energizing breakthrough performance

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Author: ; Published: Nov 29, 2012; Category: Collaboration, Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management, Uncategorized; Tags: None; No Comments»

Yes, with a nod to the late Rodney King. While Mr. King was referring to life on the streets, we will reframe his question relative to life in today’s complex organizations: How can we optimize collaboration among our company’s employees?

To be sure, extreme examples exist whereby one or more toxic relationships dim the prospects for productive collaboration towards zero.  The good news is that there are relatively few such examples hunkered down at the tail of the bell curve. More commonly, it’s just that people get in one another’s way, most often unintentionally, such that the whole ends up being less than the sum of its parts. Then, Pandora’s Box may open with the most neurotic relationships exerting disproportionate negative influence on everyone’s performance and daily sense of progress, akin to bad money driving out good money.  In the most egregious cases, the best people and practices become subservient to the least common denominator. That’s wrong, upside down, and out of balance. It’s also dangerous.

Look at it this way: When it comes to productive collaboration, there’s a continuum with alienation at one end and productive synergy at the other. The never-ending challenge is to move the organization from wherever it is on the continuum towards the productive synergy end, lest it spiral backwards. Things are either getting better or they are getting worse. Getting to productive synergy is the goal of Strategic Futures’ Optimize Collaboration!

“Getting along” at the speed of business in a high-performance enterprise is today’s high bar and “getting along” certainly does not mean just “getting by.” It enables the talent to collaborate with one another productively, and we hope, creatively. Getting along  today also means that when there are occasional fights – and there will be – they should be the right fights, fought well and intelligently. Constructive tension is a good thing.  Destructive tension is not.

What does productive collaboration require? Three key building blocks you need for fostering crackling synergy among employees are:

  • Expanded Trust
  • Improved Human Relations Hygiene
  • Clarified Mutual Support Agreements

These building blocks take on different proportions in a world which often consists of fewer face-to-face employee encounters, replaced by more computer-mediated interactions. These challenges are factored into our design. Optimize Collaboration!  is a hands-on working session delivered at your site. We customize the session to your organization’s needs and aspirations. If you think it might be time for a tune-up, please email info@strategicfutures.com or telephone 703.836.8383 for additional information. You may also e-mail us for a free copy of our Dimensions of Trust Self-Assessment Questionnaire.

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The Mentoring Persona

Author: ; Published: Nov 20, 2012; Category: Mentoring, Workforce Planning, Workforce Succession Planning; Tags: None; No Comments»

I am sometimes asked the question, “If someone is a great manager, does it also follow that they will be a great mentor?” The answer is….it all depends. There is no question that core managerial skills, e.g., communication, problem-solving, effective feedback, challenging and confronting, motivating, etc., are at the heart of effective mentoring. However, my experience is that effective mentors give expression to these management-relevant skills using a different persona – a persona which has a relaxed and reflective flavor, an almost Zen-like presence whereby the mentor has mastered the art of answering a mentee’s question with a well-chosen question, designed to challenge assumptions and stimulate new thinking, if not prompt a meaningful metamorphosis. Naturally, there’s more to it than that, but I abbreviate today. 

Many organizations use “machine-mediated” mentoring relying upon electronic protocols, prompts, and interactions rather than necessarily using a face-to-face approach.  To be sure, use of the computer for mentoring purposes need not preclude development and use of the mentoring persona, but it does heighten risk of near-mechanical or “transactional” advice-dispensing interactions between mentor and mentee, delivering “economy” mentoring if you will, rather than “premier” or “concierge”-level mentoring.  Training mentors in how to develop and express the mentoring persona ahead of their deployment as mentors can go a long way towards lifting the quality of your mentoring program right from the start. 

There are several reasons why higher-order mentoring matters to the mentor, the mentee, and the employing organization. The mentor both provides and derives greater satisfaction.  Part of the persona is to slow down and reflect rather than rely upon “quick-draw” manager-like responses. This is good for mentor and mentee alike. The mentee becomes more self-reliant as his or her leverage over the mentoring relationship increases. Thoughtful, comprehensive and reflective interactions define quality mentoring relationship and the mentoring program begins to institutionalize as you hoped it would, permitting the setting and attainment of more aggressive professional development goals and objectives. 

To the extent that such high-quality mentoring relationships are in abundance – be they in-person or virtual – the mentoring program momentum can be built and sustained.  Mentoring programs are sometimes launched and then collapse of their own weight, degenerating into “we tried that once,” or “mentoring: yeah, there’s an app for that.”  There are numerous reasons why fizzles happen but inadequate or incomplete preparation of the mentors is usually among the root causes of disappointment. With the passing of the baton to a new generation now fully underway, failures in mentoring are not an option.  Time’s a-wasting.

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