Archive for the ‘Moxie for Mentoring’ Category

The Eureka of Participation

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

People support that which they help create.

In behavioral economics, this is called “Participatory Bias” – people are more inclined to support decisions they help to make and solutions they help to create, even if the end result is not theirs.

Having participated, they are more willing to defend the outcome. Their ego won’t allow them to support the process and oppose it at the same time.

The opposite is also true. When we don’t include people in decisions, projects, or solutions, they are more likely to resist, oppose, and even sabotage the end result. Knowing this, why wouldn’t we go out of our way to create opportunities for people to participate, even when we don’t need them to?

We cannot ignore the enormous influence participation has on human behavior.

The simple act of including someone…

  • helps that person feel valued, recognized, and appreciated
  • increases their engagement and patronage
  • fosters their effectiveness through understanding, learning, and discovery
  • encourages their creativity and innovation

Easy ways to create participation:

  • Solicit suggestions for improving the team, the meeting, a project, or a process
  • Ask someone new every week for their perspective on an issue
  • Seek advice on solving a problem from someone not involved with it
  • Request a your team’s help in generating new ideas or approaches
  • Nominate people for a task force, a committee, or a development program

If we want to be great leaders, we need to intentionally provide people with the opportunity to participate, contribute, and make a difference.

7 Ways to Accelerate Trust for the Sake of Leading

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

If you want to influence anyone, trust is imperative.

People only follow people they trust, regardless of titles.

When you have the privilege of leading or mentoring others, trust is your bedrock to success. If you attempt to lead or mentor without it, you breed micromanagement, resentment, dis-involvement, and even active disruption.

Here are 7 ways to accelerate and strengthen the trust you need in order to lead others:

1.  Commonalities::  When we discover something in common, we feel connected. Commonalities bond people automatically. I love dogs. So I am instantly more trusting of others who love dogs. Seek out common grounds.

2.  Interest::  When we sincerely seek to learn about someone else, to appreciate our diversity, to understand their choices, experiences, and situations, we fuel trust. When we lack interest, however, we feed assumptions, judgments, and even prejudices – theirs and ours. Express a sincere interest in your differences.

3. Compassion::  When we offer empathy rather than indifference, we kindle trust. Before thrusting a change onto people, we need to first meet them where they are. Be empathic and understanding.

4.  Experiences::  When we have experiences with others – projects, workshops, off-sites, retreats, community volunteering – we strengthen trust. There is a reason we still have those friends from high school. Our lives may be completely different now, but the experiences we shared as teenagers bonded us. Intentionally create experiences to bring you together.

5.  Vulnerability::  When we share something personal or reveal some fears or aspirations, our vulnerability invites theirs, which promotes trust. We trust people who are genuine and we disconnect from people who are inauthentic. Drop your defenses and expose your authenticity.

6.  Integrity::  When we do the right thing even when no one is looking, when we share credit for an idea or the success of a project, when we follow up as we promised, we operate with integrity. And people trust people with integrity. Our lies, however – even little white lies – will invalidate that trust. Demonstrate honesty of character.

7.  Consistency::  When we execute, when we communicate, when we show up, time and time again, people trust us. Our consistency accelerates trust. Exhibit consistent actions.

If you want to up-level your influence, start with trust.

If trust was easy to generate, it wouldn’t be so valuable.

7 Ways to Make Mentoring an Executive Priority

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

The biggest problem with mentoring is that it gets marginalized as an HR-collar job. It’s not seen as a game-changing initiative that impacts culture and revenue. Instead it’s seen as a benefit to the individual participants when in actuality the biggest winner is the organization.

people think ppt image (3)

It’s time we turn the kaleidoscope and evolve mentoring into Strategic Mentoring. By driving organizational priorities, the executive suite will be sure to sit up and take notice.


  1. Use Mentoring to Increase Sales

Your mentoring program can literally increase sales. Veteran salespeople mentoring junior reps will not only close sales skill gaps but will increase sales.


  1. Use Mentoring to Increase Innovation

Give a Mentees a problem to solve in their mentoring relationship and they will generate new ideas. Not only are you giving them the opportunity to solve it, you’re giving them a Mentor’s guidance, fresh perspectives, requisite accountability, and a deadline – all essential elements for innovation.


  1. Use Mentoring to Prepare People to Lead

Why do you keep promoting people to manager without preparing them? It happens constantly but you can set them up for success. Give them a mentor, a leadership project, a competency assessment, and a structure. You’ll not only prepare them to lead, you’ll weed out those who should not be leading a group of one.


  1. Use Mentoring to Protect your New Hires

Hiring costs a lot of money. So does attrition. The cost is not only monetary but also time, energy, effort, productivity, distractions, and morale. New hires need to get acclimated, connected, and productive asap. That’s impossible without mentoring.


  1. Use Mentoring to Fix Customer Service Issues

Are your customer service reps discovering issues that people in sales and product development need to know? Or are your sales teams learning about customer service issues from being in the field? These worlds need to come together and quickly. Through structured peer-mentoring, you can create the collaboration needed to delight your customers again.


  1. Use Mentoring to Fill the Holes Left by Retirees

When the retirement party is over, you’re left with a gapping hole in knowledge. The people who know how to run the business are heading out of the office and onto a beach somewhere. Before they go, create the structure in which institutional knowledge is transferred from one generation to the next.


  1. Use Mentoring to Improve Execution

Recently one of our clients launched a leadership program focused on implementing leadership projects. They were “so busy” that only 4.5% of the participants executed. The next group to go through that program were assigned mentors. 93.75% executed. Why? Because mentors bring valuable advice and perspectives, offer guidance, and create essential accountability.


Mentoring is one of the most powerful tools an organization has. But it’s only powerful if you apply it in powerful ways. It’s time to forget about mentoring and focus on creating Strategic Mentoring!

“Mentoring is not our priority”

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

A Learning & Development specialist scoffed these words at me recently, “Ann, mentoring is not a priority for us.”

Without missing a beat, I responded, “Mentoring is never a priority. But it is the best solution for driving your priorities.”

Of course mentoring is not a priority!

No one wakes up at 5am distressed thinking, “I need to figure out how to get my team into mentoring!”

Here’s what we do wake up worried about:

* How do I get my managers to act more into leaders?
* H
ow do I get people to execute and produce better results?
* W
hat should I do about the imminent retirement of Pam and Stan?
* How do I solve my productivity problems?
How do I end the mediocrity and complacency before it becomes the norm?
* How do I get people to collaborate more and stop making the same mistakes?
* How do I reduce regrettable attrition?
* How do I increase people’s ability to think and act innovatively?
* H
ow do I improve sales?
* How do I lower expenses?

Now THOSE are night-sweating, heart-racing, wake-me-up-early sort of priorities.

And in each of those situations, we can leverage mentoring to help us address the urgency / concern / problem.

How? By connecting those organizational priorities with people’s potential. Mentoring for the sake of mentoring is a waste of time and energy. The organization has problems to solve and people want to engage in activities that make a difference. They don’t volunteer for mentoring because they’re bored and need more friends on FaceBook. People want to make a difference. Mentor people to act like leaders, you will have new leaders. Mentor people to derive an innovative solution to a problem, you will have people thinking and acting innovatively. Mentor people on new sales approaches, you will improve sales.

That’s how you connect with your organization’s priorities. Mentoring should never be your priority, but people should.

In dismissing mentoring as not a priority, the L&D “specialist” was merely highlighting her own gap in understanding what is important to the organization and how to solve for it. She might consider shifting her focus back to people as her priority. Then mentoring will be one of her best solutions.

6 Ways to Check the Effectiveness of your Mentoring Program

Monday, August 4th, 2014

There are so many ways to ‘do mentoring.’ It’s easy to read an article and succumb to the notion that one way is better than another. Here are a few of the dichotomous proclamations leaders have made to me just this past week:


  • “Millennials want informal mentoring! No structure. They want to create their own structure.”
  • “Informal mentoring doesn’t work. Mentoring only works if it’s highly structured.”
  • “Mentoring is an expectation of being a leader.”
  • “Our leaders don’t have time to do mentoring.”
  • “Mentoring needs to be in groups.”
  • “Mentoring needs to be among peers.”
  • “We’re looking at sponsorship instead of mentoring.” (I told his person to read my blog on the myth of sponsorships)
  • “Mentoring is essential to people’s success but they will have to find a way to do it on their own time.”


Let’s stop focusing on the format and start focusing on the results mentoring produces.


Here are 6 ways to check if your mentoring initiative is effective:


1. Strategy is at the core

Your mentoring is aligned with a corporate priority and you have a clear picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. Is your mentoring program set up to specifically drive an initiative that the organization values? (I actually had a program leader insist that the purpose of his program is to see if mentoring works. That’s like using a word to define the word…)  Do you have a clear picture of what you’re trying to accomplish? What is the goal for your program and what does success look like?


2. Success is being measured

You are measuring the success of mentoring. And please don’t just use feedback forms to measure whether your participants enjoyed the training, the workbook, and their Mentor. Think bigger! Think strategically. Think like an executive. You need to be measuring whether you moved the needle on the strategic focus and accomplished your goals.


3. Scalable to easily add more participants

Your mentoring should scale to reach more people. If you design your program so that it requires an inordinate amount of administration such that you cannot easily add more participants, you cripple its potential to make a difference.


4. Sustainable beyond you

If your program requires you to constantly breathe life into it, it is not making a difference. And neither are you. Your program needs to shift the ownership of success from you to the participants. They need to be responsible for their own success in the program.


5. Simple to administer and participate

If your program is not simple, forget it. People don’t need more complications in their lives. They need easy wins. Help them to win at mentoring by keeping your program simple to administer and simple to participate.


6. Significant

Your program needs to make a difference for your participants and for your organization. Short of that and you have nothing more than a happy hour for employees. How to test significance? Go back to the strategic focus and success measures to ensure your program and participants are aligned accordingly.


Stop worrying about the format and start worrying about the 6-S Effectiveness Test: Strategy, Success Measures, Scalability, Sustainability, Simple, Significant. It doesn’t matter if the structure of your mentoring program is traditional, reverse, group, reciprocal, peer, forwards, backwards, upside down or sideways. If its ineffective, then so are you.


The Glitch in Group Mentoring

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

When you’re battling a shortage of Mentors, you want to make the most of the few you have. Why not pair one Mentor with two or more Mentees for what is commonly known as “Group Mentoring.”


It sounds like a great idea. But there’s an odd glitch that often causes its swift demise.


Group Mentoring

This form of mentoring occurs when 1 Mentor is paired with 2+ Mentees. Sometimes a “group” can involve 5-10 Mentees. But never forget that effective mentoring requires more than warm bodies.


How is it supposed to work?

The Mentor meets with the Group on a regular basis to discuss mutually beneficial topics and issues. A Mentee in the Group will share a situation or ask a specific question and the Mentor will offer guidance that applies to the whole Group, thereby mentoring everyone simultaneously with his/her wisdom.


The benefits of Group Mentoring

  • * This structure allows you to leverage a few Mentors to share their wisdom with many Mentees
  • * Many Mentees are exposed to the Mentor where they might not otherwise have ever had the opportunity to work with or learn from that person
  • * Mentees get visibility that is often previously unattainable
  • * Mentees expand their own network by connecting with other Mentees in the Group


The Drawbacks of Group Mentoring

  • * Significant issues are rarely addressed as a result of group dynamics and lack of trust/intimacy
  • * Fear of confidentiality causes Mentees to withhold information
  • * Fear of judgment prevents Mentees from asking questions
  • * Logistical challenges cause frustration and delays
  • * The Mentor never really gets to know any of the Mentees


The biggest glitch of Group Mentoring

In classic 1:1 mentoring, the onus is on the Mentee to drive the relationship. The Mentee is responsible for identifying their goals, suggesting an agenda, asking questions, setting up meetings, and reaching out to the Mentor with what they need specifically when they need it.


But in Group Mentoring who is driving the experience? Who is responsible? Who is in charge?


The reality of Group Mentoring

Ultimately the Mentees look to the Mentor to drive their experience, lead the group, and be responsible. Inevitably, and as a result, the group usually fizzles out without much impact after the first few meetings. Why? Because no one owns the Group’s success.


Why leaders run screaming

Imagine you are a busy SVP. You believe in mentoring, but you’re constantly slammed with end-of-quarter pressures. Someone in HR asks if you will be a Mentor for a Group of Mentees. You are told that all you need to do is show up and espouse your wisdom once a month. You feel guilty that you have not contributed more since you became SVP. And this sounds like an easy way to do so. You agree. You show up only to discover a room of 8 Mentees looking at you expectantly with hope and anticipation glimmering in their eyes. They are ready to be led and guided by you, the SVP, their new Mentor. You quickly realize that you’re in charge, responsible for leading the discussion and encouraging participation, and accountable for the logistics of the group.


What do you do?


You call HR and say, “I’m too busy for this. I need to withdraw.” And another group in Group Mentoring goes down in flames…


Suggestions for how to make Group Mentoring work in the face of that glitch:

  • * Assign a Facilitator to champion the group’s success.

This Facilitator is then responsible for:

  • * Setting up a structure and a schedule for the group before it launches
  • * Identifying the purpose of the group – what they should discuss and accomplish
  • * Determining the measures of success for the group – objectives to accomplish individually and as a group
  • * Establishing group trust as soon as possible
  • * Asking a new Mentee to drive the discussion and agenda at each meeting
  • * Following up with each Mentee in between meetings


With an assigned Facilitator, set structure, clear expectations, and an actual deliverable, the glitch in Group Mentoring can easily be debugged.

The Ripple Effects of Reverse Mentoring

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Thanks to some intrepid companies such as GE, Cisco, Intel, and P&G, reverse mentoring is getting a fresh spotlight.


What is Reverse Mentoring?

It’s a form of mentoring that requires us to reverse our assumptions about the roles people play. In this structure, a junior-level colleague is the Mentor and a senior-level colleague is the Mentee. Picture the Individual Contributor mentoring and a Manager or a Vice President.


But this structure will only work if we adopt a pliable definition of mentoring. Consider this: mentoring is, at its core, one person sharing advice, perspectives, and ideas based on their experience. Notice that my definition does not relate to nor require a reference to age, job level, status, or function.


What kind of advice perspectives and ideas can a junior-level colleague share with a senior-level colleague?

*  Communication and style

*  Cultural knowledge

*  Technology

*  Social media

*  What it’s like to be an individual contributor

*  Being a newbie at the company

*  Customer viewpoints

*  Life in the cubes

*  Issues from the front line

*  Building relationships with individual contributors on the team

*  Being a successful leader


Ripples from Reverse Mentoring to Reciprocal Mentoring

When Individual Contributors mentor Leaders, they get the opportunity to contribute to the organization in new ways. These young Mentors are sought after for their knowledge, skills, opinions, ideas, perspectives, and even their advice. And that fuels morale, engagement, and ultimately retention. The ripple effect continues when the senior-level Mentee reciprocates by extending mentoring to the junior-level Mentor based on the trust they’ve already established.


How to Pilot a Reverse Mentoring Program

  • *  Determine the purpose
  • *  Recruit participants who want to accomplish that purpose
  • *  Establish a recommended structure
  • *  Match participants based on knowledge, skills, and perspectives wanted and needed
  • *  Kick-off the program by establishing expectations for both parties
  • *  Continue to guide participants’ success with ideas, touch points, articles, and discussion topics
  • *  Help them debrief, end their commitment, and redefine the relationship


Some Companies Leading the Trend:

>> When Jack Welch was CEO of GE, he championed Reverse Mentoring. He instructed 500 executives to connect with individual contributors to learn how to use the Internet. Jack participated as well, learning how to surf the web thanks to his Mentor, an employee in her 20s.


>> Founder and former CEO of Intel, Andy Grove encouraged reverse mentoring through “Technical Assistants,” who teach senior executives about things they need to know – marketing, brands, the Internet, competition, etc.


>> At Ogilvy & Mather, Managing Director Spencer Osborn learned how to spice up his Twitter posts from his younger Mentors.


>> Procter & Gamble (P&G) launched “Mentor Up” to partner senior male leaders (Mentees) with emerging female leaders (Mentors) and lowered its female employee turnover rate by 25% by exposing the senior male leaders to effective cross-gender communications.


Alan Webber, co-founder of Fast Company, summed up the concept nicely: “It’s a situation where the old fogies in an organization realize that by the time you’re in your forties and fifties, you’re not in touch with the future the same way the young twenty-something’s. They come with fresh eyes, open minds, and instant links to the technology of our future.”


Debunking the Myth of Sponsors over Mentors

Friday, June 6th, 2014

A participant in one of our programs called me last week and asked “Ann, I’m interviewing a potential Sponsor tomorrow. What questions should I ask?”

I replied: “That’s like approaching a stranger and asking, ‘Will you be my best friend?'”


Ever since the book Forget Mentors. Find a Sponsor! was released, people have been on a frenzy to push Mentors aside as they chase down the promise of a Sponsor.




Let’s look at what is dangled in front of intrepid career warriors:

    • “Mentors give friendly advice, but a sponsor has the power to get you the next job.”
    • “Sponsorship is how power is transferred in the workplace.”
    • “Mentors listen but sponsors act by telling you what you need to know, clearing obstacles from your path, and making your success their business.”


Whoa. Sign me up! I need one of those!

How do I get one?


Many ‘experts’ claim that anyone can get a Sponsor by:

    • exceeding expectations and making your performance known
    • demonstrating that you are trustworthy and loyal
    • bringing something special to the table
    • taking on challenges and succeed
    • owning your success
    • taking a stand


So if I do all of those things, a Sponsor will just appear like a fairy godmother out of thin air?

Uhhh…. yeah. I think it’s time to debunk this myth.


Reality Check

What’s a Sponsor?

    • Someone who advocates on your behalf, connecting you to important players and assignments
    • Someone who endorses and recommends you
    • Someone who puts their reputation on the line for you


Now, imagine you are the Sponsor. What would you need in order to put your reputation on the line for someone else?


And how do you create that trust? By first developing a mentoring relationship with them. Whether it’s formal or informal, only mentoring will allow you to establish the trust in and exposure to someone’s work, results, character, and aspirations that you need in order to authentically advocate and endorse them as their Sponsor. Even a manager who wants to lobby for one of their employees for the next promotion or assignment wore a Mentor hat before they put on the Sponsor hat.


That’s the missing piece to this whole craze over Sponsors. Sponsors don’t appear from pixie dust. They evolve out of mentoring relationships.


Here’s how it works:

Imagine you are mentoring someone. You discover how fabulous they are. You see how hard they work, taking on challenges and exceeding expectations. You learn to trust that they will continue to wow. You believe in them. You are willing to endorse them for a future assignment. You then advocate for their success. You as the Mentor are now you as the Sponsor.


Sponsors evolve out of Mentors.


There’s no shortcut, abbreviation, or app to fast-track people to a Sponsor. They actually have to put in the time and effort to build meaningful mentoring relationships. Granted, it’s not ideal for an instant gratification society, but it’s worth it in the end for everyone.


So let’s put a halt to this notion of ‘forgetting Mentors!’ You’ll need them if you have any hope of effectively welcoming Sponsors to your workforce.

I want to lead like the Executive Chairman of Marriott. What do you think?

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

“What do you think?” This mantra was cited by the last two CEOs interviewed for the “Corner Office” section in the Sunday New York Times.


J.W. Marriott Jr.

For J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr., executive chairman and former CEO of Marriott International, the phrase he uses is, “What do you think we should do?”

Bill learned this from President Eisenhower. Ike was visiting one Christmas when Bill had just completed school. The adults were deciding whether to go quail hunting in the cold or to sit by the fire. Eisenhower turned to the young Marriott and asked “What do you think we should do?”

In that moment Bill recognized the President’s strategy for getting along with others and executing as a leader – by including people in his decision-making process. Marriott quickly adopted the President’s question “What do you think we should do?” to foster his own inclusive decision-making throughout his career as a leader.


Jenna Fagnan

For Jenna Fagnan, president of tequila manufacturer Tequila Avión, the question is, “So what do you think you should do?”

Fagnan learned this from one of her first mentors – her boss. Early in her career, Fagnan worked for a man who always challenged her with this question. She would go into his office and dump a situation on his lap. He would invariably ask, “So what do you think you should do?”

She realized that in those moments, her boss was wearing a mentor hat. He could have easily said, “Here’s what I think you should do.” He knew the answer, but by including her in the process, he forced her to think for herself and grow as an individual and as a leader.


Susan Docherty

Susan Docherty, the head of the US Sales, Service, and Marketing team at General Motors, shared a similar approach in her interview a few years ago in the Corner Office of the Sunday New York Times. She intentionally involves others in decisions, even when she already has an opinion and knows where she wants the decision to go. She relentlessly inquires, “What do you think? What would you do?” She is often rewarded with a fresh perspective and new insights from people who are not as close to the situation as she is.


Why does “What do you think?” work?

Because people support that which they help create. They crave control. They want to be respected and heard. And they want to make a difference.

When we dictate, mandate, and command others, people lose interest. They are not vested in the success of our decisions. They often have a different idea or perspective, but we were too busy railroading them with our decision to ask. By dictating the outcome, we, in essence, reveal that we don’t really care what they have to contribute. And by not asking, we communicate that we don’t really respect or appreciate their perspective enough to stop and listen.

Alternatively, by simply asking the question, “What do you think?” we share the decision with other people, offering them the opportunity to help create the outcome. This inevitably fuels engagement and enthusiasm, not to mention, ownership and accountability.

Ultimately, people show up every day hoping their work matters. When we stop and ask people “What do you you think?” we are communicating to them, “You matter. Your perspective is important. You can make a difference in this decision.” As leaders, this is our job.

What do you think? What would you do? I’d love to hear your perspective.

I want to be a Mentoring Leader like Ilene Gordon

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

In the Corner Office in the Business section of Sunday’s New York Times, Ilene Gordon, CEO of Ingredion, took the opportunity to pay tribute to mentoring then and now.


The Impact of a Mentor

Following business school, Ilene was responsible for acquisitions at Tenneco when a self-appointed mentor saw potential in her. He recognized her intellect, ambition, and focus, and challenged her to run those businesses she was acquiring. He put her in a job bigger than her and committed to helping her hone her business skills. Today she is on Fortune magazine’s list of 50 Most Powerful Women in Business as the President/CEO of a Fortune 500 company with $6.2 billion in net sales.


Ilene’s Commitment to Being a Mentoring CEO

Ilene excites people with opportunity as her Mentor did for her. She is committed to:

  • Seeing potential in others where they don’t see it themselves
  • Stretching people who demonstrate talent, people skills, and drive
  • Putting people into roles they’re not quite ready for
  • Allowing people to grow into those big roles
  • Offering young managers an opportunity to share with the board how they’re creating value for the company


Her Belief in the Lasting Impact of Mentoring

Ilene believes that people carry their mentoring experiences with them. “I’m not just hiring the person sitting there. I’m hiring the four people who mentored him. I don’t think there’s anybody who’s successful in their role today who hasn’t been mentored by somebody.”


In each interview, she asks:

  • Who mentored you?
  • Who did you learn from?
  • What was their expertise?
  • What companies did they work for?


What can we do to become a Mentoring Leader like Ilene?

  • Make a list of your own Mentors and acknowledge their influence on your success
  • Discover people’s list of influencers
  • Work to earn a spot on their list
  • See what they don’t see in themselves
  • Take a risk on their potential
  • Push people into their uncomfortable
  • Allow people to surprise you


It takes a true Mentoring Leader to leverage the NY Times spotlight to mentor aspiring, inspiring, and expiring leaders everywhere. Thank you, Ilene, for influencing each of us to make a difference by leading with a mentoring manner.

Ilene’s message is beautifully encapsulated in Author Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s powerful quotation:

As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.”