Mastering Mentoring 20 Shortage

November 27, 2021

I make the observation that there are not enough great leaders in the world, not due to a shortage of good candidates, but because of a shortage of great mentors. Leading organizations is a daunting task for most leaders primarily because they fail to build a culture of trust.

The Relationship Between Trust and the Shortage of Mentors

Most leaders I know are consumed trying to optimize the organization’s performance in a very complex time. Challenges come in a steady stream, and leaders are faced with solving problems continuously.  They have no discretionary time to devote to mentoring the next class of leaders.  The situation seems to get worse with time.

Since the leaders have a difficult time letting go of their main responsibilities, they do not delegate as much as they might, so the problems and issues all fall into their lap. By trusting the workforce more, they have the opportunity to delegate more tasks to others and thus free up some time to help mentor great leaders for the next generation.

The Solution is Obvious

If leaders would carve out about 15% of their time to work with people in their organization to build a culture of higher trust, the whole dynamic would shift from one of extreme pressure to a more reasonable work atmosphere where mentoring is actually possible. In an environment like that, leadership becomes a blast rather than a chore. The environment for everyone becomes more enjoyable, and many people grow in their ability to lead.

It is extremely difficult to convince most CEOs to carve out 15% of the time to work on culture; they are just too busy solving problems. The organization becomes like a whirlpool sinking deeper and deeper into a situation where some workers just resign or check out mentally. Of course, that makes the whole problem more acute.

Summary

As I observe leaders, I see the brilliant ones have figured out that, despite the frantic pace of business problems, they have a mandate to grow the next generation of leaders. They invest calendar time to that function, and over time, things start getting better.

The number one time-burner for any CEO is the inability of people in the organization to get along and work well together. By building a culture of higher trust, people do get along much better. There are fewer problems to be resolved, so that also frees up time for the CEO to do more mentoring.  

These leaders feel free to delegate more to their employees, which is also a way to develop their skills for the future. The culture improves for everyone. The pathway is there for the taking. It is too bad few CEOs recognize the way out of their current pain.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Mastering Mentoring 19 Share Libraries

November 20, 2021

Sharing libraries in both directions is a really helpful way to gain from a mentoring relationship. Somewhere early in the relationship, each party should share which books, tapes, videos, podcasts, etc. have been most helpful and why.

If the mentor or protégé has certain materials that have been highly influential in his or her past, it would be great information for the other person to experience as well.

In my case, I have a list of the most influential books I have read in my career, and I have color-coded the list so that the most useful ones are easily seen. I also have my own video material available on Youtube for free, so people can browse my library of content with ease.

My website, www.leadergrow.com  has an index of most of the articles I have ever written, and my blog www.thetrustambassador.com has most of them as well.  The idea is to be willing to share content openly rather than trying to horde the most valuable information.

The only limitation to the philosophy is the amount of time the other person has to browse through your content.  That is why it is important to make things as easy to find as possible.  Let me share an example:

One area where I have done a lot of research is body language. I ended up writing a series of 100 articles on various aspects of body language.  Few people would have the time or patience to read through all 100 articles, so in the final article, I provided an index that contains the titles of all 100 articles. This way, an individual can scan the titles and quickly pick out items of highest interest. 

I did the same thing with two video series.  I did one on Building Higher Trust and another on Reducing Conflict. Each video series has 30 videos of just three minutes each, so people can look at the most important concepts.  I have followed up with a blog series that describes the key learning from each video along with a link to it.

Each original series was intended to be watched one day at a time for 30 days.  In that way, the material is metered out over a long enough period for the material to sink in deeply.

Summary

The point is to make your body of knowledge (both your own and influential writings from others) available to the other half of your mentoring relationship.  In doing that you will be contributing volumes of useful information to the other person.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Mastering Mentoring 18 Mentoring Magic

November 13, 2021

If you do not have at least one active mentor, you are missing a lot. In my experience, having a strong mentor at work made a huge difference in my career. Even in my ripening old age, I am still gaining benefits from the lessons and ideas planted in me by my mentor when I was younger.

Likewise, I have had the pleasure of mentoring many worthy individuals along their path to success. I found that activity to be the most rewarding experience in my life. Seeing a person whom I have mentored rise to a level higher than me in the organization was well worth the effort.

There are obvious benefits of having a mentor in an organization

  1. A mentor helps you learn the ropes faster.
  2. A mentor coaches you on what to do and especially what to avoid.
  3. A mentor is an advocate for you in different circles than yours.
  4. A mentor cleans up after you have made a mistake and helps protect your reputation.
  5. A mentor pushes you when you need pushing and praises you when you need it.
  6. A mentor brings wisdom born of mistakes made in the past so you can avoid them.
  7. A mentor operates as a sounding board for ideas and methods.

Formal programs and precautions

Many organizations have some form of mentoring program.  I support the idea of fostering mentors, but the typical application has a low hit rate long term. That is because the mentor programs in most organizations are procedural rather than organic.

A typical mentor program couples younger professionals with more experienced managers after some sort of computerized matching process. The relationship starts out being helpful for both people, but after a few months, it degrades into a burdensome commitment of time and energy. This aspect is accentuated if there are paperwork requirements or other check-box activities. After about six months, the activities are small remnants of the envisioned program.

The more productive programs seek to educate professionals on the benefits of having a mentor and encourage people to find their own match. This strategy works much better because the chemistry is right from the start, and both parties immediately see the huge gains being made by both people.  It is a mutually-supported organic system rather than an activities-based approach. It is pretty obvious how the protégé benefits in a mentor relationship, but how does the mentor gain from it?

Mentors gain significantly in the following ways

  1. The mentor focuses on helping the protégé, which is personally satisfying.
  2. The mentor can gain information from a different level of the organization that may not be readily available by any other means.
  3. The mentor helps find information and resources for the protégé, so there is some important learning going on. The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.
  4. While pushing the protégé forward in the organization, the mentor has the ability to return some favors owed to other managers.
  5. The mentor gains a reputation for nurturing people and can thus attract better people over time.
  6. The mentor can enhance his or her legacy in the organization by creating a protege.

Summary

Encourage a strong mentoring program in your organization, but steer clear of the mechanical match game and the busywork of an overdone process. Let people recognize the benefits and figure out their optimal relationships. 

Every professional should have at least one mentor and at least one person whom he or she is mentoring. Personally, I am comfortable having a couple mentors and roughly 10 protégés at any point in time. There are also many relationships in my life where it is hard to tell which person is the mentor because both people are gaining roughly equally.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Mastering Mentoring 17 Expand Networks

October 30, 2021

It is important for each participant in a mentoring relationship to seek to expand the networks of the other person. Do not make the mistake of picturing the relationship as a one-on-one situation.

Each person knows numerous other people who might be helpful to the other. Spend some time going over your particular network of friends and associates.  Sit with the other party and go over your list to identify which people might be most helpful.

Make introductions

Once you have put a priority on the various individuals, take the opportunity to make some introductions. I usually use email for these brief introductions. Since I operate mostly as a mentor due to my many years of leading, I write to my friends about the protégé I am working with and give enough background so that person can relate to why I think they should meet. 

I copy the protégé on the note so that each person has the address of the other.  Usually, they both respond and figure out when and how they can meet.  I back off and let nature take its course. 

Include influential people whom you follow but have not met 

I also introduce my protégé to the authors I follow in social networking.  There are several people whom I monitor and converse with on LinkedIn and other media networks. I leave it up to the protégé to subscribe to that person’s material or not. 

Pursue the reverse situation as well 

I also seek to find out who the protégé knows and ask for introductions. The process works well in both directions. The only precaution is to watch the volume of network contacts you are trying to manage at one time.  If you find that the networking effort takes up so much time and energy that your overall balance is impacted, then you should check your priorities. It is easy to get so excited with meeting new people that you forget some other duties or put them on the back burner.

Conclusion

We are all seeking to expand our networks so we gain the advantage of broader reach and new ideas to pursue.  The mentor/protégé relationship is built on mutual trust and respect, so both parties are in a position to be incredibly helpful as a super-networker.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Mastering Mentoring 16 Use Stories

October 23, 2021

A simple and highly effective method of conveying lessons learned is for the mentor to share true stories from the past. As we go through life, we all learn from our experiences. Sharing a good story is not only an entertaining way to convey a point, but it leaves a more lasting impression because it conveys truth.

One important thing to do is emphasize the lesson learned at the end of the story. If this step is omitted, the entertainment factor will still be there, but the connection to apply the learning may be weak.

I will share an example of a story I tell in all my leadership classes. It was a lesson I learned very early in my career about the importance of having a great culture. Here is the story.

The Sleepy Employee

Early in my career, I was working as an Assistant Department Head in a manufacturing organization.  One day I was walking down a hallway with the Department Head, who was my manager at the time. I pointed to an inspector who had his head down and was sleeping on the job. 

I said, “See that inspector? He is worthless! He has no initiative and is just a slug here at work.  We are putting him on Final Warning and plan to fire him next week.”

The Wake-Up Call for Me 

My manager squared up in front of me and said in a low voice, “You know, you are right Bob. Here at the plant, that guy is just about worthless. He is always goofing off or doing inappropriate things.  I don’t blame you for wanting to fire him because he is a nothing here.

But I am the Fire Chief at the Volunteer Fire Department, and that young man happens to be a member of that Fire Department.

You should see what that guy is like when he walks through the door of that Fire Department. He is a ball of energy, he comes up with great ideas, he volunteers for extra work, he stays late to help clean up. He is a real ball of fire when he is in that culture. So, you tell me, Bob, who is the problem, is it him or is it you?”

Lesson Learned 

The moral is that when you put people in a culture where they are challenged and treated well, almost all of them will perform like superstars.

Searing the Point Into the Brain 

If you made that last statement in a vacuum, it might have some impact, but when prefaced by that true story, it makes a much stronger and memorable point.

Why it Works 

People can relate to the story and get caught up in the narrative. When you get to the punchline of the lesson learned, it is jolting enough that people internalize the key message.

If you are in a leadership position and are not satisfied with the performance of your team, rather than blame the people for not being good enough. Instead, look into a mirror, and ask yourself who is the real problem here. 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Mastering Mentoring 15 Show Gratitude

October 16, 2021

I have written several times in this series that a good mentoring relationship benefits both parties, so it is logical that both parties should show gratitude for those benefits. Sometimes not enough conscious thanks is shared in either direction.  Try to get more creative with how you reflect the benefits you are receiving.

Gratitude usually expressed in one direction

 In reality, the gratitude is most often shown in one direction only.  The protégé is thankful for the wisdom and ideas that the mentor shares.  Typically the protégé will express thanks also for the time commitment made by the mentor.  It is like a gift given to the protégé by the mentor.

The gratitude is often verbalized as a simple “thank you,” but there may be some small gifts involved or perhaps the purchase of a lunch or other tangible reflection. 

Consider the reverse logic

If the mentor is truly gaining by the relationship, then gratitude should be expressed for that. The protégé is also giving of his or her precious time, so that should be acknowledged as well.

While the mentor is giving help in the form of knowledge of things, the protégé is giving valuable insight to the mentor about things that he or she cannot see personally.  The protégé exists in a sea of information about how people are reacting to their leaders.

If there are misinterpretations of intentions, the protégé can tip off the mentor that a gap in understanding is starting to develop. That allows the mentor to make corrective actions when problems are small and manageable. That action will prevent a significant trust withdrawal.

The protégé is often of a younger generation than the mentor, so some reverse coaching can take place when the mentor is coming across as “old school.”  This keeps the mentor from losing credibility with the younger generation of workers.

Both people should show gratitude

By expressing thanks for the benefits each person is receiving in the relationship, it tends to solidify the bond between the two individuals and further enhance the value gained by both people. 

If you are in a mentor relationship, regardless of which role you play, look for where you are benefitting and make your gratitude obvious to the other individual.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Mastering Mentoring 14 Leveraging Referrals

October 9, 2021

A key benefit of mentoring is the ability to generate referrals that can be leveraged in both directions.  While the primary benefit in mentoring is imparting new skills and knowledge from the mentor to the protégé, the ability to tap into the existing networks is extremely beneficial for each person.

Benefits to the Protégé 

Normally the protégé is younger and has established fewer contacts than the mentor.  The ability to have a solid introduction and endorsement from the mentor allows the protégé to expand his or her network exponentially.

When you consider that each new contact has the ability to introduce the protégé to his or her own network, you can appreciate the geometrical nature of this networking phenomenon.  It is incumbent on the protégé to follow up with each new contact and make a great impression, but the head start by having a solid endorsement from the mentor cannot be overstated.

The only caveat here is to not become so excited about the growing network that it crowds out some of the vital work that is going on at the same time. Just like any other good thing, too much of it can become a problem.

Benefits to the Mentor

The reverse phenomenon is just as valuable to the mentor. Assuming the protégé is younger, the referral gives the mentor a chance to network with a different generation. The blessing is that the mentor can test whether some of his or her ideas are getting stale in terms of how the next generation thinks and acts.

The ability to consider shaping one’s methods to remain more relevant as time goes on is very helpful.  The mentor should be aware of this source of information and be alert to capture the benefits. It is part of the learning process that has great value for the mentor.

Additionally, the protégé can suggest contacts that will give mentors a fresh look at how they are being perceived in their own organization that is pretty hard to get through other channels. If people are starting to bad-mouth the mentor for a decision or action taken, then there is an easy way to find out about it.

If trust has been compromised, the mentor now has a way to pinpoint the cause and take corrective action before more damage is done. That benefit can be truly golden in some situations; it can literally save a career from ruin.

Conclusion

The ability to make referrals benefits both parties in a mentoring relationship. Seek to use this advantage, but do apply it with some moderation and wisdom for the best impact. 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Mastering Mentoring 13 When to Take a Mentoring Break

October 3, 2021

Sometimes it is a helpful strategy to create a break in the action during a mentoring series. If the two people are meeting every week or two over an extended period of time, the process may start to become a chore for one or both of the participants. This can happen for a number of reasons.

Change in the Pattern of Work

There are natural cycles in any work setting. A relationship that called for one hour per week in March, when not much is going on, might be highly taxing during budget time in November. There can be a special project or other time-consuming issues that make the meetings difficult to conduct.

Be on the alert for these natural situations. One way to tell if it’s time for a break in the action is if one party has to cancel two or three meetings in a row. You can ask the question if the two of you should create a temporary hiatus until the peak period is over.

Another way to tell if you should take a break is the body language of the other person.  If you see signs of impatience or time anxiety, you can ask the question if you should schedule a break in the action.

Repetitive Discussions

If the material you cover in a mentoring meeting sounds similar to what you have covered in the past, it may be time to take a break.  Retracing steps that have been taken before gets old eventually.  Be alert for conversations that seem familiar.  For some topics, a reminder discussion is helpful to “set the hook deeper,” but if there are several of these, one of the participants needs to call the question.

Running Out of Fresh Material to Discuss

Sometimes you can reach a point where all the vital material has been shared and you are struggling to think of new topics to discuss.  That is a clear sign that you should create a break in the action for a while to let both parties rest up and come back later with fresh eyes.  

Chemistry Going Away

There is a kind of chemistry going on in any mentoring relationship. Each party needs to be gaining from the effort in order to be willing to continue.  Something may have happened that changed the relationship to be less friendly.  

For example, suppose the protégé has had a problem with an ethics violation.  The mentor could have a difficult time because he no longer has the highest respect for the protégé. Conversely, the mentor may have made a bad judgment call in a discipline situation and the protégé found out about it.

Any mentoring relationship is based on trust and respect. If these elements have been compromised in any way, it may be a good idea to discuss taking a break.

Conclusion

To be sustained, a mentor relationship must maintain its vitality. Be alert for some change in the situation so that you can suggest a different pattern of meeting to keep things fresh. 

 Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Mastering Mentoring 12 Keep It Fun

September 25, 2021

Even though mentoring is a serious process with important objectives, it should be fun rather than boring or painful.  Keep the discussions light and enjoyable by following the suggestions below.

I need to emphasize two important caveats before suggesting ways to make the relationship have variety. There are some topic areas where it is important to keep things confidential between the two people.  That precaution needs to be given priority over the other methods of enhancing the relationship. If a topic area is private, then the discussion should be as well.

Also, It is a good idea to check that both parties are totally comfortable with whatever techniques you use to liven up the relationship.  There could be cultural or gender issues that may make one party feel slightly uncomfortable with a particular method. If so, just avoid doing that.

Change the Venue

Many times a mentoring relationship will lead to a set schedule of meetings. These are often scheduled in the office of the mentor.  That can be a good thing, since there may be references or materials that are handy in the mentor’s office. On the flip side, if the pattern never varies, the relationship can get boring for either party.

Liven up the relationship by occasionally meeting in a different place.  You might want to go out for a coffee or lunch.  You might meet on the weekend at the home of one of the participants. You might even go shopping with the other person or play a round of golf together. 

Get creative and keep the atmosphere light while information is being shared between the two indviduals.  For example, if you are manufacturing managers, you might want to have a meeting while walking around the operation. In the Lean Six Sigma parlance, this is called “Going to Gemba.”

Invite Others to Participate

 There is no rule that all interfaces between a mentor and protégé must always be between those specific two people. If you are going to be discussing a supply chain issue and neither of you has that as a core strength, by all means, invite a supply chain expert to join that particular discussion.

Sometimes the mentor might invite the protégé into a staff meeting as an observer. This might be for the purpose of modeling efficient meeting techniques.

In some situations, it might be helpful to get the family members involved in the activities as long as confidential matters are not discussed.

Share Videos and Books

The libraries of each person should be fair game such that each person can tap into the collective knowledge that has influenced the other in the past.  This sharing of content really helps to extend the knowledge and does not require the pair to be face to face in order to learn.

Travel together

If the operation includes plants in different cities or countries, plan to travel together. The ability to discuss ideas during a plane flight really allows some deep thinking.

This practice encourages a stronger relationship while also demonstrating unity for the groups that are visited.

Sometimes the quirky things that come up when traveling allow a kind of bonding that is just not possible in the home office.

Summary

Try to vary your techniques and locations as you enjoy a good mentor relationship. By being creative, you can enhance the relationship while you are learning.   

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Mastering Mentoring 11 Mapping Progress

September 18, 2021

When working in a mentoring relationship it is a good idea to have a map of where you are going. As with any relationship that involves multiple exposures, it is important to start out with some kind of a plan. If there is no plan, you are both on a ship with no rudder.

Start with some casual conversation about what topics would be of most interest to the protégé. I use a master list of potential topics and test the energy for each one with a numerical scale.  There is time to add other topics that may not be on the master list as the relationship proceeds.

Doing this planning exercise gives some structure to the coaching, and since the protégé selected the topics of highest interest, you get a sense that the time is being used wisely.

Sometimes I will suggest certain topics as being very important as well.  For example, I usually suggest we delve into Emotional Intelligence because that topic is absolutely vital to cover for any professional.  The individual might not know enough about Emotional Intelligence to include it on the list of high-energy topics.

Emotional Intelligence

 An understanding of Emotional Intelligence is essential for any professional. The subject forms the basis for how you understand yourself and how you relate to others. There are four parts to emotional intelligence as follows:

  1. Self Awareness – the ability to understand your own emotions.
  2. Self Control – the ability to control your own emotions.
  3. Social Awareness (also called empathy) – the ability to understand the emotions of others.
  4. Social Skill – the ability to control situations so you get the kind of response you want to get.

Professionals who are well versed in the area of Emotional Intelligence have a much easier time performing well in most situations.  Those professionals who have only a vague concept of Emotional Intelligence frequently struggle.

Body Language

I also usually recommend some exposure to topics in body language. Not all professionals are aware of how much we communicate through body language.  It is a topic that is rarely addressed in schools and universities, yet it is vital to understand.

How we communicate with our body as opposed to words is essential because body language is far more complex and pervasive than verbal language. It takes conscious effort to understand and be able to use this skill.

Create a Map

In addition to the things I suggest we cover, the plan includes things the protégé finds helpful and would like to learn.  Developing a kind of map of how these topics fit together into a logical sequence gives us the starting point for building capability.

The plan does not need to be rigid.  There are opportunities to diverge into new topics or to sequence things differently than planned based on changing conditions or new interests.  The plan is a guide for mapping progress but not a jail to confine us.

If you start a mentoring effort with some kind of map, you will make much more progress and have a more fruitful relationship.

 Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.