Managers as Lifelong Learners
How to build a
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Building Talent in Your Organization......................................................6
FAQ’s Related to Organizational Learning Strategies............................16
Practical experience is great, but sometimes formal training and development is still necessary.
In the long run, the only sustainable competitive advantage an organization has is its ability to learn faster than its competition. Effective managers realize that they cannot leave school as “A Manager-in-a-Box” and never look back. They need to be lifelong learners ready to engage a lifetime of business challenges. Many people will agree that practical experience is a great way to learn. In fact, if you’ve been around the block a time or two, the old adage “experience is the best teacher” is probably anchored in your mindset. When I reflect on my business training and development through practical experience I always find Will Rogers’ perspective insightful, but also at times, troublesome.
Why troublesome? There is definitely a negative impact on individuals and organizations when continuing education is downplayed or, even worse, when formal training and development is completely discontinued. Let’s face it, formal training and development is often necessary. When you hire employees, it would be convenient if they would be adept at every skill the job requires or will require in the future, but that’s not realistic. Demands change, so businesses have to adapt quickly, which means managers need to take on a growth mindset. Managers with growth mindsets believe that they and their teams can learn, change, and develop new skills as needed. They focus on building talent within their marketing organizations.
“Old dog, new tricks, no problem!”
Once asked to write a full story in just six words, legend has it that novelist Ernest Hemingway responded: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” I can express my full personal story in just six words: “Old dog, new tricks, no problem!” Those six words explain my approach and attitude toward marketing training and development. If you want to grow your personal brand and career you’ll serve yourself and company well if you dedicate yourself to lifelong learning.
Marketing is as powerfully impacted by ongoing technological changes as any field. Customer Relationship Management, Business Intelligence, Predictive Analytics, Marketing Automation, Marketing Resource Management, Big Data, and Social Media are just the start. By the way, let’s not forget changes in consumer behavior which often result in new regulations like: Do Not Call, CAN SPAM, Do Not Mail, Do Not Track, Do Not Collect, Do Not Deliver Directories and Opt Out, Opt In. For this reason, CMOs must recognize the importance of ongoing learning – for themselves and their staff – to keep up with the latest marketing strategies, technology, and relevant skills.
You don’t need to be in the training and development industry to realize that paying attention to your own learning path and the learning paths of your staff members will provide a return on investment. For example, social media works as a means of connecting entire organizations with the market. That means new social and communication media involves the broader learning strategy of your entire organization, and that lifelong learning is therefore central to the success of your company.
BUILDING TALENT IN YOUR ORGANIZATION
Employees need to be prepared and motivated for the next challenge. Organizations need the human capital infrastructure in place to give their workforce the right skills to work on the right projects in the right roles. They do this through a focus on three key talent management areas: goal alignment, skills development and talent mobility.
1. Goal Alignment: Strategy execution fails in large part due to differing goal priorities. When your best people spend their valuable time doing a fantastic job on all the wrong stuff, success will be elusive. Getting everyone on the same page is a high-impact process.
2. Skills Development: You want your employees to do and build great things. But are you building great employees? Great employees are built by great managers who make training and development a priority.
3. Talent Mobility: Moving employees from role to role across leadership and functional areas is common practice among organizations that understand the need to quickly transform as business needs change. Talent mobility planning must strike a balance between the needs of the organization (making sure key roles have fully developed pipelines) and the employee (your best performers will leave if they do not see new challenges).
These three processes are tightly intertwined. Talent mobility planning without subsequent development is useless paper-pushing or wishful thinking. Goal alignment without talent or development planning might mean you don’t have the people equipped with the skills necessary to get the job done. Development that’s not driven by organizational or career goals is likely to go unused and be a waste of time. The outputs of these combined processes are nothing short of higher employee engagement, higher productivity and higher profitability for the organization.
“There’s something wrong here. Something seems to be out of alignment.”
When something is out of alignment – like your car, your back or a door-jam – you can feel it. And in most cases you probably seek immediate treatment because the wear and tear on things that remain out of alignment can be physically, emotionally or financially painful. The same is true for goal alignment in a company. When goals are not aligned between employees and managers or among managers, you can be sure the wear and tear on strategic organizational initiatives will be damaging.
Here’s a classic misalignment story between sales and marketing: A company is trying to attract more new customers. Although everyone in the company agrees that new customers would be a good thing, they differ on how to make that happen. Employees in the sales department want a strategy that will uncover a “qualified, ready-to-buy right now” sales lead. The marketing department too is interested in generating more leads for the sales department, but the marketing department’s managers are focused on preliminary steps such as what will attract more viewers to the company website and what will engage more of those viewers to download information from the company website or call and inquire about the services the company offers. The marketing department’s efforts will not bear fruit overnight, but in time, the department expects that the cultivation of prospects will generate higher quality sales leads with faster sales cycles.
It won’t take long before those misaligned goals and strategies start to create internal friction. You see, the sales department has a monthly quota to obtain and doesn’t appreciate the longer-term lead strategy. Time and resources spent on nurturing people who visit the company online seems like overkill to them. As a result, they might not be willing to support other communication channels that serve the marketing department’s engagement strategy. In other words, Twitter and Facebook may seem like a waste of time to the sales department. Marketing therefore ends up working without the support of sales, which cripples the company’s efforts to lure more customers. Had the sales and marketing departments been working in sync, they would have been attracting far more customers in the short and
It’s fairly common for employees and entire departments to be out of sync. If you’re trying to get a company’s employees to be aligned on its strategic goals, consider the following:
• Solicit input from all levels.
In setting goals, an organization benefits from gaining the perspective of its employees; not just hearing their ideas, but giving those ideas respectful consideration. A company that solicits ideas, wherever they arise, is a company where creative achievers want to work. Why not trust the employee who’s answering a customer’s call, that he or she may know an effective way of improving customer loyalty? To be sure, not all ideas are worth putting into place. Some are unrealistic or too expensive, but some could prove to be useful.
• Consider the company’s culture.
Whether a company’s goals are accomplished hinges a lot on the culture of the company. An adaptive culture will be able to make changes and grow in the desired direction. A company with a culture that’s resistant to change might pay lip service to the goal but in actuality ignore it. The culture of an organization can evolve, but it takes a lot of time and in some cases, the arrival of new staff members. In creating company goals it’s crucial to think about the dynamics of the organization. Leaders can have a lot of influence in creating a workplace culture that motivates, and that in turn, leads the company to realizing its goals.
• Make sure everyone knows how he or she can contribute.
If you want employees to be focused and motivated, they need a clear understanding of how their efforts serve the company’s short- and long-term goals. Those goals should be tied into the objectives for individual performance. Employees want to love their jobs. If they feel they are contributing to a goal that is meaningful to them, the chances of them loving their job are far greater. They work hardest when they believe in what they’re working toward. If only a cadre of top managers is fully versed in and believes in the company’s goals, the rest of the staff may have little motivation to meet them. The staff may even resent what seem like edicts from the top.
• Create clear and objective benchmarks for measuring progress.
If there are no concrete measures of progress, it’s tough to inspire employees to meet the company’s goals. If the goal is to improve customer service, for example, the company needs some specific measures of whether customers are more satisfied. Sales are one measure but another might be how long customers are put on hold or how many times they’re transferred.
Whatever goals an organization sets, they need to arise from the company’s core values, and those values should be well defined and promoted throughout the organization. So if a company values integrity, ambition, or respect, the goals they establish need to be in sync with those ideals. The core values in a company aren’t simply the promises written on the company website or posted on employee cork boards, they’re the qualities modeled day to day in interactions between managers and employees and between employees and customers. An organization’s leaders can have a lot of influence in creating a workplace culture that motivates, and that in turn, leads the company to realizing its goals.
