Reducing Conflict 8 Fixing Other People

October 4, 2021

Trying to “fix” other people is not only difficult, it is often dysfunctional. It is a common source of conflict between people. It is human nature to see the things that other people need to fix more clearly than we see the areas where we need to improve.

Improvement Opportunities 

We all have areas of opportunity to improve, and we have a roughly equal number of them.  Oh sure, there are some people who have more problems than others, but each of us is laboring under the false impression that we have fewer problems than the average person. 

The concept that we can all be above average is flawed. Garrison Keillor discovered that when he wrote about Lake Wobegone, where all the children are above average.

Recognize that you have roughly as many warts as another person. There can be a person who has a bumper crop of problem areas, but most of us reside somewhere in the middle of a bell-shaped curve in terms of the number of improvement opportunities.

How to Have a Better Outcome 

The way to have a more fulfilling life and get along well with people is to work on the areas you need to improve.  Using your energy in this way will help you avoid focusing on the things that others need to fix. You will be more popular and successful if you do that.

Specific Assignment 

As you drive to work tomorrow, focus your attention on how you can show up as a better person for the people you interface with daily. That mindset will cause you to be less judgmental of them and spend your energy improving the person you can influence the most.

After you have worked on and improved one facet of your life, pick a different area to improve. Be on the lookout for different areas of improvement opportunities for you. Having that mindset will make you less critical of others, and you will become more popular with them.

Free Video

Here is a video that contains more information on the problematical practice of trying to fix other people.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctKB0Uiv094

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. 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. 


Building Higher Trust 41 When No One Would Know

October 1, 2021

Integrity is crucial for building a culture of trust. Your ability to maintain and grow trust is impacted by how you act when nobody would know what you are doing. If you understand this dynamic, you have mastered a key component in the journey toward high trust that others have in you.

Have Personal Integrity

Integrity is as much an internal process as it is external. If you have a habit of always doing the right thing, then you don’t need to worry about whether or not other people can witness your actions.

Make it a habit to have the highest standard of ethics and follow up. Have a mental process that imagines every action as being witnessed by several other people. This mindset impacts how you view yourself.

Believe it or not, the most important person in your life is you, so having absolute internal integrity results in a kind of body language and congruency that enables others to trust you more.

People Do See You

People will observe and take note of all your actions over time. As you pass the “Trust Test” without fail, you build a positive balance of trust in your “Trust Bank.” Over time, the equity builds to a high level, and other people will forgive an occasional apparent lapse without loss of trust. They have complete faith in your integrity.

Nobody is perfect. There will be situations when what you intended to do comes out wrong. If the trust account with other people is high enough, a rare unintended slip up will not cause a loss in overall trust.

 Admitting Mistakes

Another good way to make deposits in the trust account is how you act when something went wrong or you made a mistake. Admitting a mistake is normally a trust-building event. The only times it is not is if the same mistake has been made in the past or the mistake reveals that you were not paying attention.

Summary

Having an attitude that you do the right thing whether other people are watching or not is about personal integrity.  You are responsible to yourself to do the right things.  Other people will observe this in you, and you will enhance the level of trust people have in you over time.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. Website www.leadergrow.com   BLOG www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals,  Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind

 

 


Leadership Barometer 112 Bully Managers

September 30, 2021

A student in one of my graduate leadership classes posed an interesting question. If bully managers cause so much grief, why are so many of them allowed to remain in power?  

The question got me thinking of the many reasons bully managers, even the extreme ones, seem to hang onto their positions. Here are seven of the reasons.  

Weak Leadership Above  

If a bully manager is allowed to remain in place, it means the leaders above him or her are not doing a good job.  If those in charge look the other way while a manager is abusing people, then they are the real culprits.

It is rather easy to spot a bully manager when doing a 360-degree review process, so once one is identified, if the person is allowed to stay in a management position year after year, I blame the top leadership.

Also, weak leadership might look the other way because the bully has powerful allies. Bully bosses intimidate people at their own level and higher in the organization.

They know the buttons to push or people to pressure in order to get their own way. If a weak leader is afraid of the bully, that can be a reason this person is allowed to continue.

Sufficing  

A bully manager does elicit compliance because people are fearful.  The unit reporting to this manager will perform at a credible level, even though people are unhappy and underutilized.  The crime is that the unit could be so much better, and the lives of the workers could be richer if the manager was replaced by someone with higher Emotional Intelligence.

Many units limp along by employing a culture of compliance and avoidance and do not even realize the huge potential they are missing.

Being Clueless 

I have written about this before. The idea is that most bullies simply do not see themselves accurately. They would view themselves as being tough or having high standards of conduct. 

My observation is that most bully managers are genuinely proud of their prowess at getting people to behave. They have no impetus to change because their twisted logic reinforces the behaviors that elicit compliance.

They often view themselves as smarter than the people working for them and bark out orders because they sincerely believe they know best.

Another clueless possibility is that the entire corporate culture is stuck in this Ebenezer Scrooge mentality. Hard as it is to fathom, there are still old-style companies where management likes to terrorize. The same holds for family businesses where one generation intimidates the next. 

Lack of Trust  

A bully manager trashes trust on a daily basis without realizing it.  When trust is low, all other functions in the organization operate like a car would run on watered-down gasoline.

The irony is that when the bully manager sees things sputtering and not working well, the logical reaction is to jump in with combat boots on to “fix” the problems.  That bullying behavior perpetuates the problem in a vicious cycle of cause and effect. If there is no external force to break the cycle, it will just continue.

Short Term Focus

 Most bully managers have a fixation on short-term actions and do not see the long-term damage being done to the culture.  They would describe “culture” as some squishy concept that is for softies.

If you propose ideas to improve the culture to a bully manager, he or she will start talking about performance and accountability. Holding people accountable is a very popular phrase in management these days.

Imagine a world where there was less need to talk about holding people accountable because the culture they worked in was one that automatically extracted their maximum discretionary effort.

If the vast majority of workers in a unit habitually performed at the very peak of their potential because they wanted to, then accountability would take care of itself. 

Lack Of Skills  

Bully managers often have not had good leadership capabilities built-in through training and mentoring. You cannot blame a tyrant if he or she has never been shown a better way to lead.

Bully managers are often accused of having a “my way or the highway” attitude toward people, but I would contend that many of these misguided individuals simply feel “my way is the only way I know how to get things done.”

For these leaders, some intensive reprogramming can be an effective antidote only if they come to the table eager to learn new ways.  

Fear Means People Will Not Challenge  

Most workers are not going to be willing to challenge a bully boss. The fear of getting their heads chopped off for leveling with the boss makes the prospect of telling the truth feel like knowingly walking into a lion’s den. 

Occasionally, there is a person so foolish or confident that he will just walk into the lion’s den because there is little to lose. This person can help provide shock therapy for bully leaders by providing data on how the behaviors are actually blocking the very things the leader wants to accomplish.

These people might be called “whistle blowers,” because they provide an errant manager, or the leadership above, with knowledge of what is actually happening.

Sometimes, a bully manager is so extreme that he or she must be removed and replaced by a more people-oriented manager.  Unfortunately, it is also true that many bully bosses have the ability to remain in place for long stretches.

This adhesion to power is extremely costly to the organization in terms of current and future performance along with a prime cause of high turnover.  If you have a bully manager reporting to you, get him or her some help through training. If that does not work, move the bully out of a leadership role and put in someone with high Emotional Intelligence.

 

The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on www.leadergrow.com.

 

Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.


Reducing Conflict 7 The Root of Conflict

September 27, 2021

There is a common denominator for nearly all interpersonal conflict that I call the “Root of all Conflict.” When we have an opinion on any topic, we believe it is true.  The opinion was formed in our brain, and we look for supporting facts to bolster that opinion.

I AM RIGHT Button 

 It is like we each wear a button with the words “I AM RIGHT” printed on it.  If you come up with a different opinion, then you will be wrong according to me, because I believe in my opinion. If you agree with my opinion, then there is no conflict, but if you disagree, then we are in for some conflict.

At home, at work, or in social situations, the phenomenon is easy to spot on a daily basis. It is probably the most frequent cause of conflict between people. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if there was a mechanism for reducing the problem?  Well, there is, and I am going to share it.

How to Avoid Fighting 

First of all, you need to recognize that you are wearing the button (figuratively, not literally).  Then, if someone has a different view, rather than becoming defensive or belligerent, try to imagine the other person is wearing an invisible button too. 

Take the time to really listen to the other person’s opinion before trying to defend your position. Ask open-ended questions that are genuine and seek to find out how the other person came to that realization. You can share that you have a different opinion on this topic, but try to avoid getting into an argument.

Use Body Language 

Be careful how you word your own opinions. Use phrases that indicate there may be other possible interpretations. Keep in mind that your body language says a lot about your attitude when listening to the other person. Try to project that, while you do have an opinion, you do not have a closed mind on the topic.

Free Bonus Video

Here is a video that contains more information on the root of all conflict including additional tips on how you can break the cycle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7PTp1aSB6g

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. 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. 


Building Higher Trust 40 The Scar

September 24, 2021

Most of us have had a miscommunication situation where another individual took umbrage at something we said. Let’s suppose that the problem was truly a misinterpretation of what you meant and that you were able to go to the other person and set the record straight.  Now the issue is behind you both, right?  Wrong!

The problem is that, for deep wounds, the scar tissue never fully heals. Sure you are able to go on, forgiven for the gaffe, but there is always going to be a degradation of trust in the mind of the other person. Nothing either of you can say or do can totally erase the issue. So how can you proceed?  Does this mean that every time there is an innocent mistake, irreparable damage is done? Thankfully no!

Rebuilding Trust

The trick is to acknowledge the gaffe, work to heal the ill feelings as much as possible, then seek other trust-building techniques to more than makeup for the permanent loss due to the slip-up.

For example, there may be an opportunity for you to extend more trust to the other person. You might agree to cover for the other person when she needs to take a break. Since trust is reciprocal, extending more trust is an excellent way to build trust back in both directions.

Actually, if you both work at it, the trust can come out higher than ever before, even though the scar is still there. It is as if the rest of the skin around the scar has become so strong and beautiful that even though there is still an imperfection, it is overridden by the surrounding area.

Merger Example

Think of a merger situation where one party inadvertently left some assets off a list. In the due diligence process, the error was discovered by the other party. The relationship can never be exactly the same as it was before the situation occurred, but with the proper rehabilitation, the trust can actually come out stronger than before.

This situation can be more complex than I am representing here because it might be the accused person who is feeling the betrayal rather than the accuser since the mistake was an honest oversight.  It all depends on the situation and the temperament of the individuals.

The same remedial logic is operational if the betrayal was due to an actual deception rather than a misunderstanding. In these cases, the scar tissue is particularly deep, and it may be impossible to repair the damage, despite the effort.

Many people at businesses or organizations that have merged know the pain of a complete collapse of trust. In serious cases, trust never does come back, and the individuals live with the duplicity or agree to go their separate ways.

Conclusion

A falling out in the work environment, whether justified or not, is something that removes huge amounts of built-up trust. Good dialog and a conscious attempt to set the record straight are excellent first steps, but we need to go beyond these remedies to make the main focus of the relationship be the positive forward aspects instead of scars from the past. This means seeking out ways to generate more trust over an extended period of time. Extending more trust to the other person is a great way to let the healing begin.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. Website www.leadergrow.com   BLOG www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals,  Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind

 

 


Leadership Barometer 111 Smart Decisions

September 22, 2021

One of my leadership students laments that some of the decisions the leaders in his organization make relative to policies and the size of the workforce are just plain stupid. These decisions reflect a misunderstanding of their impact, so the leaders end up doing things that are at cross purposes to their true goals.

Leaders need a way to determine the impact of their decisions on the organization at the time of making those decisions. This knowledge will reduce the number of wrong-headed actions. Picture a leader of 84 individuals. There are exactly 84 people who are capable of telling her the truth about the impact of poor decisions before she makes them.

They would gladly do this if the leader had established an environment where it is safe to challenge an idea generated in the mind of the leader. How would a leader go about creating such an environment?

Creating the right environment

If a leader makes people glad when they tell her things she was really not eager to hear, those people will eventually learn it is safe to do it. They have the freedom to level with the leader when she is contemplating something that is likely to backfire. 

It does not mean that all dumb things the leader wants to do need to be squashed. It simply means that if the leader establishes a safe culture, she will be tipped off in advance that a specific decision might not have the desired outcome.

Sometimes, due to a leader’s perspective, what may seem dumb to underlings may, in fact, be the right thing to do. In this case, the leader needs to educate the doubting underling on why the decision really does make sense or is imperative.

The formula for making it safe

Here is an eight-step formula that facilitates a Smart Decision.

  1. As much as possible, let people know in advance the decisions you are contemplating, and state your likely action.
  2. Invite dialog, either public or private. People should feel free to express their opinions about the outcomes.
  3. Treat people like adults and listen to them carefully when they express concerns.
  4. Factor their thoughts into your final decision process. This does not mean you will reverse your decision, but do consciously consider the input.
  5. Make your final decision about the issue and announce it.
  6. State that there were several opinions that were considered when making your decision.
  7. Thank people for sharing their thoughts in a mature way.
  8. Ask for everyone’s help to implement your decision whether or not they fully agree with the course of action.

Share concerns correctly

Of course, it is important for people to share their concerns with the leader in a proper way at the proper time.  Calling her a jerk in a staff meeting would not qualify as helpful information and normally would be a problem. 

The leader not only needs to encourage people to speak up but give coaching as to how and when to do it effectively. Often this means encouraging people to give their concern in private and with helpful intent for the organization rather than an effort to embarrass the boss.

The leader will still make some poor decisions, but they will be fewer and be made recognizing the risks. Also, realize that history may reveal some decisions thought to be stupid at the time to be actually brilliant.

Understanding the risks allows some mitigating actions to remove much of the sting of making risky decisions.  The action here is incumbent on the leader.  It is critical to have a response pattern that praises and reinforces people when they speak the truth, even if it flies in the face of what the leader wants to do. People then become empowered and more willing to confront the leader when her judgment seems wrong.

Consistency is important

A leader needs to be consistent with this philosophy, although no one can be 100%. That would be impossible. Once in a while, any leader will push back on some unwanted “reality” statements, especially if they are accusatory or given in the wrong forum.

Most leaders are capable of making people who challenge them happy about it only a tiny fraction of the time, let’s say 5%. If we increase the odds to something like 80%, people will be more comfortable pointing out a potential blooper.  That is enough momentum to change the culture.

It is important to recognize that making people glad they brought up a concern does not always mean a leader must acquiesce. All that is required is for the leader to treat the individual as someone with important information, listen to the person carefully, consider the veracity of the input, and honestly take the concern into account in deciding what to do.

In many situations, the leader will elect to go ahead with the original action, but she will now understand the potential ramifications better and can adjust the plan to minimize risk. By sincerely thanking the person who pointed out the possible pitfall, the leader makes that individual happy she brought it up.  Other people will take the risk in the future. That action changes everything, and the leader now has an effective way to improve decision-making and increase buy-in among staff.

 

The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on www.leadergrow.com.

 

Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.

 


Reducing Conflict 6 Double Sided Labels

September 20, 2021

We tend to put labels on other people. These are words to describe some kind of flaw we perceive in them. For example, you might say another person is lazy, or a bully, immature, a hot-head, or a gossip. 

It is easy to put an unflattering label on another person. The underlying logic behind hurtful labels is “why can’t you be more like me?”  Actually, it is human nature to see the flaws in other people much easier than to see our own improvement opportunities.

In reality, we all have ways we can improve, but we tend to focus more on the ways other people need to change in order to be more perfect. We make up the labels to see the flaws more clearly and give them a name.

Rationalization

Our self-talk tends to excuse the things that we do because “under the circumstances” we are doing the best that we can. We give ourselves a pass on some personal habits, but other people will pick up on them and put labels on us.

Distribution of Warts

It is helpful to remember that God sprinkled a roughly equal number of imperfections on us all.  Nobody goes through life without some labels being put on him or her. Someone may say that you procrastinate constantly.  You think to yourself, I make sure that I know what I am doing before I jump into action.

Try to Catch Yourself in the Act

It is really difficult to break the habit of putting unflattering labels on other people. It is part of the human condition.  Because you excuse your own flaws and wish other people could rise to your standard of excellence, you are not conscious of when you are being judgmental of them.

One way to reduce this problem is to catch yourself having a negative thought about another person that becomes a label. Recognize that you just did it, and have a conversation with yourself about how that person would react if you used the negative label to his or her face.  The more you can catch yourself doing this the easier it is to become conscious of it and change the habit yourself.

Free Bonus Video

Here is a video that contains more information on the labels we put on other people along with some additional tips on how you can break the cycle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90J7ZSb4sxc

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. 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.