“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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“Telling an introvert to go to a party is like telling a saint to go to Hell.”
~ Criss Jami ~
Client Emily Asks: I feel totally out of place and uncomfortable in my job. I’m a marketing manager for a major entertainment company and I’m surrounded by people who are constantly running in high gear and bouncing off the walls. I get so stressed out, some days I just want to crawl into a hole. I know I’m an introvert and I think I need a total career makeover. But I’ve invested a lot of myself in getting ahead with this company and I hate to blow it off. What should I do?
Coach Joel Answers: Taking a close look at your level of job satisfaction is never a bad thing to do. Based on your description, I’d say you’re probably an introvert in a career that’s populated by extroverts. Statistics tell us that 12-25% of people in the general population are true introverts. The rest are either partial or total extroverts. If that’s true, then it’s easy to see why you feel like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Here are three things you could start doing immediately to change your situation.
1. Evaluate. Take a close look at who you are vs. where you are. Think about your strengths, passions, interests, and hobbies. Perhaps you love to read, write in your journal, listen to music, take walks, and play with your dog or cat. You probably thrive on solitude and feel drained if you spend too much time with other people. If you’re in a high pressure, hyperactive job, you should determine if your “quiet” needs can be met on that job or if you can get enough alone time off the job to feel satisfied. For example, can you close your office door and work on your own a good share of the time? Can you eat lunch away from the crowd, spend an hour alone at the gym or taking a solo walk?
Evaluate your company as well. Since you’ve put in a lot of time and energy there, see if there’s a way to stay with the company in a position that allows you to work more on your own and less with other people. You may want to talk to your boss or someone in HR to lay the groundwork for a possible job change, even if it’s a lateral move.
2. Plan. Changing careers or even jobs is not like buying a new pair of socks. You need a solid plan, a step-by-step process to get you from Point A to Point B. The first step is to look at your career thus far (marketing) and see what jobs within that field might be a better fit. For example, could you shift into graphic design or market research—both careers that allow you to spend a lot of time flying solo.
If you feel that a job change within your current field is not possible or practical, then you may want to plan for a complete career change. Test yourself, first of all, to get a clearer picture of what specific career fields might be a good fit. There are many internet sites that offer free self-analysis tests and career recommendations. You may want to work with a career coach who can help you cut through some of the clutter and develop a solid plan. You could also invest in one or more career guides or workbooks that could provide valuable insights.
3. Train. You may choose a short term solution, such as staying in the same company or field but in a new job. If that is your choice, see what training opportunities the company might offer, either in-house, on line, or perhaps even a subsidized degree program. If you design a longer-term plan that involves a complete career change, what will it be? People on the introvert side of the spectrum lean toward professions such as law, accounting, research, or technology.
The bottom line is this: what will make YOU happy? What can you do now to feel more fulfilled, more excited, and more of who you really are? When you have answers to those questions, you’ll be on the right path toward a fulfilling career.
If you’re feeling stressed or out of place in your current career, Joel can provide you with helpful advice and direction. Contact him today.
Talkback: Have you made a career change that worked for you? Or have you found ways to get more of what you need in your current job? Share your experience here.
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Conflict among staff can occur because of the things we say or how we act. It can also occur when our body language communicates things we might not be aware of. To increase harmony in the office, consider training employees to develop a recognition of the importance of body language and give them skills to master it.
When we listen to people, we also read their body language to see if it is in sync with their words. Most people recognize the body language that says: I’m interested, I’m not interested, I’m busy, please listen to me.
But some people are less aware of body language. When they ignore these messages or misread them, tension and irritation occurs. Training employees to develop awareness of other people’s body language and the unspoken messages they send can create more trust and harmony in the work place. It’s worth the effort.
1. Give Voice to Body Language. If you find that meetings are disrupted by annoying fidgeting or conversations are distracted by the listener staring off into space, it may be time to talk about and train your staff on this topic. Consider role playing to show the messages sent so even the less sensitive workers recognize the language of the body. Video tape staff speaking or listening so they can see their own body language.
Often people are highly critical when they see themselves on screen. Balance their views with supportive staff who point out the messages they see in their coworker’s body language. When body language is addressed head on and out in the open, employees develop more sensitivity to their physical actions as well as being in tune with others.
2. Body language that shows more than you want. The key effectiveness of body language is that it helps others discern a person’s true feelings. While you might think you are talking pleasantly to someone you’re angry with, your body language will tell a different story. Help employees develop coping strategies.
- Check your emotions. Before you talk with a person or enter a meeting, evaluate how you feel about the people you will see. If you feel angry, frustrated, or condescending toward anyone there, watch out! Be very careful your body is not exhibiting your emotions.
- Be honest. The easiest way to gain great body language is to have good emotions and communication skills. If you are interested, if you are paying attention, if you are respectful to your co workers, your body will automatically broadcast those emotions.
3. Body Language that lies. As you train and develop your employees, help them recognize the internal and external reasons body language may not represent the “truth.”
- If a person is hungry or needs to relieve him or herself, the stresses of the body will be reflected in actions. The fidgeting, hunching the body, or glancing at the clock might be misinterpreted as disinterest, when the causes are biological. Help your employees avoid sending these incorrect messages by planning ahead and not going into meetings or events hungry or stressed. A chilly room may cause crossed arms.
- Illness—either temporary or long-running can affect our body language. Help employees be aware of others who have ADHD or Tourette’s or any of a host of other medical problems that may cause them to act differently.
Offices run smoother when conflicts are kept to a minimum through understanding and respect. One effective way to make this happen is through training employees to be aware of their own body language and to not misunderstand the body language of those around them.
Contact Joel to find out more about training and developing employees.
Talkback: What annoying body language have you faced? Was there ever a time when you thought you understood someone’s body language and discovered you were mistaken?
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