How to Become a Better Mentor

“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” — John C. Maxwell

Tamra asks: When I asked my direct reports for feedback on my own performance recently, I was surprised by the answer one of them gave. He said he’d love more mentoring to help him get to the next level in his career. I feel like I always take time to check in about how my staff can improve. We have frequent one-on-ones, and I’m told I’m very approachable. How can I become a better mentor? What am I missing when it comes to mentoring them to the next level?

Joel answers: Mentoring has many dimensions, so it’s really not surprising that you’re excelling in some key ways but have room to improve in others.

Here’s what it sounds like the core issue is: It’s time to take the mystery out of the promotion process. Your people are getting a lot of support from you in their growth, but they need to know how to channel that growth into new opportunities. To become a better mentor, focus on how to provide that guidance.

Have you ever had a job in which you had no real idea of what it would take to get to the next level? If you’re now a boss, some of your people may be feeling the exact same way. Now that the tables have turned, it’s time to give them the clarity about the career advancement process that you always wanted from your own boss.

Here are three steps you can take to promote your star performers:

  1. Tell your employees exactly what you plan to do in order to help them get promoted.
  2. Give them action steps, and follow up on their progress in weekly or biweekly check-ins.
  3. Get proactive about promoting your people to your peers and those above you in the organization.
  • Know your messaging strategy around the promotion of your employees.
    To proactively share positive messages about your employees, clarify your messaging strategy. What three key traits do you want them to associate with the employee you’re promoting? Ask for her input on this, helping her to create a clear brand for herself. Consider the areas in which that person excels, as well as her goals. Consistent messaging about that employee’s brand will help her develop a strong reputation for those qualities.
  • Share impactful stories showing the value of that employee to the company.
    Think of examples of situations in which that individual has demonstrated those key qualities. Think of your favorite stories of how she saved the day or made your own life easier. Being able to tell a vivid story when you introduce her to a higher-level leader will make the intro far more memorable than “This is Jane from accounting. She does great work.” Jot down a list of favorite stories that put a spotlight on each employee’s best qualities, and keep it in the employee’s file for quick reference. If you’re sitting around the board room discussing that person’s qualifications, you’ll be prepared to eloquently explain why she’s the best candidate for promotion.
  • Set work performance goals with your employee.
    Make sure you prioritized setting work performance goals with your employees. Now, raise awareness about what your people have accomplished. Send out a monthly update to other leaders on what your team has achieved, describing what star performers have done to reach their goals. If they’ve taken important steps toward self-improvement, mention that too!
  • Introduce your employee to the key stakeholders.
    In regard to their own action steps, networking is a major priority. Come up with a list of key players across the organization for your employee to develop a rapport with. Give tips on how to approach them and where.
  • Give them detailed action steps to help improve their reputation.
    Give them homework, too, like creating a compelling elevator speech about their accomplishments. Have them rehearse it with you. Encourage them to take steps to promote their personal brand. Ask them to send you a succinct and persuasive list of major accomplishments they’ve achieved over the past year. Give them tips on how to take credit for their work, too, so it never goes unseen.
  • Find additional mentors to help them get to where they want to go.
    Employees may also need additional mentors to get to where they want to go. Connect them with mentors who can give them more guidance on their chosen path.

Even if you’re already doing some of these things, your people need to know it. When they know the specific steps you’re taking to promote them to other leaders, they’ll feel you’re part of a team that’s committed to their growth. As you learn how to be a better mentor, you’ll become a stronger leader who will motivate your people to go the extra mile to promote themselves, too.

Joel is an expert in helping bosses become better leaders who provide quality mentoring for their people. Contact him today to improve both relationships and results.

Instill Confidence in Employees

“Trust is a core currency of any relationship. Sometimes our need to control and micromanage everything erodes our confidence in ourselves and others. The truth: People are much more capable than we think. A  hearty dose of trust is often what’s needed to unlock the magic. Go ahead, have faith.”
~Kris Carr~

Client Gerald asks: Some of the employees I supervise really seem to self-sabotage at work a lot. It’s clearly coming from a lack of belief in themselves. How can I instill confidence in my employees to get the best results from my team?

Coach Joel answers: Glad you reached out for support, Gerald. Employees who feel confident about their abilities will drive an organization’s success. Meanwhile, those who don’t believe in themselves will settle for the safety of mediocrity. By instilling confidence, you’ll prime your employees to take worthwhile risks, thereby growing into even better performers.

  1. Focus on strengths
    Focusing on strengths doesn’t just make employees feel good—it’s far more effective than targeting weaknesses, according to Gallup’s research. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give feedback about areas for improvement, but don’t fixate on them too much. When employees use their areas of strength, they’re six times more likely to be engaged at work as those who don’t, Gallup emphasizes.
  2. Be specific with your praise
    When you give praise, make it abundantly clear what behavior you’re praising. Highlight key strengths that led to a project’s success, or observations about things that employees consistently do well. Better yet, give this praise in front of others so employees feel their visibility growing.
  3. Reduce stress in the workplace
    As Chris Adalikwu says in How to Build Self Confidence, Happiness, and Health, stress can make people feel less capable, even if they’re fully equipped to handle the situation at hand. Lowering workplace stress will thus bolster employees’ confidence. Being more flexible about deadlines if need be, encouraging employees to leave work at work, and ensuring they have all the tools they need to get the job done are just a few ways to reduce workplace stress.
  4. Have a plan for building skills
    Develop a plan for how to help employees reach the goals you’ve set together during your performance reviews. Otherwise, they may feel daunted about how to get there. Focus on incremental growth, helping them build skills gradually over a series of projects rather than all at once. Small successes will give them the courage to persevere.
  5. Coach them from the sidelines
    If an employee feels daunted about taking on a challenging project, don’t just throw her into it and hope for the best. Instead, coach her from the sidelines. Check in often (but without micromanaging how she does things). Ask if she has questions or needs advice, so she knows it’s okay to feel confused or want feedback.
  6. Ask them for help
    The four most powerful words you can use as a leader are “I need your help.” Say them often, whether you need help with a task, developing a new strategy, or helping the company through a transition.
  7. Model confident behavior
    Some leaders strive to appear invulnerable, but that sets a poor example for everyone. Show your people that strong leaders have questions, need support from others, and solicit others’ advice. Ask for their opinions, and for their feedback on how you can be a better boss. In doing so, you’ll instill self-confidence in your employees and improve communication in the workplace.

As you implement these tips for building people’s confidence, you’ll see your team blossom. To further enhance their growth, consider hiring a motivational trainer who will work to thoroughly understand and address the challenges your people face.

Contact executive coach Joel for more support in growing as a leader so you’ll get the most from your people.

Network after Work

“Networking is an essential part of building wealth.”
~Armstrong Williams~

Liam didn’t drink, so when his coworkers went to the bar after work, he’d say goodbye and head home. Sure, he was missing out on the chance to socialize, but it wasn’t really his scene. Then his sister shared some interesting statistics about the effectiveness of networking after work.

Over the past couple of decades, many studies have shown a relationship between social drinking, socializing, and higher wages, she told him. Moderate social drinkers earn 10% more than those who abstain, a study from the University of Calgary found. Another study in the Journal of Labor Research found that the average male employee who drinks socially earns 19% more than those who abstain, and the average female employee who drinks socially earns 23% more than abstainers. Male employees who go to bars at least once a month earn an extra 7% on top of that.

It’s not about the alcohol consumption. It’s all about building and improving relationships. Sequestering themselves away from the drinking crowd is the main reason why non-drinkers lose these opportunities, according to a study at North Carolina State University.

Moderate drinkers may be perceived as more charismatic, and they certainly get to know their drinking buddies much better than they otherwise would. Social drinking is a highly effective networking strategy—and even non-drinkers can get in on it. If you’re a non-drinker, here’s how to overcome some common alcohol-related hurdles and share all the social benefits that drinkers get. (If you’ve dealt with addiction and find being around alcohol too triggering, see the tips at the end.)

Problem: Drinking is an effective inter-office, after-work networking vehicle. As mentioned, those who drink tend to earn more than colleagues who abstain. Hanging out at the bar is a proven way to foster relationships outside of the office. But because you don’t drink, you’re missing out.

Solution: Go to the bar and enjoy some time with your colleagues. Don’t let the venue stop you from using this opportunity to form working relationship bonds with your coworkers and supervisors. Order a non-alcoholic drink. (Chances are, you won’t be the only one not drinking.) Show them you can have fun along with the rest of them, and soon they won’t even notice you’re not drinking! Here are a couple other pointers:

  • Ensure people you have no problem with their drinking. They might feel awkward, wondering if you’re judging them, which you can dispel with a few words and an accepting attitude. If you want, share a reason for not drinking that focuses on you, like “Alcohol makes me tired, and I want to enjoy myself.”
  • If coworkers tend to drink heavily and that makes you uncomfortable, excuse yourself early, saying you have to get up early the next morning.

Problem: Drinking is part of the company culture. For many companies, drinking during work hours is frowned upon. Some even have a no-tolerance policy. However, there are a few where having a drink at lunch or in the afternoon on Friday is part of the company culture. Others are experimenting with having beers during brainstorming sessions to loosen things up. Refusing the libations can set you apart as an outsider.

Solution: Participate without the drink. Be sure to include yourself in those martini lunches. If Friday afternoon is the time when everyone relaxes in the conference room with a beer before heading home, be sure to be in there too. Show them you can relax and unwind with the rest of the team, even without the alcohol.

Problem: Entertaining clients often requires taking them out for drinks. You have a client in town, and it’s your job to make sure he’s enjoying himself. Taking him out for drinks and dinner is part of your job duties. Refusing these duties can definitely hurt your career.

Solution: Go and have fun with your client! Even if you don’t drink yourself, there’s no reason why you can’t take clients out and show them a good time. They may even appreciate the fact that you’re going to be the designated driver, so they won’t have to worry about making it back to their hotel safe and sound. Plus, you’ll be able to keep your wits about you and massage the relationship to your company’s benefit while their inhibitions are lowered thanks to alcohol. Secrets and soft spots may be revealed!

You don’t have to spend multiple nights at the bar each week to get all these benefits. Even going once in a while will increase your visibility among your coworkers and build your social cache.

If you’re a recovering alcoholic and find being in situations like bars too triggering, reach out to coworkers in other ways. They’re not likely to move from the bar to another venue, but perhaps you could start meeting colleagues for breakfast once a month or so. The main goal is to build relationships by networking after work, showing them what a fun and interesting person you are!

Social drinking might have a definite place in your company’s culture. Contact leadership coach Joel Garfinkle to learn how to build relationships and become more influential at work.

5 Tips on How to become a Better Boss

“The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.”
~Lee Iacocca~

Tom had been working as a manager for almost a year. He was good at evaluating people’s performance, pointing out areas for improvement, and saying “thank you” often. To him, those were the things that a good boss did.

However, when Tom sat down with his mentor to talk about his progress, his mentor told him that those things are just the tip of the iceberg. “One of the hallmark qualities of a great boss is that he’s always striving to improve,” said his mentor. “Here are 5 tips on how to become a better boss. You’ll be the kind of boss who inspires tremendous loyalty, innovation, and respect from his people.”

  1. Inspires a Shared Vision
    Hone your understanding of your organization’s vision. Talking in-depth about vision with company leaders will give you a better grasp of it. Even if you’re not a high-level leader, understanding how your department fits into the big picture will help you and your people excel. Then instill the vision in your people. At the beginning of a meeting, talk about how the project you’re presenting furthers the organization’s vision and mission. People will have a stronger grasp of their importance, and in turn, greater motivation, when they share the vision and goals.
  2. Be a Great PR Agent
    To be a better boss, show how much you care about your people’s success. Sing your people’s praises in front of colleagues and superiors. This shows you’re committed to their advancement. Let them hear you giving praise, but don’t hold back if they’re out of earshot, either. If you speak highly of them in a private meeting with your own boss, mention it to them later. Your loyalty to them will increase their loyalty to you.
  3. Have Difficult Conversations
    Embrace difficult conversations, seeing them as an opportunity for growth. A great boss is a pro at conflict resolution, and puts his mediation skills to the test if coworkers have a problem to resolve. When he’s talking to people about improving their performance, he keeps a positive focus. His coaching skills guide them toward a better understanding of how they can strengthen their work.Next time you see a difficult conversation on the horizon, ask yourself how you can make it a positive experience. Seize upon the opportunities for growth, and reflect on how you can act as a supportive coach rather than just calling out mistakes. If you want to learn more, read Practical Tactics for Crucial Communication.
  4. Help People Envision Their Future
    Help your employees craft their career plans, envisioning the future of their dreams. An outstanding boss asks plenty of questions that help people figure out where they want to go in their careers. She shows she’s invested in her employee’s happiness. Her people look at her as a wise mentor rather than someone who’s there to criticize them.
  5. Focus on Work/Life Balance
    Don’t assume that people will come to you to talk about problems with work/life balance. They may feel ashamed that they’re feeling burned out and stressed, or worried about your response. Check in with employees about their work/life balance regularly. If they’re having an issue, brainstorm solutions with them, being as accommodating as you can reasonably be.

Tom agreed to work on growing in these ways over the next several months. As time went on, people stopped seeing him as just a supervisor and started seeing him as a valued mentor and coach. Their trust and loyalty skyrocketed, and they felt encouraged to think creatively and take risks. Knowing they had a great boss behind them, they felt there was nothing they couldn’t accomplish together. With these tips on how to become a better boss, you’ll get there soon too, even if you’re not well on your way already!

Whether you’re an experienced boss or an aspiring one, reach out to Joel for Leadership Coaching Program.

Employee & Manager Relationship

Achieving the highest possible return on human capital must be every manager’s goal.
~Brian Tracy~

Sebastian asks: As a new manager, I see that building relationships with my employees is way different than with coworkers. I don’t want to be that stereotypical boss who stays behind a desk except to give criticism. Can you help me figure out how to navigate these new waters?

Joel answers: Sebastian, you’re absolutely right in putting a lot of thought into this issue. Gallop found that one in two American workers has left a job to escape from a boss. Plus, 20% of workers would be happier if their boss left their organization.

Relationships between employees and managers are not only shaped by personalities—they’re also shaped by societal forces you have less control over. The constant demand for talent can shift the power dynamic between employees and bosses, notes Elizabeth Aylott in Employee Relations. Today’s employees expect a lot from a boss, because they know they’re not easy to replace. Here’s how to give them what they’re looking for.

  1. Be Trustworthy
    Trust is important to the employee/manager relationship. Make a habit of following through with all promises on time. When you’ve finished something you told an employee you would do, say so. If you said you would read her proposal, call her into your office and provide effective feedback so she knows you’re supportive of her efforts. Repeatedly being “too busy” to respond to your employees conveys that you don’t make them a priority. Following up with people about the things you’ve pledged to do shows you respect them, fostering good feelings toward you.
  2. Work Alongside Them
    Spend some time working hand-in-hand with employees, so you can really get to know each other’s working styles. You’ll see firsthand how they work best, so you can serve as a better coach. Their respect for you will grow when they see you’re willing to help out with the tasks that many managers may feel they’re above. Plus, you’ll gain a more in-depth view of each team member’s role when you actually see what they do on a daily basis.Use inclusive language, like “Look what we’ve accomplished together” or “What do you think we can achieve today?” This will emphasize that you’re a team.
  3. Help People to Grow
    Show each member of your team that you care about helping them achieve deeper fulfillment from their work. Make time on a quarterly basis to check in about their career satisfaction and any changes they envision in their trajectory. If they’ve decided to make a change, this will help you figure out together how it can mesh with the organization’s needs. These talks will help establish a strong relationship based on mutual consideration. In fact, Gallup reports that employees are almost three times more engaged when managers regularly meet with them one-on-one, either face-to-face or on the phone.As people push their boundaries, offer genuine gratitude for their contributions and efforts.
  4. Uphold Boundaries
    Recognize that the power you hold in your relationships with employees can make it hard for them to say “no” to social invitations. Hanging out with particular employees outside of work can breed resentment in others and signal favoritism. Thus, it’s best to keep employee and manager relationships professional. It’s okay to go to an occasional event at someone’s home, like a holiday party, but socializing with particular people too often can compromise your working relationship. The same goes for social networking—not everyone wants to use Facebook to keep up with professional contacts, so “friending” your employees may not be a welcome move.
  5. Watch Emerging Trends
    Keeping your pulse on emerging and future trends will help you meet employees’ shifting expectations. The younger generations expect a lot of coaching, training, and feedback, for example. Read the latest surveys and reports on what employees want, so you know how to boost their performance and loyalty.

Strong employer and manager relationships require continual effort to grow. Remember that as a manager, you’re not just responsible for getting tasks completed—you need to foster relationships that keep your team strong. When you build these relationships, employees will feel comfortable coming to you with both problems and ideas, improving workplace culture and boosting your team’s capacities.

Are you wanting to gain new job success, or want to improve as a leader? Contact Joel in order to learn more about his background and personalized leadership coaching.