"mentorship programs"

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.

Wed 29 January 2020
If intimate relationships have Love Languages, should we also have Love Languages in our management style?

To rephrase that question, are there certain management incentives that motivate some employees that don’t motivate other employees?

If so, then we shouldn’t have the same management incentives for every employee, right?

For example, if I know a direct report is really motivated by professional advancement, extending her vacation days wouldn’t be optimally motivating to her because her goal is professional advancement. A better incentive might be to provide her with the opportunity to gain a new credential or learn a new skill.

Here are 3 keys you can leverage to encourage your team properly.

Understand your Direct Reports’ work motivations

Understanding your direct reports’ work motivations is critical. If you take time to identify what their goals are, you can work on brainstorming and identifying incentives that would motivate them. If you are struggling to identify your direct reports’ work motivations, you can try using Ambition In Motion’s Work Orientation Assessment – https://ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Be willing to alter and change your management style based on the individual

Having a one-size-fits-all management philosophy does not work. What it will do is surround you with other people that are just like you. This lack of diversity will create blind spots and turn away potentially great collaborators to your team. If you are willing to alter your management style, you can allow your direct reports to thrive and grow in the way that motivates them.

Encourage an open and honest dialogue to gain feedback on the style you have implemented

Radical candor is critical to knowing if what you are doing is working. If your direct reports fear you or your response to their honesty…they won’t be honest with you. If you can’t have honest feedback, you will have no idea if what you are doing is working and you will likely revert to old, bad habits.

Growing the engagement and the productivity of your team is not easy, but it is possible. If you are willing to understand what motivates your team, act on it, and accept feedback, you will be well on your way to achieving great outcomes.

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

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.

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 8 June 2020
A shift is taking place in management. Today, more people are working remotely than ever before. Managers that are (usually) staunchly opposed to letting employees work remotely are being forced to let down their guard and take the chance. But once people are allowed back into the office, will these managers still be open letting their employees work remotely?

 

As we all adjust to these changes in work, this article will help by sharing some tips that professionals can leverage with their supervisors to continue to work remotely, even after things start going back to normal (a term used loosely).

 

The biggest hurdle most managers face when it comes to allowing remote work is trust. Managers may be hesitant to admit it, but they convey this information in their word choice and explanations.

 

For example, I interviewed a professional who commutes 3 hours every day to work. 3 hours every single day! He knows he can be just as productive at home as in the office. But when he brought this up, his manager dismissed the idea, responding, “we allowed one person to work remotely one time and it completely backfired.”

 

Managers that don’t fully trust their employees often cite one-off events they’ve heard from other colleagues to ‘inform’ their decisions for managing their employees. 

 

These divisive, stubborn decisions are based on a limited sample set with a completely different set of people! Why do they do this? Their answer often boils down to fear of “getting burned again”. The simple fact is that people are inherently resistant to change. Until the pain or pressure overcomes this resistance to change, they will continue to choose the familiar path (i.e. inaction) over uncertain outcomes that require action. Their risk-averse approach can lead their direct reports to think that their manager is prioritizing their own comfort over taking a chance to give their employees flexibility. 

 

This is human nature! 

 

The best managers override this natural tendency. Unfortunately for many people, their manager may not share this open-minded approach to work.

 

Here are some tips for building trust with your manager so you can eventually stake a claim that you deserve to work remotely.

 

Be open about your obstacles

 

Vulnerability is a powerful way to build trust with your manager. If your goal is to work remotely full-time (except when necessary) but your manager opposes it, be open about the obstacles you will face working from home. Let’s be fair: these choices do have potential downsides. An honest assessment is a powerful tool for tempering your manager’s fears. If your pitch pretends there are zero downsides to remote work, you will be leaving the manager forced to come up with their own assessment of downsides because we all know that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  

 

They will begin making assumptions about your capabilities and how working remotely will affect your productivity. And if they started out skeptical, their assumptions are going to draw from this pessimistic outlook and distort reality, thus dashing your hopes of remote work.

 

By being open about the obstacles you face working remotely, you build trust. You work together with your manager to brainstorm what the obstacles are and how you can overcome those obstacles. You empower your manager to be on your team and empathize with you. You flip the script and the manager becomes a teammate instead of the barrier between you and your goal.

 

Pro tip: Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book Pre-suasion discusses the best way to deliver obstacles. He mentions that if you are going to deliver an obstacle or a weakness, that you should follow it with the terms “but”, “yet”, or “however” followed by reasons you can overcome that obstacle or weakness. From a psychological perspective, it forces the listener to focus on the last thing you said, not the obstacle itself. For example, “Working at home will definitely have distractions like the television, but I have turned my second bedroom into an office strictly for work and that will help me separate me from the rest of the distractions in my house.”

 

Share your motivations

 

Why are you interested in working remotely? If you don’t share this, they may assume that you are up to no good. I learned some insight from a body language expert that I believe is relevant to this situation: you build trust with your hands. If somebody can’t see your hands (e.g. one was behind your back), the biological and instinctual assumption is that the hand is hidden for nefarious purposes. 

 

When you don’t show your hands, or in this case, the motivations behind why you want to work remotely, the natural assumption a manager may have is that you hid them for a reason. 

 

Everyone has reasons for the actions they take, even if they aren’t immediately apparent. Showing that your motivations are reasonable and sensible is critical to your manager being open to supporting your goal of working from home. 

 

A quick note on this, your motivations should be mutually related. If we look at the example earlier in the article about the guy commuting 3 hours every day for work, that reason alone will probably not move the needle for a manager. The reason is that it only provides benefits to you and not to your manager. Instead, if you can say that you could work more effectively and be even more productive, but that the 3-hour commute can drain your energy. This provides a clear, mutual benefit to the manager – greater productivity from their employees.   

 

 Create fail-safes 

 

Fail-safes are self-imposed regulatory guidelines for you to follow while working remotely. These provide indicators showing how productivity has changed compared to working at the office. Fail-safes provide your manager a clear metric they can use to decide whether to pull you back in. The manager’s fear is that if she allows you to work from home and your productivity falls then it will be difficult to have that conversation with you. This difficulty could lead to you getting fired or quitting, which your manager definitely does not want to have happen. 

 

Fail-safes allow your manager to look at the data, consider your output and self-imposed guidelines, and make a case for whether remote work is effective without letting their emotions or biases influence the decision. It is just data; either you hit your goals, or you didn’t.

 

Part of these fail-safes should incorporate the communal component of being physically present at the office. Some managers may not be concerned about your productivity but instead are concerned by the impact it may have on the team dynamic and company culture. One of your fail-safes should address how you will schedule regular, frequent conversations with colleagues, both in and outside of your department. These conversations should be about the obstacles that you and your colleagues are facing without being explicitly work-related. These types of conversations are the foundation of horizontal mentorship, and you would be creating your own network of horizontal mentor relationships within your company.

 

Ultimately, you may find out that working remotely doesn’t work for you. But for some people, it makes a massive difference on their productivity and their emotional health. If you follow these 3 steps, you should be able to make a strong case for why you should be allowed to work remotely.

Wed 17 June 2020
One of the most exciting things that I did in the Navy was to get our ship “underway”.   That’s when we “cast off all lines” and push (or get pulled) away from the pier.   Whether we were headed across the globe or just out for a day or two of exercises, it marked the beginning of a journey, of an adventure.  Last week we got “underway” with our new HR Mentoring adventure when Garrett introduced us to our mentors, our “shipmates”. 

I was very pleased to meet my mentor, Mike Johnson, and learn about his background and his current role. We were both a little surprised by the results of our Work Orientation, and not totally sure of the methodology that paired us up (yes, he does provide a written explanation).  However, the more we’ve shared with each other, the more excited about where our relationship may take us.

It took us very little time to warm up and open up.  After the first official meeting we already started to peel back the onion and share a few things about our plans and dreams for the future.  It was sort of freeing to share some of my thoughts that I had not shared with anyone before.   Having Mike listen and then respond without negativity or judgement was really encouraging.  It already made me more excited to see where our path would lead us.

I’ve also been impressed with the materials that Garrett has put together.   The website is clean and easy to navigate.  He has well organized materials and provided a nice meeting guide to help us get started. 

We were asked what was something that we learned from our mentor this month and I think the thing I learned from Mike this week is that when you have a sense of your purpose, or your calling, it is very exciting and energizing.  Hearing him tell his story and talk about his “why”, it’s clear that he is in his sweet spot.   I can’t wait to see what next month brings.




Wed 1 July 2020
My dad started in the limestone industry in Bloomington, IN when he was 19. After some stops at a few
different companies, he landed as a draftsman for the company he worked for, ended up owning, and
eventually sold some 35 years later. He has been my most consistent mentor to date, as parents tend to
be. However, a decade into my career, my path already has looked vastly different than his. Far from the
straight line, that he experienced, and we are often told to expect. The best laid scheme’s o’ mice an’
men, as Burns would say.

But through this horizontal mentorship program and speaking with my mentor partner, I have learned
that the straight career path is not the norm. It is very uncommon now. Which honestly does not
surprise me too much, that it describes my dad’s experience. My dad hates change. He and my mom still
live in the house they bought the month I was born, almost 36 years later.

The path we take is uniquely ours. And sometimes we stumble into a position or field that we never
thought we would enjoy, or even have a passion for. That was me with finance. It was a long path that
lead me into this field. But it started and ended with teaching. I still have a little bit of the stubborn
resistance to change that I get from my dad, but I am learning not be afraid of an opportunity that
presents a new challenge. I have a plan for where I am now and where I want to go, but I have Burns’
quote from To a Mouse reminding me to embrace the change.

Until next time.

-Chip
Tue 30 June 2020
Reflective listening in a mentor relationship is all about how to intentionally listen to what somebody else has said and understand it before responding. Brad lends incredible insights in how to practice reflective listening in both mentoring relationships and professional relationships.

You can learn more about Brad via his site: https://bradfinkeldei.com/

Ambition In Motion leverages horizontal mentorship to help professionals elevate their work skills and break through communication barriers.

Ambition In Motion's core values are: be growth-oriented, people first, empower efficient leaders, be data-driven, and have integrity and vulnerability.

Ambition In Motion's vision is a world where the vast majority of people are excited to go to work, when they are there their expectations meet reality, and when they come home they feel fulfilled.

Ambition In Motion has programs for companies to match their internal employees together for horizontal mentorship (within departments, across departments, within special interest groups, for onboarding employees, identifying emerging leaders, upskilling middle managers, etc.), for professional associations to match their members together for mentorship, and for executives to connect them with other executives outside of their company for mentorship.

Learn more here: https://ambition-in-motion.com/

Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers