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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Dynamic Mentoring

Author: ; Published: Dec 20, 2011; Category: Mentoring, Workforce Planning, Workforce Succession Planning; Tags: None; No Comments»

It was my privilege recently to provide program development and mentor/coaching training assistance to the premier federal law enforcement and security agency. This organization is on-boarding new, largely younger employees into its workforce and is committed to achieving the highest productivity possible within the shortest possible time.  For that reason, it required a blend of employee-centered mentoring with organization-centered coaching. The coaching component of the program consisted of an extensive checklist of reading, assignments, and visitations intended to build job-specific competencies. The mentoring component of the program is oriented towards building effectiveness in serving as an expert witness in federal court, public speaking ability, teamwork skills and serving a wide spectrum of other developmental needs presented by the recently hired employee.

 

As I concluded this important assignment, it occurred to me that this agency is engaged in “dynamic mentoring.” What’s dynamic about it? At least a half-dozen dimensions, but here are three:

 

First of all, it is dynamic in the sense that crime today is always changing, particularly crimes involving the abuse of technology and/or financial institutions and instruments. Some crimes are variations on old themes, but others are unprecedented. For that reason, the technical competencies developed through coaching efforts are always in motion just to keep up with the criminals who are becoming increasingly skilled in their R&D (research and development) exploits.

 

Second, the older, more established employees have insights and skills to contribute to the more recently hired. However, the younger employees bring “tricks of the trade” learned through their recent formal education and/or prior jobs. There’s something for everyone in this mentoring equation.

 

The third dynamism is that employee-centered mentoring and organization-centered coaching feed on one another in an interactive, synergistic manner. As the employee grows in understanding and competency, areas for mentoring attention that were once invisible become relevant and find their way onto the mentoring agenda.

 

The program involves structured visits to headquarters and to other agency locations.  Pair-ups of mentors with mentees are decided by senior management based on a variety of considerations. Rotational assignments to provide first-hand experience in, e.g., executing search warrants, etc. build both competence and confidence. 

 

In a world where employee development is given short shrift too often, it is exciting and encouraging to see things being done right!

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