“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” ~Henry Ford
When I tweet the quote below it’s not unusual for that tweet to get retweeted and favorited several times.
It’s obvious that this statement by Henry Ford resonates with a lot of people. Employees really do represent an organizations greatest asset and it’s important to keep those assets up-to- date with proper training. The pace of technological change calls for constant expansion of our knowledge base and the skills we bring to everyday work assignments. Facebook and Twitter, which weren’t even around a decade ago, are now such critical tools for marketing departments worldwide that if the employees in the company’s marketing division aren’t
savvy about how to Tweet or how to build their Twitter site, the company is severely limited in its ability to lure new customers. Companies whose employees are tied to older processes and technology are missing the ability to mine information through faster and easier means. Employees who don’t keep up on the latest applications are holding themselves back as they watch their more competitive counterparts pass them by.
In a lot of professions, such as law and health care, continuing education is required to keep practicing in the field. In the business world, it’s an unstated rule that employees keep their skills current. But the challenge to keep up can seem overwhelming. There’s so much to do as it is and so many deadlines to meet, how can a company and its individual employees make time for learning and development? Fortunately, learning can take place on a lot of fronts:
• Conferences/Classes: Employees can take classes or go to conferences and then share what they learned by hosting a round table discussion.
• Blogs/Articles: Employees should be encouraged to read relevant blogs and articles and keep professional contacts and associations. New tools and methods pop up constantly and need to be evaluated.
• Mentoring: Employees can be paired up with mentors within the organization – people who know more about a particular skill than they do.
• Cross-training: Cross-training or job rotation immerses an employee in new roles or projects that can dramatically expand their horizons. Stretch assignments are a great way to challenge an employee to reach out for new abilities in previously unexplored areas.
These kinds of individual and collaborative learning exercises tend to happen routinely when you put processes in place and make relevant learning resources available to a workforce. Training opportunities are often what motivates employees to stay at a company and attracts new staff members. Most people want to work for a company that’s using cutting-edge technology and is willing to invest the time and money necessary to ensure employees are up to speed even as technology changes.
Training does not always have to be expensive. Even with limited budgets, companies can make learning opportunities widely available. Cross-training and mentoring come at little to no cost and yet can prove to be incredibly valuable because much of what people learn happens on the job, not in a classroom or at a conference.
Learning doesn’t simply allow staff members to enhance their abilities. It opens their minds to possibilities they didn’t previously see. It may even give them renewed enthusiasm for their job. And a company that goes out of its way to keep its employees trained is sending a powerful message that it wants all of its employees to grow and believes in their ability to do so.
Cross-training for business survival
When I was much younger, I worked as a roughneck in the West Texas oil fields. The guys I worked with dubbed me “college boy’’ because they knew I’d be heading back to school in the fall. As you might guess I got to do the manual back-breaking jobs because I wasn’t trained to operate any of the equipment on the job site. At the time, I thought they had the easy jobs and I admired their skill, their ability to jump from the driver’s seat of one piece of machinery to another and operate it with equal skill and ease. That got me thinking as I stood under the Texas sun about the ability to perform different jobs at the same worksite, how it made their day go by faster, and probably made them more valuable employees because of their ability to quickly adapt in a fast moving and often dangerous environment.
Indeed, when Charles Darwin was referring to the “survival of the fittest,’’ he didn’t mean the strongest or the fastest, but the most adaptable. The species that could adapt would thrive. In organizations you could argue that the “fittest” employees – the most adaptable – are those that are cross-trained. In most cases, cross-training is not only good for the employee, but also for the employer. Cross-training employees is like having a disaster recovery plan in place: You probably aren’t planning your daily schedules to have employees jump around among jobs, but caught in a pinch, some employees would be capable and available to fill in the gaps. In a small business, having cross trained employees could make the difference between shutting down due to absent employees or staying open. The employee who’s filling in may also offer insights on ways to improve on how the job is being done.
For an employee too, there are benefits to being able to fill in on a coworker’s job. He or she knows more, can do more, and becomes potentially better positioned for a promotion or a lateral move. In fact, knowing another person’s job could make the employee better at performing his or her regular duties. I worked in sales for years before moving into marketing. Now as head of marketing, I look at marketing campaigns through the lens of a sales person. When I’m thinking of a marketing campaign I’m not only thinking about our brand, but how the campaign will translate to more sales leads for our account executives.
It doesn’t sound like there is any downside; why not just cross train everyone? Not so fast. It does cost money to implement a well-rounded cross-training program. And there is less productivity while training occurs. In addition, a poorly implemented program can have unpleasant consequences, such as:
• Decreased morale-if employees feel that they are in jeopardy of losing their jobs.
• Resentment-if employees feel that they are assuming more responsibility for the same pay.
• Confusion-if employees lose sight of their primary responsibilities.
• Loss of specialized knowledge-if employees spend all of their time learning a little about everything.
A poorly managed program can also result in dissatisfied customers and possibly even costly mistakes. Cross-training is not a successful strategy for every business. But for those businesses where it seems to work the following steps are helpful:
1. Identify the tasks performed for various jobs and designate which ones could be successfully performed by other employees.
2. Identify who is interested in participating in the program. It may be counterproductive to force someone to participate. Decide how to deal with this situation.
3. Cross-train members of the same team. My summer job in the oil fields demonstrates
how efficient teams become when they can step in to do significant pieces of one
another’s work. Also, it’s a natural learning process for one team member to pick up skills from another.
4. Identify who has the competencies to perform the tasks designated as cross-trainable in step 1. Specialized skills in some professionals (engineers, scientists, programmers, lawyers, accountants) may be less available for cross-training than others. Determine what proportion of team members’ job can be reasonably shared with others.
5. Apply coaching skills to the process. Cross-training is at the challenging end of the learning curve, involving major portions of employees’ jobs rather than a task or two. Those who do the training – whether it is a fellow employee or the manager – need to understand the appropriate coaching behaviors to apply at each stage in the process.
6. Reduce workload during training and while tasks are being performed. Otherwise, the people involved may feel resentful about the process.
7. Recognize and reward employees that have new skills and/or responsibilities.
8. Incorporate the cross-training process into an overall development plan for the employee.
The decision to move forward with a cross-training program is entirely your own, but it’s an option that should be considered nonetheless. You know your business and you know your management team. Ask them how they think their people would respond to the program and weigh your options from there. There’s certainly risk with cross- training, but the rewards can be substantial.
Question 1: Many on our senior team are resisting learning about social media. How can I convince them to get onboard?
Most people will agree that practical experience is a good thing. In fact, if you’ve been around the block a time or two, the old adage “experience is the best teacher” is probably anchored in your mindset. When I reflect on my lessons learned through practical experience I always find Will Rogers’ perspective insightful, but also at times, troublesome:
FAQ RELATED TO ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING STRATEGIES
Why troublesome? After all, at one point or another we all start out as greenhorns. And let’s face it; there are situations we occasionally experience that are really not possible to prepare for. What I find troublesome is the negative impact on organizations when key executives continue to scoff at the lessons offered, or worse, they refuse to acknowledge they were even handed an exam.
Are senior executives in your organization still scoffing at social media? In today’s environment your customer’s are testing your organizations ability to interact with them on social platforms in the same way you communicate with them through email and over the phone. In fact, you may have seen the following factoids in recent presentations:
• 72% of all internet users are now active on social media
• 18-29 year olds have an 89% usage
• The 30-49 bracket sits at 72%
• 60 percent of 50 to 60 year olds are active on social media
• In the 65 plus bracket, 43% are using social media
And yet some of your peers are still hesitant, or openly against implementing social media strategies in your organization. I suspect some are hesitant because they are not personally using social media, and if the truth were known, they’re still not concerned with learning. Even so, it’s time to let go of the notion that social media is just for kids and has no business value. In short, you don’t want the adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” to begin to be associated with your personal brand. Here are some brief observations to share with your leadership peers that might motivate them to sign up for a lesson or two.
1. Your words and actions are magnified by your position. Most of your actions will seem more important to your employees than you intend; merely teasing about the use or value of social media on your part may become dangerously distorted by your workers. It’s time for you to provide executive level support for this engagement channel. Keep this in mind; it’s not about you, it’s about your customers. If your customers want to communicate through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook who are you to stop them?
2. No need to boil the ocean. There are scores of social media related platforms and applications, so don’t be afraid to narrow your focus during your initial learning process. It’s too early to declare with authority the platforms that will remain standing, those that will be absorbed, or the ones that will fade away. For senior executives I would recommend focusing on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, in that order. Sidebar applications that help with efficiency and effectiveness (for example, TweetDeck or various mobile applications) can wait.
3. You can’t learn to swim without getting wet, so jump in. If nothing else, just commit to spending 15 – 20 minutes per day learning the ins and outs of a single platform. Once you develop a comfort level move to the next platform or application. If you have a trusted friend or colleague who is already social media savvy consider asking them to breakfast or out for a beer. Use the opportunity to pick their mind on the platforms they like to use, and how they strategically leverage those applications. If all else fails, hire someone to help you with your social media education. Based on my teaching and consulting background I obviously like that approach! However, you may want to start by making an author happy and simply purchasing one of the many social media related publications on the market.
4. The clock is ticking. We’ve moved from a time of mass communications to one of masses of communicators; your customers are sharing their experiences through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms at a rate that will continue to accelerate. As a result, social media should become a part of every organizations risk management and customer engagement strategy. That means the entire leadership team (CEO, CIO, CFO, CMO, Sales, Legal and HR) will feel the impact. You know from experience that it always takes more time than expected to secure cross functional support. So, it’s time to start building bridges.
Question 2: How do you improve learning motivation and participation within an organization?
Enabling employees to succeed in a fast-changing business environment should be central to every organization’s strategy. After all, when employees are properly equipped with the right set of skills, they’re best positioned to add maximum value to both the organization and its customer base. Are education, training, and lifelong learning for your workforce important to your company? Or do I really need to ask if your workforce is truly motivated and engaged as learners?
In a typical company, learning nuggets are accessed in clumps in various places, with all sorts of gaps in between. One or more people in a work group will take advantage of opportunities and information will be shared with others in the group. Some managers inform their teams and encourage participation, while others don’t. With the typical hit-and-miss approach, many employees at various levels never find out about opportunities to sharpen their skills that would otherwise be available to them. With rapid changes in technology and business processes, new training can be a matter of someone keeping a job or being left behind. However, it’s interesting that when employees hear that they need new training, their first response can often be a yawn or a grumble. People don’t always see training as an opportunity. Instead, training can feel like a hassle, like one more thing added to a mounting list of responsibilities.
In order to improve learning participation and motivation try some of the following:
• Have each employee complete a survey regarding his or her learning needs and interests.
• Route the results through the employee’s manager to add items the manager feels are important either for current or future projects.
• Assign learning resources based on the personalized needs of each employee.
• Provide time on the schedule to complete training, shadowing, mentoring, or other learning activities.
• Track usage and completion of learning tasks.
• Allow employees to update their learning profiles on an ongoing basis to reflect their progress and changing needs.
Companies that take the above steps dramatically broaden employee growth and development across the organization. Usage of one resource – elearning – has been reported by corporations as the second most valuable training method that they use. This is no surprise, given that e-Learning saves businesses at least 50% when they replace traditional instructor- based training with e-Learning.
Question 3: How do you conduct a powerful and effective performance review?
As soon as I bit that piece of candy I knew it was trouble. Yes, I chipped a tooth and that meant a trip to the dentist. The process of getting a crown wasn’t that bad though. Then again, I used noise cancellation headphones to drown out the sound of the drill. I also asked the dentist to use both Novocaine and Nitrous Oxide. In short, you could say that I really didn’t want to be there. So where does the phrase “I’d rather go to the dentist than [you fill in the blank]” come from? What type of task or obligation is so hideous that you’d rather subject yourself to a root canal than deal with the event? A simple search uncovered a few examples:
• According to research from an insurance company 39% of women would rather go to the dentist than talk to their spouse about their daily finances.
• According to a travel survey 54% would rather go to the dentist than sit in the middle seat on an airplane.
• 40% of Americans think filling out income tax forms is worse than going to the dentist.
• According to a technology company survey 40% said they would rather go to the dentist than deal with poor customer service.
Where do you stand on the following statement?
“I’d rather go to the dentist than do a performance review.”
For many people this statement rings true. And it’s often the case for both the giver and receiver of the review! The performance review is a high-stakes conversation for both parties. The risk of frustration, disappointment and even anger is possible if not approached correctly. How do you conduct a powerful and effective performance evaluation? How do you approach your own evaluation? Here are my approach considerations for both sides of the evaluation desk:
1. An effective boss will not save his constructive criticism for the annual evaluation, but will be offering feedback throughout the year. Reduce the stress by making your reviews a process rather than once-yearly events. Nothing in the evaluation should be a complete surprise to the employee, so if you check-in via brief meetings on a quarterly basis you can inspire small incremental changes along the way when needed.
2. Talk about goals and talent development as part of your appraisal. These topics introduce positive feelings and the sense of working together to develop skills and align tasks. In addition, find at least one or two aspects of their job performance that are good and start there. We all need validation. That enables you to come across as fair and helps the person being reviewed to be receptive to hearing about the areas that he or she needs to improve on.
3. Tie your performance reviews in with career planning, succession planning, and leadership development. The review can become a fountain of opportunities, in many cases, that will prompt employees to participate enthusiastically. But remember, criticism, even legitimate criticism, is hard to take, so be as diplomatic as possible in how you word the person’s weaknesses. Make it “you can improve this” rather than “here’s where you messed up.”
4. Make sure to ask the employees how they feel about their own performance and ways you could be a better boss to them. A humble boss is a boss people want to work for and work hard for.
1. Recognize the difference between feedback and criticism. Your manager is probably trying to help you improve for the coming year rather than penalizing you for the past. And that’s something you want to do, right? So, even if you have been excelling, try not to go into the evaluation expecting only to be showered with praise.
2. Listen first and try not to react immediately after hearing criticism. Take a day or two to absorb it and then get back to your boss with a response if you feel the need to. Time will allow you to respond rather than react.
3. Look past the critical language to see the basis of the criticism, and strive to understand it. Try to develop empathy for your boss who has the tough job of trying to assess your performance. Empathy goes a long way toward helping you be receptive to what he or she is saying.
4. Use “I” statements to keep things more objective. “What I hear from your feedback is that I sometimes invite too many people to my meetings.” Couple this kind of sentence with another “I” statement that suggests specific things you can do differently. “What I could do is invite fewer people and then provide a summary of the meeting to my team.”
5. Take advantage of opportunities for setting clearer goals and developing your skills. One approach is to sit down after your meeting, consider the constructive feedback, and come up with a few ideas for developing your skills in those areas. You can then bring those up with your manager.
Criticism is both hard to give and hard to take. We want people to like us. We want to succeed. So it can be difficult to tell an employee something he or she may be disappointed to hear and it’s equally difficult to be on the receiving end of that criticism. But disappointment,
even frustration, can teach and can help motivate change. So be brave and know that,
at least evaluations (unlike a trip to the dentist) should not leave you with the fear of leaving with a fat lip!
Question 4: How do you build a learning organization?
Only small amounts of the learning people do in their jobs takes place in a classroom. In fact, the 70/20/10 Learning and Development Model based on research by Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger for the Center for Creative Leadership suggests the following ratios:
• 70% of learning occurs through experience.
• 20% of learning occurs through others.
• 10% of learning occurs through formal training.
Based on the numbers above it appears that on-the-job training is at the head of the class. However, as a manager you can foster organizational growth and help your direct reports with career development when you do the following:
1. Do not take a “one size fits all” approach to training. Instead, you need to take the time to understand what each individual needs, so that you can provide the right training for the right people.
2. Work with your direct reports to set development goals, and match appropriate mentoring, job rotation, coaching, and other activities to the goals you set together.
3. Tie development goals to the business goals of your work group, department, or company. Development is more likely to be taken seriously when clear connections are made to the goals of your business.
4. Cultivate a culture of learning and development. When managers support development and follow through with their employees, the benefits quickly become apparent and other managers and employees follow suit.
5. Look beyond the skills an employee currently has. Many skills are transferable. The job an employee is currently performing may not be the only fit or the best fit for that employee.
6. As employees learn new skills, modify the levels of direction and collaboration you provide. New skills and tasks tend to require a lot of manager involvement. However, when the employee achieves proficiency and becomes confident, he or she typically wants a commensurate level of autonomy and responsibility. Confidence grows with successful adoption of an autonomous role.
If you don’t want your employees to stagnate, it’s important to ensure that they stay on a learning curve of some kind. Giving them chances for training on a regular basis will enable them to feel like they’re growing and that could discourage them from looking for opportunities outside the company.
Question 5: Do mentoring programs work?
In a fast changing business environment do “I remember when” or “when I was your age” stories have value? My twenty something year old children listen to my stories – sometimes. My twenty something year old direct reports listen. Of course I also do their performance reviews, so they might feel compelled to do so. Do you think these less senior people are occasionally tempted to roll their eyes during some of those stories? Actually, I’d be surprised if they weren’t because I know I was when I was their age.
I’m not put off by an occasional eye roll. For me it signals that the message has been received, and in truth I probably told that story knowing that would be the reaction. Besides, time goes by fast, meaning it won’t be long before today’s less senior people have eyes rolling at them. That’s the way it’s supposed to work when you’re mentoring the next
If you have direct reports what are you doing to mentor them? Mentoring is one of the oldest and most powerful training methods, and is an essential leadership skill. In addition to managing and coaching people, it’s important that you can help others learn, grow and become more effective during their professional development. Here’s what I loved about some of my past mentors:
1. They didn’t provide all the answers. They listened first, and then asked questions while weaving in stories to help me see options without choosing one for me. Yes, sometimes I was tempted to roll my eyes because I just wanted the right answers now and didn’t want to figure out the moral of the story.
2. They weren’t afraid to let me learn through failure. I can still remember hearing “Alan, sometimes you just have to let people do stupid stuff.” Now don’t get me wrong. I know for a fact that my mentor carefully examined the pros and cons of certain failure. And he wasn’t really calling me stupid. He took stock of the risk and was OK with letting me learn through failure. And learn I did.
3. Coach + Mentor equal an added bonus. Work often has two dimensions. The task at hand (how the job should be performed) for which coaching was just fine. But there can be political elements (how to work with people and functional areas impacted by an assignment) as well. My coach/mentor’s insight on interpersonal dimensions was extra valuable.
4. They were lifelong learners and inspirational individuals because they led by example. They had a passion for learning and sharing knowledge and their attitude of “the more you give the more you get” was infectious.
My hat is off to our next leaders, and to their mentors. Now, let the story telling and eye
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Principal and Chief Marketing Officer
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is recognized by Forbes as a Top 50 CMO Ranked by Social Media Influence. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. He has performed for and interacts with some of the world’s most respected brands including; IBM, Cap Gemini, Teradata, SAS Institute, and AT&T. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.