Posts Tagged ‘mentor’

Hank is a young fellow working for a fifteen year old company in Sarasota, Florida. He is frustrated because there is a lack of momentum on the part of his manager to fully implement Hank’s gifts and skills. He’s frustrated because he feels underutilized and unfulfilled. He feels like a racehorse that isn’t given enough rein to really run the race and win. He’s being held back, but why?

More often than not, managers aren’t conscious of how they influence their team. They don’t even know that there’s a way that they are being that limits the success of their direct reports and the success of the company as well. Only sometimes are they holding back their direct reports in service to their own desired outcomes. Usually, they just don’t know.

What Hank hears from his boss is to not push for change too quickly; “Things take time around here. Slow and steady wins the race.” Hank isn’t a tortoise; he’s a thoroughbred. He was hired for his expertise and the results that he’s capable of. He has the passion and capability to make things happen quickly. After two years with this company under this particular manager, Hank has exhausted much of his creative energies fighting his manager for more free rein.

Hank’s dilemma

Hanks dilemma isn’t foreign at all to many individuals working under a management style that holds them back rather than supports growth and expansion. How does he bring the best he can to a situation where his manager really doesn’t know how to manage a thoroughbred like Hank? He could quit; however, is there something else that’s happening here for Hank that could bring value to his time in this company? What’s possible here as a learning opportunity?

Through our coaching, Hank gets clearer that he is being exposed to a management style that is ineffective for him and people like him. He wants things to change – he wants his manager to be more of a mentor; he wants to move up in the ranks and be a leader himself in bigger and better ways. He’s stuck behind a plow horse and can’t see his way clear to run the race he believes he is here to win.

A fascinating aspect of Hank’s dilemma is that he is actually in a perfect internship opportunity where he has the most to learn to be a really good leader for people like himself. Rather than focus on how ineffective his manager is, he can focus on two things:

  • What’s missing in his manager’s style that if it were present would spur Hank on to greater success?
  • What’s available in the current situation that can be of benefit to him and his leadership development? What’s incubating within himself that will bring about a much more powerful leadership style?

I believe that these questions are so essential in business coaching. Sometimes our clients can’t change their circumstance, however they can shift their perspective. I believe that every situation we find ourselves in is an internship – a place to learn what we need to learn. More often than not, like Hank, we didn’t consciously sign up for these internships – these learning opportunities. Thoroughbreds want to run – they don’t want to do anything else – there’s nothing else to do but get to the finish line. However, Hank has an opportunity to learn through experience and take notes on how to be a leader – committed to the best and highest contribution of his team. He can only do this through his current experience.

Being fully immersed in his current circumstances, Hank is having an experience that informs him about his own personal reality, needs and desires; informs him of what capacities he sees is required to work in the environment within which he finds himself; and, informs him of what capacities he wants to cultivate to be the manager he wishes he had for himself, and that he wants to be for others.

Hank’s practice is multidimensional: He has to get out of his normal operating strategies, which include the automatic generation of thoughts and feelings. He has to look around and see how his environment is currently affecting him. He has to think – I mean really think, about what there is to learn right now beyond perceived constraints. He has to accept that what he thought would be the rewards and outcome of this position in this company isn’t forthcoming, yet there are greater rewards far more rich, delicious and sustainable for him to achieve, right here, right now. Hank can get – and is getting, that this is a leadership development opportunity of a lifetime that isn’t available in any MBA program; not even at Harvard Business School. If he can shift his attitude and perspective, Hank will become an exceptional leader and manager.

We all have dreams about what we imagine our careers will reap. More often than not, we see it happening soon, faster and better than it actually occurs. We get frustrated, pissed off, resentful because it doesn’t look the way we imagined it. As we each step into being grown up and adult, realizing that life doesn’t show up the way we want, but shows up the way it does, we have a much greater capacity to choose willingly to explore the opportunities for growth and learning that are right in front of us. By meeting what feels like demands with openness and curiosity we will be given the rewards we anticipated in ways we’ve yet to imagine.

Though it appears as if Hank’s manager is inept at his job, he will actually be one of the greatest contributors to Hank’s development as an up and coming leader. However, it’s up to Hank to fully utilize his time under his guidance to fully benefit from his mentor’s style.

In our last post we discussed the first two areas where savvy organizations are helping newly hired Gen Ys enter the workforce – – –

A) Getting them contributing (and feeling valued) very quickly and

B) Establishing clear standards for behavior so the new hire fits into the culture.

Now we’ll talk about the third area where Gen Ys sometimes need help – – – building good people skills.

C) People skills – These are hard to change because they are deeply intertwined with how we see ourselves, the world and other people.  People skills are formed, and then selectively reinforced, throughout life.  But people can change.  I have found that annual classes teaching proven inter-personal techniques for everyone is a great idea and are most effective if taught in a lighthearted, humorous style.  Humor relaxes us so we lower our defensive guards and become more receptive to new ideas.  There is evidence that such training can bring about lasting changes in how we relate to others if those changes are doable, result in better relationships and are continually reinforced.  So enlightened organizations are providing new Gen Ys with both training and with frequent nudges that reinforce the good behavior and correct the areas where they need to improve.

Frequent Feedback

Actually, that is a key point across all aspects of working with Gen-Ys:  frequent feedback. Tell them what they did right or wrong and how to improve. Our Gen Y students have told us:

  • “I cannot believe my boss waited for a year to tell me about 2-3 things I was doing wrong!  I could have been improving since I first got here but I had no idea I was doing those things wrong.  What a stupid process the ‘annual performance review’ is here.”
  • “Nobody says squat around here about what we do right or wrong until the ‘review’ and that only happens every calendar quarter if we are lucky.  I’d like to hear every month what I am doing right and wrong.  Then I can do something about it.

This need for frequent feedback goes back to the issues we discussed in Part 1 of this series of posts:  an ego that needs frequent reinforcement from others in order to feel secure.  So for the first six months, sit down every month with each new employee’s mentor and ask about the employee, how others feel about them, how well (or poorly) they are working with others, early strengths and weaknesses that may be emerging, etc.  Then meet one-on-one with each new employee, and discuss how they see themselves, their progress, fears, suggested improvements, etc.  And here’s a technique I’ve used:  schedule the 2-hour employee “performance discussion” at 4 pm on a Wednesday (“hump day”) and then continue the chat for an hour at a nearby bar or lounge where a medicinal glass of merlot or a beer will bring out the Gen Y’s real thoughts about the organization, him/herself, processes, procedures, and becoming a valued member of the team!

Choice of a Mentor/Boss

The choice of mentor is crucial but the first boss is even more so, impacting a new employee’s career perhaps more than anything else.   A poor communicator and/or insecure, overly judgmental boss can drive a new hire out the door for greener pastures.  Unfortunately, it has been our experience that the older the boss is, the more likely he/she is to make snap judgments about people and, hence the more dangerous is their assignment to supervise a new Gen Y employee fresh from college.  The difference in peoples’ perspectives usually increases with the age gap and if too wide, the two generations may not be able to relate well and no rapport is established.  Gen Y behaviors, while age-appropriate, may then trigger irreversible impressions and inaccurate conclusions in the boss’s head.  Gen Ys are still very much a “work in progress” when they leave college and often for 3-5 years after that.  Give them an initial boss who sees them that way and will help gently shape them properly.

Arranging for new Gen Ys to initially work with other Gen Ys initially also makes for an easier transition than immediately assigning them to multi-generational teams, but emphasize from the start that working well with others of all ages, not just with other Gen Ys, is essential to being promoted and given more responsibility (and more fun assignments) in the organization.

When a new person of any generation joins an organization, an unwritten agreement is formed.  Each party agrees to do their share in making the “marriage” work.  So far we have talked about what the organization can do for the new Gen Y worker.  In the next post we will talk about what the newly hired Gen Y person must do to ease the transition into that new job.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Doing what is Right Vs. Being the Best

by Brian Beedle on September 27, 2010

Defined by Webster’s Dictionary, the word “Best”:

of the highest quality, excellence, or standing: the best work; the best students”.

Every day in business, we are faced with challenges that require us to act quickly and to react even quicker.  As leaders we are expected to make pivotal decisions; we are exposed to different types of challenges, and are expected to accurately address problems each and every day. These challenges we are faced with often take us outside of our comfort zone, and require us to take on responsibilities and make decisions that we sometimes feel go beyond our areas of expertise.

As a manager, I always strive to do things right and deliver a high quality product to my customer, whether internal or external.  But is “doing things right” necessarily enough? Or should management go beyond “doing things right” and strive for ONLY being the best at what you do?

Coincidentally, I had a conversation with my son today who recently began his freshman year at college in August. We discussed the challenges that he is currently facing in college and how the effort that he is putting forth today, lays the groundwork for later success in college, and the successes that he will encounter as he lives the life he chooses as an adult. It was very obvious to me that he was frustrated with the conversation, but later in the evening, it was even clearer that he agreed with me and understood my point.  A BREAKTHROUGH!

The following are some points to keep in mind:

  • As a parent, it is important to instill values in your children during their formative years.  Teaching your children that “doing the right thing” is not only important but necessary. Being aware that one is doing the right thing will ultimately pave the path for a productive, ethical and value based lifestyle.
  • As a student, it is important to identify one’s successes and identify the challenges that exist. The level of competition today for graduates of Generation Y is far greater than those of Generation X.  Being able to assert yourself and have the ability to identify the fine line between doing the right thing and knowing what it takes to become the best at what you do, is critical. Developing this skill set early will yield significant advantages, and make the transition into the workforce, and ultimately becoming a successful manager far easier. Providing young people today with the tools to be able to understand what it is to exceed beyond “doing the right thing” is necessary.  Students must subscribe to the teachings of the leaders within our colleges and communities, and identify mentors to coach Gen Y in developing the skills to become the best at what they do.
  • As a manager, it is important to continue to learn and develop one’s skills. As technology and business changes, it is necessary to maintain the competitive advantage and remain current on today’s business needs. Many top companies enlist the practices of Six-Sigma and ITIL as part of the company’s culture. Enlisting a quality program will assist in removing the effects of errors and to minimize the inconsistency in business processes.  A Six-Sigma program is a huge commitment for a company and not only requires major changes to business processes; it requires a change in culture.  If a company is not prepared to set forth on the Six-Sigma adventure, it is possible for companies to employ certain aspects of Six-Sigma into their business to improve business processes.

In today’s economic environment, it may be more of a common place than not for companies to cut corners in order to save a nickel or dime, yielding a lack of quality.  Now is the time for businesses to focus on quality and set the standard for providing the best possible product or service possible.  Businesses must continue to redefine and work to establish themselves as the business segment leader, as well as the leader in quality and value, when a favorable economy returns.