"executive mentor"

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.

Wed 24 June 2020
I recently joined an executive peer mentoring initiative led by Ambition In Motion (https://ambition-in-motion.com). A big part of the reason is that my coaching practice, (www.coachfortomorrow.com) is continuing to expand in leadership development, career development and management, and career transition. I’m now also part of another new initiative, Culture Fit 20/20 (https://culturefit2020.com), and I’m extremely interested in views from an HR executive’s desk on employee well-being, engagement, training and development.
 
What intrigues me about the mentoring focus is how the AIM team did a “work orientation” assessment as a key basis for pairing me with another leader, Geoff McCuen. We’ve been introduced, met again, and have discovered that we’re really closely aligned in our outlook on life and career. We each share a sense that the calling or purpose behind what we do as a career or job, is critical. So we’re both excited to be speaking together, and affirming of AIM’s process in connecting the two of us. A part of this was the power of story – the types of questions we asked each other nudged us to be open and authentic. As part of articulating the “why” behind what I do, I found myself remembering key people and conversations en-route to my deciding on coaching as my next career.
 
Another facet of this is the notion of “peer mentoring”. Most of us probably equate a mentor as a more senior, more skilled, more experienced sage, giving the benefit of his or her experience and wisdom to a younger, developing professional. Our thinking is shaped by centuries of tradition (the development of novice-apprentice-journeyman from the guilds of the middle ages) to the more recent Jedi Master-Padawan apprentice from the Star Wars franchise. I remember realizing with a shock years ago that I was no longer the “new guy” at IBM but had become one of the “veterans”.
 
But why not “peer” mentoring? One way to look at this could be “networking on steroids”. Or, think of this quote from the book of Proverbs - “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Each of us can both add value and perspective to another, and learn from the other.
 
Looking forward to our next conversations!
Mon 29 June 2020
When I first started Ambition In Motion, I held this belief that I always needed to present myself as the paradigm of answers and solutions for the people on my team. My logic was that if I don’t know the answers, how can they feel confident working for a company with a leader who is unsure of themselves? 

Beyond my team, I noticed that I was putting on this face that everything was awesome to everyone: my fiancé, my family, my friends, and especially people I networked with. 

I eventually became really stressed out. I was holding all of these things inside and internally preparing excuses for questions like: Why isn’t the business where you thought it would be a few months ago? Why aren’t you still pursuing that plan? How come you are still working a bartending/serving job on nights and weekends to pay for your bills if the business is doing great?

I wasn’t always this bottled up. My brand was predicated on this underdog approach I took to building the business where I embraced showing vulnerability. But after a few years of running the business, my perception of how I should present myself to everyone else changed. I thought I had to be more like this archetypal “business executive” that we see all the time in pop culture (or real life!).

I fortunately had a mentor. He is also the leader of his company and he went through something very similar. He had a tough period where he needed to raise his sales growth and decrease his operational costs or else his company wouldn’t survive. Instead of keeping these issues to himself, he took a different path and shared freely what he needed to do and what the stakes were with the people around him. The stakes weren’t on specific people but rather the entire company: the company might not be able to exist if they can’t pull together to hit these goals. 

His vulnerability became a rallying cry. As opposed to jumping ship or having doubts about his leadership (which I truly thought would happen), they rallied around him and felt empowered because he gave them ownership of the problem at hand. This helped them feel like a team working together. 

Hearing this story from my mentor realigned my perspective, and it shapes my view on leadership and vulnerability to this day.

But as the notion goes: “the teacher appears when the student is ready.”

I am involved in entrepreneurial meet-up groups, have a coach, and read books that guide me, but it wasn’t until I had an executive mentor that it finally clicked for me.

Selfishly, my issue with entrepreneurial meet-up groups was that I didn’t get to talk about me enough and learn enough insights on my situation. For fairness, we split the time focusing on our respective businesses evenly, but I found myself only having the mental and emotional capacity to resonate with one other executive’s situation beyond my own. 

Having a coach is great for their guidance, leading me to think about different factors, but they aren’t necessarily able to relate to the current problems I am facing with managing a team and expectations in my own way. 

Books are excellent as well but they have to hit me at the right time. If I am not ready to accept and embrace that knowledge, I may not know how to fully take advantage of what I am learning.

As the leader of my company, I am not the paradigm of what a vulnerable leader looks like. However, I have gained a deeper and more intentional focus on being vulnerable with everyone and I can thank my mentor for that. Whether it’s personal life or business, I can already feel the improvements from taking this perspective to vulnerability. The connection between me and my team already feels closer. They have a better pulse on what I am thinking and feeling, and I feel like I have a better understanding of what my team is thinking and feeling as they have felt comfortable reciprocating my vulnerability. It can be tough to break through our shell and show vulnerability, but the initial investment pays dividends. 

Wed 8 July 2020
Successful companies hold candid conversations, explore areas of innovation, and refine strategy on a regular cadence. Why not you?

In the last month, have you asked yourself: Who you are and what you have? What you do? Who do you help? How you help? How they know you and how you deliver? How you interact? Who helps you? What you get? And what you give? If yes, that is great! If not, it is a great time to start!

Let’s focus on: Who you are? This core area encompasses three topics: interests, personality, and personal skills and abilities. 

Your engagement and overall satisfaction, whether at home or at work, is directly linked to your interest in the things you do. This is slightly different than one’s passion as it is focused more on a micro level. 

Your personality is undoubtedly the staple of: Who you are? However, this is far greater than the typical responses of: I’m an introvert. I enjoy being around others. Your personality in essence is a combination of DNA + life experiences. It represents your strengths, your weakness, your blind spots, your preferred work and life environments, and your competencies.

Your skills and abilities are shaped by life (or learned) experiences. Further, this area is the most flexible of the three (3) areas. Skills can be learned, lost, or refined. Abilities, on the other hand, are less elastic. Think about numerical reasoning or critical reading and writing. Certainly one can improve in those areas but those themes, and others, are often embedded intrinsically. 

You will notice that: Who you are and what you have? is the first in a series of important questions to fully understand yourself and provides a trajectory towards personal optimization. 

It is critical to start this journey with a sound, valued partner – a mentor or one who can hold the mirror and ask targeted questions as you reflect. Mentors come in all different ‘sizes and shapes.’ Colleagues. Family members. Book authors. Business partners. Ambition In Motion's Horizontal Mentoring program offers a new, fresh approach to the mentor-mentee relationship. Rather than the traditional top-down approach, Ambition In Motion’s methodology is based on the science of work orientation allowing for deep, horizontal relationships to form. Think about an engineer paired with a marketing manager or a customer service representative matched with an IT analyst. Imagine how these interesting combinations could jolt your insight not only within your organization but within yourself. 
Tue 30 June 2020
Although I was very excited to begin this program, I can say that there was a certain degree of skepticism and apprehension when it came to meeting my Peer-Mentor for our first 1-on-1 session.   Not only are we from two different organizations, and two different work environments, but honestly from two different fields.  My career has largely been focused on Training/Development, with a strong tie to the HR field, while my Peer-Mentor has had a long career in HR Management.

To say that our initial meeting/work session was a success would be an understatement.  We were able to connect on multiple topics and the communication was very fluid and relaxed.  I truly believe that we will both value significantly from this networking opportunity and I look forward to our next few sessions.
Mon 13 July 2020
As a leader, your goal is to empower your people to operate optimally and enjoy the work they are doing. One key skill for achieving that goal is the ability to promote active listening and communication among your team

In the past, managers tried to get their teams to listen by micromanaging, providing constant reminders, and having frequent check-ins. All of these nit-picky activities cost time and energy for everyone involved.

As it turns out, it really doesn’t pay off. Instead, they ended up with a culture of mindless rule-following and stymied innovation. Those cultures are predicated on “what has always been done in the past.”

In these scenarios, leaders stress out because they perceive their teams’ lack of performance as a lack of listening, both to leadership and to each other. However, what happens, in reality, is that the culture of “do what I say” creates employees that are trained to not speak openly about problems and solutions with the team when the boss doesn’t allow it. It’s not that they can’t think on their own; they choose not to for fear of rejection or repercussions. 

How can you tell if you are building this type of repressive team culture?

Ask yourself, how often do your people challenge your ideas? Do they ever question you face-to-face?

If the answer is minimally or never, you are building a culture that stymies listening and communication, and subsequently, leads to loss of innovative thinking on your team. 

If this sounds like your team, fear not! You are not stuck in this position forever! You can start making progress today on improving your team’s cohesion, listening skills, and innovation. 

Humans are social animals by nature. That makes us perceptive, and we react to what we are sensing from the people we are around, even if we don’t consciously acknowledge it. 

We can learn from other highly social animals as well. For example, a few weeks ago my dog Sunni was recently attacked by another dog. 

After getting attacked, my fiancé, understandably, was nervous taking Sunni to the dog park. While my fiancé wanted Sunni to play and exercise at the park, Sunni seemed too anxious and refused to get more than a few feet away from her. Sunni could sense her nerves and blatantly disobeyed her requests for Sunni to go and play. Even though Sunni could probably tell my fiancé was saying to go play, she picked up on her owner’s anxiety and chose to ignore the commands and stay close.

The point is that just like Sunni picks up on her owner’s feelings and responds accordingly, your people will pick up on your feelings and respond to those, even if what you are saying is different.

Unfortunately, you can’t just order your people to “come up with innovative ideas” or ask them to start questioning your decisions. Feelings and body language are much more powerful than words. If your people don’t sense you are being authentic when you ask to have a more open, inclusive, innovative, and attentive culture, the message will fall on deaf ears.

Your people can tell when you are stressed out, and your stress doesn’t make them work any faster or better. In fact, it is likely to make them worse because, as a leader, your stress is shared with the team. Your people may not respond or act the way you want them to because their fear of stressing you out even more, all of which creates a feedback loop chock full of stressed-out bosses, unproductive employees, communication barriers…which unsurprisingly makes you more stressed.

The best remedy for this is vulnerability

Share with them what is on your mind and what concerns you may have. Nine times out of ten, fear of the unknown outweighs the fear of the known. When you keep it to yourself, and your people sense you are stressed, they will come up with their own thoughts on what might be stressing you out, which is its own novel source of stress.  

When you make your concerns and stressors known, you invite others to empathize with you and help you rally around the problem at hand. 

If you are vulnerable with your people, they are much more likely to reciprocate and be open with you. Your understanding of their challenges will help you build empathy for their work. 

Eventually, your people will build a greater understanding of why you are saying what you are saying and more willing to ask you questions if they are confused. Empathetic, effective communication is the key to building a strong team, and vulnerability will help you build trust and listening skills all across your team.

Wed 15 July 2020
How does one define leadership? In many ways it is a concept that is difficult to define. Difficult to understand. Difficult to execute. And difficult to replicate. Consider how many books, articles, seminars, and case studies have been offered over the decades – not to mention the ability to earn a PhD in Leadership! As such, leadership comes in many models often formed by personal experiences and successes and failures of others.

At the fundamental level, at least in business, leadership can be defined as simply making better decisions than your competition. How does one develop this capability? An executive noted, “Make a lot of bad decisions that don’t kill you.” It is true that one’s experience is, in many cases, a result of trial and error and observation of others. Unfortunately, experience alone is no panacea; thus, a leader must be aware of their blind spots and recognition – or lack thereof – becomes more critical as one moves up the corporate ladder.

Blind spots represent an unrecognized weakness or hazard that has the potential to undercut a leader’s success. Blind spots can be found on numerous levels: how you view yourself and your impact on others, the strengths and weaknesses of your team and organization, and the forces operating in the markets in which you compete. Fortunately, blind spots can be identified and managed if one looks for them. Given such, carefully select valued sounding boards who push you, question you, and assist you in recognizing the areas that may undermine your success and that of your organization. 

Programs such as those offered by Ambition In Motion can illuminate leadership blind spots. This is vital as blind spots are not just cases of failing to see ourselves or our actions accurately. They are evident in the way we view our teams, organizations, and markets. 

Executives and senior leaders, get started today: https://rb.gy/5luuqj 



Mon 24 August 2020
Over the course of my career, there has been an increasing focus on making work “easier”.  This initiative has taken many forms over the years, ranging from process improvements and documentation, to streamlining meetings, to improved electronic platforms, etc.  As I began to get involved with the Ambition in Motion program, my personal workload began to increase as well, and more than ever the need for an “easy” application was essential.

I can comfortably say that this program is very easy, with a clearly defined structure, easy to follow instructions, and continued touchpoints and follow-up from the program administrators.  In addition to the regular Mentorship sessions, there as many other opportunities for personal growth.  I can honestly say that the most difficult portion of this program is personally finding the time to take full advantage of what is offered.  I am very excited to see how this continues to grow and evolve.



Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers