Why Mentor Others?

Mentoring-wht1Recently, my wife and I drove through various Southeastern states to visit family and friends. While driving, I often had many moments to reflect upon what I do, why I do it, and what brought me to make and stick to that decision all these years. Throughout the drive, I always circled back to three things. First off, I’ve come across many people that have positively influenced my life. Secondly, I’ve always had a passion for helping others, and Third, I love to coach and teach. So, why do I choose to mentor others?

In my business, I often come across people from different generations, in various stages of their lives, or are in some form of transition. They all face changes, challenges, and decision points in their lives that affect their jobs, careers, and businesses. Whether these changes, challenges, or decisions are planned or not, the crossroads they face can be quite daunting. Often times, they seem stuck, have little or no direction, and they need help. Having been there many times myself in my life and career, I try to share my knowledge and experience with them, so that they can make the right decisions for themselves.

WebThree key points that I always try to stress in my mentoring sessions with them are: have a vision, think strategically, and continue to learn.

Early in my career, one of my mentors always tried to stress these three key points with me. He emphasized to know where you want to go, think out of the box, and continue to learn.

“Education is a foundation, not an end point. Never be afraid to diversify, grow, and explore different things.”

casentric-mentoring-quote2.ashxGreat advice and it works; however, it’s a two way street! Let me share a success story with you. Quite a few years ago, I mentored a young supervisor just starting out in her career. After a few sessions, what we discussed clicked, she got it, and ran with it. Over the years throughout her career, she has held various supervisory and managerial roles in a Fortune 500 company, where she had (as she puts it) the privilege of coaching, mentoring and developing many young professionals herself. Oftentimes, she reflected on the mentoring sessions we had and encouraged others to try new things, diversify, and explore other areas of business and interests. As she continued to grow in her career, she coached, taught and mentored students in a business partnership program affiliated with her local school district, and encouraged others to mentor others as well.

So, that’s why I do what I do. Just as my mentors taught and encouraged me, I continue to enjoy my passion to mentor others. Don’t be afraid to try new things, diversify and share your talents, and explore new areas of interest. What’s on your development plan for this year?

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The Times Are A Changing

Change is constant. We hear, read about, and experience it everyday in our jobs, businesses, career, and personal lives and relationships. Constant changes in business drivers, technology, the economy, health care, social programs, and security (just to name a few, whew!) can make our heads spin! Its rapid pace can be overwhelming, confusing, and downright intimidating. But, the change train won’t be making a complete stop at the station to board us as passengers. Whether we are ready or not, we need to make a leap from the platform to board it. For us baby boomers, remember the 1963 Bob Dylan song, “The Times Are A Changing?” If not, or if you are part of the later or more recent generations, I encourage all of you to read the lyrics…listen to the song as well if you wish :). The rapid pace of change started well over 50 years ago. Bob Dylan saw it and tried to educate us through the pop culture we knew back then… and it hasn’t stopped since. Change affects us all. How we handle it determines whether we survive and be successful.

Often times, when faced with change, we look back to the past. It’s human nature. At times, it’s difficult and complicated. Quite frankly, we struggle, especially if many changes are all occurring at once. We don’t like being taken out of our comfort zone.

When dealing with change, most of us go through a process called the “change curve” before we board the train. The “change curve” has four stages: Information, Support, Direction, and Encouragement.

Looking To The Past…

During the early stages, we are “looking to the past.” As we hear about the upcoming change, we may be in denial. We want to know what’s changing and why, and how will it affect us. So, we start gathering information.

As we learn and the information starts settling in, we may not want to believe in the change, let alone accept it. We grieve and anger may start to set in. So, we start looking for support. <Stage Two>

Looking To The Future…

At some point, we reach a crossroad. Either we don’t accept the change and accept the consequences and move on or we start seeking direction and start “looking to the future.” We start exploring options on how to adapt to the change. So, we start looking for direction. <Stage Three>
Finally, we accept the change and want to learn how to prosper and benefit from it. So, we seek encouragement. <Stage Four>

My Suggestions Beyond The Curve…

So, if you start peeling back the onion, when you, your friends, or colleagues have difficulty dealing with change, try to follow these nine simple points:

– Seek information and learn
– Seek to understand
– Be empathetic
– Seek and provide support and guidance
– Keep an open mind
– Consider all the options and consequences
– Make an informed choice
– Grasp the change
– Prosper and grow

In closing, change is all around us. Sure, it takes us out of our comfort zone some times. The choices we make have impacts on our jobs, businesses, careers, and personal lives and relationships. We may not agree with the changes, but we can choose to stagnate or grow. They are your personal choices and moments of truth. Whether we like it or not, “The Times Are A Changing.”

The Leader In Me

At one time or another, I’m sure that everyone of us can step back and think about someone we met for the first time, a play, show, or production we attended, a book we read, or a talk or speech we heard, that made a lasting impact or impression on us. It could have been a story line or theme, a specific line or quote, or a profound message that hit home with us. Recently, I had such an experience that I would like to share with you.

Periodically, I offer my services as a part – time substitute paraprofessional teacher in a local school district for elementary and middle school children. Just last week, I was supporting a third grade class where the teacher was reviewing basic math skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) with his students to increase their proficiency. What was intriguing was not only how he did it but what he was trying to instill in the class at the same time. Let me explain what I think I saw and understood…

What Was The Teacher’s Primary Objective?: Teach and increase proficiency in basic math skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division).

What Was The Teacher’s Bonus Objective?: Introduce the students to the concepts of fair and respectful team play and the importance of integrated team leadership.

What Was The Teacher’s Approach?: The teacher instructed the boys to lineup and sit on one side of the room and the girls to lineup and sit on the other side. Taking turns, the teacher had one boy and one girl approach the front of the room and stand in front of him. The teacher then quickly flashed a math card with a question (e.g. 7 x 2 = ?) to the two students. Whichever student answered the question correctly would earn one point for their team. That student could then earn bonus points by shooting and scoring a Nerf basketball into a basket on the opposite end of the room. Depending upon where the student chose to stand, they could earn two or three additional bonus points if they made the basket just like in a basketball game. Whichever team provided the most correct answers and accumulated the most points within two 15 minute “halves” won the game.

What Was The Teacher’s Expectation?: While the game was in progress, he expected the students to “stay on course.” In addition, the rest of the class understood that they were to remain quiet, and not cheer for either team, until a correct answer and any bonus baskets were attempted (whether made or not). Regardless of which team answered correctly, and whether bonus baskets were made or not, they were expected to encourage and cheer for both participants. If any behavior was displayed that did not meet these expectations, that team’s point total was docked two points. In a nutshell, he expected them to stay focused, participate and do the work, support both teams, and have fun.

What Was The Result?: From what I witnessed, the primary and bonus objectives and the teacher’s expectations were communicated, understood, and met successfully.

I have to tell you! My jaw dropped! How in the world did he get these third grade 9 year olds to understand and buy – in to the these objectives and expectations and actually get them to have fun and perform proficiently at the same time? Here’s what I found out that day…

At the beginning of the year, the teacher introduced a learning theme for the class named: “The Leader In Me.” Wherever he could, he integrated this learning theme into all his subject lesson plans. Just like he used a game for the math proficiency review, he tried to use “fun things” to get the students interested and engaged to help their learning and proficiency in those subjects as well. Slowly, he focused on seven “habits” to help the students understand the theme and to drive proficiency and individual and team leadership in the classroom.

Habit #1 – Be Proactive – “You are in control and choose your actions”

Habit #2 – Begin With The End In Mind – “Have a goal, work hard, and have a plan”

Habit #3 – Put First Things First – “Have a plan and do important things before unimportant things”

Habit #4 – Think Win Win – ” Everyone can win and learn, support others, and be confident in yourself and your fellow classmates”

Habit #5 – Seek First To Understand Then Be Understood – “Listen closely to see what others think since it is good to be different and everyone has something to contribute”

Habit #6 – Synergize – “Work together to listen and create new ideas”

Habit #7 – Sharpen The Saw – “Recharge, relax, and have fun”

When traveling home after class that day, I reflected on what I had just experienced. What did I learn? First, with the right teaching, coaching, and mentoring, leadership traits can be developed and groomed even at the simplest grass roots level.

Past research suggests that leadership is 30 percent genetic and 70 percent a result of lessons learned through life experiences. ScienceDaily University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES).

Granted, there’s no guarantee that everyone will be a leader regardless of what teaching, coaching, and mentoring that they receive; however, it’s a step in the right direction to help them be successful, be positive contributors, and be team players in whatever endeavor they choose. Second, it’s important nowadays to teach, demonstrate, reinforce, and encourage active involvement to achieve desired results. What better way to learn! This teacher was truly a leader that was making an impact! Finally, think about this. If corporate and executive leaders promoted a learning culture where their mission statements, charters, and values of their corporations, businesses, and organizations were centered more around habits and teaching moments like these, the meeting of challenges, pressures, and issues they face might just be a little more palatable and solvable.

In closing, here’s a parting thought: if it’s happening at the simplest grass roots level…then why not elsewhere? Think about “The Leader In Me.”

Are Communications Important? Bet On It…

Whether you are changing your organization’s strategy or direction, implementing a new process or system, or changing a policy or procedure, change affects people. If the right people aren’t communicated with effectively, and at the right times, you can bet that the desired change probably won’t be accepted nor achieved fully, on time, or at all. So how should we be communicating with people?

Leading Change Could Be Lonely

Leading a change effort could be a lonely proposition…if you let it. Effectively communicating, implementing, and managing change takes effort. Communicate,  build partnerships and obtain buy-in, and work with your stakeholders throughout the change effort to avoid being lonely.

Change Is Unpredictable – But Is It Manageable?

When facing change, people’s reactions are driven by how they perceive or understand how the change may affect them. False perceptions and lack of understanding may adversely affect their buy-in to change. If  buy-in doesn’t exist, they won’t be motivated or engaged to accept and adapt to the change. Reactions to change aren’t always predictable, but are they manageable? Without a doubt, the answer is yes, but it takes some effort. Be open, communicate, and coach and mentor those affected by the change. It’s only the first step to managing change, but a critical one. If the sailors aren’t on board, the ship won’t sail.