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Wed 19 February 2020
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Nicole Martin is Chief Empowerment Officer and Founder of HRBoost, LLC, a HR Shared Services consulting firm based in Chicago, Illinois. In recognition of her professional excellence as well as her community, Nicole has been honored by multiple organizations including most recently as one of Mirror Review’s 10 Game Changing Women in 2019. Awardee for Business Excellence by the Chicago Daily Herald, and a 2016 Enterprising Women of the Year Champion by Enterprising Women Magazine. A sought-after expert, her knowledge and advice have been featured in newspapers and magazines throughout the country. In addition, Nicole is the host online of HR in the Fast Lane and contributing writer for the Chicago Business Journal.  Nicole has authored, International Literary Award and Amazon Best Seller, The Talent Emergency, the accompanying Talent Emergency Guidebook, The Human Side of Profitability, The Power of Joy & Purpose, and her newly released co-authored book No Fear Negotiation for Women.
Tue 18 February 2020
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During this video, we introduce the Ambition In Motion mentor program and then interview David Elfman to discuss how college students and professionals can get their foot in the door for professional experiences and mentor relationships. 
Mon 17 February 2020
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Joanna Severino is the Founder & President of PREPSKILLS and the US College Expo. Joanna has been an educator for over 25 years, helping students to excel in achieving important milestones in education. For many Canadian families, applying to private schools and US colleges can be daunting. PREPSKILLS helps navigate this process by giving families the tools, resources and connections to maximize opportunities. Joanna created the US College Expo in Canada and PrepConnect events to help families explore their educational pathways. Education is really about resourcefulness. As a certified teacher and passionate mom-preneur, Joanna is always looking for ways to ensure that students connect with these opportunities and get the valuable information they need to make informed decisions about education.
Sun 16 February 2020
Leverage LinkedIn to expand your network.'
Bree is a Career Consultant, CEO of HD Career Consulting LLC and podcast host of Who Ate My Cake Podcast, with over 15 years’ experience. She leverages her knowledge of workforce development trends, career pathways, education and training programs, HR process and hiring partnerships to systematically and strategically assess people's challenges to help them find careers that stick. She gained her experience and training working in higher education, training and development and parted ways with the institution in 2018 to launch HD Career Consulting with the mission to bring career exploration and development services to working adults struggling to navigate careers efficiently and effectively because we all deserve Work + Happy.  
Her expertise
o   Adult Teaching, Learning and Career Development Specialist.
o   Member of the National Career Development Association.
o   Published Research Author in the Journal of Career Development.
o   Former peer reviewer for the Journal of Career Development.
o   Podcast host and creator of Who Ate My Cake, An all things career podcast.
o   Former Student Affairs Practitioner, and Graduate Student SuccessPrograms Creator and Evaluator.
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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will we talk about?

Can this person even help me?

Can I help this person?

What if this is a big waste of time?

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

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

Will this person care?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers