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!

Bridging Differences Better Mentoring Lisa Fain Interview

Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring – Interview with Lisa Fain


Be ready to take notes as you listen to this powerful interview with Lisa Fain, co-author of Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring. You’ll get practical ways to be a fantastic mentor, a great mentee, and more inclusive leader including:

  • The three whys leaders need to know and communicate.
  • How leaders create more inclusive teams.
  • Why being a mentor will make you a better leader.
  • How to be an awesome mentor.
  • Why noticing differences is a vital leadership skill.
  • The biggest predictor of a mentee’s success.
  • The difference between mentoring and coaching.
  • How to find the right mentor for you.
  • How to be an excellent mentee.
  • Pro tips to end a mentoring relationship gracefully.

Learn more about Lisa and her work at CenterforMentoring.com

Get Lisa’s book:

bridging differences for better mentoring



How to Be a Better Mentee

How to Be A Better Mentee

Do you know what’s the best way to ensure you have a meaningful mentoring relationship? Sure it helps to have a great mentor. But you know what’s equally important? Showing up as a great mentee.

Over the years, we’ve both had times where we’ve had employees ask us to be their mentor, and then we ask them what they’re looking to accomplish in the first session, they just looked at us with a blank stare. It’s as if they were just waiting for us to start espousing sage wisdom.

Mentoring doesn’t work that way. To find a great mentor, start by showing up as a rock star mentee.

Five Ways to Show Up as 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. Maybe it’s rolling up your sleeves and pitching in on a project they’re doing, teaching them a skill they don’t know, or making an introduction.

4. Bring Conversation Starters

The first few mentoring sessions can be a bit awkward. Don’t leave it to chance. Why not 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?
  • I’m curious. What excites and energizes you about your work here? And, what drains or frustrates you? How do you manage this frustration?
  • When you’re not at work, what are some of your favorite things to do? Are you able to leverage any of those skills here?
  • What skills and behaviors you think are most important for success in my role? Do you have any advice for shortening the learning curve in that arena?
  • Which skills and behaviors have helped you be successful here?
  • Looking back over your career, what lessons do 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.

5. Follow-Through

The other day, Karin met with a millennial she’s been mentoring for some time. They met for lunch and before they’d even opened their menus he said, “I know what you’re going to ask. And no I haven’t done that yet.”

As a matter of fact, it was going to be the first question she asked because he’d committed to the same action in the last three sessions. As a mentee, if you want results, you’ve got to do the work, otherwise, you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

Prefer Video? How to Be a Better Mentee– Asking for a Friend

If you like the idea of quick tip videos. Join me every Wednesday on my Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn.

Your turn

What would you add? What advice do you have for helping an employee make the most of a mentoring relationship by being a better mentee?

See Also: Is your Mentor Actually Hurting Your Career: How to Fire a Bad Mentor (FAST COMPANY)

6 Secrets to an Effective Mentoring Program

6 Secrets to a Successful Mentoring Program

If you’re looking to start a successful mentoring program consider these six key components. Think past process and criteria to truly consider the human dynamics at play.

Start With Considering Your Amazing Mentor

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, former 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?'”

What Matters Most When Building a Successful Mentoring Program

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.

  1. Establish Measurable Goals: 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.

Peer's Team is Struggling

How Do I Help When My Peer’s Team is Struggling?

Resist the Urge to Intervene When  a Peer’s Team is Struggling

Have you ever watched another team struggle? It’s a challenge most leaders face at some point in their career. You’re not perfect, but you lead well and people come together to produce great results. But then you look over and see that your peer’s team is struggling.

Maybe they’ve been talking to your team and your people tell you about the problems. Or the other team members tell you how they’d love a chance to work with you. Perhaps you rely on them for your team’s work, but their performance is subpar. Maybe you witnessed their dysfunction firsthand. Or someone on another team asks you for advice on how to deal with a difficult situation.

No matter how you became aware that your peer’s team is struggling, you might be tempted to rush in and intervene.

Be careful.

Don’t Make It Worse

This is one of those times where your good intentions can cause big problems.

Let’s start with common mistakes you want to avoid. Don’t:

  • Rush in and tell the other team what they need to do.
  • Tell the other team members that their leader is wrong or leading poorly.
  • Offer the other leader a bunch of solutions to all the problems you’ve identified.

I’ve seen leaders commit these mistakes (and did some myself early in my career). Each of these behaviors will make the situation worse.

Imagine another leader telling your team how you’re leading poorly or telling you everything you’re doing wrong and how to fix it. Bad idea, right?

