"business mentor"

Fri 10 January 2020
When an employee mentions to his manager that he has received an offer from another company, how does the manager, and the company for that matter, typically respond? Often, they will respond with a counteroffer to keep that employee on the team.
Why?
Because the expense of having to pick up the pieces of where that employee left off is substantially higher than the expense of paying them more.
But…
What if we lived in a world where money wasn’t the only factor for choosing whether to stay in a job or accept a new role?
What if we discovered that there is another factor that plays a HUGE role in whether or not people stay or go? 
Most business roundtables and experts will say “you must invest in your culture!” What does that even mean? Does it mean providing lunches and ping pong tables at the office? Maybe.
Company culture is the combined makeup of how each individual employee feels about their work, whom they are doing that work with, and how attached their identity is to the work they are doing at that company. Company culture is the way that each employee feels when he/she comes to work.
You can’t force employees to feel a certain way, but you can create environments and opportunities where ideally, your people are creating deeper bonds with each other. When deeper bonds are built between people, a chemical in our brain called oxytocin fires. Oxytocin is why we feel good being around other people we like. 
When oxytocin is consistently firing when we are around our co-workers, our desire to not lose that feeling is high. Essentially, we, as humans, can form a chemical dependency to a group of people we enjoy being around in which money cannot easily persuade us to leave.
If people are using words like “we” and “us” vs. “you”, “they”, and “I”, that is a good start. But are there is 1 strong way to boost company culture.
Carve time for employees to have intentional one-on-one conversations with each other (can be about work or not about work).
Why can this activity be so powerful and impactful to the company? 
This activity creates an environment for deep relationships. When deep relationships are formed between people, oxytocin builds between those people. When people have oxytocin with their colleagues, they desire to be around those people that make them feel good.
Does it have to be one-on-one or can it be in a group?
It is best to be done one-on-one because people are less likely to be vulnerable when more people are around. Vulnerability is the key to building trust and trust is required for oxytocin to build. To make an example, think about holiday parties (or any other corporate gathering) – are people comfortable having deep, intentional conversations or are the conversations about the weather, sports, work, or any other surface-level topic? Typically, it is the latter. When people are one-on-one, they feel more comfortable opening up to each other.
Is it possible to provide a structure that leads to deep relationships?
Yes. 2 things are critical to this. First, people that are meeting with each should have aligned Work Orientation. Work Orientation is how you view your work and is a spectrum between “job”, “career”, and “calling”. When people share Work Orientation, their likelihood of getting along in these relationships is much higher because their value systems are aligned.
Second, these conversations should be focused on discussing the past, not the future. When we discuss the future, we are more inclined to embellish our goals and less likely to share our past vulnerabilities for fear that our past mistakes will not be consistent with our future goals. When we discuss the past, we can focus on the missteps we have taken and how we have learned from them. 
To build trust, you must be vulnerable first, not the other way around.
How can I measure if deep relationships are being built?
You can assess your employees’ engagement levels. If engagement rises, you will know that employees’ level of connectedness to the company culture is growing. 
How often should people be meeting?
It can be once per month for an hour each meeting. This intentional time away from work and focused on another person can create bonds that last a lifetime.
Should people switch up whom they are meeting with?
Yes. Variety in these relationships helps further intertwine employees so then they are consistently building deep relationships with multiple people. As long as the relationships formally last for at least 6 months, that should be plenty of time for people to get into rapport and continue that relationship.
In conclusion, creating environments in which colleagues are building deep relationships with each other can increase oxytocin firing in their brains when they come to work and subsequently increase the alignment of their identity with the company’s culture.
If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Fri 17 January 2020
Building a company culture that is engaging for people to join and work with is not a simple task. Ping pong tables, meditation rooms, free lunches, open work spaces, and open budgets for professional development are nice and have varying degrees of effectiveness, but for this post, the focus is on corporate mentor programs.

Corporate mentor programs are created to connect people on teams together for deeper relationships. When implemented properly, the results can lead to greater employee engagement, productivity, retention, and sense of pride in working for your company.

When not implemented properly, this can lead to people feeling like the mentor relationships are forced, the mentor relationships are taking time away from their typical work, and/or the mentor relationships are giving too much power the more senior participant.

There are 3 types of corporate mentor programs that have great intentions but unfortunately, more often than not, end up with results that are consistent with improperly implemented mentor programs.

