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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their first movie: Toy Story. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wed 29 July 2020
My latest executive peer mentoring session examined each of our core values and why we do what we do. Some of the questions posed were: What is your core focus for why you work? Why do you exist? What impact do you want to have? What is your strategy for getting others to help you achieve this impact? We were encouraged to brainstorm what that impact will that look like in 10 years... 3 years… How about in one year?
 
These are facilitated by Ambition In Motion (https://ambition-in-motion.com).
 
I usually look for one or two Big Ideas to take away (sometimes I come up with more, believe me!). Two that really stood from our time last week are:
 
  1. The power of impact
I routinely coach clients to look at the IMPACT they have. What is a pattern of results that they have accomplished, over time? What do they do consistently, repeatedly, naturally? This represents the impact they have on their surroundings – and it can take a variety of forms. For a salesperson, it can be consistently overachieving their quota/revenue objectives. For a manager, it might be achieving unit/department/area results – and how many people they have helped to develop or mentor along the way. It may be areas or processes they have helped to improve.
 
Most often, the impact we have usually flows from our exercising the core strengths we have, consistent with working and living out our own core values. It’s an outgrowth of who we are.
 
Want to see an illustration? Think of someone you know pretty well - pull up their LinkedIn profile. Scroll down to any Recommendations that others have written about them. The chances are that you’ll see this at work.
 
Working with clients in developing them in their career, I routinely ask them a lot of questions to pull this out. I strongly encourage them to articulate their impact in the first half-page of their resume, and in the Summary of their LinkedIn profile.

2. The power of reflection
My mentor Geoff shared one of John Maxwell’s practices. He is a consummate journal-maker, taking notes of actions, reactions, and results daily. He takes a few days at the end of each year to re-read his diary and reflect. Geoff challenged the two of us to independently plan a couple of days at the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021, to re-read notes, recap goals, and savor accomplishments. And, how about reflecting on key actions and causes behind the accomplishments? How about those goals or actions that were inadvertently “left behind”?
 
I make monthly goals, then weekly goals. I don’t journal in notebooks hardcopy much, certainly not like I used to. But I do keep track of those goals and have them available. Note to self: Block out 1-2 days in December for intentional reflection.
 
We just passed mid-year in the midst of a pandemic, forcing us to spend more time by ourselves. Maye now is a good time to reflect. Or, look ahead and intentionally plan for that.
 
How about you - What’s YOUR impact?
 
Wed 22 July 2020
In my discussion with my mentor this month, we talked about challenging ourselves and setting tangible goals. It’s common knowledge that the best way to succeed at anything is to set goals and objectives and measure yourself against them. It’s not always so easy to actually do it, or even remember that you should. It is very easy to get lost in the business of daily life and work and forget to set goals for yourself. It’s also easy to make excuses that allow you to put them off. 

For me personally, there’s a level of fear in setting goals as well. If I go through the process of setting a goal, then that means I could fail. If I don’t set any goals, I can never technically fail. That’s not really a useful way to accomplish anything though, which is why having a mentor is so helpful. Among many other things, a mentor can be an accountability partner. This partnership is a powerful tool for both creating and reaching goals, which is exactly what we talked about in our last meeting. 

My mentor and I helped each other create some goals for the next few months. My goals were created as a result of my most recent peer review. My self-ratings were pretty well in-line with those of my peers, however my own scores were slightly lower than my peers’. With some insight from Garrett Mintz of Ambition in Motion, we figured out that this means I’m likely able to ask a little more from my colleagues. My mentor and I took that idea and created a goal from it. My goal is to make at least three asks per week that I normally wouldn’t. This may seem simple, but it’s a confidence building exercise. It’s a stepping stone on my way to larger, greater goals as well. My mentor has his own goals too, and we’ll be checking in with each other weekly to see if we’ve followed through, that’s where the accountability comes in. I’m excited to get started and see where we go next!


Mon 20 July 2020
Change in your business is inevitable.

Whether impetus for change is internal like a new business insight that causes you to move in a new direction, or external like a global pandemic that forces you to rethink the way you do business, change always happens.

As a leader for your business, you may find that adapting to change seems easier for you than it is for your people. This could be due to you having a higher risk tolerance than your staff or that you were part of the decision for the change while your people are asked to follow along after hearing about it from you or somebody else second-hand.

Regardless, the key point is that change happens and some people will handle it better than others. While this process can be tough, what is important is that the people that are able to change with you, will also be able to grow with you.

According to ClearRock Inc, 70% of change initiatives fail to achieve their basic goals. 

However, if you can get the right people around you, people that are willing and able to change with you and be happy about it, you are significantly more likely to successfully navigate this change.

This article sheds light on an effective way to enact change in your company while maintaining culture.

In 2003, Evan Williams sold blogger.com to Google. Blogger was one of the first dedicated websites for what we know as the blog today.

By 2004, Evan was already cooking up new plans and finding ways to change the game. He asked, “What if we could implement blogs, but with audio?” and began working. He called this new company Odeo. 

This was a brand new medium for media consumption and Evan thought he had another big opportunity on his hands. But in 2005, something big happened that would change his world forever.

In 2005, Apple decided that they were going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into a new form of media that was strikingly similar to audio blogs. This surprised Evan Williams because at this moment, these “audio blogs” as Evan referred to them barely had any traction.

Apple called this component of their business “podcasts”. 

While Odeo started garnering some traction, it was definitely not a market leader and when Apple flooded the market with podcasts, Odeo was left to fend for the scraps.

Suddenly time was running out for Evan. He was backed into a corner, hemorrhaging funds and rapidly approaching a decision he was loath to consider: closing the company. That’s when he made the bold decision to do something interesting.

Evan decided to be vulnerable.

As opposed to telling his team that everything would be okay and to keep pushing in the direction he knew was a losing battle, Evan was open and honest.

As opposed to just him and his executive team determining what to do next, he involved his entire team to be a part of the solution. 

Their initial idea was to have a hackathon where all of their employees could work individually or in small groups to come up with ideas about how they could pivot and transition. The hackathon was a success and they were able to scrape some good ideas from the event (alongside some team-building for good measure). 

Two of Evan’s employees, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey, came up with this idea leveraging their prior experience with Evan at Blogger. As opposed to long, free-form blogs meant for longer reads, what about a blogging site built around short text snippets that people could skim? 

As they began testing the idea, it took off in popularity. They were able to get famous celebrities on the site by providing a way for these celebrities to get their message out to a wide audience without the barriers of traditional media. 

This hackathon idea became what we know today as Twitter.

Evan Williams was able to transition the majority of his Odeo team to fully focus on Twitter. He successfully accomplished this because he was vulnerable with his team and allowed them to be a part of the decision-making process, thus ensuring that every member of his team had buy-in for the tough work ahead. 

To recap: 

·        Change is inevitable
·        Effectively implementing change is hard
·        Some people handle change better than others
·        To maintain your culture through the change, be vulnerable with your team
·        And include your people in the decision-making process

Coming to this conclusion isn’t easy. As a leader, it requires admitting that you may have made a mistake and that you may not know the best path forward. Having a fellow executive mentor can help unlock your vulnerability and improve your performance as a leader. Executive Mentorship isn’t a group of executives meeting afterhours to discuss work and it’s not coaching either. An executive mentoring relationship is a 1-on-1 relationship with another executive who can relate to your situation, help you understand your weaknesses, and provide a safe space for you to be vulnerable.

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 



Mon 13 July 2020
As a leader, your goal is to empower your people to operate optimally and enjoy the work they are doing. One key skill for achieving that goal is the ability to promote active listening and communication among your team

In the past, managers tried to get their teams to listen by micromanaging, providing constant reminders, and having frequent check-ins. All of these nit-picky activities cost time and energy for everyone involved.

As it turns out, it really doesn’t pay off. Instead, they ended up with a culture of mindless rule-following and stymied innovation. Those cultures are predicated on “what has always been done in the past.”

In these scenarios, leaders stress out because they perceive their teams’ lack of performance as a lack of listening, both to leadership and to each other. However, what happens, in reality, is that the culture of “do what I say” creates employees that are trained to not speak openly about problems and solutions with the team when the boss doesn’t allow it. It’s not that they can’t think on their own; they choose not to for fear of rejection or repercussions. 

How can you tell if you are building this type of repressive team culture?

Ask yourself, how often do your people challenge your ideas? Do they ever question you face-to-face?

If the answer is minimally or never, you are building a culture that stymies listening and communication, and subsequently, leads to loss of innovative thinking on your team. 

If this sounds like your team, fear not! You are not stuck in this position forever! You can start making progress today on improving your team’s cohesion, listening skills, and innovation. 

Humans are social animals by nature. That makes us perceptive, and we react to what we are sensing from the people we are around, even if we don’t consciously acknowledge it. 

We can learn from other highly social animals as well. For example, a few weeks ago my dog Sunni was recently attacked by another dog. 

After getting attacked, my fiancé, understandably, was nervous taking Sunni to the dog park. While my fiancé wanted Sunni to play and exercise at the park, Sunni seemed too anxious and refused to get more than a few feet away from her. Sunni could sense her nerves and blatantly disobeyed her requests for Sunni to go and play. Even though Sunni could probably tell my fiancé was saying to go play, she picked up on her owner’s anxiety and chose to ignore the commands and stay close.

The point is that just like Sunni picks up on her owner’s feelings and responds accordingly, your people will pick up on your feelings and respond to those, even if what you are saying is different.

Unfortunately, you can’t just order your people to “come up with innovative ideas” or ask them to start questioning your decisions. Feelings and body language are much more powerful than words. If your people don’t sense you are being authentic when you ask to have a more open, inclusive, innovative, and attentive culture, the message will fall on deaf ears.

Your people can tell when you are stressed out, and your stress doesn’t make them work any faster or better. In fact, it is likely to make them worse because, as a leader, your stress is shared with the team. Your people may not respond or act the way you want them to because their fear of stressing you out even more, all of which creates a feedback loop chock full of stressed-out bosses, unproductive employees, communication barriers…which unsurprisingly makes you more stressed.

The best remedy for this is vulnerability

Share with them what is on your mind and what concerns you may have. Nine times out of ten, fear of the unknown outweighs the fear of the known. When you keep it to yourself, and your people sense you are stressed, they will come up with their own thoughts on what might be stressing you out, which is its own novel source of stress.  

When you make your concerns and stressors known, you invite others to empathize with you and help you rally around the problem at hand. 

If you are vulnerable with your people, they are much more likely to reciprocate and be open with you. Your understanding of their challenges will help you build empathy for their work. 

Eventually, your people will build a greater understanding of why you are saying what you are saying and more willing to ask you questions if they are confused. Empathetic, effective communication is the key to building a strong team, and vulnerability will help you build trust and listening skills all across your team.

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

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

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

Until next time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blog for Mentors and Mentees by Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang
Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang 1 article

Blog for Mentors and Mentees by Charmaine Hammond
Charmaine Hammond 1 article

Blog for Mentors and Mentees by Kathy Caprino
Kathy Caprino 2 articles

Blog for Mentors and Mentees by Erica Ballard
Erica Ballard 1 article

Blog for Mentors and Mentees by Jordan Paris
Jordan Paris 1 article

Blog for Mentors and Mentees by Marcus Wermuth
Marcus Wermuth 1 article

Blog for Mentors and Mentees by Vinay Singh
Vinay Singh 1 article

Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers