July Frontline Festival

Leaders Share about Mentoring: A Frontline Festival

Are you looking to be a better mentor? Or, perhaps you’re looking for a mentor. In this month’s Frontline Festival, top leadership experts share their perspectives and insights on mentoring.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors.

We are happy to feature Lisa Fain, author of  Bridging the Differences for Better Mentoring, with links to interviews with her both on David’s Leadership without Losing Your Soul podcast and Karin’s Asking for a Friend vlog.

Click for episode.


Lisa FainLisa Fain of Center for Mentoring Excellence shares this perspective: “So many organizations right now are worried about how they sustain their culture in a virtual world. While it is true that we won’t be able to convene in-person employee engagement events for some time, this does not mean that organizations should let up on their engagement efforts. In fact, more than ever employees are looking for assurances that their organizations are invested in them and their development. Virtual mentoring programs (1-on-1 or group) can be a great tool to accomplish this — just make sure your mentors are equipped with the skills they need to make it successful!” Follow Lisa.


Qualities of Great Mentors

 Dr. Artika Tyner of Planting People Growing Justice Leadership shares Paul Robeson: A Guide for Discovering the Leader Within. Leaders empower others to lead. They see potential in others and seek to unveil their greatness. Follow Artika.


Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership shares Fox Conner: Master Mentor. What set Conner apart was that his example of practical learning, rigorous professional standards, and gentlemanly conduct affected the lives and careers of some of World War II’s top commanders. One of them in particular was Dwight Eisenhower. Follow Wally.

Laura Schroeder of Working Girl shares Leadership: The Art of Honesty and Affirmation. Sometimes, the leadership and company culture is a form of positive mentorship simply by how it operates. Laura shares about a company she worked with that mentored by example in how they conducted business and treated their team members. Follow Laura.

David GrossmanDavid Grossman of The Grossman Group gives us 6 Steps to Be More Empathetic. In today’s world, we’re faced with a number of new challenges both in the workplace and at home – whether it’s our new working arrangements, impacts from COVID-19, looking inward as we shine a spotlight on societal issues, or something else – and our people need empathy. Here are 6 critical steps to demonstrate empathy in the workplace and better connect with your employees. Follow David.

Chip BellChip Bell of the Chip Bell Group shares, Are You a Disruptive Mentor? and If You Aren’t Mentoring, You Aren’t Leading. We live in a brain-based economy where smart trumps every competitive feature. Learning organizations are the winners. It means all leaders must be effective mentors. Learning is by definition engaging in risk-taking behavior to abandon the old and embrace the new. It is aided by a mentor willing to push proteges outside their comfort zones. We live in a brain-based economy where smart trumps every competitive feature. Learning organizations are the winners. It means all leaders must be effective mentors. Follow Chip.

Jon Verbeck of Verbeck Associates shares Halftime Report: The Value of Mentoring. You can’t just immediately jump into a mentor/mentee relationship without developing trust. It’s a process that goes both directions – me with them, them with me. Follow Jon.


S. Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture shares positive qualities of GREAT bosses, which also apply well to being a great mentor Follow Chris.



More on Mentoring: Finding or Being a Great Mentor

Susan Mazza of Random Acts of Leadership shares How to Find a Mentor. Consider that a mentor is simply someone who chooses to invest in your future. Mentors can come into your life naturally, but if you wish to actively seek a mentor here are some ideas on where to look and how to find a mentor who can support you in realizing your aspirations. Follow Susan.

Maria Tanski-Phillips of Patriot Software gives us Mentoring Employees 101: Tips to Get Your Top Talent on the Right Track. If you want to build your employees into the future leaders of your company, you need to learn how to become a top-notch mentor. Check out six tips for mentoring employees to keep top talent around for the long-run. Follow Maria.

Nate Regier of Next Element Consulting gives us Anyone Can Coach with this Simple Formula. Mentoring can sometimes be in the form of coaching. Great coaches help inspire us to strive for our best, feel proud of the goals we’ve accomplished, and work together as a team. Here’s a simple formula to help you be a great coach (or mentor!)  Follow Nate.

 David Moser of Decisive Blog shares How to Double the  Breakthrough Moments with Your Team.  Mentors only get a few big moments when things “click” with their teams. Thoughtful follow-up is the best way to multiply the impact of those moments. And it’s really simple! Follow David.

Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership shares The Leader Apprentice: 5 Ways to Master the Learning Mindset. To improve as leaders we must always be learning. Adopting a Leader Apprentice mindset is one way to help us continually do that. This fun short story and five strategies will help you get started. Follow Ken.


Eileen McDargh of The Resiliency Group offers How to Craft a Key Retention Strategy: Mentoring. In the article, she interviews Dee Elliott about the importance of a mentoring program at work that is effective and successful. Follow Eileen.



Beth BeutlerBeth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited shares this perspective: “According to the dictionary, a mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor.  While many mentor relationships are personal and structured, you can also benefit from ‘indirect mentorship’ by less formal means such as following the writings/content of thought leaders (like the ones that contribute to this Festival!)” Follow Beth.

Shelley RowShelley Row of Shelley Row Associates shares Scaling Difficult Tasks: Leverage Your Resources. Based on an experience hiking at the Isle of Skye in Scotland, Shelley shares that when taking on a potentially difficult task, it can be wise to look for others with experience as potential guides. Follow Shelley


Are you a leadership writer? We’d love to have you join us with your articles, videos, podcast episodes, or simply your best thinking on the topic (even if you don’t have additional content to link.) Our topic for August is communication. Click here to submit your thoughts and content!

Three Connections That Energize Every Great Leader

Three Connections That Energize Every Great Leader

Let’s face it, leadership is hard. Every great leader faces this reality.

You give it everything you have, but sometimes, it feels like it’s just not enough. When that happens though, here’s what you have to tell yourself…

You’re not alone.

Or, I should say…you don’t have to be.

When I was in San Francisco to deliver a keynote, I visited the famous California Redwoods. Standing beside the tallest living things on the planet was astounding.

Some them are thousands of years old. I saw the tallest tree–tall as a 36 story building with a trunk that would take ten or twelve people to encircle. Wow!

When I returned to my hotel that night, I went online to learn more about these trees. Specifically, I wanted to know about their roots. The roots I had seen were shallow and short.

What I found surprised me.

I expected the redwoods to have deep root systems, but they don’t. Their roots only go down five or six feet…but they extend outward 100 feet. In fact, the roots of nearby trees entangle, connect, and even fuse with one another. Together, the trees anchor one another through thousands of years of storms, wind, and floods.

Think about that for a moment–the tallest living things on earth don’t get tall by themselves.

They do it together.

As a leader, your trajectory and success – especially when things get tough – depend on your connections. There are three connections I’ve found that energize every great leader.

Connection #1: Your Team

Of course, you are there to serve your team.

But a funny thing happens when you do this. You will find your team also serves you. You don’t have to problem-solve on your own. You can rely on them.

Where you need to grow, they’ll challenge you. When your team trusts you, they’ll do amazing work with you. When you lead well, your team makes you stronger.

You can bring the tough questions to them and they’ll problem solve with you. They’ll hold you accountable. Karin and I have both had team members confront us when we weren’t leading up to our own standards.

Connection #2: A Community of Peers

Leadership is challenging work. It’s not easy and it doesn’t always feel good. It can be difficult, but extremely rewarding to find a good group of colleagues who will encourage you and help you problem-solve. If you’re looking for this kind of leadership community, consider our International Leadership Cohort of people just like you who are committed achieving breakthrough results – without losing their soul.

In addition to mutual encouragement and problem-solving, you also benefit from time spent with people outside the “bubble” of your organization. You’ll see your own situations with fresh eyes and better perspective.

Connection #3: A Mentor or Coach

Who is helping you get better?
Many leaders have a series of mentors and coaches over their lifetime…but it’s your responsibility to find them.

Recently, I saw an aspiring great leader sit back on a social media forum and post something like, “Hey, I really wish you’d mentor me!” It was a generic comment that felt needy and as if he were a victim, powerless to help himself.

Most mentors won’t respond to that sort of energy. You want to find people who are farther down the road, who are doing what you want to do or have the kind of influence you want to have, and then approach them with a specific and actionable request.

You might say, “I’ve noticed you are very effective at cross-departmental relationships and problem-solving. I’ve been challenged in this area and have some specific questions I think you could help with. Would you be willing to mentor me in this? You’ll find that I take your suggestions seriously and put them into practice as soon as possible.”

Accept their answer. If they say yes and have a particular way they want to work, go with it, and follow through. If they say no, honor that too. The chemistry must be there for mentoring relationships to work.

There are also times you’ll want to rely on a coach. Coaches can provide targeted, objective feedback and skill-training to shorten your learning curve and help you make rapid progress with your leadership challenges.

Your Turn

Remember, just like redwoods, a great leader gets to be great based on the strength of their connections to their team, to a community of colleagues, and with mentors and coaches.

Where do you need to connect?

Leave us a comment and share how you stay connected to your team, a community of leaders, and mentors & coaches who help you grow.

Sponsor or Mentor: Why You Need Both

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.

Post-Mortem of Success: Questions that Drive Sustained Results

Most great project managers know that it’s important to do a post-mortem after any major undertaking. In my experience, a post-mortem is much more likely to occur when something went terribly wrong. I have heard (and said) in the heat of frustration, “we just need to get through this now, but afterwards we need a very careful post-mortem.”

In this funny and insightful post, Lee Cash, shares the challenges with a traditional post-mortem and how to overcome some of them, The postmortem: what it is and how to survive one.

Postmortem: noun:

  1. An examination and dissection of a dead body to determine cause of death or the changes produced by disease
  2. Discussion of an event after it has occurred
  3. A blame fest where, if you’re not careful, you get attributed with everything that’s wrong in the world

In essence, post-mortems are an attempt to review a recent calamity that has befallen the business with the noble intention of isolating the offending causes and making sure they never happen again. The practice nearly always takes the format of a face-to-face meeting (if possible) and involves all of the key players who had a role in the “hiccup”, and hence why you’re all now sitting in a room waiting for the fireworks to happen.

The post-mortem seems less urgent after an over-whelming success. Most of us just celebrate, and then merrily race off to fight our next crises, or build our next remedial action plan.

Why Do a Post-Mortem of Success?

I recently had a celebratory conversation with a leader who was experiencing some fantastic results after months of challenges and struggling metrics. This was turnaround at it’s finest. I was delighted with the progress and wanted to recognize him. We did all that and then, I asked, “what is working and why?”
That’s where we got stumped.
He had theories, I had theories the truth is, so many action plans and efforts had been applied to the problem, we were unsure of which were contributing to the solution.
A bit scary was it the entire cocktail?
How do we isolate the variables?
How would we sustain the progress if we didn’t understand what had worked?
How could the lessons be applied to other areas of the business if we didn’t understand them?

How to Approach a Success Post-Mortem

We decided a deliberate approach was in order. Yup, I ended that celebratory meeting by giving the guy more work. Why, because I believe in the long-run it will save everyone time.

He’s spending time…

  • considering and discussing. what were the expected outcomes of the various interventions?
  • observing: what behaviors have actually changed?
  • measuring: doing deeper dives into the analytics to look for patterns of improvement
  • listening: to folks about what feels better now and why?

Taking the time to understand what is working may be even more vital than learning from our failures.