energizing breakthrough performance

Lucky Mentoring

Author: ; Published: Oct 26, 2012; Category: Mentoring, Workforce Planning, Workforce Succession Planning; Tags: None; No Comments»

The mentee and the mentor are meeting for the first time. They enter the small conference room and the mentor closes the door. What now?

Indeed, what now? Everyone’s time is at a premium these days. Everyone is racing. How do we ensure that both mentee and mentor extract maximum value from their investment of limited time together?

To conduct a goal-centered, productive mentoring relationship requires that the mentor be prepared adequately. Your mentoring program may be a “lucky” one, with a sufficient number of active mentors, who, through a happy mix of experience and intuition, are ready to hit the ground running — not only able to establish effective mentoring relationships but to sustain them as well. However, unless you are standing up a very small or otherwise elite mentoring program, the likelihood that your mentors are truly “ready-to-go” without any training whatsoever is probably limited.

If you are launching a mentoring program, you won’t want to underestimate the importance of training your mentors (You should also consider training your mentees for optimum results, but that’s a different topic!)

Here’s the thing. Without prior training, mentors won’t be ably to play the full spectrum of mentoring roles. Like most of us, they will follow their natural instincts, possibly based on prior experience that they had with a mentor in years past. If they had a great mentor, then this may prove to be golden. All too often, however, that prior mentoring role model may be more limiting than liberating. Most mentors are motivated to deliver value and improve continuously, but why leave it to chance? Why deny your mentors the skills and insights that will allow them to excel at the mentoring task? What about mentors who have not yet learned how to guide without controlling? What about the mentor who is much more inclined to coach as opposed to mentor? What about the mentor who spends to much time transmitting and not enough time receiving, observing, reflecting, and strategizing? What about the mentor who is challenged by communication across a generational divide?

The list goes on. Too many mentoring programs start with a bang and end with a fizzle — failing to catch hold and failing to gain momentum rather than losing it. There are numerous reasons why the fizzle factor takes effect, but the good news is that these issues can be overcome. A failure to equip your mentors with the skills needed for effective mentoring is one of the most common causes of preventable disappointment.

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Mentoring Across the Generations

Author: ; Published: Oct 17, 2012; Category: Mentoring, Workforce Planning, Workforce Succession Planning; Tags: None; No Comments»

The vagaries of the multi-generational workforce were at the center of discussion with a client last week. The client indicated that her workforce variously consists of three or four different generations, each with their own predominant characteristics.  The younger members of the workforce bring fresh ideas and new energy into the mix and this, when coupled with the talents and insights of more seasoned members, has given rise to a dynamic chemistry. Mastering this chemistry is among the contemporary challenges for leadership.

During my graduate education in business, a video entitled You are Where You Were When You Were Value Processed was particularly memorable.  I recall it well these “several” years later! The film posits that critical periods in any person’s development which will be shaped inextricably by the times and places in which they reach maturity milestones; they will draw inferences from the events which swirl around them and their values are shaped thereby, perhaps not immutably but powerfully. Most of us are aware of the differing relationships which individual generations have towards technology, for example.  We also know that younger cohorts have been mingling comfortably in teams since their K-12 years, while older workers typically evidence a greater degree of “rugged individualism” in their work styles.  There are important differences in how face-to-face communication is viewed vis-à-vis the use of an electronic alternative. And the list, if not the beat, goes on.  While difficult for younger members of the workforce to appreciate, such evolution does not end with one’s own generation. Indeed, it never ends.

 A growing body of excellent literature addresses these generational differences and how to manage them to best effect.  That said, mentors are typically, although not always, older than their younger, less experienced mentees. To what extent are we preparing both mentors and mentees to communicate across the generations in a way that understands, accepts, and leverages these generational differences?  To what extent are our mentors aware of behaviors and attitudes that are grounded firmly in a generation’s DNA? Not just at the gross level, but also at the fine, or surgical level.  Mentoring effectiveness is enhanced considerably when mentors appreciate that which can be shaped, if not changed, and those behaviors which are entrenched firmly, even at a given mentee’s “tender” age. Mentor efforts to nurture the unchangeable will create communication barriers and frustration. Mentor efforts which are focused properly will achieve breakthroughs – for individuals and for organizations. As time progresses, this will become more, rather than less important to the attainment of mentoring excellence.

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Matrix Management’s Core Competencies

Author: ; Published: Oct 2, 2012; Category: Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: None; No Comments»

It’s often the case that every employee who plays a role in the matrix organization is assumed to understand how the matrix is supposed to work and how to participate effectively in it. Is this always a safe assumption? Obviously, the answer to this question is a resounding no. It is a cavalier, rather than safe assumption.

Role clarity is essential to matrix management success. However, getting to role clarity requires individual mastery of those role-specific competencies which are essential to successful role performance. Much as a sports team’s effectiveness is enfeebled when one of its players is not up to par or is otherwise “off their game,” a matrix organization is enfeebled when a vertical leader, a horizontal leader, a vertical liaison, or an individual contributor has not attained the competencies required for effective job performance or, worse yet, doesn’t even know what these competencies are!

Research shows that people learn and perform better when they understand more clearly and explicitly what they are expected to learn, what they are expected to be able to do, and how well they are expected to do it. Over the years, this research has given rise to competency-based training and education in a wide variety of fields. A competency-based approach to management education – particularly for a more sophisticated application such as matrix management – provides a solid foundation for success.

Defining role-specific competencies in an explicit way affords several important benefits beyond the overarching goal of an organization which functions effectively and efficiently. First, it provides a granular basis for training program development and for coaching and mentoring. Second, it signals specific expectations to the employee as to what constitutes successful performance, and provides yet another basis for performance evaluation, rewards and recognition. Third, it provides a basis for each participant in the organization to appreciate the competencies required of the other roles with which s/he interacts as well as their own.

In my book, Matrix Management Secrets I set forth more general suggestions concerning of matrix management competencies as well as some generic role-specific competency suggestions. Confidential clients have engaged Strategic Futures to develop competencies that are specific to one or more particular roles in their organization. This level of definition is a superior, sturdy alternative, which beats “making it up each day” by a long shot. The competency-based approach inoculates against wheel-spinning role negotiation and re-negotiation, accompanied by fumbles fizzles and foibles, not to mention fatigue. An ounce of prevention is still worth more than a pound of cure. To define essential competencies for each pivotal role in the matrix organization is just such prevention. Strategic Futures recommends it highly. We deliver.

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