discover the talent pool. Good mentoring programs need to find talent among both mentors and mentees. Martin’s main goal is employee development and retention. He decides to test the mentoring waters with a pilot program. He puts out an email “Call to Mentors” to all the company’s C-level managers and gets a great response. However, he knows it’s not safe to assume that all executives have the skills or desire to be a good mentor. He must go in-depth with each executive to ensure that the pilot program recruits the best of the best. His interview process determines skills and competency along with the commitment level of potential mentors.
- Be a matchmaker. As mentees, Martin initially chooses five of his mid-level managers based on three main criteria: (1) their experience with the company; (2) their current workload and availability; (3) their initial willingness to participate. During the recruiting process Martin asks the potential mentees to identify their goals and areas of interest. Then he has them outline a three-month personal learning plan that both they and their mentors will use during the initial phase of the project. Finally, he matches each mentee with a mentor who he feels is most compatible.
- Train for success. Martin designed a one-day workshop to kick off the program. He coached his mentors in how to understand, communicate with and motivate mentees. And he made sure his mentees would take full advantage of the mentoring partnership in advancing their skills and careers. He asked several key questions during the workshop:
- Does everyone understand exactly what we mean by “mentoring” within the context of our organization?
- What expectations does each stakeholder (mentors, mentees, managers, and HR) have of the program?
- Do all stakeholders fully understand their roles?
- What program and partnership objectives will we follow going forward?
Martin kept in close touch with both mentors and mentees and at the end of the three-month pilot he held a debriefing that summarized the program’s results. Mentees felt excited and motivated by the “big picture” training and coaching provided by their mentors. They all agreed they had gained valuable business intelligence and had become more strategic thinkers. The mentors felt rewarded, both by the acknowledgment they received from their mentees and by the long-term positive benefits the company would enjoy. The corporate mentoring program was soon rolled out company-wide.
Talkback: Have you been a mentor? Have you had a mentor? Share your experience here.
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