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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Life After The Pivotal Decision In XLIX

I’m sure most of you saw the last minute of Super Bowl XLIX and went to bed thinking about the pivotal decision that the Seattle Seahawks made at the one yard line with under a minute remaining that cost them the game. If you’re a football fan, especially a Seattle Seahawks fan, I’m sure you’re still shaking your head wondering why didn’t they call a running play in that situation? The obvious questions that are being asked in sports talk shows, in bars and restaurants, and around the water cooler this week are:

– Why did this happen?
– Who made that call?
– Why was that call made?
– Whose fault was it?

But, let’s face it, what’s done is done! All this commentary won’t change the outcome, will it? But, as I sit here and hear all of this, I wonder: how does an experience like this really affect someone that’s directly impacted by it? In this case, the Seattle Seahawks…

Obviously, for the Seattle Seahawks football team and organization, the end result of Super Bowl XLIX was very disappointing and will leave a sour taste in their mouths for awhile. But, really…where do they go from here? How will it affect them psychologically? What will their mojo be like going into the offseason and training camp in 2015?

Like him or not, Pete Carroll is not only good football coach, but he is a good mentor and leader. He’s a catalyst of an organization that promotes a team culture built upon trust, loyalty, and learning. Just like after every game, the coaching staff won’t point fingers or repeatedly dwell on the negatives. They will breakdown the game plan, play scripts, and the game tape to determine what happened, what they could have done better, learn from the experience, and start preparing for the next season. My guess is that this team and organization will rebound stronger than ever because they believe in its mission and culture. I believe that their psychic and mojo will be just fine.

So, for the rest of us, what we can we take away from this? Well, to start, a team or organizational culture like Seattle’s just doesn’t magically happen without effort. That’s true with any business or organization as well. It’s psychic, culture, and mojo must start at the very top and trickle down through the rest of the organization. The best organizations promote learning cultures to make themselves better by continually assessing their performance , successes, and failures and share and teach what was experienced from good or bad decisions with their employees, members, or followers.

In a nutshell, they don’t point fingers, they get to the root causes, learn and teach, and correct the flaws to make every one better for the good of the whole.

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
– Jack Welch –

An effective CEO, like Pete Carroll, will make that happen…

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.”

Wearing The Stripes From Zebra To Pin

Basketball has always been a passion of mine and has always been good to me. When I transitioned from being a point guard to a basketball referee over 30 years ago, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the friendships, relationships, and opportunities that I would gain. But, more importantly, the lessons that I learned beyond the rule book, blowing the whistle, and making calls, especially at the collegiate level, were just incredible. What always intrigued me the most was how the most successful and elite coaches built quality, successful, and sustainable programs which always centered around a solid culture and good core values despite the many social, competitive, economic, and media pressures that they constantly faced . And, on top of that, dealing with the multiple attitudes, expectations, and transiency of today’s coaches and athletes was a major challenge in itself! So, I often wondered: “how do they do it.”

Through many years of observation, reading, and discussion, it became apparent to me that, beyond having a good culture, core values, and solid offensive and defensive schemes in place, the one key ingredient that was critical to their success was having a good succession plan in place. Huh? you may ask…It’s true. I found that they always tried to focus on five key principles that were “a must” to have quality coaches and players to sustain the ongoing success of their program:

– Know The Key Positions and Players
– Know The Required and Preferred Skills
– Know The Possible Successors
– Involve Key People
– Commit To The Development of Talent

During my reading, I found this article on succession planning in sports which, ironically, pretty much summarized and explained the same thing.

So, I began thinking, if I’m a CEO or management executive, how does this translate to the success of my business or organization? If you think about it, it’s not much different. You too need a good culture, core values, and a solid offensive and defensive scheme in place in the form of a solid strategic plan, processes, and procedures. But, just like any collegiate basketball coach, you also need good talent and people in both your management team as well as your skilled work force. You too will find it difficult to keep talented executives, managers, and skilled workers in your organization as well due to many social, competitive, economic, and other pressures. But, how do you mitigate those risks? Follow the five principles that most successful collegiate basket ball coaches use:

– Know The Key Positions and Players
– Know The Required and Preferred Skills
– Know The Possible Successors
– Involve Key People
– Commit To The Development of Talent

So, from my view wearing the stripes in either role, having a succession plan in place is best, my friends! It’s worth having in your strategic tool box!

Want To Improve Performance? Just Ask…

There are various tools and techniques you can use to assess your business or organizational performance, right? But, which ones should I use?  I won’t get into a discussion about answering that question here. But rather, I will give you some simple advice. Use this one and it won’t cost you a thing. Get out there and talk to people. Some of the best information that you can gather comes from the folks on the front- line. From my perspective, consider asking them two basic open-ended questions and LISTEN:

  • Could you tell me the top two or three things that help you do your job well?
  • Could you tell me the top two or three things that prevent you from doing your job well?

Let them speak openly, and strike up an open conversation with them. If you give them the time and are sincere with them, you stand to gain a wealth of information to help you start improving your performance.

Foster Your Talent

There are various key drivers for any business or organization to achieve sustainable success;however, I firmly believe that if human capital isn’t nurtured and developed, failure looms. People are what drives success from the CEO down to the entry level worker. I truly believe that everyone has something positive to contribute…but sometimes they just don’t realize it or know what or how to do it. We are in a position to foster talent everyday.

How Do You Make Training and Development Work?

How much money did your organization invest last year in training and development that failed to provide the results you sought? Many times,employee behavioral change, based on the training content, is hard to measure and demonstrate. Discouraging? You bet. So what can you do to ensure that employee training provides the results you expect?