Come Out From The Corner Office

Congratulations! You recently have been promoted to that management position and sitting in that corner office you’ve always coveted in your career. It’s new! It’s exciting! You feel you have finally arrived! You’re educated, trained, and have a wealth of experience under your belt.You can’t wait to get started and make your mark with your new team. You’re ready for the challenge!

At one time or another, we may all have had an opportunity in our career to feel that elation and excitement. How ready were you to manage right out of the gate? I know I wasn’t!

Reflecting back on when I started managing in a senior position, there were some key things that I wish I would have done differently, more, or better! So, when coaching or mentoring others, there are two major lessons learned that I usually share with them:

1) First, I should have spent more time outside of the corner office and engaged and interacted with my team more.

2) Secondly, I would have focused more on these key principles:

Motivating Employees

Tell your employees how much you appreciate them from time to time. Just go out and say it. Ask them out for a cup of coffee and tell them what you appreciate about them: They’re a hard worker; they effectively motivate other people; they’re easy to coach; they’re disciplined or go the extra mile; they always cheer you up, etc. Don’t mince words — just tell them straight out. An employee who knows just how much they are appreciated will work harder, enjoy what they do more, and pass that psychic happiness along to other employees.

Setting Goals

Make sure each employee knows what’s expected. Having concrete goals empowers your employees and keeps them focused on work. Explicitly outline what you expect, when the deadline is, and what you’ll do with the results.

Hold yourself to the highest standards. We all know the kind of manager who constantly shouts or bitterly complains when mistakes are made but gives himself a ‘pass’ when he fails. Don’t be this kind of manager. Ideally, be harder to on yourself than you are on your employees. This can have a trickle-down effect: Employees see the types of goals and standards you set for yourself and want to emulate you because they look up to you.

Delegating Responsibility

Assign tasks that will stretch your employees. As your workers begin to take on more responsibility and demonstrate that they’re capable, give them tasks that will expand their skills and help them take more ownership of their work. Not only are you finding out how much your employees can handle, you’re making them more valuable to the company.

Communicating Effectively

Ask questions. Intelligent questions show that you can follow the flow of the conversation and clarify when necessary. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because you’re worried about appearing “stupid.” Effective managers care about understanding what’s important; they don’t care about how they get there. Know, too, that others will probably have questions and may not ask. If you ask their question for them, you can act as a facilitator and build your team’s engagement level. That’s the true mark of a good manager.

Embracing Egalitarianism

Treat everyone equally. Most of us aren’t as egalitarian as we’d like to be. Many times, favoritism happens on a subconscious level. The tendency is to give more positive recognition to the people who remind us of ourselves somehow and who actually like us, rather than to the people who make the biggest contributions to the organization. In the long run, it’s people in the latter group who will make the most progress in achieving the organization’s goals, so monitor your own behavior carefully and make sure you’re not accidentally short-changing them, even if they give you the impression that your positive regard doesn’t affect them. Some people shy away from positive feedback but appreciate it nonetheless.

Treat your employees well. If you’re good to your workers and they’re happy with their jobs, they’ll pass that kindness on to customers and invaluably bolster the image of your company. Or, they’ll do the same for their employees and maintain a positive corporate culture.

Coming Off The Island

Don’t try to go it alone. Swallow your pride. Take every opportunity to learn and draw upon the experiences of others every day. You will never know it all. Network and communicate with colleagues, peers, and seniors that have been there. Ask questions, observe, and reflect upon how you can adapt what you’ve learned to become better.

Seek A Mentor. It never hurts to have someone in your corner that you can trust and seek guidance from every now and then. Listen, reflect, and draw upon their experiences.

So, if you’re a new manager, I encourage you to come out from the corner office and engage with your team…

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.
— John Le Caré

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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?

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.”

Making Your Mark The Right Way

There are many ways to make your mark in your profession, business, or career. Receiving a quality education, obtaining and developing the right skill sets, building meaningful networks and relationships are just a few that come to mind. But, if you don’t establish, build, and maintain your integrity and trust with your team, partners, stakeholders, clients, or customers, you certainly will not achieve sustainable success in anything you set out to do.

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?

It’s Just Not An Orientation

When someone starts new in your organization, it’s just not starting a new job or position, it’s the beginnings of a relationship. Those first contacts are very impressionable which could affect, in the short and long term, whether that person will measure up to what you expected from them, how productive they will be, how effectively they will represent your organization, and how long they may stay with you. It’s more than just an orientation. It helps to preserve and capitalize your investment in them and your organization.