Speed Mentoring: Jump Starting Deeper Connections

Finding a great mentor is hard. A lot goes into making mentoring work, but above all it starts with finding a great connection.

I spent today launching a new mentoring circle, with a bit of a twist. Instead of a pure skip-level experience, all of my direct reports were involved, along with high-potential managers from across the organization.

We worked together on business problems, identified key priorities and challenges for the coming year, and came up with some fantastic strategies and plans. There is so much power in collaboration.

And then we tried something new “speed mentoring.”

Speed Mentoring

As a caveat, this is a group that has worked together at various levels. Some of us have deeper relationships and have had developmental discussion before, some were just getting to know one another. We asked in advance, and the team agreed they were game to try something new.

The Design

Although none of us had any experience with “speed dating” we were intrigued by the concept of short, focused interactions to look for areas of common interest.

Each participant was asked to come prepared with any ideas and questions they had for the leaders on the team. The mentees were in complete control of the conversations, and could use the time however they wished.

We set up small tables around the room, and each of the leaders manned a station and the mentees flowed through spending 10 minutes at each station. The mentees controlled the conversations, and each took on a different flavor.

The Questions

I was intrigued at how deep the conversations went in just 10 minutes. Each mentee took a different approach. Nearly all conversations sparked dialogue that will continue.

  • “What’s my “brand with you?”
  • Why wouldn’t you promote me?
  • What’s the biggest mistake you ever made?
  • What makes you fail?
  • What are you working on developmentally?
  • Did you ever take a job that was a bad fit? What did you do?
  • What characteristics are you looking for in a leader?
  • How do you think I am doing?
  • Just what makes you so passionate about leadership development?

The Feedback

The feedback we received was amazing. I was worried that the time was too short, or that the feedback from so many people in a short time frame would be overwhelming. Participants agreed that it was “intense” but would do it again with the same design.

  • “It was helpful to see the patterns and consistency in the feedback”
  • “I could tell everyone was being really candid and had my best interest at heart”
  • “I liked that we could control the questions and decide where we wanted to take the conversation with each person.”
  • “It was great to see so many different perspectives on the same question”

The conversations continued later that day, on a break or walking to dinner. Can you mentor in 10 minutes? Of course not. Can you spark a connection worth exploring further? I believe you can.

The best is yet to come.
 

Get Noticed: Start By Building a Strong N.E.S.T.

These are all phrases I’ve heard used in succession planning and other discussions over the years. The tragedy is that the folks being described in these conversations work extremely hard, have fantastic results, and are highly committed to the company. The trouble is, they are working too hard to get noticed.

“She’s more focused on her career than the business”

“He’s applied for so many promotions. He doesn’t seem to know what he really wants to do next, he just wants the title.”

“Every time I talk to that guy he tells me how great his team is doing”

“I’m not sure what it is, she’s just a bit over the top.”

Scott Eblin’s recent post, You’ve Got To Speak For the Work, was timely. I had just finished a conversation with a leader facing this same issue. A woman on his team had GREAT results. The trouble is, she was constantly telling everyone. She was getting tuned out, and worse, her results were being ignored because she was seen as needy. Her work to get noticed was backfiring. Scott shares how to “speak for the work” vs. promoting yourself.

Speaking for the work is not about jumping up and down saying, “Hey, look what I did!” You’re speaking for the work, not speaking for you. More specifically, you’re speaking for the work of your team. Part of your job as their leader is to advocate for them and get them the exposure they need to succeed. Another part of your leadership role is to make sure that your boss has the information she needs to successfully brief her boss.

I concur with all his points. Worth reading if you want your work to get noticed I have shared this article broadly.

I also believe a great way to “speak for the work” is to use it as a nesting place to help others to grow.

Four Build a Noticeable N.E.S.T.

N- Notice what is working and why

Channel some of your need to get noticed into a pursuit of continued excellence. The more you understand what is working, the easier it will be to replicate. Stay humble and open to ways to improve you own nest, so that it can be an incubator for future growth and ideas.

E- Extend Support

Extend your support to struggling peers. Share your tools and resources. Offer to lend them your best talent to help with a struggling project. They will likely be grateful and tell others about what you are doing and how it helped. It will give your best talent a chance to get noticed and they will be learning along the way.

S- Sell your team’s contributions

Nominate your team members for formal recognition programs. Use informal channels to provide shout outs. No one will every fault you for giving well-deserved kudos to your team. Work to promote the careers of others, pushing them as soon as they are ready out of your nest and on to the next adventure. They will carry your vision and reputation forward.

T- Talk about the great work of others

Be genuinely interested in the nest building of others. Be the first one to point out other’s accomplishments. Don’t worry about reciprocation. If you are doing great work, it will come.

Full Potential Leadership: Convincing Them to Bet on You

Are you truly building your full potential? The choices you make now, will impact what jobs are available down the road. Moving up too quickly in one functional area may limit the diversity of skills you learn, and turn you into a specialist with limited future potential.

As Joanne Cleaver, says “over is the new up.”

When a strong, smart employee comes to me looking for help being promoted, I almost always encourage them to also consider “jumping out of an airplane” and trying a lateral job they appear to know nothing about. I ask them to think more broadly about their full potential.

I ask these sorts of questions:

  • Are you building yourself into a specialist, or building a reputation as a leader with broader capacity?
  • Have you tried moving into a new discipline
  • What are your unrealized gifts?
  • Which of your skills are the most transferable?
  • Should you consider moving sideways to expand your perspective and skills?

And, I am truly grateful for the times in my career bosses and mentors challenged me in that same way and inspired me to work toward my full potential.

I’ve told my story of moves across HR, customer service, marketing, sales.. more than a few times. The truth is, I was able to take leaps across functions because other leaders have taken risks on me. My favorite line from a Sales Senior Vice President years ago, “Karin, don’t tell me you don’t know sales you’ve convinced us all to buy-in to these HR and leadership programs trust me, you can sell.”

So, I tell, my story, and people listen and then the natural question but, “how do I convince someone I am qualified?”

The truth is, I can’t break that down. I don’t exactly remember that part and I don’t have a great answer to this question and time and time again. I get stuck.

Time to Ask a Full Potential Expert

So, suppose you believe it’s important, and are prepared to take a risky move.

How do you convince someone to take a risk on you?

So I reached out to Joanne Cleaver, the author of The Career Lattice: how Lateral Move Strategies Can Grow Careers and Companies asked for some help.

They want to “lattice up”, but no one will give them a chance? What should they do?

Here’s her response:

The best way to make your case to a potential new boss is to show how you have already achieved results with a skill or responsibility analogous to the new challenge. For example, if you are trying to switch from a technology role in which you often interacted with marketing, to a marketing role that is a liaison to technology, show how you have managed a project from the point of view of marketing.

Build a concise case study that shows what you can do. (Simply saying, ‘I can do that!” isn’t enough.” )

Here’s how to build a case study:

•       Problem

•       Process

•       Solution

•       Results

•       One sentence each

Voila! You have shown yourself in action.

Use this case study formula to document your accomplishments as you go. You can use case studies in cover letters and interviews as you get to know potential new bosses.

Career lattices the emerging model for career paths because they are both flexible and sustainable. The skill of managing your career laterally is essential for working Americans of all ages and at all career stages, as I illustrate in The Career Lattice. By continually evolving your skills, abilities and peer network, you’ll qualify for tomorrow’s jobs today.

Great advice.

Have you convinced someone to take a risk on you?

Got Results? How to Succeed in Your Next Developmental Assignment

If you are a strong leader, with a proven track record of results and looking to advance, chances are you are going to be asked to take on a job you know nothing about. On paper, you will be completely unqualified. Welcome to the world of succession planning developmental assignments.

Much research has shown that the best way to prepare leaders for broader, more strategic responsibility is to move them into diverse roles and assignments. The Lessons of Experience, High Flyers, and The Leadership Pipeline,  all offer insights into why and how this works. Leaders who can produce results across a variety of organizational contexts become valuable utility players with broad perspectives on the business.Continue reading

The Great Leadership Development and Succession Planning Kit:A Book Review

I imagine most of you are familiar with Dan McCarthy and his insightful blog, Great Leadership. I also know that many of you are also bloggers, who, like me, have aspirations of “some day” turning your posts into a brilliant and useful book. Dan has done just that in his e-book, The Great Leadership Development and Succession Planning Kit. It turns out that 500 well-written posts, woven together carefully, can lead to an insightful, practical, and witty “how-to” guide for identifying potential and developing great leaders.

I’ve been on all sides of the succession planning and leadership development process, from developing tools and programs, to facilitating talent review sessions to being the topic of such discussions and “rotational assignments.” I was impressed by the depth and applicability for people working in any of these capacities. If you are an executive starting to build a program, you can easily save significant time and money with the head-starts he provides here. For HR practitioners and consultants, there are rich tools and practical guides you can use with or without adaptation. And, if you are leader at any level, in any box on the proverbial “grid,” this read provides insider insights as well as specific development content.

It’s organized into 4 sections: the foundation, succession planning, development, and leadership skills.

The Foundation

He begins with a compelling argument for why companies must invest in a strategic and deliberate approach to succession planning. He then shares models that fit various budgets and cultures. His four-stage leadership development model is easy to follow.

Succession Planning

He shares practical help on talent profiles and critical positions, and his humor resonates of a man whose seen just one too many talent review sessions, The 10 Dysfunctional Characters at a Talent Review Meeting, It turns out, I’ve met all those characters.

Development

He includes a plethora of tools, from on-boarding to executive education. For fun, he throws in some cool stuff like “20 Great Leadership Development Movies.”

Leadership Skills

So once you’ve selected someone or been selected as a target for development, what’s next? Here’s where Dan comes in with the practical advice like “Lipstick on a Pig: 10 Ways to Improve Executive Presence” and “18 Financial Terms Every Leader Should Know.” My own development plan must be on track since “financial acumen” is always on my plan (I prefer to surround myself with finance-types, rather than have to face too many spreadsheets), but I found I can use every one of his 18 terms in a complete sentence. Quick, someone call my boss before the next talent review.

Why Buy the Book?

So, why buy the book when you can get the posts for free? I love Dan’s site, and particularly enjoy his Carnivals where he brings together the perspective of so much great leadership thinking. It is much more efficient to have him do all the work for you, to organize what you need in an easy to use way. Simple and funny? Priceless.

About Dan

Dan McCarthy is the Director of Executive Development Programs (EDP) at the University of New Hampshire. He writes the award-winning leadership development blog Great Leadership and the new ebook, The Great Leadership Development and Succession Planning Kit.

Dan is consistently ranked as one of the top digital influencers in leadership and talent management.

You can contact Dan at danmccarthy@gmail.com.

 

How to Stink at a Behavior-Based Interview

Most companies use behavior-based interviews for leadership jobs.

Many leaders are really bad at them.

I have seen many highly qualified candidates not get hired because of their inability to tell the right story in the right way.

In a Behavioral Based Interview, candidates are asked to describe a situation, share what happened, and communicate the results. In other words, to share a story.

Behavior-based questions work well because they require the candidate to draw on real experiences and communicate stories in an articulate way.

They can also backfire, when great candidates bomb the interview because of lack of preparation.

How to Stink at a Behavior-Based Interview

  • Pick the wrong story, usually the first one that comes to mind
  • Select a story with a bad ending
  • Get carried away in your story-telling, sharing too much detail and going in circles
  • Leave out the detail, leaving too much to the imagination.
  • Forget to share the point of your story
  • Share a story in which you did not have a central role (sharing someone else’s success)
  • Over-use of the word “I” when you are describing an effort you led
  • Keep using the same job or example over and over (don’t laugh, this is one of the most common mistakes)
  • ???

How to Prepare for Success

  • Make a list of the competencies or skills most required for the job
  • Go back through your work experiences, and find the best examples (stories) that showcase your skills in these areas.
  • Develop a plan for which stories you plan to share
  • Build out your stories to include brief context, specific actions, and results
  • Practice telling them to a mentor or friend
  • ???

It is useful to keep a journal or archive of your best stories that you can call on as needed. Capture the details while the story is fresh so it will be easier to recall when the time is right. I am known for reminding my team to “remember this story” for their next interview or elevator speech, right after we have experienced a success.

Also, most leaders I know are more than willing to help their teams prepare for interviews and to consider the right stories to include. It is helpful to do a mock interview or two with a boss or mentor before you are even looking for the next opportunity.

Maximize Your Potential:It's Never Too Late to Grow Great

Over a year ago I had a debate with a friend that just keeps staying with me. His premise, “by the time we are in our 40s our path is set your potential is channeled, you are just not going to accomplish anything significant you haven’t already started” For some reason that comment from a friendly conversation infuriated me, and I keep trying to decide why.

“I wish I could show you a picture of yourself with your potential intact.”
~John Maxwell, Beyond Talent

He and I both have great spouses, awesome kids, interesting lives, important work. Both paths, even if they were truly “set” are good. And for some reason, I have to know there is more. There are still many areas where “great” is an option, and I can’t imagine not opening my heart to new possibilities.

We all know people with incredible talent at all stages of life, who for one reason or another are not maximizing their potential. Many of these folks are in our families, neighborhoods, churches, and workplaces. Sometimes they remain good (rather than great) because they are not investing the time and energy in the arena in which they could become great. There is also the crowd that seem to be in the right field, but for lots of “reasons,” don’t take it to the level they could. The athlete who doesn’t properly train, the musician who doesn’t practice, the leader that does not hone her skills. There are usually lots of “reasons” for the settling, often beginning with the words, “not enough” money, time, energy, network, support.

I worry what they really lack is belief in their ability to pull it off.

In his book, Beyond Talent: Become Someone Who Achieves Extraordinary Results, John Maxwell identifies 13 choices we make that can amplify our talent. A good read, and all focus areas to consider. He begins with a chapter called “Belief Lifts Your Talent.”

“Its one thing to believe that you possess remarkable potential. It’s another thing to have enough faith in yourself that you think you can fulfill it. When it comes to believing in themselves, some people are agnostic.”

Maxwell offers several “Talent and Belief” application exercises, designed to get people thinking about their opportunities for greatness.

As many writers do, he starts with a strength inventory (identifying top skills and talents) and moves on to thinking about what activities arouse your passion. What I like about his approach is that he then asks the reader to consider what opportunities might be presenting themselves, and to create picture to bring it all together.

“Take some time to consider what kind of picture emerges based on these talents, interests and opportunities. How might they come together for someone other than you, someone with fewer obstacles or limitations– someone who is in the right place at the right time? Dream big– no idea is outrageous. Brainstorm what someone in that situation might be able to do, and what he or she could become.”

Ever since that conversation with my friend, I believe I am dreaming a bit bigger, and looking for opportunities in more arenas.

What is your picture of greatness?

Maximize Your Potential:It’s Never Too Late to Grow Great

Over a year ago I had a debate with a friend that just keeps staying with me. His premise, “by the time we are in our 40s our path is set your potential is channeled, you are just not going to accomplish anything significant you haven’t already started” For some reason that comment from a friendly conversation infuriated me, and I keep trying to decide why.

“I wish I could show you a picture of yourself with your potential intact.”
~John Maxwell, Beyond Talent

He and I both have great spouses, awesome kids, interesting lives, important work. Both paths, even if they were truly “set” are good. And for some reason, I have to know there is more. There are still many areas where “great” is an option, and I can’t imagine not opening my heart to new possibilities.

We all know people with incredible talent at all stages of life, who for one reason or another are not maximizing their potential. Many of these folks are in our families, neighborhoods, churches, and workplaces. Sometimes they remain good (rather than great) because they are not investing the time and energy in the arena in which they could become great. There is also the crowd that seem to be in the right field, but for lots of “reasons,” don’t take it to the level they could. The athlete who doesn’t properly train, the musician who doesn’t practice, the leader that does not hone her skills. There are usually lots of “reasons” for the settling, often beginning with the words, “not enough” money, time, energy, network, support.

I worry what they really lack is belief in their ability to pull it off.

In his book, Beyond Talent: Become Someone Who Achieves Extraordinary Results, John Maxwell identifies 13 choices we make that can amplify our talent. A good read, and all focus areas to consider. He begins with a chapter called “Belief Lifts Your Talent.”

“Its one thing to believe that you possess remarkable potential. It’s another thing to have enough faith in yourself that you think you can fulfill it. When it comes to believing in themselves, some people are agnostic.”

Maxwell offers several “Talent and Belief” application exercises, designed to get people thinking about their opportunities for greatness.

As many writers do, he starts with a strength inventory (identifying top skills and talents) and moves on to thinking about what activities arouse your passion. What I like about his approach is that he then asks the reader to consider what opportunities might be presenting themselves, and to create picture to bring it all together.

“Take some time to consider what kind of picture emerges based on these talents, interests and opportunities. How might they come together for someone other than you, someone with fewer obstacles or limitations– someone who is in the right place at the right time? Dream big– no idea is outrageous. Brainstorm what someone in that situation might be able to do, and what he or she could become.”

Ever since that conversation with my friend, I believe I am dreaming a bit bigger, and looking for opportunities in more arenas.

What is your picture of greatness?