How to Help When Your Peer’s Team is Struggling

The first step in trying to help a peer leader who might be struggling is to recognize your limitations. You have two important limits in this situation. You don’t have all the information and they may not want your help.

This is a time for confidence and humility. Match your confident desire to help with the humility that you don’t know everything that’s happening in the other team.

Let’s look at how to do this in the two most common scenarios where your peer’s team is struggling.

Scenario #1: You’ve Seen the Problem Yourself

If you’ve observed the problems and you’re talking with the team’s leader, use the first steps of the INSPIRE conversation to alert them to the situation. When you reach the “Probe” stage of the conversation, ask if they want your help.

I – Initiate:  Hey, do you have a minute? I was working with your team the other day and observed something I thought you’d want to know.

N – Notice: I noticed that they were [describe the concerning behavior]. Eg: “I noticed they were using the old process to…” Or “I noticed that they were arguing about the right way to…”

S – Support: Share your specific examples. Eg: “Joe and Sheila said they didn’t know there was a new process.” Or “Liz and Charles were telling Estaban and Bryan that they should use the…and they didn’t seem to be on the same page.”

P – Probe: “I figured you’d want to know. How can I help?”

If you have a good relationship and your colleague trusts you, they may divulge their struggle. They might say something like “This is so frustrating. I’ve told everyone about the new process three times.”

I – Invite: It is important in this moment to get their permission – their invitation, to share ideas. Resist the urge to rush in with all your solutions. You might say something like: “I’ve been there. That same problem used to frustrate me. I’ve got a couple ideas that have worked pretty well. Would that be helpful?”

If they say “yes,” go ahead and share your thoughts. Remember to share them as possible solutions. They may or may not work, depending on your peer’s specific situation.

If they say “no,” this is a critical moment for your relationship. When they say “no,” respect their no.

People say no for many reasons. They’re not ready. He may feel overwhelmed. She might not trust your motives. They may not want to do the work.

Regardless of the reason why, when someone says they don’t want to hear your solutions, respect their desire. It builds trust. You might say something like, “Okay. If I can be helpful, just let me know.”

R – Review: As the conversation concludes, do a quick check for understanding. Eg: “So you’re going to try that 5×5 communication technique and I’ll send you the templates I developed by the end of the day. Does that work for you?”

If they turned down your offer to help, your check for understanding might look like this: “I want to make sure we’re on the same page. My understanding is that our teams are supposed to do the new process this way. Is that how you understand it?”

E – Enforce: In performance management conversations, this is where you would schedule a follow-up meeting to check on the new behavior. In a conversation with a colleague, however, you might use it as a way to support them. “If you’d like, I’d be happy to hear a test-run of your presentation or take a look at that 5×5 when you’ve put it together.”

If your colleague turned down your offer to help and there is disagreement about the expectations, you can use this step to schedule a follow-up discussion. “It sounds like we’ve got our teams working toward different goals (or using different processes). My understanding was that we’re all using the process. Let’s talk with the leadership team (or our supervisor) on Friday and clarify what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Scenario #2: Their Team Member Tells You It’s Bad

When another team member tells you that their team is struggling, resist the urge to intervene.

Once again, you don’t know all the facts. Also, when you get involved, you prevent the employee from learning how to solve their own problem and you’re wasting your productive time in someone else’s drama.

(The exception is when there’s a potential ethical violation, a clear breach of fundamental policy, sexual harassment, danger to employees or the company – in these situations you would report the conversation to the right person.)

Usually, the most productive conversation you can have is to listen with empathy and, if the team member wants help, to coach them on how to address the situation.

Start with reflective empathy. For example: “It sounds like that’s really frustrating.”

Next, you might use the 9 What’s coaching model to help them think through a productive response to the situation. If they don’t know how to talk with their leader about an issue and they are open to help, you could teach them how to share INSPIRE-style feedback with their supervisor.

For example, when they talk to their supervisor, they might say, “I noticed that we’re not using the new procedure we discussed at the town hall and I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing. Can you help me clarify what success looks like here?”

When you help the employee develop the skills to address the situation directly, they will grow and it also gives the team leader a chance to improve.

Your Turn

When your peer’s team is struggling, you may be tempted to intervene, but that is usually not a productive choice. Instead, ask your colleague for permission to help, respect their answer, and mentor receptive team members on how to advocate for themselves.

Leave us a comment and share your best recommendation or experience when you see that a peer’s team is struggling.

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

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?


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.


  • 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.

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.

leadership retreat idea: speed mentoring

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.