"interview"

Fri 28 February 2020
Initial publishing on HR Boost.

I am interviewing Garrett Mintz, the founder of Ambition In Motion, to discuss mentor programs for small and medium-sized businesses. Garrett and his team have done extensive research into mentorship and what works and doesn’t work for implementing mentor programs. Garrett’s big focus is on leveraging the research of Work Orientation and its impact on successful mentor relationships which he shares about in this interview.

What is a common assumption that small to medium sized business owners have about their team?

That everybody already knows everybody or that they don’t have time for mentorship.

So often, I will hear from small to medium sized business owners that they don’t see a need for an employee mentor program because everybody has already worked at the company for 5+ years and that everyone knows everyone pretty well. Or that the issues between employees can’t be resolved so they are fine with leaving them unresolved and continuing on with business as normal. Or that they don’t have time for mentorship.

What most business owners are blind to is the fact that most conversations at work are superficial: “How are your kids?” “What did you do over the weekend?” “Did you complete that project?”

You have enough of these conversations over and over and over and you feel like you “know” somebody…but you really don’t.

Do you have a story you can share to elaborate on this point?

Of course!

One of our clients does tax accounting in Indianapolis. They are a 14 person firm and we started the mentor program in January.

It would be an understatement to say that the participants in our mentor program were busy and skeptical about this program. We are entering the heat of tax season and they are embarking on a mentor program…in a 14 person company where everyone knows everyone.

Needless to say, they were skeptical.

Brad and John are employees of this firm and they were matched together. Brad is a manager at the company and has been there for over 15 years. John started within the past year but has been friends with Brad for the past 3 years. In fact, Brad helped him land this job. Since they both had been friends for the past 3 years, they thought they already knew everything about each other.

They scheduled a 60 minute meeting for their first mentor meeting but were concerned that they wouldn’t have enough to talk about because they already knew each other so well.

The result…the meeting lasted for 90 minutes…they only got through 1 question on the meeting agenda we provided them…they had to schedule a second meeting in the same month complete the meeting agenda.

They learned so much about each other that they didn’t already know. They opened up about their background, their work history, their work goals, and how their personalities meshed well with each other. 

Brad and John have never had conversations like this at work before. They are now getting their work done more efficiently because they have a better understanding of what each person does and what they need as opposed to working in their own silos. Because of this increased efficiency, they are now starting on projects that were pushed out way down the line in the company’s strategic road map.

This was all accomplished within the first month of implementing the mentor program!

These types of stories happen all of the time.

What is your secret sauce? 

The key thing that we are doing that is different from most mentor programs is we are using the research behind Work Orientation to facilitate our mentor program.

Traditional methods for matching people together for mentorship don’t work.

My team and I have learned that when you match based on status within the company, years of experience, or learning a specific skill, that the mentor relationship becomes a transaction where the mentor gets nothing and only the mentee has something to gain. The issue with matching people together based on transactional metrics is that it lacks staying power and depth. Once a mentee achieves what he/she is after – or loses patience with achieving the goal, the relationship ends because the mentee has no need for the mentor anymore (e.g. after a promotion or learning a certain skill). 

This is a problem because the staying power of mentorship is what increases its impact to a business’s bottom line significantly over time.

If you can create webs of mentor relationships across your company, significantly more collaboration can occur, your team can innovate more easily, and your culture can thrive. People will show up more engaged for work every day and the ability to attract new talent to the company will happen more naturally because your employees will become ambassadors for your company, encouraging their friends and strangers to take advantage of joining the team if they get the opportunity.

My team and I have tested multiple personality tests and areas of research. We have garnered varying degrees of success with different personality assessments, but by far the most effective research area is Work Orientation. Work Orientation is how you view your work. Some people view their work as a career, while others view their work as a calling, while others view their work as a job. Work Orientation is fluid and there isn’t a right or wrong Work Orientation. When Work Orientation is aligned for a mentoring relationship, the likelihood that relationship lasts for 6 months and is considered both productive and quality is 400% greater than traditional mentor matching methods. Regardless of the department a person is in, years of experience, or status in the company, if Work Orientation is aligned for a mentor relationship, they are 400% more likely to last for 6 months and be considered productive and quality than matching on transactional metrics like the ones previously stated.

How much time does participating in a mentor program like yours normally take?

The time investment from employees in our mentor program is between 1 and 4 hours per month. If we are assuming 166 hours worked per month that is less than 2.4% of their time.

How does this translate to the bottom line?

There has been extensive research on the correlation between mentorship and work engagement and between work engagement and productivity. Essentially, if you can measure engagement changes in employee mentor program participants over time, you can measure how much more productive they are at work. This manifests itself in more sales, better customer service, greater collaboration between teams, and overall happier employees. If you can increase the likelihood of successful mentorship by 400% and continue implementing successful mentorship over time (e.g. building webs of connection), you can create a significantly positive impact on the bottom line.
Fri 20 September 2019
A couple of years ago when I was interviewing companies, I would ask a similar question in all of my interviews.


Me (in an interview): “So tell me a little about your company’s culture?”


Recruiter: “Great question. We have a very youthful and innovative culture here at                company. We have casual Fridays and an annual philanthropic event that many of our employees participate in called                        .”


Me: (not trying to pry or insult) “ahh, thanks for letting me know.”


What I really wanted to ask was ‘what the heck does that even mean?’ In defense of the recruiter, that is a very difficult question to answer.


To understand why that is a difficult question to answer, let’s dive into what organizational culture is. According to study.com:


“Organizational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations. These shared values have a strong influence on the people in the organization and dictate how they dress, act, and perform their jobs.”


So, according to the recruiter that I interviewed, she kind of answered the question. Although, it didn’t really help me as a college student who at the time had no preconceived notion of what organizational culture was. The recruiter telling me about her youthful and innovative culture tells me that the company is trying to adapt to the changing future. Her telling me about casual Fridays tells me how the employees dress on Fridays and the philanthropic event tells me how some of the employees act during that once a year period when the event is going on.


But what about the shared values, beliefs and assumptions? How am I supposed to create a picture of what a company’s culture is like without this information?


To play devil’s advocate, if people know about casual Fridays, but think that it is a joke or would rather not change their dress routine for one day of the week, how pertinent to the culture of the company are casual Fridays? If there seems to be a trend that the people who participate in this annual philanthropic event get higher bonuses (maybe because the owner, president, or board started this organization or is heavily invested in this organization), is it really optional and (if it is perceived as not optional because those who don’t participate in the philanthropic event tend to not get bonuses) does it really contribute to the culture of the company? If the only reason the recruiter described her company’s culture as youthful and innovative because she recently hired a bunch of recent college graduates and the term “innovative” tends to attract young people, is the culture really energetic and willing to try new things that shape how business is done in the future? These are hypothetical questions, but questions nonetheless that I am still left wondering as a student interviewing a company (that I don’t feel comfortable asking for fear of insulting).


The reason why asking the recruiter what her company’s culture is like is a difficult question is because it is her opinion.


Organizational cultures are not universally good or universally bad for every person. Just because two organizations have the exact same activities (i.e. casual Fridays and philanthropic events) doesn’t mean that those activities are received the same way at each company by the employees. Some employees may hate those types of activities while other employees may love them and an employee’s love or hatred for doing an activity may depend on who they are doing that activity with (i.e. their colleagues).


Just because a company writes on its website their values and beliefs, doesn’t necessarily mean that the employees share them.


When hired, every person enters the hiring company with a set of values and beliefs. That individual has an influence on the overall culture, but will ultimately have to adapt their values and beliefs to that of what already exists at the company. The individual can either fight those values and beliefs by not seeing how their values and beliefs can be fulfilled through the company or they can buy into the culture of the company.


Many employees for a company fall in between these two choices because they have not taken the time to think about their own values and beliefs and how they pertain to the company in which they are working. Many employees accept their job for what it is without acknowledging or appreciating the little things their company may be trying to do to make their work more enjoyable.


Ultimately, it is up to the individual applying for the job or as an employee within the company to decide what the company’s culture is like. It is up to this individual to understand their own values and beliefs and see how those values and beliefs are being fulfilled by the company. If this understanding can be developed by all or at least a majority of the employees within a company, organizational culture can thrive.

Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers