How Do I Find a Great Mentor?

I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me to be their mentor, and when I asked what they were looking to accomplish–I was met with a blank stare. I guess they were just looking for me to start espousing wisdom to help get their career to the next level.

But mentoring doesn’t work that way.

To find a great mentor, start by being a rock star mentee.

Four Ways to Be a Better Mentee

Just like everything else in your career, the more you put in, the more you get out. Show up with a plan to launch an enriching relationship.

  1. Know What You’re Looking to Accomplish
    Determine specifically what you’re looking to achieve from your work together. Is there something about your mentor’s background or skill set that you want to learn? Perhaps they’re particularly good at navigating the political landscape, or great during times of stress. Or maybe you’re looking for better insights into how you’re being perceived in the organization or support in expanding your network with a few key introductions. As with all relationships, you’ll be more successful if you both are clear on your expectations for your work together. Have an open conversation about expectations upfront to determine if you’re aligned.
  2. Be Truly Open to Feedback
    If you’re going to ask for feedback and advice, be sure you’re listening. You don’t have to agree or act on it, but be sure to be open and say thank you. Nothing will turn off your new mentor more than a defensive argument about why their perception isn’t accurate.
  3. Offer to Help
    The best mentoring relationships are reciprocal– both human beings grow in the process. Ask what you can do to be helpful to them– even if it’s rolling up your sleeves and pitching in on a project they’re doing.
  4. Bring Conversation Starters
    The first few mentoring sessions can be a bit awkward if you don’t know your mentor very well. It can be good to come with a few “starter” questions.
  • What are you most excited about in terms of the future of our organization? Why? How can I best prepare to add the most value?
  • What are the things that excite and energize you about your work here? What are the things that drain or frustrate you? What have you done to reduce this frustration?
  • What are some of your outside interests? Are you able to leverage any of those skills here?
  • What are the skills and behaviors you think are required to be successful in my role? What advice do you have for accelerating my learning curve on those?
  • What skills and behaviors have helped you be successful here?
  • What do you know now that you wish you learned sooner?

The best mentoring relationships are grounded in deep-trust– and that takes time. Be patient and invest the time it takes to truly get to know and support one another.

See also:

Your Mentor May Not Be Helping Your Career

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Personal Brand

Speed Mentoring: Jump Starting Deeper Conversations

I want to be a mentor

6 Secrets to a Successful Mentoring Program

Mentoring, at it’s best, is a magical elixir which shaves years off your learning curve through mistakes unmade. Thank God, I’ve experienced the transformational spirit of amazing mentors. Please God, let my mentoring have made a difference for others.

Ask anyone who’s ever had an amazing mentor where that experience ranks in their growth as a leader, and I’d bet money they’d put their mentor ahead of any keynote, consulting program, book they’ve read, and potentially their 80K MBA. I say that as a speaker, consultant, author, MBA professor, and someone who’s had the fortunate experience of having a gaggle of amazing mentors over the last two decades.

Great mentorship is unscripted, raw, real, trusting, challenging and kind. Great mentorship is a two-way journey. It’s so human it bleeds into other areas of your life.

I’ve attended a funeral of a great mentor and felt like I’ve lost my right arm. A dozen years later I still wonder what he would say when times are at the most difficult. I wasn’t the only one in the room who felt that way.

Great mentors are rarely monogamous.

Sadly, few folks I know have experienced that mentor-induced pull toward becoming the leader they are meant to become.

When I ask my audiences how many of them have had a truly great mentor, it’s surprisingly sad how few raise their hands. In my MBA courses, the number is even fewer. Sometimes no hand is raised. This is our future.

As a culture, we’re not mentoring well.

I think we know this, which is why I receive so many calls asking for mentoring as a keynote topic. “How do we do this better?”  “Who must we involve?” “Why isn’t this working?” “What about the ‘millennial situation?'”

So, prompted by another such conversation this afternoon, I’m opening this conversation for our LGL Community. Here’s what I think matters. I  hope you’ll chime in.

What Matters Most

  1. Establish Measurable Goals: As Covey would say, begin with the end in mind. How will you know you’re successful? Determine how you will measure success. I promise you, it’s not just
    “that folks feel better.”
  2. Pick the Right People: If you’re going to get into the business of match-making, do it well. Consider the value of Nemesis mentors. What often works best is announcing the program, providing people with scaffolding to make their own matches, and then support.
  3. Get Them Started: Ready, mentor, go! is seldom enough. Even your smartest, most creative types can get a little twitchy when asked to do something outside of their day job. I’ve found a half-day kick off workshop including multiple mentoring relationships can go a long way in launching them toward success.
  4. Establish Parameters: Guidelines are vital. If you’re a mentor, does that mean you’re signing up to be a sponsor? These are key conversations. I’ve mentored a long list of folks I’ve helped to improve, but I wouldn’t put my brand on every one of their careers in support of the next promotion.
  5. Give Them Something To Do: In every mentoring program I’ve developed, I’ve given them easy tools and activities to them started.  Organic is great, and some will throw your guidance away. Awesome. Others will kiss it and make it so.
  6. Consider Alternative Models: I’m a big fan of alternative mentoring models: speed mentoring, mentoring circles, peer mentoring, reverse mentoring. Too much to discuss here. Call me to learn more.

Do you need help getting started? Please call me for a free consultation. 443-750-1249.

The Turnaround Factor: Digging Deeper

One of the most important leadership lessons of my life happened five minutes after I stepped off that stage. I’d been giving out recognition awards on my massive “road trip,” a 27 states in 45 days kind of tour of motivational kick off meetings in Verizon Wireless’ outsourced call centers.

I was the “client”–read that “scary exec”–who was doing everything in my capacity to have my team viewed as developers, not auditors.

As I made my way to the back of the room from the makeshift stage, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find a small, gray-haired women with eyes gleeming with pride. It was Lisa, the service rep who had swept the recognition awards. Lisa was one of the heroines in this call center’s turnaround story, I was delighted to talk to her to understand the secret to her success.

“Lisa, congratulations! You’ve got to tell me, what’s the secret?”

What she said next was so utterly simple and yet totally profound.

“Last year I was almost fired.  My metrics were a disaster.

Everyone kept telling me that I needed to be more confident, to be the expert for our customers. But the problem was I just wasn’t FEELING confident. And I didn’t THINK of myself as an expert.

And then one day, my team leader gave me an opportunity to re-record my opening greeting. I decided this was my big chance to sound absolutely energetic, confident, and convey my expertise. I recorded it again and again until it sounded just right.

And then a miraculous thing happened. The customers heard that greeting. They began to greet me with comments like, “Wow, you sure sound cheerful for so early in the morning.” Or, “I am glad that I got the expert, I should be in good hands.” Well, after that I just had to stay cheerful, and began feeling more confident. And you know what, I had to be an expert. Turns out, I am one.

After thousands of calls, only once have I had a customer respond to this in a negative way. My customers are getting a great experience because I know I can deliver it.

And now, here I am.”

That’s what we SHOULD have been celebrating… her story… that’s what the others needed to hear. Why hadn’t I heard the back story BEFORE I’d taken the stage? Why had I wasted that recognition moment?

I vowed to no longer be the executive hand-shaker without getting the details. (See also:  why your recognition is backfiring).

Full of confident-humility, she was poised to teach me what mattered most.

You Can Too

Even if it seems impossible to go that deep, it’s worth it.

Take time to understand the turnarounds. Hear the whole story. Ensure others know it too. Know matter how many layers fall between, as a leader, it’s always your job to know the good stuff.

I promise. It’s worth it.

Stupid Idea or Seeds of Brilliance?

The young leader came racing in my office, his “great idea” bursting from his heart. He had a plan and was ready to go. I listened to his enthusiastic outburst with mixed emotions. He had energy, passion, and commitment. Good start. But, it was a stupid idea.

My inside voice screamed…

  • No way
  • This idea will never work
  • I’ve seen this movie before (it doesn’t end well)
  • He hasn’t thought this through
  • He’s such a rookie
  • Bless his heart
  • ?

Then two more thoughts.

How do I challenge his thinking while sustaining his passion?

and

What if he’s right?

Stupid Ideas as Sparks

Given the choice of watering down passion, or needing to light a spark, I pick the over-energetic fire every time. Many stupid ideas work. Stupid ideas make people rich. Others don’t.

Leaders…

  • ignite possibility
  • scaffold from experience
  • ask important questions
  • inspire past stupid

Sustain the Passion, Question the Process

9 Steps for Supporting a Stupid Idea

  1. Acknowledge “wow” be impressed by the passion, committment and energy
  2. Listen with an open mind
  3. Ask lots of questions (tone matters here).
    – Why this? (start with genuine curiosity)
    – What’s the bigger issue?
    – Why is this approach best?
    – Who’s involved so far?
    – Who should be?
    – What resources are required?
    – What are the potential side effects?
  4. Be honest in your apprehension.. share your concerns from a loving place
  5. Clarify the vision, and brainstorm additional ways to get there
  6. Listen more
  7. Consider a pilot
  8. Allow time to think
  9. Set up time to meet again

What would you add?

Mentoring Moments: Just in Time Support

Someone asks you to be their mentor. You’re not sure you can commit. It’s a lot of time, and you’re already overloaded. Plus you’ve mentored in several formal mentoring programs and it felt forced and awkward.

Formal programs can stifle a good relationship. Even organic relationships can lose steam with too much structure. Worse, many connections never start for fear of commitment.

Mentoring Moments

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” -Phil Collins

Instead of saying, “yes! I’ll be your mentor,” or “I’m sorry, I can’t at this time,” how about a simple, “I’d be happy to talk with you.” Keep it natural. Find time to connect. Figure out why they thought of you. Help where you can. Connect them to others who can support. If it makes sense to set a follow-up, do that. Don’t get stuck mentoring past helpfulness. Growing leaders can benefit from a series of mentoring moments with a broad spectrum of leaders. You will learn from these moments too.

Tips for a Making Great Mentoring Moments

  • Ask lots of questions
  • Work on a specific skill
  • Pull out the answers
  • Provide information and encouragement
  • Help them ask “why?”
  • Dust them off when they fail
  • Encourage self-reflection
  • Serve as sounding board
  • Remove obstacles
  • Uncover resources
  • Create additional connections

10 Mentoring Moment Sentence Starters

  • Have you thought about.
  • What do you think would happen if.
  • Why do you think that happened?
  • Who should you involve?
  • When is the best time to do this?
  • Why are you pursuing that approach?
  • Which are the most important goals?
  • What will happen next?
  • Why does that make you so angry?
  • Who can help?

Powerful Presentations: Teaching Your Team To Talk Strategy

A “stand and deliver” presentation on your results is always nerve-wracking.But– watching your team do one is down right scary.

Remember when you…

  • couldn’t sleep the night before
  • were so stressed, you missed the main idea
  • failed to anticipate the political dynamics
  • used the wrong words, which took the entire conversation downhill
  • didn’t have supporting documentation
  • couldn’t answer obvious questions
  • left them with the wrong impression?

What didn’t kill you can make them stronger.

This month I am spending time with each of my Director teams conducting “teaching” operations reviews. Modelled after performance meetings all executives at our company do each quarter, we brought the drill-down to the frontline and middle management level. In fact, in the review I just completed, we had 5 levels of leadership in the room, all working together to become better at selling their strategic stories. Leaders teaching other leaders to build powerful presentations. Leaders growing leaders.

The Powerful Presentations Process

We asked each team to develop a formal Powerpoint deck highlighting their results, opportunities and action plans. The teams co-presented strategic stories to a cross-functional panel of leaders. It was an operations review in every sense of the word. They took me deep into their work. I asked provocative questions, with a twist lots of time-outs and immediate feedback and coaching. My Directors asked too, with a different perspective. Slide by slide, we talked about what could make their presentations more powerful.

The Powerful Presentations Ground Rules

  • All feedback is given in the spirit of love and development
  • This is about teaching you to operate at the next level or more. The questions will be tough, and you may get stuck. That’s okay.
  • We are going to interrupt, give feedback, ask questions, dispute statistics, drill down, question slide format, share stories of our mishaps, and raise political dynamics along the way
  • I also promise to share my “inside voice” (this is what I immediately think when you say that or when you show me that slide)

Crafting Powerful Presentations

We encouraged the teams to build their talk track strategically to answer these 3 questions

  • What key message do you want me to remember?
  • What do you need me to do?
  • Why should I believe in you?

What They Learned about Powerful Presentations: (as reported in the debrief)

About Preparation

  • Anticipate the questions based on execs in attendance (i.e. Finance, HR, Field)
  • Understand every number and point on the slides
  • Have back-up data
  • Understand your back-up data (sounds obvious but can be trickier than you think)
  • Ensure your boss is aligned with everything you are going to share (never blind side your boss)

About the Slides

  • Less is more, keep the slides clean and simple
  • Avoid cutesy graphics and distracting movement
  • Include trending
  • Forecast improvement. Based on this plan, I commit to having this metric be at (X) by (Date)

About the Talk Track

  • Begin with a problem statement, then share actions
  • Call out the opportunity first, if something is a problem point it out (before your audience does)
  • Ask for what you need
  • Be brief and be gone (don’t keep asking for more questions, quit while you’re ahead)
  • Acknowledge and thank your peers (in the room and outside of it)
  • Reference previous presentations (“as Jane just share”)
  • If you don’t know an answer. DON’T make one up
  • It’s not about telling me how hard you work

What I Learned

Lots about…

  • my people
  • the real deal
  • what I must do next
  • the team appreciates this kind of development
  • Ideas from other leaders about building powerful presentations

if you are an executive, take the time to teach your team to build powerful presentations. They will be nervous, it will be a stretch, they will work extra hours and leave frustrated and invigorated.

They will thank you.

Your Mentor May Not Be Helping Your Career

Mentors are an essential component of any development strategy. In “Won’t You Be My Mentor,” we discussed how to find a mentor. In “Don’t Get a Mentor,” we explored the importance of developing a cadre of mentors. And, in “Nemesis Mentors, I challenged you to find a mentor who makes you crazy.

Great mentors prepare you for the next level by challenging, teaching, sharing stories, and offering perceptions. However, many people assume that their mentor is also their sponsor. This is not necessarily the case.

Mentors prepare. Sponsors promote.

Your mentor can help prepare you for the next level. Your sponsor puts their name on your career and advocates for you.

A sponsor may…

  • suggest your name for new opportunities
  • defend your decisions
  • speak up the loudest during succession planning discussions
  • invest their own political capital in your success

I first realized the serious two-way responsibility of having a sponsor several years ago. A senior leader was being asked about me as a candidate for a potential job. She called me,

“Here’s the deal. I told them you were a rock star. The thing is you have to nail this job. My name is now on this as much as yours. Don’t screw it up.”

I take my sponsor relationships very seriously, whether I am being sponsored or sponsoring someone else.

Research shared in the HBR article, The Relationship You Need To Get Right, reinforces the importance of handling both sides of a sponsoring relationship with care.

“We conducted three national surveys of nearly 4,000 professionals in large corporations, held focus groups with more than 60 vice presidents and senior vice presidents, and interviewed nearly 20 Fortune 500 executives. The best sponsors, we found, go beyond mentoring. They offer not just guidance but also advocacy, not just vision but also the tactical means of realizing it. They place bets on outstanding junior colleagues and call in favors for them. The most successful protégés, for their part, recognize that sponsorship must be earned with performance and loyalty—not just once but continually.”

Herminia Kirby shares more about the difference in her HBR interview Women are Over Mentored But Under Sponsored.

“When we use the term sponsoring, we focus in on that one specific function of mentoring, which may or may not be a part of a relationship. And sponsoring really is a very targeted thing. It has to do with fighting to get somebody a promotion, mentioning their name in an appointments meeting, and making sure that the person that you’re sponsoring gets the next assignment, and gets visible and developmental assignments.”

How to Find a Sponsor

Having several solid mentoring relationships will help you on your road to finding a sponsor. While mentors at every level of the business are valuable, it helps to have one or two people at a senior level looking out for your best interest. You can help attract sponsors by…

  • Building a strong track-record of results
  • Working to deepen your mentoring relationships based on mutual support
  • Seeking out special assignments and volunteer for more
  • Seeking out opportunities to present at the senior levels
  • Mentoring and sponsoring others
  • Having an updated elevator speech

If you think your mentor may have turned into a sponsor, ask. It’s important to know where you stand. Either way, the feedback will be valuable.

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.
 

The 3 Gifts: Grateful for Growing

They say “feedback is a gift,” but much of the time it does not feel that way.

So, what was different this time?

It was a cool, crisp night. The warmth of the make-shift spotlight was both frightening and friendly as I stood ready to give my final speech at the SCORRE conference. Frightening because my own expectations were high, and I knew the feedback would be deep, direct, and dead on. Friendly, because any feedback would be delivered with generosity and compassion.

I had come to this conference to hone my speaking. What I had not anticipated was how much I would learn from experiencing and watching the coaches coach. By the third day, I began taking as many notes on  how the coaches were giving feedback as to what they were saying.

What was it about their approach that made it both compelling and easy to hear?

Why was I so thirsty for more?

How was it that my group full of experienced speakers were transforming into magnificent motivators before my eyes?

and mostly…

What could these coaches teach me about giving better feedback?

Tonight I write to you not from the perspective of a leader growing leaders, but of a leader being grown. And so I re-gift the wisdom I gained from experiencing great feedback, and watching others do the same.

The Gift of Discovery

Focus on the behaviors to get to root cause.

Why did her eyes keep looking above the audience, what was she afraid of?

Why did he keep stumbling on the same words, perhaps he didn’t believe them?

What is the real message? What story lies underneath? How can THAT message be shared?

The Gift of Becoming

Focus on hidden strengths

What is her real passion and how do we draw it out?

What are the deeper gifts lying dormant? How can we get them on stage?

When is he brave? How can we translate that to this context?

The Gift of Letting Go

Give permission to discard

Who told him he wasn’t good at _____? Why does he still believe them?

What image is she trying to uphold? Why does she need it?

What old patterns keep joining her on stage? What can we put in their place?

Time To Re-Gift

When feedback is truly a gift, it feels like one not. Because it is sandwiched between snuggly fluff, but because it gets us further along our journey to what we are becoming.

Snap, Crackle, STOP– What’s Your Brand?

Have you ever thought of yourself as a brand?

Most people associate brands with companies, services or products– but don’t always stop to think about their personal brand let alone how to build it.

This is a guest post from Jonathan Green.

“Jonathan is a culture evangelist who focuses on leadership development behaviors and communications strategies. His expertise is service models that provide world-class experience. He has worked in a variety of verticals including Finance, Utilities, Tech, and Telecom. Green has spent the last seven years working for a large Telecom provider and thoroughly enjoys the fast paced and ever-changing environment. Check out his blog at monsterleaders.com

As individuals, we actually have much more at stake as our brand is being observed, assessed and judged on a regular basis. In my work with young leaders, I carve out time out to help them consider their brand and to be deliberate about enhancing promoting it. The key is simplicity. Break it down into manageable parts.

1 – Image

2 – Behaviors

3 – Attitude

I usually start by relating the personal branding process to one of two topics that most of us have dealt with at one time or another: dating and cereal.

Dating

Consider the following:

When you go on a first date, what are you looking to teach your date about you?

… that your baggage is not as severe as that of her last boyfriend/girlfriend?

… that your brain functions at a normal capacity?

… that your hygiene practices are in line with conventional societal norms?

… that you are the kind of person they would want to live with until the end of time?

Your BRAND is on the line, and you are selling it. Your image is a mix of who you actually are and who you want the other person to believe you are. You don’t start a conversation with the worst decisions you have made in your life as you do not want to be defined by those. However, those are part of who you are, they are the scars and stripes that you carry with you all the time. So is your image true to yourself? Do your behaviors match your desired outcome? And most important, you have a choice in what attitudes you bring to the table is your attitude one that others want to subject themselves to?

Now, Mix in Cereal

Another way to look at it is to think of yourself as a brand of cereal.

Is it good for you? (do others want to be around you?)

Do you like the taste (do others enjoy talking to you, learning from you, sharing experiences with you?)

Is it made by a company that is safe and reputable (can you be trusted, do your behaviors build relationships?)

Some Easy Steps to get started

1. Ask yourself some questions
– How do I want to be viewed?
– What words do I want others to use to describe me?
– What words best describe the ideal me: reliable? intelligent? upbeat?…?

2. Reverse engineer your brand
– what behaviors must I exhibit to be viewed in this way?
– with whom should I be involved?
– where should I hang out?

3. Check it
– Do my behaviors reinforce my desired brand?
– What words are being used to describe me?

4. Who is promoting your brand?
– who is selling your brand, to whom and where?
– recruit some “sales people”

Encouraging young leaders to consider these questions can help set the stage for important inner dialogue and external changes. I have found that this work leads to amazing development, growth and a future driven by behaviors that matter.

Snap, Crackle, STOP– What's Your Brand?

Have you ever thought of yourself as a brand?

Most people associate brands with companies, services or products– but don’t always stop to think about their personal brand let alone how to build it.

This is a guest post from Jonathan Green.

“Jonathan is a culture evangelist who focuses on leadership development behaviors and communications strategies. His expertise is service models that provide world-class experience. He has worked in a variety of verticals including Finance, Utilities, Tech, and Telecom. Green has spent the last seven years working for a large Telecom provider and thoroughly enjoys the fast paced and ever-changing environment. Check out his blog at monsterleaders.com

As individuals, we actually have much more at stake as our brand is being observed, assessed and judged on a regular basis. In my work with young leaders, I carve out time out to help them consider their brand and to be deliberate about enhancing promoting it. The key is simplicity. Break it down into manageable parts.

1 – Image

2 – Behaviors

3 – Attitude

I usually start by relating the personal branding process to one of two topics that most of us have dealt with at one time or another: dating and cereal.

Dating

Consider the following:

When you go on a first date, what are you looking to teach your date about you?

… that your baggage is not as severe as that of her last boyfriend/girlfriend?

… that your brain functions at a normal capacity?

… that your hygiene practices are in line with conventional societal norms?

… that you are the kind of person they would want to live with until the end of time?

Your BRAND is on the line, and you are selling it. Your image is a mix of who you actually are and who you want the other person to believe you are. You don’t start a conversation with the worst decisions you have made in your life as you do not want to be defined by those. However, those are part of who you are, they are the scars and stripes that you carry with you all the time. So is your image true to yourself? Do your behaviors match your desired outcome? And most important, you have a choice in what attitudes you bring to the table is your attitude one that others want to subject themselves to?

Now, Mix in Cereal

Another way to look at it is to think of yourself as a brand of cereal.

Is it good for you? (do others want to be around you?)

Do you like the taste (do others enjoy talking to you, learning from you, sharing experiences with you?)

Is it made by a company that is safe and reputable (can you be trusted, do your behaviors build relationships?)

Some Easy Steps to get started

1. Ask yourself some questions
– How do I want to be viewed?
– What words do I want others to use to describe me?
– What words best describe the ideal me: reliable? intelligent? upbeat?…?

2. Reverse engineer your brand
– what behaviors must I exhibit to be viewed in this way?
– with whom should I be involved?
– where should I hang out?

3. Check it
– Do my behaviors reinforce my desired brand?
– What words are being used to describe me?

4. Who is promoting your brand?
– who is selling your brand, to whom and where?
– recruit some “sales people”

Encouraging young leaders to consider these questions can help set the stage for important inner dialogue and external changes. I have found that this work leads to amazing development, growth and a future driven by behaviors that matter.

Stupid Feedback: When Stupid Smarts and What to Do About It

We’ve all been on the receiving end of stupid feedback from time to time. It’s mean. It hurts. And it isn’t useful or is it?

Feedback is stupid when it’s alarming but not specific when we leave the conversation not understanding what to learn, or have any inkling about what to change. It’s easy to become frustrated and defensive.

A stupid example

I just spoke with an old friend. He was visibly distraught, “I was just told I am not a good leader,”

“Oh, why?”

No tangible examples

“What? That’s stupid feedback,” I replied.

And then, my brain went into one of those spins where I tried to concurrently entertain two competing thoughts leaving me with this divergent response:

1. “You can’t take that seriously”

2. “You must take that seriously”

What’s stupid

I have seen this guy lead up close. He’s got a lot of good going on. This kind of feedback destroys confidence. Even if there are issues, broad statements like this from someone in a position of power are not productive.

I then asked him to tell me why he knows he is a good leader he had a nice list.

Why it’s still serious

And then the tougher conversation.

What was driving this impression and subsequent feedback?

Who else was hearing this view?

Is there real feedback here to be understood and acted upon?

Looking beyond stupid

I began to think of some of the really vague and frustrating feedback I’ve received over the years. Usually, once I got past the emotional reaction, there was some nugget worth learning.

The lesson was not always obvious, but there was value in the digging.

Some approaches that can help

  • Examine the bigger context as objectively as possible
  • Calm down, and then go back and ask for clarification, examples, and help
  • Seek feedback from others, are there patterns to be understood?
  • Consider a 360 Feedback assessment
  • Look for a coach or mentor to support
  • And then again, after open-minded consideration, it’s possible that the feedback is not being given from a helpful place. That’s a discovery too

Even when delivered clumsily or from a biased viewpoint, feedback may offer some value. If we can look beyond the delivery, we may be surprised by what we can learn.