Open Door Policy Mentorship

Open Door Policy Mentorship starts with companies that enact an open door policy to encourage employees to meet with each other. The goal is that when an employee would like guidance from another employee, she can feel comfortable going into the office of that other employee and ask for advice.

The reality is that most people don’t take advantage of this Open Door Policy Mentorship. Does this mean that the team isn’t interested in mentoring relationships? Possibly, but probably not (Current research indicates that employees are interested in mentoring relationships. If you are interested in finding out for yourself, you should ask your employees in a survey if they are interested).

So why don’t employees take advantage of this? Because most people don’t feel comfortable opening the door. Whether that be not knowing exactly what to talk about, fearing that what you have to ask isn’t relevant to what that person is working on right now or that you might be interrupting her day, or not feeling like the person would have a good answer for you even if you asked the question.

Ultimately, this type of mentor program becomes lip service for HR to say to prospective candidates to try and lure them to their company through the guise of a culture that cares about your development.

Mentorship from the Executive Team via an employee application process

This type of mentorship starts with the goal of spreading the culture of the company when it was small and only the Executive Team to the employees as the team has grown.

There are 3 issues with this type of mentorship. 

First, the Executive Team doesn’t have the time to mentor every employee. This leads to:

Second, not everyone gets to participate. Trimming down the list of who gets selected to participate in this mentor program is typically accomplished through some form of application process. This leads to:

Third, the Executive Team member participant getting way too much control over the relationship. Mentorship should be mutual, where both participants come with insights to share and receive. When one participant has too much dominance over the relationship, they will typically come to mentor meetings unprepared expecting the other person to drive the agenda of the entire meeting. This leads to one-sided relationships where one person feels like they are only giving and not receiving anything (and can justify showing up unprepared because of their status in the company) and the other person doesn’t know what to ask because they don’t feel like they are contributing anything.

Informal Mentorship

Informal Mentorship is similar to Open Door Policy Mentorship but this is even less structured. At least in Open Door Policy Mentorship, there is a formal policy in place. Informal Mentorship is a term typically used by people in HR that have observed that some people in the office have more than the typical “How was your weekend?” or “How’s your day going?” conversations and assume that both people are having deep, connected conversations in which both people are learning and growing from the relationship.

None of the results from Informal Mentorship can be confirmed because there is no structure to establishing who is in these relationships and how these relationships have effected anyone’s engagement level in the company. 

In conclusion, mentorship can be an extremely effective tool for engaging employees, growing company culture, and increasing productivity if done properly. But, if done improperly, it can lead to the opposite result. 

If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Tue 21 January 2020
Participating in mentor relationships is extremely valuable and can open up opportunities for both professional and personal growth. 

But what happens when we don’t do the things we said we would do in our previous meeting or the person we are mentoring doesn’t accomplish what he said he would do the previous meeting?

You are faced with a crossroads. If you didn’t accomplish your goal, were you too ambitious with how you would spend your time or did you drop the ball? Can you be honest with yourself to recognize where you messed up?

If the person you are mentoring didn’t accomplish his goals, why did this happen? Do you feel comfortable with applying enough pressure to show that you care but not so much that you turn the person you are mentoring off? 

This article covers some helpful tips towards building a mentor relationship that is healthy and productive.

Set expectations upfront

When setting goals in a mentoring relationship, it is extremely important that you both set expectations. If you don’t put on guardrails for tasks not getting accomplished, the relationship has a high likelihood of fizzling out because if there isn’t accountability for the goals set in the relationship, there likely isn’t much accountability for the relationship overall.

It is great to set goals that are months or years away but the problem with this is that it is difficult to assess of you or the person you are mentoring is on the right track. Ideally, once you set a longer term goal, you set goals for you to accomplish between meetings that create a path towards your end goal. 

If you don’t accomplish these tasks between your mentor meetings, it is important for you to assess what is realistic and what might be too ambitious.

Challenge with questions not statements

If your mentor or the person you are mentoring doesn’t achieve his goals, it might be tempting to be frustrated. In a mentor relationship, you are investing your energy in seeing this person succeed. If they can’t accomplish the tasks they set for themselves, it can feel depleting or frustrating.

The key to properly challenging the person you are mentoring to ask poignant questions that help them come up with solutions. Saying things like “you need to do this...” or “I can’t believe you didn’t get that done…” doesn’t help you and may turn the person you are mentoring away. 

Asking questions like “since you weren’t able to accomplish this, is there something you can do this week/month to help you get back on track?” or “do you feel like you can still accomplish your goal even though you missed your task this week?” or “if you aren’t able to achieve your goal, what will be the outcome of that?” 

Once the person you are mentoring has answered these types of questions, the number one most important question to ask is:

How can I help you?

This shows empathy and your accountability to them achieving this goal.

Reevaluate the goal for changes

You or the person you are mentoring may determine that the goal set initially is not as important as it once was and that there is a new goal that has taken precedence.

This is completely fine and normal!

The key to properly handling this situation is sharing this information with your mentor. They will support you in this transition because they care about you accomplishing your goals, not that the original goal gets accomplished.

You aren’t letting your mentor down by changing your goal but you are letting your mentor down if you don’t share this new goal with him.

As a mentor, you can ask the question “is this still the most important goal on your plate?” or put another way “what is your biggest concern with the work you are doing right now?” Sometimes it is easier to answer questions about concerns than goals and prioritize them because people are more willing to do things to avoid pain than gain pleasure.

Overall, when it comes to mentor relationships and holding people accountable, it is key to be transparent, create protocols for not accomplishing tasks on the way to a goal, and be empathetic.

If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out https://ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Thu 23 January 2020
Most companies are interested in increasing the engagement level of their employees, improving retention, and growing the productivity levels and likelihood of collaboration of their teams and implementing mentor programs is garnering popularity as a catalyst for these outcomes.

The next steps is to think about how to best match participants in this mentor program together. This is a commonly overlooked aspect to mentor programs but has a critical impact on the success of the program.

Without a proven system for matching people together for mentorship, your mentor program is not likely to succeed.

Why is the match so important?

Mentorship is a relationship-based activity between two people. If the two people matched in a mentor relationship are not compatible, forcing the relationship to work is going to create resentment among both parties.

This would be like being put into an arranged marriage by your parents with somebody you hate but as opposed to having parents (who will always be your parents and you can’t get rid of) who put you together, you have your company…which you can leave…creating the opposite effect of what a mentor program was meant to accomplish.

Common Pitfalls

1.       Matching people based on years of experience
2.       Matching people based on status in the company
3.       Matching people based on area of expertise

These are great secondary factors for matching people together for mentorship, but if they are the sole basis for matching people, our research has indicated that these relationships have an 18% likelihood of lasting 6 months and being considered both productive and quality by both participants.

Why?

None of these factors consider who the individual is. Mentorship is a relationship-based activity. One’s years of experience, status in the company, or area of expertise say nothing about who an individual is. All it says is what they have accomplished.

If your mentor program matching methodology in only about what somebody has accomplished, your only incentive to both participants is the transactional outcome of achieving that experience, gaining that status, or learning that skill and once that outcome has happened the relationship is over…or if the outcome doesn’t happen within the expected time frame of both participants the relationship fizzle’s out because the participants didn’t get what they were looking for.

Work Orientation is critical to matching people for successful mentor relationships.

Work Orientation is how you view your work. Some people view their work as a job, while some view their work as a career, while others view their work as a calling. Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it can change throughout your life. There is also not a right or wrong Work Orientation.

When Work Orientation is aligned for matching people together for a mentoring relationship, the likelihood that the relationship lasts for 6 months and is considered both productive and quality goes from 18% to 72%. 

The point: what motivates people at work has a huge impact on the advice they give in a workplace mentor program and the insight they want to learn.

If you are interested in learning your Work Orientation, go to https://ambition-in-motion.com/ and complete the 1-minute Work Orientation Assessment and your report will be sent to you.

Mon 30 March 2020
Horizontal mentorship is a mentoring relationship between employees across or within departments free from the influence of the workplace hierarchy.

Horizontal mentorship is the premier way to implement an employee mentor program.

This article serves to show the benefits of horizontal mentorship and the issues with traditional vertical mentorship.

In theory, the idea of vertical mentorship makes sense. A more experienced/knowledgeable person providing wisdom to a less experienced/knowledgeable person.

But, what vertical mentorship alone doesn’t account for is the personal drivers of each person in the relationship and its impact on the longevity and quality of that relationship over time.

Vertical mentorship opens the door for ego and ego is the biggest deterrent to successful mentoring relationships.

To show this point, let’s discuss the story of Shawn. Shawn is the CFO of a major company. He loves the idea of mentorship and believes that he has a lot of wisdom to share with somebody else. But, because Shawn is an executive, he doesn’t necessarily see the relationship being mutual. He’s fine with only providing his wisdom without any expectation of anything in return.

On the surface, this seems altruistic of Shawn…but in reality, Shawn is a nightmare for the other person he is in a mentoring relationship with.

The issue is that Shawn sees himself as an altruistic provider of information. What Shawn doesn’t realize is that his lack of willingness to listen and learn from the other person he is in a mentoring relationship with cripples the relationship. The person Shawn is in a relationship with cannot feel fully connected to Shawn because all Shawn does is spout advice. Shawn doesn’t come prepared with questions to meetings because Shawn perceives himself as a “reactive mentor” meaning that he can excuse himself from preparing for mentor meetings because his reactions to the other person’s questions should be enough to make the relationship valuable.

The result, the relationship fades away because the other person is frustrated with Shawn not being open to learning something from him while Shawn has no idea why the relationship ended and perceives the other person as being ungrateful for not taking full advantage of his wisdom.

The point is that vertical mentorship exaggerates workplace hierarchies and dehumanizes the mentoring relationship.

As opposed to the mentoring relationship being mutual where two people can give to and take from the relationship, it creates an awkward relationship where one person feels belittled and the other person feels disrespected. Vertical mentorship feels more like a transaction and less like a mutually beneficial relationship.

Horizontal mentorship leverages the inherent drives and values people have at work (Work Orientation) and matches them based on those drives.  

No matter the matches’ age, years of experience, or area of expertise, when people are matched together in horizontal mentorship, they are on a level playing field.

This means that both participants come prepared to each mentor meeting with questions for each other and stories to share. 

This means that both participants are willing to be open-minded enough to learn from somebody else regardless of their age or experience, willing to ask questions, and willing to share past mistakes.

Horizontal mentorship removes the transactional nature of vertical mentorship.

Horizontal mentorship breaks through communication barriers and creates empathy between employees at work. 

For building an employee mentor program, horizontal mentorship is the way to go. 

Even if the goal is for a junior employee to learn a skill from a senior employee, if the perception is vertical mentorship, the senior employee is going to perceive the relationship as a hassle while the junior employee is going to feel belittled. If the perception is that this type of mentor relationship is horizontal, it empowers the junior employee and gives the senior employee motivation to engage in the relationship because he now stands to gain something from the relationship.

Wed 19 August 2020
When I met with my mentor this month, we talked a lot about changing focus. We discussed our career aspirations, our current workload, and our personal endeavors as well. In each one, though, change was the major factor.

We discussed changing careers, both past and future planned shifts. Sometimes you change careers because you are tired of doing the same old thing and sometimes it’s because you have a passion for something new. Regardless of why you’re changing, you can always take skills from your past roles with you. No job is really a waste of time, as long as you learned something new or learned something about yourself. Sometimes it takes a change of scenery to see that though.

Change can also come in the form of quickly shifting focus during your day-to-day work. Some days, I find myself deep in the middle of a project and then a major HR issue comes up that I have to deal with on the spot. It can be jarring to have to switch back and forth between priorities quickly, but exercising that muscle is one of the most valuable things I’ve learned in my professional career. Both my mentor and I have recently had to deal with this often. It’s reassuring to understand that everyone has ongoing projects and sometimes you just have to stop and fight fires. If you take a moment to regroup and reassess your priorities after the urgent task is completed, you’ll be in much better shape to continue your project work.

Changing focus can sometimes seem like a waste of time or a failed effort as well. We recently discussed that, at times, we have projects that just get dropped altogether. When that happens, it can be pretty devastating when you’ve put notable effort into something and then it comes to nothing. At the very least, it’s annoying. Projects get laid by the wayside for many reasons - management changing priorities, personal priorities changing, environmental changes -  sometimes a project is just deemed infeasible or unviable after extensive research. There’s always something to be taken from a dropped project though. I always learn new skills, or sharpen old ones and that’s the main personal reason for most any project anyway. In addition to changing focus externally, focusing on lessons and skills learned is just as valuable as anything.

Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers