"mentor program"

Fri 3 January 2020
Not all companies have a mentor program, but if your company does have one and you haven’t participated, you might be thinking to yourself, what is the point?

You may have achieved your professional goals or you may not think that anyone in your company could help you or you may believe that a mentor may not fully understand you or you may not know what to say or what to ask once you are in a mentor relationship.

These thoughts are normal, but you would be doing yourself a major disservice by not participating. Both being a mentor and getting mentored can do a lot for you and this article sheds light on 3 benefits of mentorship.

Mentorship gives you confidence

Regardless of your title, how much you have accomplished in your career, or your stage in life, everyone can benefit and gain confidence from having a mentor. 

Mentors see something in you that you can’t see in yourself.

Vice versa, being a mentor is an empowering opportunity to see something in somebody else that they didn’t realize was possible.

When you can participate in painting a picture that is so audacious, so ambitious, so impossible sounding to yourself or the person you are mentoring, magic happens. People open their mind to what could be possible and remove the preconceived notions they had about “reality” to try something new and give themselves permission to reach higher. 

Whether you are reaching higher for yourself or helping somebody else achieve this, you begin to own the success of the person you are in a mentoring relationship. By own, you are embodying the emotional highs and lows of trying, failing, learning, and retrying. 

Having somebody there to share these experiences with is extremely gratifying.

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

Spending time with a mentor who encourages your success and where you can encourage somebody else’s success increases confidence immensely.

Why do this at work?

You might think that your significant other or a close friend is doing this for you. And if so, that is amazing. But you shouldn’t just have one mentor and if your only mentor is too close to you, they may not feel comfortable challenging you in new ways because they have known you for so long.

A work mentor is close enough to you that they can understand and relate to you but removed enough that they aren’t conditioned by your past and the “reality” of what you think is possible. Essentially, it is easier for somebody slightly more removed from you to help you paint a picture of reality that you currently don’t realize is possible.

Mentorship makes you happier at work

People who participate in mentor relationships build deep bonds with their mentor. There is a chemical in the human brain called oxytocin. This chemical fires and makes us happier when we are around those that we feel connected to.

We spend the majority of our waking hours at work. Yet, only a small percentage of employees have this type of bond with a colleague.

By not participating in a mentor program at work, we are depriving ourselves of potentially enriching relationships that can make us excited to go to work and happier when we come home from work.

You might think “I like having separation of work and personal life.” Participating in a mentor program and having separation between work and life are NOT mutually exclusive. You aren’t sharing your whole life with the entire office and what you share in your mentor relationship is typically confined to topics that are work-relevant while a safe space to convey your personal feelings.

Mentor relationships help build your levels of oxytocin, making you happier at work.

Mentorship makes you more productive

Having a mentor and being a mentor helps you connect with another person at work that you may not have had as much of a deep relationship with before mentorship. This mentor relationship naturally breeds collaboration and innovation.

By learning what another person is doing on a deeper level, their feelings about this work, and where they view their path going in the future, you are able to build a stronger perspective about how your work can collaborate with their work and others in the company. 

Another outcome of mentorship is increased engagement. By understanding the company and the work on a higher level and how another person operates, you are able to expand your mind of what can be accomplished and what you are working towards outside of your personal silo. This increased understanding of your company and opportunities to collaborate from your role increases work engagement and productivity.

In essence, workplace mentorship can have a huge impact on your level of satisfaction with your work. Really good workplace mentor programs will match you with a mentor whose personality and Work Orientation align with yours and provide you with agendas and structure on what to ask and how to grow the relationship in a positive way. 

The best way to reap these benefits is to start. Take the leap and participate and you will begin to see some of these outcomes.

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

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.

Sat 25 January 2020
So you have started a mentor program, congrats! You matched people together and your people are now gearing up to begin meeting. This is an exciting time for your mentor program, but also a critical time. If your participants have a bad first meeting, the likelihood of a second meeting happening diminishes significantly and the likelihood the relationship succeeds diminishes greatly as well. 

If your employees go into this meeting without an agenda, here are the questions that they will be thinking about: 

What will we talk about?

Can this person even help me?

Can I help this person?

What if this is a big waste of time?

What if my mentor talks too much or doesn’t talk at all? 

Should I share and be vulnerable or only talk about the day-to-day things like the weather and sports?

Will this person care?

You could argue that this is a pessimistic view of the thoughts in one’s head before meeting and that an optimist would think oppositely and you would be correct in thinking this. But, in our experience, when most people try something new for the first time, they are more hesitant to fully embrace this new thing. This hesitancy is typically met with skepticism.

How can you significantly minimize this skepticism? Provide an agenda!

You might think “Agendas will make the relationship robotic and impersonal!” but in our experience, the opposite is true. Agendas provide a starting point for the conversation. They give people the confidence to know what will be discussed during the conversation while knowing that if they learn something interested about their mentor that they can ask for elaboration and grow the conversation in whichever direction feels most natural.

Should I prepare an agenda for every mentor meeting? At least one new agenda per month.

A first agenda is great, but without consistent guidance and structure, the relationship can begin to lack newness beyond life/career status updates. Providing a new agenda every month creates context and provides a roadmap as to where the relationship should be going. This creates freshness in the relationship and allows for you, the administrator of this mentor program, to control the flow and success of the mentor program.

Should I create the same agenda for every mentor pairing? No.

A one-size-fits-all policy around your mentor meeting agendas is not ideal. The reason for this is because not all mentor pairings share the same Work Orientation. For example, people that are job oriented get much of their workplace engagement socially. Therefore, their agendas should incorporate some form of social activity like volunteering, going out to lunch, or taking a walk outside. People that are career oriented get much of their workplace engagement from the work that they do and learning new skills. Therefore, their agendas should be focused around setting timelines with each other for learning new skills. People that are career oriented get much of their workplace engagement from high level thinking. Therefore, their agendas should be focused around discussing abstract concepts on how their work and their company has an impact on society on a larger level.

Should I be gathering feedback on my agendas after every mentor meeting? Yes.

The ideas you come up with for mentor meetings could be great or a total flop. Being ignorant to the feedback from everyone means that the loudest voices will win. The loudest voices are not necessarily representative of the entire group.

Is there an order you tend to follow for structuring mentor meeting agendas? Yes.

At Ambition In Motion, we typically follow a structure of rapport building, then collaboration exercise, then goal setting, then reviewing obstacles (perceived vs. real), then reviewing strengths and weaknesses, and then providing feedback to each other (e.g. a 360 degree review).

So…What are the 5 reasons why you NEED to provide agendas for your company’s mentor program?

1.       Removes much of the skepticism from participants
2.       Allows you to control the pace and direction of the relationship
3.       Gives you insight into the effectiveness of the program
4.       Creates opportunities for mending and iterating relationships while they are happening
5.       Provides you with a formula for success for future versions of the mentor program

Mon 27 January 2020
I interviewed Mat Orrego, the CEO of Cornerstone Information Systems, a 100-person software company that is growing and doing amazing work. Mat is in his mid 50’s, his company is doing great, and he has a great support system. By all accounts, Mat has made it professionally and personally and would be the last person you would think would be interested in having a mentor.

But to my surprise, in my interview with Mat, Mat informed me that he is constantly learning and building mentor relationships and seeking them out. 

This was surprising to me because I have been running a mentor program for over 7 years and I have encountered many professionals in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and older that have informed me that they feel that they don’t need a mentor. This isn’t many people that respond this way, but enough for me to think to myself “could they have possibly learned it all?” or “is there some age where you have learned everything you need to know and don’t need to keep learning?”

I ponder these questions half-heartedly, but I do think about the question, what differentiates Mat from these types of people?

I believe the answer is a combination of ego, willingness to be vulnerable, and one’s perceived social capital.

Mat doesn’t care about being proud or showing off, Mat cares about learning, growing, and being right. Mat doesn’t put on this façade that he has it all figured out – he’s vulnerable and that makes him extremely relatable and attractive to other people. Mat doesn’t live his life based on his perception of the expectations he thinks others have for him, he makes decisions to help him be better.

One story that really stood out to me that Mat shared with me was the time he participated in a Stanford executive education program. While in this program, he was paired with another professional in the program for mentorship. How old was his mentor? 25. Instead of thinking to himself “what could I possibly learn from this 25 year old?” and thinking that program had failed him, he embraced the relationship. This 25-year old was doing amazing work at Facebook and Mat mentioned that he taught him so much about business and technology. But more importantly, they were able to connect on a human level. Their mentor relationship wasn’t solely about the transfer of knowledge and skill. It was also about building a bond that would last after the program was over.

This story showed me so much about who Mat is and what he stands for.

Be more like Mat. Don’t let your ego get in the way of growing.

If you are somebody that is contemplating whether or not to participate in a mentor program, I would strongly encourage you to do it and come in with the open mind that you can both learn and teach in this relationship. Your age is just a number and your ability to learn and build connection only stops when you decide it’s time.

Fri 31 January 2020
The marketing team is frustrating the engineering team which is frustrating the sales team which is frustrating the customer service team which is frustrating the accounting team…and all of these frustrations frustrate the executive team.

Maybe frustrated is too strong of a word…but the current meeting structure between teams is not working as great as you would like.

You might have thought about the idea of implementing a mentor program to help increase connectivity between teams but thought to yourself “We are growing too quickly and don’t have the time to implement a mentor program.”

This article serves to challenge that notion.

A man was hired to cut down trees. On the first day he cut down 6 trees. On the second day he cut down 5 trees. On the third day he cut down 4 trees. By the end of the week, he was only cutting down one tree per day. He went to his boss and said “I don’t know what is going on with me! I must be getting weaker.” His boss replied, “When was the last time you took the time to sharpen your axe?” The man was confused. He responded “I don’t have time to sharpen my axe. I need to spend my time cutting down trees.”

Implementing a mentor program at your company, especially if it is growing at a fast pace, is like sharpening your axe. 

When a new employee doesn’t build a strong bond with another employee within the first month of starting their role, their likelihood of being retained past 1 year and having a high level of engagement diminishes significantly. 

This relationship is NOT the relationship they have with their direct supervisor.

Why?

Because the relationship between a supervisor and direct report is one of expectation. Both parties have expectations for each other. When two people have expectations for each other, the likelihood for vulnerability between those two people diminishes substantially. When there is no vulnerability, there is no trust. When there is no trust, oxytocin can’t form in our brains and when oxytocin can’t form in our brains, we don’t receive the happiness we feel when we are surrounded by those that we do have oxytocin with.

The point: the bonds that cause people to stay at a company beyond 1 year and be highly engaged at work need to form outside of their boss to direct report relationship. 

It can be with somebody within their own department, but for this article, we will focus on the benefits of matching people together for mentorship across departments and how people with different backgrounds can increase their engagement, productivity, and collaboration at work.

People build strong bonds with each other for mentorship when their Work Orientations align. Work Orientation is the measure of what motivates us at work. Some people are job oriented, some people are career oriented and some people are calling oriented. 

There is a 400% increase in the likelihood of facilitating successful mentor relationships when Work Orientation is aligned.

The reason is because people inherently try to empathize with others when they are in a mentoring relationship. But, when 2 peoples Work Orientations are not aligned, the advice, questions, and insight will not be received in the way the other expects or wants to hear. For example, an issue a career oriented person might face is feeling like they aren’t learning new skills. A job oriented mentor might ask, in their attempt to be empathetic, “Are you getting paid well? Are you getting enough time off? Is your work stressing you out?” The career oriented person might answer yes to the first two questions and no to the last question but still feel unfulfilled because their problem isn’t with pay, time off, or work stress, it is with the lack of opportunities to learn new skills, an issue that might not be considered an issue for a job oriented mentor. 

This is just an example, but in this, both people are left feeling unfulfilled from that mentor experience.

When Work Orientation is aligned, peoples attempts at empathy are more well-received and both parties feel greater connectedness to each other.

What makes Work Orientation so unique is that this measure goes beyond status within the company, years of experience, or area of skill or expertise.

What this means is that people can be matched together across departments, years of experience, or status within the company while still having a high likelihood of having a successful mentor relationship.

In fact, this type of mentorship does an amazing job of creating collaborations between teams. It is difficult for the marketing team to understand what the engineering team is going through which is difficult to understand what the sales team is going through which is difficult to understand what the customer service team is going through (and so on so forth throughout your company). 

By creating mentor bonds between people across departments, you are able to foster relationships that don’t have expectations. This leads to empathy and vulnerability which leads to trust, which leads to oxytocin which leads to greater levels of engagement and collaboration at work. When somebody on the engineering team complains about the marketing team, an engineer who is in a mentoring relationship with somebody on the marketing team can squash that issue and convey what the marketing team is going through as opposed to letting that complaint fester and grow deeper into the minds of the engineers.

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 27 December 2019
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Often used to help people pick themselves up when their lives seem to have fallen into a rut, this quote can be helpful for giving your life some guidance BEFORE hitting the hard parts.


Consider this: according to the bureau of labor statistics, the average person changes jobs 10.8 times between ages 18 and 42. This means you are more likely than not going to work in a career that has no relevance to what you studied in college at some point. This outcome frequently results in people believing their time spent in college was wasted and that what they gained from college may not have been worth thousands of dollars. But when you consider the pros and cons of going to college, remember that life is about the journey. Did attending college add or detract from your life’s journey? 


While not necessarily a clear answer, like most things it will largely depend on your perspective. If you graduated from college with the expectation that getting a degree would guarantee you a job in a field related to that degree and that you would simply ride that job until retirement (with the level of promotions and acknowledgment you believe you deserve over that period of time), it is easy to understand why you may be unhappy with your current situation. Likewise, if you came into college with a clear understanding that the average person will have 11 or 12 jobs in their life, many of which may be completely removed from your college degree, your expectations likely met reality and you are probably more satisfied with your current situation. But while the benefits of your studies may or may not be clearly visible upon finishing school, there is one step that can be taken to ensure that your college experience does not go to waste, no matter how you look at it.


Having a mentor (or multiple mentors) in college is more correlated to career achievement, engagement, and well-being than any other way a college student could spend their time.


The Gallup Purdue Index of 2016 details the value of career services, inclusive experiences and mentorship for college graduates. It is easy to assume that a career service office would value outcomes like career achievement, engagement, and well-being, but it is clear that they are falling short of that mark with only 17% of students in this research responding that they found their career services office to be very helpful.


This research also found that if you spent your time in college developing mentor relationships, not only are you more likely to be employed but more importantly you are more likely to be engaged in your work and think more highly about your college experience.


What is most interesting about this information is that across the board, students who had mentors in college are significantly more likely to thrive and achieve career success than students who did not.


Finding where you belong after college is not an easy task. Everyone at some point or another has struggled with finding where they truly feel at home. By keeping your mind open and surrounding yourself with individuals who can help you get where you want to be, you’ll find your destination soon enough. Having a positive perspective and keeping the right people by your side will ensure that you not only find your home but that the journey to get there will be unforgettable.

Fri 13 December 2019
Increasing your likelihood of implementing a successful mentorship program at your university becomes much greater when you understand the desires of your students (mentees) and alumni (mentors). By fully understanding the wants and needs of both parties, you can create a mentorship program that works for everyone (and not just for the sake of saying you have a mentorship program).


Students:

  1. To learn from somebody they can see themselves in

This ties into the work in the Journal of Vocational Behaviors in which we learn that students need to be able to see themselves and relate to their mentors to fully gain the most out of that mentor. If a mentor cannot relate to the same or similar struggles that the student is facing, the student will not identify the successes of the mentor as something the student can achieve. This includes race, gender, age, GPA and any other obstacle (real or perceived) the student is facing. For example, if you are a parent, significant other, or close friend and make a suggestion to your child, partner, or friend (respectively), that suggestion will likely not be internalized by the person you are speaking to because they know you more intimately and perceive the subtle differences between you and them as not relatable. Vice versa, a total stranger could make that same suggestion you gave to your child, partner, or friend and your child, partner, or friend could implement it instantly. Why? Because what they did know about that stranger they believed related to them. For a student to engage in mentorship, they must be able to see themselves in their mentor.

2. To not be told what to do

Students are seeking to learn voluntarily, not forcibly. If a student feels forced or coerced to be a mentee, they are likely to reject or do the minimum to achieve satisfaction from the party forcing them to be a mentee. Students have similar responses to required vs. elective courses.

3. To gain career opportunities

Students need to know that the work they are doing in school and with meeting mentors is leading toward something. It is important for them to believe that the relationship is worth something, and not just simply another person they know. The biggest fear in this case, however, is that the student can solely value the job, and sometimes not form a true relationship. Students need to know that job opportunities can come from mentorship, but rarely come if their sole purpose for getting mentored is getting a job. Fortunately for the students, this ties in nicely with how the mentor often perceives the relationship, and what they want.


Mentors:

  1. To pay it forward

If you think this sounds wishy-washy or doesn’t make sense to you then you are probably not suited to be a mentor. Fortunately, there are many people that love the idea of giving time to a student and helping them grow as a person. Dale Carnegie once said,


“Talk to someone about themselves and they will talk to you for hours.”


Being a mentor provides alumni with the opportunity to be philanthropic without spending money, and helping students with a topic they are an expert in.

2. To stay “in the know” with events and activities at their alma mater

Keeping your alumni involved with your school goes beyond the competitiveness of your athletic programs. Sure alumni receive newsletters about what is going on around campus from the perspective of the administration, but alumni want to know what students think because they were students. Being a mentor allows alumni to stay involved with what is going on around campus and updated on the students’ thoughts about it.

3. To provide opportunities

There is nothing more satisfying to a mentor than knowing that he/she paved the way for a student to succeed. This goes beyond helping a student get a job. This includes providing recommendations, key insights, and job shadows. If the perspective of the mentor saves a student time, money, or energy then that mentor has done a great job. There is no greater feeling than believing you made a positive impact on somebody else’s life. For a mentor, having a student that is eager to learn (and not desperate for a job) goes a long way towards encouraging a mentor to provide opportunities to students.


With these insights into the desires of mentors and mentees, you can begin building a strategy for ensuring positive and beneficial connections.

Fri 29 November 2019
The Gallup Purdue Great Jobs, Great Lives report has shed light that mentorship is clearly vital and necessary to the development of college students. According to this report,


“Graduates who felt ‘supported’ during college (that professors cared, professors made them excited about learning, and had a mentor) are nearly three times as likely to be thriving than those who didn’t feel supported.”


Students who were mentored in college also had higher levels of work engagement than students who were not mentored.


Since this report was published, many universities and departments have attempted to implement their own internal mentor program. Getting mentors, providing the proper content, matching the right students with the right mentors, and establishing a plan for the mentorship to continue is difficult in and of itself, and many schools have struggled with properly implementing it. Getting students involved with the program is one of the most important parts of a mentorship program, and it is more often the most neglected part. In interviews with multiple schools that have attempted to implement their own internal mentorship programs, nearly all of them expressed a struggle to engage students to become mentees.


This may seem somewhat odd, considering all of the benefits that students clearly receive from having a mentor, but this is what has been happening with many mentorship programs. To help understand why this is the case, here are a few reasons why student mentees don’t immediately pounce at many mentorship programs.

  1. The students have no clue that it exists

In interviews with a few hundred students at one of the largest universities in the US, we learned that the majority of students didn’t know that their school offers free health services, content on how librarians can help them and interlibrary loans, library journal subscriptions, writing centers, mental health services and international/domestic peer programs. All of these programs are extremely beneficial and available to students (and are consistently available at many large institutions and have been for years), but the students aren’t aware of their existence. Some universities have even made required projects that forced the use of these services, advertised these services on school buses, and brought guest speakers to speak about these services and students still don’t acknowledge their existence.

2. Mentorship is posed as a career development opportunity as opposed to an educational opportunity

Many mentorships blossom into job offers and work relationships. However, these further opportunities typically did not occur because students perceived that mentorship as leading into a job. They come from students genuinely enjoying the company and advice of their mentor, and wanting to continue their relationship with the mentor. Students put on a façade of professionalism when they are presented with an interview-like opportunity and feel like they have to not “look dumb” or seem like they are keeping up with everything a professional is saying so as to make themselves as hirable as possible. This is the exact opposite of what a mentorship should be. Students should have the goal of asking as many questions as one can in order to learn the most and grow as a person. Mentors seek vulnerability in a student mentee. Mentors don’t expect an 18-22 year old to know every facet of their career (that is why the student is the mentee!). Vulnerability is desirable because a student who asks questions and shows a willingness to learn is much more hirable than a student who doesn’t ask any questions.


Furthermore, if students are informed that mentorship is a career development opportunity, students that have job offers or believe they have a job lined up won’t pursue mentorships. Vice versa, it creates an environment where only students desperate for a job will want to be mentored and will act in a way referenced in the previous paragraph. This outcome is not valuable for the mentor or the student, and more often than not will leave all parties involved feeling extremely dissatisfied.

3. The fear of missing out

A student doesn’t want to be the only person doing something that everyone isn’t doing. On the contrary, students want to keep up with whatever their peers are doing. Therefore, to get a mentorship program to work at a university, it has to become popular to do. Students cannot perceive themselves as exclusive or too good to be mentored or else it won’t catch on with other students. Getting the initial students to become mentees is difficult because schools are posing students with a relatively scary proposition: go have a conversation with a stranger about your career. Many students struggle to know what they want in a career entering their senior year, let alone freshman to junior years. For a student, having a conversation with a stranger can be nerve-wracking in and of itself, combined with talking to a professional about career paths when the student himself maybe hasn’t considered career paths can be a lot.


Overall, creating a mentorship program within a university is difficult. To properly engage students in a mentorship program there needs to be a clear and proven plan to inform the students, portray mentorship as mentorship and not career development, and have a strategy for popularizing mentorship. This article hopefully can serve as a reference to help others with some of the struggles faced when attempting to grow a mentorship program.

Fri 25 October 2019
The martial artist, actor, filmmaker, and philosopher, Bruce Lee, was one of the most prominent figures in the world throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. Lee was not only extremely successful at each of these endeavors, but also pursued each endeavor in his own special way. Lee was best known for his martial arts, and rumor has it that he had to slow down his moves so that the camera could catch all of his movements while filming his movies. Lee once said “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”


 Lee’s sentiment about being yourself is something everyone should keep in mind. Straining yourself to be somebody you are not creates immense amounts of unneeded stress. This is especially true for college students pursuing their careers.


  1. You are not a machine that needs to fit the specs of what you think an employer wants.


Feeling like you have to fit in this box of what you think an employer wants based on the feedback you have received from your university, peers, parents, and society is completely understandable. There is a lot of pressure to get a career that satisfies the expectations of your parents, family friends, peers, and society…and then yourself.


For college students pursuing their careers, thinking that you can be yourself and get a job can be a difficult notion to grasp, as getting a job can be quite difficult. It is easy to assume that catering your personality to what you think an employer wants would make you more hirable.


But if you are able to land a job because you have catered your personality to what you think the employer wants, how long can you maintain that personality? How will being this different affect your relationship with your coworkers?


2. Putting on an alternate personality for your career will not last nor be satisfying.


Portraying a persona of somebody that you are not is difficult to maintain, and will not be sustainable in the long run. More importantly, it is not enjoyable. What most college students do not understand is that an employer would rather hire somebody that can enjoy their work and thrive than somebody that is straining themselves to try and fit the mold that they think the employer wants. This is because employers know that happy employees tend to be more engaged and stay longer than those who are unhappy.


How awesome would it be if a company would hire your for who you are? This does not have to be a situation reserved for the extremely lucky. If you are yourself in the interview process, you can feel free to be yourself when you work. Similar to dating, if you put on this façade during the first few dates that you will do all of these marvelous things as a relationship partner that you won’t actually do or want to do, it will lead to dissatisfaction for both you and your partner. On top of that, your partner may not even want all of these marvelous promises that you have made and not continue the relationship.


Wouldn’t it be unfortunate to not get a job offer from a company because the personality you portrayed was not what they were looking for but instead the company was seeking someone more similar to your natural personality?


How important is it to be yourself during the interview process and in your career? Extremely important!


When you feel free to be yourself, express yourself, and have faith in yourself in your career, you can begin to develop a level of comfortability on the job that breeds confidence. Comfortability and confidence are major aspects to building proficiency and happiness in your career.


Ultimately, choose a career that you can be yourself in. Nobody can be you better than you can.

Mon 27 April 2020
When a company implements a new employee-to-employee horizontal mentorship program, this can feel like a big first step towards progress! However, impactful mentorship is not Field of Dreams; just because you built it, it doesn’t mean that employees will see ‘magical’ changes overnight. It takes more than a basic mentorship program to develop engaged employees and achieve the desired goals you have for the mentor program and the company as a whole. 


This article offers my perspective on the importance of semi-structured meeting agendas as a driving force for effective, impactful mentorship, regardless of the personalities of the people participating.


Our conventional wisdom tells us that “if two people are extroverted, they are naturally going to hit it off. Structured meetings will just get in the way of natural conversation!”


This conventional wisdom is wrong.


Extroverts get their energy from being around other people. We expect two extroverted people to have an easy path to conversation, but this doesn’t account for a key issue: how productive is what they are discussing? Is their discussion casual, like sports, weather, or family? Or, is their discussion about the obstacles they are facing at work and having a dialogue about how to make their work more productive and personally fulfilling?


People may be able to gain value from any conversation, true. But, more likely than not, these casual conversations are superficial and not particularly substantive. The reason for this is because people feel comfortable discussing things that they either see on a daily basis or that they don’t have control over but are generally interested in. We are used to these conversation topics. When anyone ever asks, “how are you doing?” it is typically followed by these superficial talking points. 


Casual conversations are low risk, low reward. Few people have revelations when discussing whether the Lakers will make the playoffs. These conversations are comforting and valuable, but they are simply no substitute for challenging discussions and self-reflection. 


On the flip side, deep conversations are rarer for a reason. Talking about work obstacles and challenging your fears about what’s possible in your professional career is uncomfortable! We are forced to be vulnerable. These conversations do drive profound outcomes, but without an agenda keeping people on track, we can unintentionally deviate back to those comfortable, superficial topics.  


Falling back to comfortable conversation isn’t just a risk for extroverted people; introverts can face their own challenges during a mentorship program. One might assume “if two people are introverted, they can figure out a mentor meeting without an agenda. They are professionals and their introversion will make them more comfortable.”


Again, this conventional wisdom falls flat. Ask introverts if they would feel comfortable with this and most will say no. This is typically the assumption extroverted people have about introverted people.


The issue is that the people that are most interested in starting company-wide mentor programs are typically extroverts. Introverts just typically don’t share that same type of self-sustaining drive for more social interaction; they recharge their ‘mental energy’ in different ways. 


But, this doesn’t mean that introverts are disinterested in mentorship!


Instead, when an introvert participates in a mentor program, they might be more likely to have some anxiety or skepticism about meeting somebody they (typically) have minimal interaction with. They need to feel confident and come to the meeting with a plan: How long is the meeting? What are the topics for discussion? How can they be sure that this meeting will be impactful to them? 


Meeting agendas accomplish this goal. Meeting agendas give introverted people the safety net of a plan of action. They know that the discussion will be meaningful, that the conversation won’t be open-ended without a set end time, and that the other person (their mentor) shares this plan.


Implementing a mentor program is a huge first step towards building a stronger, more positive company culture and breaking through communication barriers.


But just having a mentor program doesn’t mean that the company is accomplishing their goals. Improvement takes active effort; the communication barriers and dysfunctional turnover are not going to magically disappear overnight. Employee engagement and positive company culture doesn’t appear by flipping a switch.


Unfortunately, many companies start (and end) these efforts with the idea of “let’s start a mentor program!” and simply call it a day. They might ‘match’ employees, but randomly. They might give suggested topics, but not meeting agendas. Instead of creating an impactful mentorship program for their company, they simply checked another box for their year-end review and assumed the benefits had already materialized. 


Providing mentor meeting agendas is one very important piece of building a strong, thriving employee horizontal mentorship program that connects with every employee, regardless of personality. 



Mon 4 May 2020
Steph Curry has mentors that help him with his shot. Can you believe that? The best basketball shooter on the planet has mentors to help him shoot better!? You would think he should be mentoring other people, right? 


Steph has coaches too. And he plays on a team, meets with other players from around the NBA to discuss basketball and life. But he also has mentors.


If you are an executive reading this article, compare yourself, as a leader in your company, to Steph Curry leading his team.


You may have a coach. And you may have an executive team that advises you on company matters, and you may participate in an executive advisory group. But do you have mentors?


This is not meant to offend, but chances are that you aren’t as good of an executive as Steph Curry is a shooter. And even if you were, you should be taking every advantage you can if you want to be the best at your game. So if 2-time MVP, 3-time NBA champion, 6-time All-NBA team Steph Curry thinks he needs a mentor to achieve greatness, then you could probably use one too. 


So, what is a mentor?


A standard definition would say a mentor is simply an experienced and trusted advisor.


But there is clearly more to mentorship than that.


Does being experienced mean they must be older than you?


Does trusted mean that you have worked with them for many years?


Our research indicates that those assumptions about “experienced” and “trusted” are incorrect.


The best mentoring relationships are horizontal. Horizontal mentorships are mentoring relationships where two people are open to learning from each other and being constantly curious, giving their insight to the relationship, and approaching the personal/professional relationship as equals. In this mentorship paradigm, experience and trust are measured in more than just “years”. 


Great horizontal mentorship is built on a mutual perspective on the relationship between work and life. We call this work orientation. Some people view their work as a job (meaning their focus is on work/life balance), career (meaning their focus is on professional growth) or calling (meaning their focus is on personal/professional mission alignment). There is not a right or wrong work orientation and it is fluid, meaning it can change throughout your life.


Work orientation is an important factor in building great mentor relationships. When potential mentors are matched strictly on age, years of experience, status, or area of expertise, the likelihood that the relationship will last for 6 months and be considered productive and quality is 18%. These factors simply aren’t enough.


What if, instead of using superficial features, we matched people based on a deeper connection? When mentors are matched with aligning Work Orientations, the likelihood that the relationship will last for 6 months and be considered productive and quality jumps to 72%.


These relationships become even more successful when work orientation is combined with horizontal mentorship, particularly for company leaders and executives. Horizontal mentorship between executives is a powerful tool for improving yourself and your company. You can relate to similar decisions faced and strategies to consider – even if you are in completely different industries. You can emotionally relate to the stressors of the work and can take a smarter approach when challenging you to grow professionally. Their outside, yet equal perspective provides something that an individual executive’s team or coaches won’t (because that executive controls their pay and job status).


Why should executives have mentors?


1. Have somebody else to help balance the mental load of what an executive is normally carrying.


As an executive, you are faced with a lot of decisions and plans. Even if you are the most organized and well-planned person, your team is spending their full-time working with you in the office, and your only guidance is from your team. It’s difficult for someone to bring a new perspective to you when they are seeing the same things you see – even if they feel comfortable challenging you. Also, you have probably split your team into departments and you or a combination of you and your executives orchestrate the entire operation. Not everyone can relate and help you prioritize what is most important. Someone with a shared work orientation and has similar responsibilities in a different company/industry can help you ease the mental load of what you are facing.


2. Look at challenges from a different lens from somebody completely outside of your industry.


Success leaves clues. But it’s up to you to find them. What was successful in one industry might work in another. If you are an executive and your network is insulated and rarely expanding, you will only surround yourself with the same thinking. Finding new mentors and continuing to build relationships with current mentors will help you expand your problem-solving abilities.


3. Be able to emotionally attach and disengage.


A mentor is not a spouse. A mentor is close enough to you that they can understand and empathize but distant enough from you that you can make mistakes with what you say or how you phrase something without it backlashing. You can technically fire your spouse, but that’s a relationship that you probably don’t want to fire if you don’t have to. It is okay for you to have a mentor relationship with somebody for 6 months and then if you decide you don’t like their advice anymore begin to grow distant. You can always pick that relationship back up again if you would like. 


What are common objections from executives for why not to have mentors?


1. I don’t have the time for mentors.


Are you working in the business or on the business? Executive mentors can help you work on the business. As a leader, you need to be thinking ahead and willing to do the work now so that your job will be easier later. If your job is to cut down trees, going at it day after day with a dull axe isn’t working hard, it’s working poorly. Mentorship helps you sharpen your metaphorical axe; neglecting your toolkit means you are neglecting your work, even if you think you can’t make the time.


2. I already have mentors.


How did you find your mentors? From the circles you actively connect with and run in? If you all hear the same things, are given similar advice, and trying the same strategies, are your mentors giving you anything new? Or are they just confirming what you already know? Finding executive mentors outside of your circle will make you see your blind spots. 


3. I don’t need mentors.


This sort of response typically comes from a place of ego. Anyone who says this is conveying that they have learned everything and there is no room for them to grow. Which, paradoxically, is proof that they in fact still have plenty more to learn. The knowledge and experience gained from an executive mentor is simply irreplaceable. As I stated at the opening of this blog: chances are, you are no Steph Curry (in your field). The best of the best are that way for a reason. Success leaves clues and this one isn’t buried that deep.      


Every executive will benefit by cultivating a group of strong, diverse mentor relationships, especially ones outside of their industry and normal sphere of influence. The diversity of thought that comes from these types of relationships lead executives to make massive breakthroughs in their businesses, and within themselves mentally and emotionally. What’s your excuse?
Mon 11 May 2020
Engagement has become a popular metric for measuring satisfaction of employees, productivity, and, to an extent, the health of a company’s culture.
But is engagement a truly accurate metric for measuring satisfaction of employees, productivity, and company culture?
Engagement has clearly shown a correlation to greater productivity and workplace happiness, but how accurate is our method for measuring workplace engagement? Are their leading indicators that might serve as a better metric for how engagement will change?
This article outlines some of the issues with solely measuring engagement and identifies some additional metrics that may provide stronger evidence for when engagement is volatile or calm.
The three issues with only measuring engagement are as follows:
1.Engagement can change in an instant
When an engaged employee becomes disengaged, it is often instigated by one event rather than by some extended sequence of events over time. Most people enter a company excited to get to work and get started, thus are highly engaged. But as they spend more time with the company, they get to know more people and become more accustomed to the workplace. They formulate ideas and expectations about who their coworkers and bosses are and how they are expected to act, and these expectations are compared and contrasted with their own internal compass for how the workplace is expected to operate. 
But, when this new and engaged employee is confronted by someone strongly deviating from the expectations in a negative way, this negative event can muddle their expectations and disengage the employee. 
This is more than simple conjecture; I’ve heard this same story again and again. For example, a friend of mine works at a company where 1 employee (Director) became frustrated at another employee (Accountant) because the accountant consistently asked the director to redo his expense reports. The director’s frustrations stemmed from the fact that it took him 15 minutes to redo the expense reports. In all fairness, there were mistakes, but the director thought that they were immaterial and insignificant.
So, the director goes to other people in his department to share what a pain in the butt it is to redo the expense reports. He subtly inserts his frustrations into conversations to see if anyone else can relate. If somebody bites, they enter a conversation and begin venting their frustrations about the accountant.
The issue is that word travels fast. The accountant learns about these conversations and doesn’t feel comfortable approaching the director with his thoughts or feelings. He is then posed with the question, “does he do his job properly or not because he knows the director is going to complain?”
The accountant learns about his treatment and switches from engaged to disengaged in an afternoon.
2. Work status changes can temporarily impact engagement away from the average
Similarly to starting a new relationship, there is usually a brief ‘honeymoon’ period when taking up a new role or position. Whether it’s a promotion or a new job altogether, taking over new responsibilities feels awesome at first. We feel eager to learn new things, jump on tasks that need to get done, and are open-minded to the feedback we receive.
Within the first 3 months of starting this role, our engagement is artificially elevated because we are “drinking from the firehose”. There are so many amazing opportunities and interesting new responsibilities that it would be difficult to not be engaged.
If a company measures engagement every 6 months or once per year and their survey includes people within those first 3 months of starting a new role, the results are likely skewed positively. If leadership is relying on this information to make informed decisions about how to best manage their team, they are going to be relying on falsely inflated engagement scores which diminishes the need to positively develop the company. Why provide new activities for their employees when engagement is already high when instead, you could double-down on quotas and operational goals and try to squeeze some extra productivity from their “highly engaged” workforce? 
If the engagement numbers are skewed, this type of scenario could put engagement and workplace morale into a tailspin. These artificially engaged employees might become overworked. And when they leave the honeymoon stage and revert back to the mean, their dwindling engagement could reach a critical threshold because leadership pushed when they needed to support. 
3. Daily engagement measures lead to survey fatigue
Some companies may claim they eradicate the first two issues because they measure engagement daily.
However, this approach brings a new problem: survey fatigue. If employees are asked the same questions every single day, they are going to grow accustomed to consistently responding a certain way, regardless of the underlying truth. Instead of capturing their engagement, we are simply building a pointless ritual into every employee’s day: the daily survey that only truly measures how quickly they click the “moderately engaged” button.  
In this case, gathering more data does not mean necessarily gathering better data. The previous two issues, 1) engagement can change in an instant and 2) that work status changes can artificially inflate engagement are very much still a concern. In fact, daily measurements might be worse than 3 or 6 month measurements because the daily habitual answers could override honesty right up until that event that “flips” the engagement switch. 
However, there isn’t all bad news about measuring workplace engagement. As mentioned earlier in this article, there is a direct correlation to productivity and work satisfaction when engagement is high.
There are leading indicators that can help companies better understand whether or not engagement is susceptible to change.
The leading indicators our team has identified are 1) Communication Barriers between employees and 2) Dysfunctional Turnover.
We define communication barriers between employees as the lack of understanding for the obstacles another employee faces, and we define dysfunctional turnover as turnover from employees that do great work and are engaged but are susceptible to leaving because of something going on in the company (e.g. not due to personal events).
Our team has identified that 68% of engaged employees believe that there are communication barriers between themselves and other employees at work. This is critical to understand because it means that people are forming assumptions about others’ work, but only rarely get chances to find out if these assumptions are based in fact. When employees don’t understand the obstacles faced by their coworkers, they form assumptions about what other employees do. These assumptions can create a lack of empathy, and this lack of empathy creates a high susceptibility for them to become disgruntled and disengaged by someone else’s actions in coordination with their assumptions.
If you can understand how many of your employees experience communication barriers at work, you can begin to gauge how quickly engagement might change.
Dysfunctional turnover also involves communication, but as opposed to the focus being on what other people are doing outside of an employee’s control, it involves the communication an employee receives for their specific job function. When employees feel like they are not getting adequate feedback or communication from their boss, they are susceptible to becoming disengaged. Employees are also susceptible to becoming disengaged when they don’t perceive that their colleagues respect the work they do.
Measuring dysfunctional turnover is not the same as measuring the TIS (Turnover Intention Scale) as the TIS asks for feedback on pretty black and white statements like “I don’t envision myself working for this company much longer.” We measure dysfunctional turnover via factors like communication quality with colleagues and bosses during multi-person tasks and their perception of the respect they receive for the work they do.
In essence, engagement metrics do have a lot of value, but measuring engagement only shows where engagement is at now, not where it will be. Measuring leading indicators like communication barriers between employees and dysfunctional turnover can provide a lens into where engagement is going.
 

Fri 1 November 2019
Initial publishing in Forbes.

One of the most important ingredients to career success today is building powerful support relationships with helpful mentors and sponsors. These are individuals with whom you develop mutually-beneficial relationships that can open critical doors for you, offer helpful guidance, and share strategies that will catapult you forward in your life and career.


But just how do we find these mentors and sponsors? I’m asked this question virtually every week by young professionals and seasoned ones as well. I’ve found that there are productive ways to build mentoring relationships, and unsuccessful approaches that fail to generate the results you hope for.


To explore more about this topic, I connected recently with Garrett Mintz who knows a great deal about the life-changing power of mentors. Mintz is the founder of Ambition In Motion which focuses on kickstarting mentorships that help build fulfilling careers. Mintz’s vision is a world where the vast majority of people are excited to go to work and feel that their expectations meet reality when they are at work. His focus is on helping companies build intentional mentor programs within their organizations. Mintz and I recently co-delivered a one-hour training program on How To Network In An Authentic, Genuine Way To Find Great Mentors


Mintz shares below about his own life transformation from teen drug dealer to business founder, and how to build successful mentorship relationships:


Kathy Caprino:
What is Ambition In Motion and why did you found this organization?

PROMOTED
SAP BRANDVOICE | Paid ProgramMother’s Day Disrupted: Dawning Of A New Awareness
UNICEF USA BRANDVOICE | Paid ProgramVaccinating The World’s Children As Critical As Ever
Civic Nation BRANDVOICE | Paid ProgramCollege Signing Day Is For All Students—Especially Transfers


Garrett Mintz:
At Ambition In Motion, we believe that there are two key stakeholders in achieving a mission of fulfilling work for professionals: employers and employees. If we can help employers gain a better understanding of their people and culture and provide them with simple steps on how to manage their people in a way that works with that culture, we can help them increase engagement and retention.


And if we can help employees increase their professional drives and goals throughout their lives, we can put them in the best position to be engaged and fulfilled at work.


Caprino:
How did you get involved in this work? What was your path to this?


Mintz:
I got involved with Ambition In Motion because I recognized that there was a huge problem with the way people view their work that prevents them from experiencing success. When I was a sophomore at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, I kept noticing so many of my older friends were in prestigious-sounding jobs and were paid really well, but they hated their work. They kept referring to work as “going back to the grind” or that they were “dreading Monday” and I thought to myself, is all of this “success” a façade? Is it impossible for people to be excited about their work?


In addition, I got involved in this direction because I’ve lived personally and witnessed how having mentors in our lives can transform us.


As a bit of backstory, from age 15-19, I engaged in dealing drugs. At the end of my freshman year, I was arrested in an undercover operation by the Indiana University Police Department. I received 5 felony distribution charges and was expelled from school. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.


Before that experience, I believed that success would come through my attending college, getting good grades, and landing a great job, and somewhere along those lines I would “find myself”. Well, nobody that I had ever known (whom I considered successful) was a drug dealer, so I either had to accept being a failure or redefine my definition of success.


I chose the latter and have never looked back. After getting in trouble, I enrolled in a program called At The Crossroads which exposed me to the power of mentorship, both personally and professionally. I then landed my first internship after sitting next to a man on an airplane who wanted to take a chance on me and hire me (even after hearing about my past) because of the strong impression I made on him.


After completing At The Crossroads, I got extremely lucky. My felonies were dropped to a misdemeanor conviction, I was re-enrolled at Indiana University, and I was accepted to the Kelley School of Business.


I had lost everything but found a way to get back on track, and on the way back I learned that it is all about the journey, not the destination.


My first step on this path to launching Ambition in Motion was facilitating mentorship between students and alumni so then I could help students gain the confidence to challenge their preconceived notions about how they viewed work. I focused on helping them identify, through educating themselves, a new path in which their expectations for fulfilling work could meet reality.


Caprino:
What have you learned from facilitating all of the mentorships that you have? 


Mintz:
First, and probably most surprising, is that there is very little correlation between successful mentorship and career interest alone.


Just to be clear, successful mentorship in my view is where the student and mentor find the relationship productive and successful. The mentorships I connect young people with involve at least three conversations over a three-month period and the individuals often stay in touch after the formal program is over. The student or young professional achieves his/her goal by the end of the period, and overall they find the relationship engaging and mutually beneficial.


So many mentor programs are setup where there is a big list of professionals from which the student is required to choose a mentor. Most students choose people who are in jobs they desire or certainly fields they aspire to enter. The challenge with this approach is that even if your dream job is to be a financial analyst at JP Morgan Chase, and you connect with a financial analyst at JP Morgan Chase to be your mentor, this isn’t a guarantee for successful mentorship.


What I’ve learned is that when you can find a mentor who is aligned with your desired work orientation, the likelihood of a successful mentorship relationship is greater, even when the fields of the mentor and mentee are very different because you both have shared motivations as it pertains to work. 


From our team’s research, work orientation is about how you view work and what you wish to get from it. The three dimensions of work orientation that we’ve uncovered are:


Viewing work as a job:
High focus on how your work can afford you the life you want to live outside of work


Viewing work as a career:
High focus on professional growth


Viewing work as a calling:
High focus on personal/professional mission alignment


Few people are firmly in just one dimension of this spectrum and few people have the same work orientation throughout their lives (because your work orientation can change based on the task you are working on and your stage in life).


We hypothesize that a big reason for less than satisfying results in a mentorship relationship is that mentors are going to mentor based onwhat they would have wanted to know when they were a student. If work orientation is not in alignment between mentor and mentee, it doesn’t really matter if the mentor works at a student’s dream company. The relationship likely isn’t going to work out or deliver successful outcomes for the mentee.


Caprino:
How can we find great mentors, and then become great mentees?


Mintz:
The first step to finding a great mentor is being open to the idea of having a mentor. Getting a mentor doesn’t mean that you are weak or that you are incapable. In fact, it says the opposite. It shows that you have more to learn and that you are open to learning.


Unfortunately, vulnerability gets a bad reputation (I believe the direct translation of vulnerability in sign language means “weak in the knees”), but I would argue that vulnerability is the component that is most likely to attract mentors. People want to see those who have or are facing tough times succeed. It helps others relate and it also goes counter-culture to the notion that “everything has to be going fantastically well when speaking with others.”


This is part of the reason why I share my story of my drug dealing past with people. It makes it easier for others to relate to me. When an individual can see someone who’s dealt with very hard times and found a way to overcome those challenges, that is when the drive for mentorship thrives.


We become great mentees when we nourish these relationships by having regular conversations and continuously sharing our vulnerable spots and our commitment to growing.


Caprino:
Can this information apply beyond mentorship?


Mintz:
Absolutely! In fact, after we started noticing the trend of successful mentorship being tied to aligning work orientation, we thought to ourselves “could this lead to increased retention and engagement at work?” and this is what we are working on now.


If we can help employers gain a better understanding of their people and culture through helping employees identify their desired work orientation, then provide employees with simple steps to manage their people in a way that aligns with their orientation, we can help them increase engagement and retention. And by helping employees gain a deeper understanding of their own professional drives and goals throughout their lives, we can help put them in the best position to be engaged and fulfilled at work.


Caprino:
How have you seen company culture fit in with doing work we love and will thrive in?


Mintz:
Company culture is not ping pong tables and meditation rooms. Company culture is how you experience the work you are doing and the people you are doing it with. When it comes to work orientation, there is not one right or wrong orientation. Some people I have spoken with mention that they only want people on their team who view their work as a “calling.” But I would argue that having a diverse workforce is essential to a thriving company culture.


For example, people who view their work as a calling are typically most resistant to corporate change and people who view their work as a job are most receptive to corporate change. If you understand what motivates your people, you can manage them in ways that make them feel valued.


On the flip side, as employees, if we can feel like our company cares about the things we care about, we are much more likely to be engaged. If you don’t like the way your coworkers, managers and leaders view work, that is probably a sign that it’s time to look for a different employer.


In short, whether it’s in landing great mentors who can support your growth, or pursuing great jobs at organizations you would be excited to join, understand what matters to you most and what you value in terms of fulfilling work, and keep those values a top priority in all you do.


For more information, visit ambition-in-motion.com.

Mon 18 May 2020
I recently wrote an article about the importance of mentorship for executives, and I wanted to write another article specifically about why HR executives should have mentors.


If anybody has ever seen the American version of The Office, they may associate HR with Toby. If you haven’t seen The Office, Toby is a well-intentioned HR professional but is hated by Michael Scott, the branch manager. Their acrimonious relationship is because Michael perceives Toby as the “killer of fun” or put another way, the killer of innovation and new ideas.


We watch the show from Michael’s perspective because he is the boss and the main character, but let’s take a second to put ourselves in Toby’s shoes.


Toby is an HR team of 1 where he has to manage all of the HR functions of the entire branch. If Michael comes up with an inappropriate, or even illegal, idea and Toby doesn’t step in to stop it, the company could get sued and Toby is at fault. For comedic relief, we laugh at the antics and the angst between Michael and Toby. 


But if we put ourselves in Toby’s shoes, I think the dilemma becomes clear. How do we handle novel HR scenarios and issues without having the experience and information necessary to be sure we are choosing the right action? 


After interviewing over 50 HR executives in the past 3 months, I have learned that most companies have more HR projects that their HR team can possibly handle. Their work turns into a process of constantly taking care of what is most pressing right now while deferring an ever-growing list of lower-priority tasks for a later date “when things calm down”.


HR executives must understand what’s going on within their own company while also monitoring other companies to assess how they are doing to see if they are falling behind in any way. 


HR teams can end up isolated from other the broader HR professional network, save for the occasional SHRM conference or HR networking event. This lack of professional connection can be an obstacle to handling all of the work thrown at HR executives. An experienced network of like-minded colleagues can greatly improve your work and can help you avoid the emotional toll of not having somebody you relate and connect that can console you on how to balance the load of everything being thrown at HR executives.


So, why should HR executives have mentors?


1. Learn about what other HR executives are doing


If you are getting your guidance on what innovations you should consider pursuing at your annual SHRM conference or planning organizational changes and innovations years in advance, you are probably reacting to old advice. For example, let’s say you find a promising new Learning Management System at a conference in August. It seems valuable so you bring it up to your HR team in September, and you focus on ironing out all of the kinks in the plan before presenting the idea to the other company leaders. Now it’s December. But, budgets are approved for January in November/December meaning that now you are waiting until the following January for implementation. Now, your innovative idea from 18 months ago is finally being implemented and it’s already a bit out of date. 


With a strong network, a fellow HR executive mentor could have informed you about the Learning Management System back in March. You could have brought the idea up to your team and ironed out the kinks in preparation for the conference in August and been ready to implement it by the initial January. You’ve just cut your time-to-implementation time by half from 18 months to 9. 


2. Expand your network to other HR executives who can relate


When people don’t know each other that well, they have a tendency to only share the good things in their world – e.g. “My company was listed in the top 100 places to work”, or “we have made 30 new hires in the past month and are growing exponentially.” These conversations are pervasive at conferences or networking events. Brag fests and casual banter are fun pleasantries, but no one should mistake these for the deep, meaningful conversations that drive innovation and professional development. 


A fellow HR executive mentor from outside of one’s own company allows you to open up, share, and relate to another executive that shares your mindset, but has their own experiences. These connections, and the vulnerable conversations that occur in these mentorships, make HR executives not only better at their jobs, but most importantly, happier at work. 


3. Get advice on how to handle unfamiliar scenarios


The world changes all of the time. People are not antique toys that can be put in plastic boxes and held in place until they retire. There are actions and reactions that HR executives cannot control, and when uncertain situations strike, you have decisions to make. Here’s the most important decision: do you keep it to yourself and try to handle it alone for fear that asking for advice will make you seem ineffective at your job? 


A fellow HR executive mentor might have faced that type of situation before. At a minimum, they can ask relevant questions and share their thoughts based on what they have experienced before. And at best, they can share their wisdom and help you find the key to solving the problem. 


As an HR executive, you are whom your company turns to when they have an HR question, regardless of whether you know the answer. Mentorship provides HR executives with their own team of informal advisors, and a fellow HR executive mentor makes life easier because they provide balance, insight, and perspective that you cannot find from your current network. 

Mon 25 May 2020
One of the biggest reasons people join professional associations is for the opportunity to network and educate themselves on the most up-to-date topics in their field. Most professional associations go about delivering this value via conferences and local meet-ups by individual chapters of the association.

With COVID-19, most conferences have been canceled or postponed for a TBD date. This poses a major threat to association managers because if they aren’t able to provide networking or educational opportunities to its members, why should their members keep paying their annual dues? 

After speaking with a handful of association managers and board members, I have learned that many professional associations are losing membership because of the coronavirus and its subsequent impact.

The truth is, you can only get so much engagement through digital educational sessions and panel discussions with guest speakers on Zoom or YouTube. These activities simply can’t replicate the personal nature of having intimate, vulnerable, one-on-one conversations among colleagues. Large, digital meetings rarely lead to honest discussions about areas they want to improve and the opportunities they would like to pursue. 

One great way to keep association members engaged in educational and networking opportunities is horizontal mentorship. Horizontal mentorship means connecting two professionals together for a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship where both professionals learn from each other while sharing their personal insight.  

Traditional (or vertical) mentorship is predicated on an imbalanced mentor-to-mentee relationship which exacerbates power imbalances. Traditional mentorship embeds unequal roles into the relationship and this has negative consequences: after 6 months, only 18% of vertical mentoring relationships are considered productive and high quality by participants. Horizontal mentorship focuses on building relationships based on shared alignment of Work Orientation. This ensures that the two professionals’ value systems and reasons for working are aligned. Mentor relationships built this way are 4 times more likely to last 6 months and be rated as productive and high-quality by the participants, compared to traditional mentorship. 

This article offers 3 reasons why professional associations should engage their members virtually through a horizontal mentorship program.

  1. Horizontal mentorship develop close-ties and a localized community from a global, national, or even state-wide membership base that is relying on digital interaction

Previously, these far-flung members might not have been able to easily connect for meaningful conversations. Through horizontal mentorship, previously-distant members that might not have ever interacted one-on-one can now build strong, deep-rooted social bonds, further increasing the value they gain from their association. While these types of connections are always plausible, horizontal mentorship provides the framework for consistently building durable, valuable relationships among members. 

2. Horizontal mentorship provides a new level for members to engage with the association 

The commitment of jumping from one’s role as a general member to volunteering for the association can be significant and not every member is prepared to make that leap. Horizontal mentorship provides an opportunity for association members to deeply engage on a new level that works with their personal schedule and professional aspirations.

3. Horizontal mentorship helps members learn from each other and share experience

Providing educational content and connecting the right members together is not easy. Some educational sessions at conferences are more relevant to some people versus others. Rather than “fishing with dynamite”, horizontal mentorship creates personalized opportunities for members to learn from each other, ask questions specific to their own circumstances, and network with other members with similar perspectives on their approach to work (i.e. work orientation).

Now more than ever, associations must strive to find new, effective ways to connect members and increase engagement. Horizontal mentorship provides the opportunity for association members to engage with other members on an intimate level that works for their availability in a meaningful, virtual way. 
Mon 1 June 2020
Employee engagement is an extremely valuable metric for understanding your team. Engagement is strongly correlated with productivity, so if you are not measuring your team’s engagement, now is a good time to start. This data can tell you how your team feels about their work, offer potential insight on what you can do to make them more happy and productive, and give you some idea of whether or not your employees are likely to leave the job in the near future.


But, the issue with measuring engagement is that it is a lagging metric. By the time you identify that a certain department or team in your company is becoming disengaged, it is likely far too late. Re-engagement is very difficult; they may already be working on their way out and are unlikely to be willing to give management the benefit of the doubt by putting aside their frustrations. 


The first step towards avoiding fully disengaged employees is determining when they are most susceptible to becoming disengaged.  


We call this measure Engagement Volatility, and we use this to understand when employees are likely to be most significantly affected by a negative event at work.   


Many employees fully support and enjoy the company culture and really do enjoy their jobs. For these employees, it takes a lot to shake their confidence in the company.


There are also other people who may respond favorably to an engagement assessment today, but their beliefs in their work or company aren’t nearly as firm.


High-volatility employees can become disengaged in an instant. Whether from reading an email that seems passive-aggressive, realizing the bonus structure or compensation plan seems unfair or being forced to switch their work project or style, employees with high volatility can quickly become disenchanted with their company when dealing with frustrating events at work. 


My team and I at Ambition In Motion identified two key metrics for determining engagement volatility: communication barriers and dysfunctional turnover intentions.


Communication Barriers


Communication barriers represent the lack of understanding among employees about what other employees do for their work. For example, let’s say that John in accounting frequently must interact with Jane in sales to handle some customer accounts. How well does John actually understand what Jane does? If these two employees don’t understand each other’s work, there are communication barriers that can impact their work relationship, productivity, and engagement volatility.  


Communication barriers don’t necessarily tell us that the two people don’t like each other. It just means that they don’t understand what the other person does for their work and the obstacles they face.


How does this lead to engagement volatility?


Communication barriers force people to formulate assumptions about what other people do. These assumptions then lead to a lack of empathy and understanding, especially during frustrating work events. When a small miscommunication about some work task blows up, this creates an opening for people to become disengaged. It creates an opportunity to feel like they are getting taken advantage of or that the grass could be greener on the other side.


For example, let’s go back to John (accounting) and Jane (sales). John sees that Jane spent $200 on a lunch with a client and thinks to himself, “who spends $200 on a lunch?!?!” He is certain that he could have made that same sale and only spent $100 on lunch, but instead, he has to adjust budgets to fit this extra expense and his frustration grows. By discounting all of the work and skills necessary to be a great salesperson, he begins to assume (likely incorrectly) that he could do her job. This subtle frustration can grow, leading John to bring up Jane’s work ethic in casual conversations with people at the office to learn their thoughts. Once he finds somebody that happens to agree with him, it confirms his belief that he could do her job, and now he feels frustrated that she is getting bonuses and commissions on sales he is certain could have easily made. When Jane, unknowing of John’s frustrations with her, emails John, he responds passive-aggressively. He assumes that Jane knows he is frustrated and considers her lazy and inefficient. Meanwhile, Jane has no clue why his emails have become so strange, and her frustration with her work environment begin to simmer.


And the domino effect goes on and on from there…


Our team identified that 68% of engaged employees still feel communication barriers between themselves and other employees at work (e.g. they feel they don’t understand what other people do for their work). Even engaged, productive employees encounter these frustrating events, and these can lead directly to high engagement volatility. 


Dysfunctional Turnover Intentions


There are 4 types of turnover for employees at work: variable, invariable, functional and dysfunctional. Variable, invariable, and functional turnover are types of uncontrollable turnover. They are based on factors outside of a company’s control – e.g. a spouse getting a job in a different city and the employee moving with their spouse, the employee being bad at their job and getting fired, or an employee receiving an offer for significantly more money from another company and the current employer being unwilling or unable to match the salary. 


Dysfunctional turnover is the type of turnover a company can control. Dysfunctional turnover is based on two key factors: the clarity of their job responsibilities and purpose within the company, and their perceived respect level from their colleagues and supervisor(s).


When employees are unclear about what they are doing or why they are doing it, they are highly susceptible to becoming disengaged because the work becomes purposeless. They have no idea if what they are doing is correct, and they have no idea about how their work plays into the larger picture of the company. Lack of purpose and value at work drags down engagement and productivity.


70% of employees avoid difficult conversations (like asking for clarity on their role or task) with their boss, colleagues, or direct reports, according to a Bravely study. Essentially, people fear or feel uncomfortable asking for clarity. This contributes to their engagement volatility and if the “what” and “why” of their work isn’t clarified quickly, they could become disengaged.


The perception of respect is the other critical factor to dysfunctional turnover intentions. When employees don’t feel respected by their colleagues or supervisor, they will have high engagement volatility. 


The perception of respect is the key. 


To be clear, respect is important, but the effects are not directly based on whether or not colleagues or supervisors actually respect the employee’s work. It is based on whether the employee perceives that their work is respected. If they don’t feel like they are appreciated for their contribution or that the feedback they receive is sincere, they quickly become disengaged.


Solution


One way to better understand your team’s engagement volatility is by sending your team Ambition In Motion Engagement Volatility Assessment. It takes roughly 5 minutes to complete and can provide great insight into your team’s likelihood of becoming disengaged. You can break it down by department so you can better understand if there are some departments that have higher/lower engagement volatility than others.


Once you understand your team’s engagement volatility, you can work towards identifying what steps you should take to ease your team’s volatility and stabilize your employee engagement.


One great way to accomplish this is by implementing a Horizontal Mentorship Program. Horizontal mentorship helps your team break through employee communication barriers, improve clarity of your employees’ roles and responsibilities, and build empathy and respect across your team.

Wed 12 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