"work orientation"

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.

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.

Fri 28 February 2020
One common piece of advice I hear is that “you should work towards finding a calling”. The advice makes sense. I mean of you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is at the top and it is easy to assume that finding a calling is consistent with achieving self-actualization.

But what if it’s not? What if we have it wrong?

I work in the space of implementing employee mentor programs for companies and I have studied extensively the correlation between aligned Work Orientation and the likelihood of successful mentor relationships. I have also studied correlations between different Work Orientations and levels of engagement at work.

Work Orientation is how one view’s their work. Some people view their work as a job (motivated by work/life balance), some people view their work as a career (motivated by professional growth), and some people view their work as a calling (motivated by personal/professional mission alignment).

My team and I learned that Work Orientation is fluid, meaning that it can change throughout one’s life. We also learned that when people don’t share a similar Work Orientation and are matched together for a mentoring relationship, that the likelihood that relationship lasts for 6 months and is considered both productive and quality diminishes significantly. 

But is there a correlation between one type of Work Orientation and being more engaged at work?

Our current research indicates no.

Our current research does break workplace engagement into 4 separate categories: emotional attachment to the work, energy received from doing the work, social connection with those whom doing the work with, and level of fulfillment from the work itself.

Our current research indicates that there is no one Work Orientation that is more engaged at work than another, but that some Work Orientations are more engaged in certain types of engagement than others.

People that are job oriented gain more workplace engagement from social connection with those whom they are doing the work than people that are career or calling oriented.

People that are career oriented gain more workplace engagement from the energy received doing the work than people that are job or calling oriented.

People that are calling oriented gain more workplace engagement from the level of fulfillment from the work itself than people that are career or job oriented.

The point is that maybe not everybody needs a calling. Everybody runs in their own lane and lives their own life and can achieve happiness and self-actualization in their own way. Assuming that everyone needs a calling may put people in uncomfortable situations and make them feel a way that they aren’t. And just because somebody doesn’t view their work as a calling right now doesn’t mean that they never will.

To adequately share the data and the other side of this point, our research also indicates that people that are career and calling oriented are more receptive to participating in employee mentor programs. Since employee mentorship - done successfully - leads to increased workplace engagement, greater collaboration across teams, and improved productivity, you could also make a counterargument.

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 15 November 2019
Having a successful mentor/mentee relationship is not easy. There are many factors that play into the relationship between somebody willing to learn and somebody willing to teach.


For career mentorship, one of the most important factors is how both the mentor and mentee view their respective careers.


Typically, there are three ways that people view their vocations. To some, they consider their vocation a job to make money and go home. To others, they think of their vocation as a career where they can grow and develop while still having opportunities outside of work for their personal interests. To the rest, they consider their vocation a calling where they believe that the work they are doing is their life’s work.


The orientation one has about their work is not right or wrong. Furthermore, the same person can have different orientations around different work. For example, if you are working at a company that rotates you from project to project every period, you may find one project career work, another project a job, and another project your calling.


The orientation one has about their vocation is extremely important for mentorship. If a student aspires to pursue a career in marketing and thinks of it as his calling, it would make no sense to connect that student with a marketing professional that considers it her job.


It would leave the mentor thinking that the student has unrealistic expectations for a career in marketing and the mentee feeling jaded and potentially consider changing his career path.


This is just one of many factors that play into pairing the right mentor with the right mentee. If a student is left to their own devices when choosing a mentor, and the only information the student has are mentor names and titles, then their results from this mentor experience are completely random.


The goal of every mentor/mentee experience is to make sure that both the mentee and mentor are left satisfied. Mentors want to feel like what they are saying is being heard and valued by the mentee while mentees want to feel as if what they are learning is relevant to what they can achieve in their career.


Ultimately, if the factors that go into satisfying a mentor and a mentee are fulfilled, a successful mentorship relationship can bring incredible satisfaction to both parties involved and develop into a lifelong bond.

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.

Fri 18 October 2019
When dining at a restaurant, what happens when your expectations don’t meet reality? Presuming you were expecting to enjoy your meal, if your expectation is not fulfilled with what you experienced, you will likely not dine at that restaurant again. In contrast, what happens when expectation DOES meet reality? You enjoy your food, and will probably continue eating at that restaurant in the future.


What happens when employees’ expectations of their careers don’t meet reality? They leave.


For college students, possessing a realistic expectation of their career at a company is extremely difficult because they have never worked in the corporate world before. Sure, many college students have had internships and part time jobs before, but it is not the same as being in a full-time career.


There are many things that college students can do to gain a more realistic expectation of the factors affecting their careers. This blog will cover one of the most important factors affecting the expectations of their careers: MONEY.


When it comes to choosing a career from a list of job offers, many people resort to a mindset of “choose the job that pays the most!” This is not a bad instinct by any means. But is that job paying its employees enough to fulfill their expectations of the type of lifestyles they envisioned for themselves after college? If not, even the highest paying career is not enough to satisfy these employees’ expectations.


What can college students do to have a more realistic expectation of their lifestyle and how much money they should make after college?


They can begin by looking at their current lifestyle. If college students have accustomed themselves to a spend-heavy lifestyle in college (or vice versa and not spend much at all), they will likely live a similar lifestyle when they enter their careers. This is because students have grown accustomed to their lifestyles. Even if their parents, student loans, or scholarships covered the tab on many of the expenses that they are going to have to pay for now, students (and all people for that matter) have a difficult time changing their habits. To prove this point, checkout the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Broke which details the amount of former professional athletes that could not change their lifestyles after retiring and are now bankrupt.


Fortunately for college students, there is an awesome cost of living calculator on Nerdwallet which details the cost of living change from one city to another. By using this website college students are able to calculate their annual living, food, entertainment, and transportation expenses currently. They then can get a really good idea of how much they will spend annually on their lifestyles after college by comparing it to the costs associated with other cities where they wish to live. College students then have to factor in taxes and the amount of money they want to save annually in order to derive the minimum starting salary they need to achieve to live the current lifestyle they are living.


What if the minimum starting salary a student needs to have exceeds the amount of money they have been offered in their job offers?


There are 2 options at this juncture. Either the student needs to find job offers for more money, or he needs to realign his expectations of his lifestyle to meet a more realistic expectation.


By knowing what their minimum necessary starting salary should be, students can then concentrate on all other factors of the career when considering job offers. For example, if you discover that your minimum necessary starting salary is $50,000 (for a specific city) and you have offers for $52,000, $54,000, and $60,000, you can evaluate and compare every other facet of the career (nice employees, opportunities for growth, good location, a culture that seems to fit your personality, etc.) to choose the offer that fits you best among these other factors because you can know that your expected lifestyle will be fulfilled.


By performing this task while in college, students can save themselves a lot of heartache, stress, and time.


When expectation meets reality, satisfaction occurs.

Fri 4 October 2019
If you are a college student, the process of applying for jobs is relatively simple. You go to your university’s career service website, see what employers have job postings, click apply to any jobs that seem interesting and wait to see if you get a response from any of the employers for an interview. You could also test your luck at career fairs where hundreds of students pour into a venue to have really intimidating, forced, and, for the most part, the same 1-3 minute conversation with recruiters at companies you think you might be interested. Performing both of these actions is relatively simple, and if you are lucky and have a good elevator pitch, you may land an interview.


During this time period of “oh, I should probably apply for jobs” to “Alright! I have 3 interviews”, how much have you learned about any of the opportunities you have applied for? Sure, you may have read a brief 100-200 word description of the employers on a career service website, along with employers’ location, and possibly jobs’ starting salaries. You also probably have a perception of the prestige of the companies and how good having a company’s name on your resume may look.


Are there other factors that you may not know about that might have a huge impact on whether or not you like your job? Factors like how much work is done in groups vs. individually, will you have creative freedom, are there leadership opportunities, will you learn new skills, is there direct access to senior leadership, how varied is the work, how diverse is the workplace, is there a lot of travelling, do you have your own workspace, along with even more factors that you may have no clue about before accepting a job.


As a college student, you have to decide how important these factors are to you and how much of an impact they will have on your career choice.


The difficulty in this task is that this work is purely self-motivated. There is no boss, there is no deadline. You are the only person who will derive the benefit, and have to be able to put in the effort to obtain this information. This is made even more difficult by the fact that the answer to each of these points of research is unique to each department of each company. The accounting department may have an entirely different environment than the marketing department, who are likely completely different from the HR department.


If you consider merely getting a job offer your pinnacle of success, then there is no point to put in the effort to learn whether or not companies possess these factors and how much you value them. But if your definition of success is having a fulfilling career, it might require some additional effort.


The toughest part about this additional effort is that it has to be motivated by you. To your parents and friends, just getting a job offer is wonderful news. The security of having a job offer feels awesome. However, having no clue whether or not you will like the job you have been offered is an issue you have to deal with. You can suppress it and tell yourself that you’ll find another job if you don’t enjoy it or you can embrace it and put in the time to fully understand what opportunities are available to you and which opportunities fit you best.


In high school, it was very clear of what to do to get to college. You get good grades. In college, it was very clear of what to do to get a job offer. You get good grades, internships, and leadership positions in extracurricular activities.


But what about pursuing a career that is fulfilling? This path is much more vague, yet extremely important to achieving happiness in your career.


Ultimately, the more effort you put in to understanding a career before entering it, the more realistic your perception will be of the work. If you do this, you won’t be surprised at the work culture and will be much more satisfied with the work you are doing. Because you knew what to expect, you will likely be happier, more productive, and more engaged in the work you are doing.


Wonderful things can occur when perception meets reality.

Fri 27 September 2019
When I was younger and thought of the Ivy League, I had visions of grandeur and prosperity. I believed that it was the melting pot for the cream of the crop. Books such as Ugly Americans convinced me that students attending Ivy League schools could get a job anywhere. As far as I was concerned, students that graduated from Ivy League schools were leaps and bounds more prepared for their careers than students who graduated from second-tier schools.


This point was reinforced even further by an interview I had a few months ago with a 29 year old professional who was working for an investment banking firm.


Me: “What college did you go to and is that a college your company recruits students out of?”


I-banker: “I went to Indiana University, but my company only recruits students from the Ivy League. I was just extremely lucky to get into this company because my girlfriend’s dad had a connection to the company.”


Me: “Why wouldn’t your company recruit students outside of the Ivy League? I mean, it seems like you are thriving at this company, so why would that be any different from other students that graduate from Indiana University, or any other school for that matter?”


I-banker: “We are looking for students with analytical skills. Plainly, students that graduate from second-tier schools don’t have the analytical skills to properly do the job at our bank.”


Me: “But what about you?”


I-banker: “I like to think of myself as an outlier. I first got lucky that I had an in through my girlfriend’s dad. I then realized that after working with colleagues from Ivy League schools that I always strived for greatness and should have set my sights higher when selecting a college to attend.”


Me: “But by that same logic, could you also make the point that there are other “outliers” just like you at second-tier universities that could achieve similar successes as you have?”


I-banker: “Personally, there are so few students at second-tier schools with the analytical skills to succeed at a company like ours that it is not worth the opportunity cost to recruit at those schools to find the ‘diamond in the rough’.”


After completing the interview, I wanted to get to the facts about this investment banker’s notion. Is finding students with the proper analytical skills at a non-Ivy League university truly like finding a “diamond in the rough”?


Fortunately, Bloomberg has already done much of this research. Interestingly enough, Ivy League students are not far and away more prepared in terms of analytical thinking. In fact, Ivy League schools rank average or just above average for most categories that Bloomberg studied (i.e. ability to work collaboratively, adaptability, communication skills, creative problem solving, decision making, leadership skills, motivation/drive, quantitative skills, and strategic thinking).


After looking at the research and reviewing the responses from the investment banker I learned that there is clearly a disconnect.


Is it fair to students who are getting systematically denied from job opportunities because they aren’t attending Ivy League universities?


Is it fair to companies who are neglecting potentially great student hires because they possess the assumption that hiring Ivy League students will net them better and more prepared employees?


Are there other factors that might weigh more important to successful employment beyond technical skills? For example, leadership and organizational development professors Peter Lok and John Crawford have found an interesting correlation between the work environment of an employer and the strengths/goals of an employee. Employees have higher commitment (productivity, retention, engagement) when the correlation between these factors is high.


If there was a way for students to know which companies had opportunities that matched their desired career goals and strengths and a way for employers to inform students of their work environment, would there be higher levels of successful employment (i.e. both employers and employees happy with their relationship)?


I am not saying that there is not a benefit to attending an Ivy League school, but being an Ivy League student does not necessarily mean you have elite technical skills. In addition, having technical skills is not the only factor that leads to successful employment. Furthermore, employers that possess these ill-informed assumptions may be hindering their hiring decisions.


There is no pure solution to these questions I propose, but they are important things to consider if successful employment is the desired outcome for both college students and employers.

Fri 20 September 2019
A couple of years ago when I was interviewing companies, I would ask a similar question in all of my interviews.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Fri 13 September 2019
Me: “Why are you in college today?”


Charles (college student): “To get a degree that will hopefully help me get a job.”


Me: “How do you know that getting a job is what you want if you have never experienced it before?”


Charles: “Because that is what you are supposed to do after you graduate. I mean I want to make money and not have to move back in with my parents and I have a lot of debt to pay back, so I kind of need a job.”


Me: “Ah, that makes sense. Well, considering that you could make money at any job and could therefore likely not have to move back in with your parents and be able to begin paying off your student debt, are there any other factors that play into your job search?”


Charles: “Well, I will probably get a job that pertains to my major because that is what companies hire for, so my major plays a factor in my career decision.”


Me: “How did you choose your major originally and do you like the classes that you are taking for your major?”


Charles: “I chose my major because people with my major have one of the highest job placement rates of all majors. However, I don’t really like the classes that I am taking, but I only have 1 more semester to go before I graduate so I figure that I can muster through it.”


Me: “Through your logic of applying for jobs that hire for people with your major, is there a chance that the work you would be doing in your career could be very similar to the work that you are doing in your classes?”


Charles: “That is very possible, but I figure that with the money that I will be making and having a prestigious company on my resume, that I wouldn’t mind working through it for a year or two. Once I quit, I will probably be able to easily find another job because I have that prestigious company on my resume.”


Me: “So you are going into your job with the anticipation of quitting?”


Charles: “Well, ya, I mean a lot of people do that.”


Me: “Similar to how the company that will hire you out of college will hire you because of your major, have you ever considered that the company that hires you after you quit your first job might be hiring you to do the same exact or similar job as what you did with your original company because of your experience doing that work?”


Charles: “I don’t know, I guess maybe, but if I really didn’t like the job I do after college then I won’t look for jobs that are in that field.”


Me: “If that is the case, then what is the value of having a prestigious company on your resume if you plan on quitting and if you don’t like it you will look for jobs outside of that industry that won’t value your experience at that company on your resume?”


Charles: “I have no clue, I haven’t really thought that deep into why I want to work this type of job outside of the money and the resume building.”


The career outlook that Charles has is very similar to many students that I have interviewed over the past 2 years. College students believe that the reason why they go to college is to have a degree that gives them the credibility to get a job. The issue with this mindset is that college students go to college to get a job but get a job because they went to college. All along the way, college students are pursuing careers that they have no clue why they are pursuing (except for the fact that it pays them money).


What I really wanted to ask was “what else do you Charles (or any other college student) value beyond the money?” It is not that making money is wrong, but you can make money at ANY JOB. Why doesn’t college work towards helping college students understand why they want to pursue the career they are pursuing? Helping students understand their values, beliefs, feelings, and aspirations cannot be measured with a test score but are vital to understanding why an individual does what they do.


College teaches students many valuable skills and much knowledge, but if the only reason why students are in college is to get a job offer, what motivation do students have to learn about topics that they want to learn about (not topics they are forced to regurgitate on an exam for their major and then forget about shortly thereafter)?


Colleges are beginning to implement soft skill development with their students because companies have complained that many recent college graduates lack those skills entering the workforce. These soft skill development classes are required courses for one’s major in which students are told to perform actions like goal setting, time management, networking, etc. These skills are vital skills to learn but are only valuable if the person developing these skills understands why they are valuable beyond that passing the course will get them closer to getting a job.


The “why” is lost in college today and its effect is obvious. With over 70% of Americans either not engaged or actively disengaged (a majority of which are recent college graduates) in their careers (Gallup), 80% of Americans unsatisfied with their jobs (Deloitte), and the fact that the average American changes vocation over 15 times in their life (Bureau of Labor Statistics) it is blatantly clear that something wrong is occurring with Americans and their mentality on their careers.


Socrates believed that “you don’t know what you don’t know” and Warren Buffett once said that “getting a job so then you can have it on your resume is like saving up sex for old age.”


As a college student, it is easy to fall in love with the security of having a job offer. Spending 4 years of one’s life living up for that day that a college student gets a job offer is a lot of built-up anticipation and energy for something one has never experienced before. And if the college student is only getting the job to boost his resume and move on to something later, there is no intrinsic motivation for improving his career.


College is one of the most pivotal times in a person’s life as it is the time when a majority of the habits we hold for the rest of our lives are formed (for better or for worse).


Understanding “why” one does what one does (i.e. one’s values, beliefs, feelings, aspirations) will allow an individual to begin the building blocks of the change he wants to make in his life and the world.

Fri 6 September 2019
What you think of yourself vs what others think of you could be like the difference between a horse and a seahorse. Why does it matter how well we know ourselves? What can we do to get a greater understanding of what others think about us? How do misperceptions of oneself even originate?


Self-Awareness is at the heart of emotional intelligence. The better you know how others perceive your actions, the easier it is for you to cater your communication in the way you want to be perceived. How others interpret you can be based on what you say to what you do to how you look. For example, Jay Cutler (the quarterback for the Chicago Bears) gives the impression that he doesn’t care when he plays football and many would care to argue that this is because of his face. Jay Cutler has a bad case of RBF (Resting Bitch Face) which turns people off and causes people to not like him, regardless of whether he is a likeable guy. If Jay Cutler made more of an effort to smile more, people would probably like him more. The point of this example is to convey that how self-aware you are can directly impact how well others like you.


Impressions are created in seconds, whether that is what you heard about somebody, saw in or on somebody, or what you perceive about somebody. Self-Awareness is the ability to understand what people think about you and emotional intelligence is the ability to cater your communication through language, body, and perception to the message you would like to embody.


It matters how well we know ourselves because the more self-aware we are, the happier we will be. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses and learning where your place is based on those strengths and weaknesses is paramount to finding the place where your perceptions meet reality. If you have an unrealistic perspective of yourself, you will consistently be disappointed because you will expect to be treated in a certain way and consistently not receive that response.


We gain a greater understanding of ourselves by listening to the feedback of others. The biggest difficulty people have with this sentence is the word “listening”. Humans possess an inherent drive to not admit our flaws. It is natural for people to get defensive when a flaw is pointed out because to us, flaws are a sign of vulnerability. What most humans don’t understand is that other humans like when people can admit their own flaws. For example, many comedians are extremely successful because they can make fun of themselves. Kevin Hart is hilarious because he fully understands how short he is and all of the downfalls (and silly upsides) to being short. People see this vulnerability in another person and it makes them comfortable to be vulnerable themselves.


Misperceptions of oneself build when we see an idealized version of what we think we can mold ourselves into. For example, many university business schools inform their students that employers are looking for students who have strong work ethic, listening skills, and communication skills. Many students, with the desire to eventually get a job from such an employer, tell themselves that they are strong in all of those skills (whether or not they have worked to develop those skills). When those “aspirational” strengths become so encoded into one’s mental view of ourselves, we build an unrealistic idea of how people perceive who we are.


Ambition In Motion is a company that helps young professionals develop key soft skills, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness. Ambition In Motion helps young professionals gain a realistic idea of what it means to be in the working world and helps unite a company’s business goals with a young professional’s personal goals. These skills directly correlate to higher job satisfaction, productivity, and retention.

Fri 30 August 2019
Elevator pitch


Very concise presentation of an idea covering all of its critical aspects, and delivered within a few seconds (the approximate duration of an elevator ride).
(businessdictionary.com)


The elevator pitch: a term mired in mystery in which outcomes lead to one extreme or the other: despair or greatness. But how can someone possibly fit all the critical aspects of an idea into just a few seconds yet still be captivating? Is this a skill one is born with or is it something developed over time?


If you are still reading, then you are experiencing the importance of the elevator pitch. What you read in the first few lines of this post was interesting enough for you to read more! People have short attention spans and people care about things that are relevant to them. The more relevant you are to a person, the longer they will give you their attention. The trick is quickly convincing someone that you are worth more of their time. When approaching a boss, CEO, HR Manager, or anyone else you would like to get a word in edgewise, the more of a stranger you are to them, the less time you have to capture their attention…so capture it fast.


Marketing yourself is one of the most difficult things to do because there is so much that you think is great about you. Think about it – when you are writing your resume it typically takes a while to cater it to the specific job you are applying for because you are trying to decipher which experiences you have are the most relevant to the person reading the resume. Its natural, everyone thinks that what they are doing is really important. Why else would they be doing it?


Put yourself in the shoes of the listener. What does he/she want to hear from you? What do they value? Those are your “critical aspects”. If you have an idea that could increase the productivity of you and your coworkers without adding any work hours, but your boss only values cutting costs, you shouldn’t lead with “I have a plan to increase the productivity of coworkers.” Rather, you should lead with “I can help you cut costs by 22% through this plan to increase productivity of myself and my coworkers.” You have caught your boss’s attention by stating a specific percentage of reduced cost which made him/her want to listen to the rest of what you are saying.


The point is that people only want to listen to things or to people that appeal to them. The less a person is interested in you, the more you have to speak in terms of what they want to hear. The more a person is interested you, the more likely they are to listen if even if they don’t care about what you are saying.


There are tactics to knowing what a person wants to hear or what they care about. There are also tactics to applying your experiences to those things a person cares about. Sometimes it requires building rapport with a person first on a completely irrelevant topic to what you would like to speak about (but something that the other person highly cares about) and then bringing up your ideal conversation to that person.


Even if your first few attempts at marketing yourself to others doesn’t turn out as you would like, keep pivoting and working on new ways to improve your pitch.


Pivoting is not failure, but failure to pivot is. 

Fri 23 August 2019
The concept of networking is kind of like the concept of riding the biggest, scariest roller coaster at an amusement park. Engaging a stranger in initial conversation is kind of like the part of the roller coaster where you are being carried up and all you hear is the “clunk clink clunk clink clunk clink” of the belt carrying the roller coaster to the climax. It is similar because you are nervous for what will happen next. You have no clue how that person will react from you approaching them just like you have no clue how you will feel once hitting that huge drop on the roller coaster. For the most part, you will end up satisfied and happy that you reached out to that stranger because you not only proved something to yourself that you could do it, but you learned something new or made a new connection from doing so. Occasionally you will end up with a headache at the end (similar to a rusty old wooden roller coaster) because the stranger you reached out to is annoying and won’t stop talking about something you are not interested in. But never will you end up with a negative outcome from networking.


Networking leads to careers, business partnerships, and friendships. These seem like outcomes people would seek in their lives, but why do most young professionals and college students employ networking only during times of desperation? To prove my point, think about the first two weeks of college. For the most part, every other freshman you met was super nice and friendly to you. Why? Because they (and you) were desperate for friends in a new and unusual environment. In a professional setting, attending alumni networking events and professional development seminars did not seem very attractive when you were happy in your job, but once the job started to become monotonous and you didn’t see yourself in a future at that company, those networking and development events became more attractive to attend. When you are less desperate to change, you are less likely to network.


This is not to say that all young professionals and college students only network in times of desperation, but a large quantity of us do.


The trick is to look at networking like this: networking is not a transaction. There is no clear outcome of what will occur from taking the time to speak with somebody. Just because a person’s expertise or insight does not interest you now, does not mean that their knowledge is worthless to you. Young professionals and college students know that some of the outcomes from networking include landing careers, business partnerships, and friendships, but those don’t typically stem from the first meeting one has with a stranger. More likely than not, it is a person recommending you to meet someone else that they know. Therefore, as opposed to trying to attempt the home run of landing a job from a stranger you met at a cocktail party, a better tactic could be to just build a positive working relationship where they know about you and what you are looking for and potentially recommending somebody for you to connect with. Recommendations are one of the leading ways people land careers. You can’t receive any recommendations if you don’t go out and network.


In the end, networking is something that should be done all of the time by everyone (especially young professionals and college students). Keeping a keen track of those you are connected with is important because although you may not value a person’s expertise now, you may value it later. Plus, if you are only networking when you are desperate, it is very likely evident to the other person you are speaking with that you are desperate. Those that want to work with desperate people want to work with desperate people because they are likely desperate themselves to work with anyone. It is ironic how desperate people attract other desperate people because desperate people are the last types of people a desperate person is trying to attract.

Fri 16 August 2019
A goal without a plan is a wish. Is this common sentiment true? Is it impossible for us to achieve a goal that we never planned for?


The ability to set goals equates to an ability to possess control of the outcomes of your situation.


If you are in a job and think to yourself “I hate this job and would be more than willing to accept an offer from another company” but don’t do anything to get an offer from another company, how do you really expect to get another job? Your complaint falls on deaf ears. I have interviewed roughly 100 recent graduates in the past year that are seeking new jobs and about half of them aren’t doing anything to actually “seek” a job. In fact, the closest they got to “seeking” a job was telling me in that interview that they were probably seeking for a new job. I then follow up to ask them “how long have you felt this way?” and the response is typically at least a month to sometimes at least a year.


Why? Your career is typically one of the most prominent sources of professional aspirations. Why are young professionals so complacent in being unsatisfied? Rather, once they realize they are unsatisfied, why is there not a process of setting and achieving goals to get out of that unsatisfaction?


Actually seeking a new career is hard, takes time, and typically isn’t fun. The irony of getting out of a bad job situation is that you have to work even harder outside of that job to find a new one. The issue is that most people enable themselves to not work as hard outside of their job because of the stress they receive from their job. Then, through some random job opportunity (a friend mentioning it, a random email, etc.), you jump on it like it’s the gold rush without thinking “is this job in fact better than my old job?”


Part of goal setting, especially in a professional environment, requires self-awareness. Working to better understand yourself should be the first plan to achieving any professional goal. Taking the time to write down what you like and don’t like (in this example, in your job) is vital to understanding what your next move will be. This takes time and may even require the help of your peers, close friends, and family to inform you of what you like to do and what your strengths are. This is because sometimes you are so deep into what you are doing (and what you think you should be doing) that you can’t see the forest from the trees. From there you can analyze what jobs you think you might like and then reach out to people actually doing those jobs (LinkedIn is great for this) to get better insight on what the job is like. When reaching out to those people, don’t ask whether or not they like the job because that depends on their personality and work style and how that meshes with their work opportunities. Their work style is completely different from yours so their feelings about the job should be irrelevant to you. Questions like “is the work autonomous or structured?” are better because they are not as subjective.


This is just an example of setting a plan to achieving a goal, but the point is that it pays off to plan and not let things come at you as random happenstance.

Fri 2 August 2019
What is time management? Is it jotting down notes and writing out what your plans are? Or is it getting that burrito from Chipotle because you are already out and know that you will be hungry in an hour? Or is it separating your work into different topics to help you concentrate?


Technically, all of these are examples of time management. The key with all of these examples, and time management in general, is that it forces you to think of how you will spend your time in the future and what is the best way to allocate that time.


The funny thing about time management is that it takes time. It is like moving one step backward to eventually move four steps forward. This concept of time management has been so elusive to young professionals and recent graduates today because we are very motivated by the short term. We see the “one step backward” and instantly think “screw that! I’ll just go at it head-on.”


Let’s detail an example of this.


You get on your computer and you start checking emails. The first is from your boss in which you respond right away about how you will come into the office an hour early to get started with work because your company is entering the busy season. The next email is spam from JDate/Match.com/Christian Mingle because your dumb friend thought it would be funny to put your email on their subscription list and no matter how many times you try to unsubscribe and mark as spam, their stupid emails still seem to manage to get through. The next email is a LinkedIn update and you decide to check out the feed on LinkedIn, see how your profile views are doing, and maybe update your profile to “I am technically in a job, but am definitely open to hearing any offers because my job sucks!” and then you chuckle to yourself and quickly delete it. You then check your next email and find it is an accepted friend request from an old friend from high school. You scope their Facebook profile hard now that you are friends because before you were “friends” he had more privacy settings than your parents did on their “R rated” channels when you were growing up. You then think “Oh shoot! I can’t believe it has been an hour, I need to get to the office.” You commute the 30 minutes it takes to get to work to find that nobody is there. It turns out that in that hour it took you to check 4 emails, the 5th email was from your boss informing you that there was a fire in the office and he was canceling work for the day and wanted everyone to work remotely from their house.


This is a very elaborate example, but it is real! The person in this example very likely complains how they can never get their work done on time. Their audience will typically suggest “why don’t utilize some time management tactics.” The individual whines back “I don’t have time for time management!”


Hmm…This seems like an ironic statement. If the individual in this example would have planned to check all work emails first and then the rest of his emails, he would have not wasted the hour back and forth from work, he would have had a specific time allocated to checking LinkedIn and Facebook, and he would not be complaining how he can never get his work done.


The key caveat to not utilizing time management tactics is that it takes time to think about how to best utilize your time. The short term benefit of not expending 10 minutes now, for some odd reason, trumps the long term angst of losing 2 hours of productivity later.

Mon 24 June 2019
Professor Leonard Bernstein once wrote, “Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time.” I kind of feel the opposite of this right now, as if I am not as good of a writer when I AM inspired. I had an epiphany last night to write a blog post for Ambition In Motion (AIM) on how everything began. I woke up this morning super inspired to write…just to write this post and get feedback that it was way too “listy” and “not engaging enough.” So here is my attempt at making this blog post more engaging.


Ambition In Motion (AIM) started in Bloomington, Indiana in May of 2013. Why is this important to you? To be totally honest, because the more specific verbiage I use in my blog posts, the higher the AIM website will pop up when students/employers/mentors/anyone else keyword searches something semi-relevant to AIM in Google. Also, because I thought that you might be interested in how AIM got started. I have been asked a surprisingly many times how AIM got started so I figured that I would convey that story in a blog post.



So I was working with this student organization called CLEAR in Fall of 2012 and Spring of 2013 and I wanted to improve participation. We had some consistent members, but would randomly receive a stark drop in participation and I had no clue why. It is crazy because this would happen in random, yet consistent spurts. Periodically, younger students would take more credit hours because they had no idea what degree they wanted to major. These kids were spending a ridiculous amount of time studying to get good grades, while receiving little clarity on what they wanted their degree to be. SHOCKER ALERT: what you like now as a freshman will change as you get older and the classes that you take as a freshman have little correlation to the classes that you will take as a senior, BOOM! I know that this may read crass and sarcastic (which it is), but sadly, this information is not obvious to everyone. Even worse, the answer to the million dollar question of “what should I major in?” isn’t obvious either.



We also received large drops in participation from the older students who had no clue what career they wanted to pursue. Many of these older students accumulated a bunch of credits in a major area and just decided “well, I guess I will major in this!” without lending any credence to what career they might be interested in pursuing. This is the effect to the cause of “well I guess I should take every 100 level class in every degree area and go from there and accumulate credits in totally random fields so then I can ‘figure it out’”. 2 years later they haven’t figured it out and their parents say “son, I am cutting you off after your 4th year of college…SO FIGURE IT OUT!” The student then freaks out and says “well, I guess I will major in this!” The student’s parents come back to him and ask “so what are you going to do with your life when you graduate? Because you sure aren’t going to be moving back in with us!” The student is like, …gulp…”I don’t know yet but I will be looking for a job.” Students like this then attend every career fair imaginable, treating it like a job buffet and dropping their resume off at every booth.


I saw students taking way too many classes without any clarity and students throwing a random dart at which career to pursue as a problem. NEWS FLASH: Most careers do not have a linear correlation from the perceived career from a certain degree path (i.e. a career as an economist from a degree in economics). I originally started helping incoming college students gain some clarity on which major to choose. I saw this as a good solution because this would help students minimize their student loan debt due to less wasted semesters, have a definitive answer when talking to their parents, and have more time to participate in extracurricular activities like CLEAR. I turned to Indiana University for help in this issue and fell flat on my face.


So what did I end up finding out from Indiana University? I will explain further in my next blog post.


In terms of a response to the title of this blog post, it doesn’t really matter what degree you pursue, because that has no bearing on your career. Believe in yourself and do what makes you happy. Don’t waste your time stressed in classes. College is meant to be a learning experience…so LEARN and don’t stress.

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 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 22 June 2020
Executive Horizontal Mentoring means pairing two executives together for a mutually beneficial relationship. In contrast to traditional mentorship, there isn’t a “mentee” and a “mentor”, but two executives that are open to learning from each other.  


After operating Executive Horizontal Mentoring programs, one of the biggest things I have learned is the benefit of being able to relate to another leader and how powerful connection can be.


In a recent discussion, a CEO of a software company compared it to a therapist going to another therapist for therapy.


The Chief Financial Officer of an insurance company found it relieving to know that even somebody in a different industry and size of company as him faced very similar issues.


The Chief People Officer for a financial firm felt that he could be significantly more vulnerable in a mentor relationship with an HR executive outside of his company than with somebody from within the company.


As an executive, being able to relate to somebody else has immense benefits. This article sheds light on 3 major benefits of executive mentoring and the benefit of being able to relate.


Affirmation


A person doesn’t become an executive by accident. It takes hard work, persistence, and patience waiting for the proper circumstances and the right opportunity to align itself. Once you have earned your way to this position, you might feel like you need to have all of the answers. As an executive for my own company, I personally felt this. It felt like because I had worked up to this role for so long, I needed to be the bedrock of answers that I thought my team needed, even when I had no clue what the best move should be. 


Having an executive mentor can help reinforce and affirm your decisions. You may have a team that is reluctant to challenge you. Because of this, their words of affirmation probably won’t mean as much to you since they may have additional reasons to agree with you (even if they don’t realize it!). 


Hearing honest feedback from another executive who has been through similar things is powerful. You know they don’t feel the pressure to simply affirm your beliefs. Instead, they choose to agree because they truly believe that you made the right decision and this feels incredible!


That feeling of affirmation from a peer can be exalting. It gives you the confidence to continue taking strong steps in the direction you have chosen because an unbiased, but experienced, party is backing you up.


To give an example of this, I will share the story of my business partner, Dave Criswell, who is incredible at affirming people. Dave and I met on the tennis court (we both play in a doubles tennis group). Dave is in his mid-50’s, doesn’t move particularly fast, and doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard. But he rarely loses in doubles. Why? Because he is incredible at affirming his partner. Dave has played tennis long enough that he knows what good strategy is. He never gets mad at his partner for mistakes but is great at conveying the positives and negatives based on certain strategies deployed during a rally (e.g. hit down the line, lob over the net player, hit cross-court, etc.). When you are his partner in tennis, even if you take an action that he doesn’t agree with, he is great at affirming your move by understanding the potential upside if your action works, while also doing a great job of conveying the alternative options that are available that might have been an easier method to achieving the ultimate outcome (e.g. winning the point). Dave brings out the best in me (and anybody he plays tennis with) because I know that the feedback he is giving me is authentic, that he trusts me to make whatever decision I believe is best at that moment, and that he could easily get angry when I make a mistake but he instead chooses to teach me. Individually, Dave and I aren’t necessarily the best tennis players. Together, however, we have (occasionally!) beaten guys who played tennis in college. No small feat! 


In an executive mentoring relationship, having somebody to affirm you and believe in you feels incredible.


Vulnerability


Having somebody outside of your company to be vulnerable with can be life-changing. As an executive, I have friends that I grab drinks with and share business updates with, but those conversations are inconsistent and usually unfocused. They have their own business to focus on and we aren’t truly intentionally listening, reflecting, and empathizing with each other. 


In an executive mentoring relationship, there are two executives who have committed to building a deep relationship with another executive who can relate. This is another person who is in a similar position as you, maybe not the same industry or size of company, but that cares about listening, learning, and understanding your situation just as much as you are of theirs. 


Once rapport is built, it is significantly easier to be vulnerable with each other which then leads to trust and legitimate business outcomes.


To put it into context, how often do you share your business goals with your executive friends? If you do, how often are they intentionally listening to what you are saying, willing to challenge you based on inconsistencies you have mentioned in the past, and follow up with you monthly to see if you are on track for these goals? 


The answer is probably no for the first question, but if it is yes, it is probably no for the second question. Why? Because executives are busy! If you haven’t set an intentional agenda and consistent meetings committed to you working on these goals, you are probably not achieving the outcomes you would like from your executive peer network. 


An executive mentoring relationship creates an environment conducive for two busy executives to spend their time effectively and meaningfully so then they can achieve maximum business results in the least amount of time. 


Those results multiply when both executives feel comfortable being vulnerable with each other.


Growth


Growth incorporates both business and personal outcomes. If your business is growing but your personal life is falling apart, eventually your personal life will creep into your work life and those effects could be irreversible. 


An executive mentor can help you find a balance between work and personal life. The benefit of being able to relate is that your excuses for why you can’t spend time with your family, spouse, and friends, are no different from theirs: they are in the same position as you. If they have discovered ways to find balance, you can too. And they will probably pick up a tip or two from you at the same time. 


You may not be comfortable sharing these personal issues with just anyone. Whether it’s your colleagues at work, multiple people in your executive peer network, or a coach, they may not know or be able to relate to exactly what you are going through. 


An executive mentor solves this by providing a safe place for you to share. Just by being able to acknowledge the challenges you are going through, you are already on a trajectory towards growth. Holding it all in doesn’t help you or anyone that you live or work with. 


The ability to relate to another executive in a mentoring relationship can not only drive professional growth but personal growth as well.


Overall, executive horizontal mentoring can have a massive benefit on the impact of leaders. The ability to relate to another executive provides a lens into what could be for an executive and an opportunity to drive personal and professional growth. Executive mentors help executives avoid wasted time and mistakes by being able to build a bond with another executive who can relate.
Wed 8 July 2020
Successful companies hold candid conversations, explore areas of innovation, and refine strategy on a regular cadence. Why not you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To say that our initial meeting/work session was a success would be an understatement.  We were able to connect on multiple topics and the communication was very fluid and relaxed.  I truly believe that we will both value significantly from this networking opportunity and I look forward to our next few sessions.
Wed 15 July 2020
How does one define leadership? In many ways it is a concept that is difficult to define. Difficult to understand. Difficult to execute. And difficult to replicate. Consider how many books, articles, seminars, and case studies have been offered over the decades – not to mention the ability to earn a PhD in Leadership! As such, leadership comes in many models often formed by personal experiences and successes and failures of others.

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

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

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

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



Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers