"mentorship advice"

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Set expectations upfront

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

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

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

Challenge with questions not statements

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

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

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

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

How can I help you?

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

Reevaluate the goal for changes

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

This is completely fine and normal!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is the match so important?

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

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

Common Pitfalls

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mon 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.

Wed 4 March 2020
It is a collaboration between mentor and mentee who works together to identify goals that are specific to the individual’s role and aligned to corporate objectives.  The mentor should be supportive and listen to the ideas of the mentee.  This is critical as it guarantees that mentee will know “what is expected of me”, which is another key drive of engagement and performance.  It also frames the conversation in a meaningful way.  Are the goals on track or not?  Why? What can the individual do to improve?  What can others do to support?  If the performance or behavior under question does not change, the mentor needs to remind the mentee of the goal and hole him/her accountable.  Mentor set priorities and had ability to work toward stated as success could be defined as a progressive realization of a predetermined goal.  Mentor amplified limited power by empowering mentee to take on shared challenges, seeking to surround with the most talented people representing a wide range of skills that could be helpful in achieving the goals.  Mentor in collaboration with mentee helps to set goals, to move forward these goals, and to advice on what course of action mentee should take.  Furthermore, mentor coaches mentee to build the processes necessary to collaborate on a strategy on how to best implement the project.

Mentoring is a long-term commitment with a broader range; include guidance toward professional education and career choices.

Mon 3 August 2020
As a business, you must be constantly setting new goals and working towards accomplishing your current goals. The goals you aim for need to be big enough to ensure consistent growth while remaining tangible, realistic, and achievable.  

But goals also need to be flexible. Managing how your team goes about accomplishing those goals requires you to be open to suggestions and improvements or else risk falling behind the pack. 

Oftentimes, there will be an aspirational quantifiable goal that your team is working towards accomplishing. For example, reaching $1 million in annual revenue. While there are many different ways you can accomplish this goal, the conventional wisdom is usually to follow the same methods that lead you here and keep progressing along the same path towards that goal.

Sometimes, the plans that got you here are not the plans that will lead you to your ultimate goal. Let’s continue with the quantity goal of achieving $1 million in revenue. Now let’s say you are collecting monthly payments on your product or service, and your sales team is growing sales at 10% month-over-month: it looks like you are well on your way! But you might be missing crucial factors. You might not notice until it’s too late that your product isn’t high enough quality to retain those clients and now you are losing 20% of clients after three months. Now you are stuck in a situation that is essentially just pouring water to a leaky bucket.

The cost to make the quality adjustments might be really expensive…but the cost of consistently losing business is usually going to be worse. If there aren’t quality controls in place, it’s going to make achieving your $1 million in revenue goal harder and make the next important milestone even more difficult to achieve if you don’t change your things up. 

Word spreads quickly and first impressions are incredibly important! If word spreads that your quality is inconsistent, you will saturate the market with a negative reputation and eventually find it very difficult to garner new customers.

Essentially, the cost of consistently putting out a bad product becomes more and more expensive as word spreads. This cost to reputation quickly grows to be significantly greater than the cost of doing nothing.

A story that does a great job of conveying this is the story of Pixar Animation Studios and the story of Toy Story 2. In the 1980’s, Steve Jobs (after getting let go by the board of Apple) bought Pixar from Lucas Film, and in the early 1990’s the Walt Disney Company hired Pixar to make 1 full-length, completely computer-animated movie.

At the time, there had never been a full-length completely computer animated movie. It had never been done. Pixar had done shorts before (and actually won an Oscar in 1988 for Tin Toy), but they had never made a full-length movie before. The agreement was that the Walt Disney Company would pay for the entire cost of producing the film but would receive 100% of the royalties. 

Steve Jobs and the Pixar management team knew that this was not necessarily the greatest deal for them. They knew that if the movie was a hit and Disney kept all of the royalties, they would have Pixar hamstrung and forced into this type of deal for the future because their profit on this deal was minimal.

Therefore, right before Pixar’s first movie with Disney went live to theaters, they made a bold move. They decided to have an Initial Public Offering (IPO). This was risky because if their first movie flopped, the company would be out of business. But, if it was a success, they knew Disney would come back to them to make more films and the additional funds from IPO would allow them to cover their half of the production cost and take a half of the royalties. 

Their first movie: Toy Story. 

What else needs to be said? But just in case you need a refresher: Toy Story was a smash success and won an Oscar in 1995.

The Walt Disney Company agreed to a deal to cover half of the production cost for two more movies and split the royalties with Pixar. This was still a relatively risky spot for Pixar because if any of these movies flopped, they would be on the hook for it. 

Pixar’s next movie was A Bug’s Life. Not only was it another great box office success and instant classic, but the production of the film went off without a hitch. 

Their second movie was Toy Story 2, and the production of the much-anticipated sequel was not nearly as smooth as A Bug’s Life or even the original Toy Story. In fact, Toy Story 2 almost ended up never being released…twice! 

Because Pixar was a young and quickly growing company, they hadn’t really established the type of quality protocol and procedures necessary when making films. Like most startups, they were flying by the seat of their pants. 

Since they were making A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2 at the same time, they had to split their teams to focus on each respective movie and hired an outside film director to direct Toy Story 2. 

The Pixar team was so focused on releasing A Bug’s Life that they gave essentially free reign to this new director to direct Toy Story 2. By the time Toy Story 2 was “ready” for a final review, Pixar encountered a huge problem: the movie just wasn’t very good. It simply wasn’t emotionally gripping or well-put together. 

The Pixar team had to make a choice: keep this sub-par film that they invested millions of dollars into, or scrap the entire film and start over (and risk upsetting everyone that worked on the original Toy Story 2).

The short-term risk was losing the millions of dollars they spent producing the film. The long-term risk was losing the Walt Disney Company as a financial and commercial partner, leaving them having to go off on their own and figure out distribution channels, promotion, and everything else that Disney brought to the table that made their involvement so valuable.

So, Pixar decided to pivot. They scrapped the entire first draft of the movie (losing millions of dollars) and started over. 

Production was going well: great story, great characters, great emotion. But, right before Toy Story 2 (the second version) was ready to be released, something happened. The developers at Pixar were working on improving some small visual features and that involved writing over the code in some folder. But, they used the wrong command: ask a programmer and they will let you know that this is easy to do! So, when they went to delete and replace the folder, the command instead started deleting every file it encountered. And…a developer accidentally entered that command. After a moment, they started seeing files disappearing and realized what was happening.

Everything was deleted. Woody, Buzz, Mr. Potatohead, everything! They scrapped millions of dollars on the first movie and then accidentally deleted the entire second go-around of this movie. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue. Everyone knows to backup important work, right? Except the backups were untested, and failed when they tried to retrieve their work. All seemed lost. 

However, they had a lifeline. One of their employees who was pregnant was granted the opportunity to work from home (back when working from home wasn’t the norm). Every week, she would back up the entire movie on her home hard drive. After they realized this, they dashed to her house to find out whether or not their entire project was truly gone. 

The Pixar team drove to her house, picked up her hard drive and…it was all there! 

The movie released and was a total success and laid the groundwork for Pixar to create: Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and so many other movies that became instant classics.

Pixar had an original goal: to make 2 movies with Disney. They could have stuck to the original version of Toy Story 2, but that could have led to lost business and opportunities down the line (the equivalent of a leaky bucket). 

Pixar chose to pivot in the face of adversity for the opportunity to set themselves up in the long-term.

They created the Brain Trust which is a quality control team that meets with directors weekly to ensure that the movies they are directing are on track and quality.

They also implemented technical systems that prevented employees from losing everything in their system, and ensuring that their work is backed up, that their backups are backed up, and that those are backed up too! 

Technically, Pixar didn’t need to make either of those pivots to make 2 movies. But to make 2 high quality movies that would sustain the success of their business for years to come, these pivots were absolutely necessary.

The point: having goals is a great first step. But to maintain your success, you are going to need to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge that what you are doing now isn’t perfect and will be improved. There are some activities that may not directly drive your outcome in the short-term, but will absolutely lead you to success over the long term. Knowing when, how, and just being open to pivoting is critical to your success as a leader and as a company.

Wed 5 August 2020
This week I had my second meeting with my Peer Mentor and it was another good one.   Each time we meet Garrett has a recommended agenda that ensures each meeting will be productive and avoids the “So, what do you want to talk about today” condition that can be stifling.  However, he always gives us permission to deviate from “the script” and go wherever the moment takes us. The topic was “Collaboration” and this time we stuck to the agenda.  We were asked to share the biggest challenge facing us currently, but that wasn’t all.  We were supposed to ask our mentor to assist us with the challenge – not just give advice on how to deal with it.  

When I first read that I thought, “Since my biggest challenge is something I need to do at/for work and Mike can’t work on that, I better pick some other challenge that he can help with.”   Then, when I shared this thought with Garrett he pushed back.  “Why limit Mike and possibly miss a great opportunity for him to collaborate with you?”   That’s when I realized that this sort of pre-qualifying others for their help is something that I do a lot.   How many times at work, at home, at church, or elsewhere have I faced a situation that I could use some help but I tell myself, “(that person) can’t help you with that”, so I never ask.   Even when that person is there to help!   

I don’t know if this is function of pride (I don’t really need the help), or trying to save the other person from having to say, “Sorry, I can’t help with that”, or being afraid that they may reject me and refuse to help.   Whatever it is, I’m sure that it has cost me many many hours and dollars trying to struggle on my own.  Further, how many people have I denied the opportunity to be helpful to me.  When I do that it is truly lose-lose. 

After this session, I’ve decided that I would be more open with those around me who may have abilities that I’m unaware of that would be perfect for my present challenge.   Who is in your circle that would be happy to help you in ways that you didn’t even know they could?

Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers