You and I should simply decide that we will be mentors to someone.
Why be a Mentor?
1. Most of us want some help in some area of our work but, for various reasons, don't ask for it. That means that there are people who could use some guidance.
2. Your experience navigating organizational life is valuable to those who don't yet have it.
3. Many corporate programs are struggling. There seems to be something unnatural when we try to institutionalize mentoring.
4. You'll learn more than the person you are helping. It's not a selfish thing, but a fact. When you have to teach, you have to prepare. And when you prepare, you learn a lot.
5. You'll have the satisfaction of contributing something positive to another person's life.
How do you get started?
Who could use some organizational know-how? Approach them with the idea that you've got some experience and would enjoy sitting down once in a while for a "how are things going?" cup of coffee. Keep it informal and see where it goes. Let the relationships last as long--or as short--as is helpful.
This is a very simple, but practical, idea. It seems as if we are always looking for a good charity or a cause to support. Why not contribute to the development of a co-worker?
This topic emerged while I was preparing for a corporate client webinar for sales managers with the simple title, "How To Coach with Confidence". A lot of good research plus personal experiences show that most managers want to coach--they just aren't sure of the most effective ways to do it. Or, what people are really expecting.
They also wonder about this:
Who Is Coachable?
The fact is, everyone isn't. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?). The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on one's own behavior, create a desire to change it, or see their personal responsibility in a relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.
Five Characteristics Of Coachability
If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.
1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.
2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.
3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.
4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.
5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.
You may have some others that you use to gauge coachability. Take a moment to add your tips with a comment below.
Important Update About Comments at All Things Workplace
I just invited comments in the post above and do hope that our readers--many with a lot of managerial experience--take time to weigh in.
That said, I want to share some information regarding my own ability to engage in the give and take of commenting.
Since May my dear wife, Barb, has spent most of the time either hospitalized or receiving physical therapy at a rehab facility. She has Parkinson's Disease as well as other related neurological challenges. Obviously, my first priority is ensuring that Barb is safe and continually receiving the care and attention she needs, not the least of which is our relationship.
I still read all of the comments submitted. All Things Workplace has been a place, since 2006, where people can create conversations and interactive learning without my presence because of their own interest, experience, and enthusiasm about growth and development in organizational life.
I'll continue posting regularly; please keep using the site as a place to exchange ideas, tips, and research. I will certainly add my two cents when I can and look forward to learning from everyone who graciously takes time to add to the topic at hand.
You don't pay much attention to what seems to come easily to you. And you should.
I just finished a mid-career assessment with Mike. He has a grouping of talents that would make any major construction or engineering firm drool with anticipation of hiring him as a project manager.
So when I pointed out his natural strengths, what was his response?
"Oh, of course, but that's just stuff that I've always liked to do."
Well, yeah! It just so happens that what he's always like to do--and is really, really good at--fits perfectly with outstanding project management. But he never saw himself as gifted in that area because it seemed easy. As a result, he spent years not promoting his career because he thought that if it was easy it must not be worth anything.
Are you doing the same thing?
Start paying attention to what you do really well and the underlying communication, relational, and functional talents that go with it. I use a proprietary assessment to zero in on the specifics with my clients. You can start by asking those around you to tell you how they see you in these three areas:
Communication Interpersonal Presenting Facilitating group discussion
Relational Are you a large group, small group, or one-at-a time relator?
When you determine which fits you best, look at your career. Does your current job match your relational talent? If so, great. If not, find a situation that matches. This is a huge determiner of job success.
Helping/Service orientation Managerial/Sole contributor orientation Good with lots of action or lots of thinking time? Do you excel in dealing with people or things?
That's a start. Then do this:
Recognize that what you do well--and what comes naturally--has great value.
Decide today to find the career match that brings out the best in you.
How is your organization using professional assessments?
Self-assessments, 360 degree feedback, assessment centers, and other similar tools are widely used in the workplace. What's your experience with them?
A lot of information is generated during the assessment process. I was reviewing some feedback that was coming in for a client and realized that there are lots of good uses for it. And we may not always be taking the best advantage of the information and the potential process. So. . .
Would Some of These Help You and Your Organization?
Assessment feedback, by definition, is given to the subject of the assessment. That person is often asked to reflect and decide what, if anything, to do with it. That's fine. Making changes is a choice. But here are some other ways to get the most from the data. You may be doing some are all of them now. If not, here are some thoughts that I hope you will find helpful:
1. In the case of 360 feedback, encourage the recipient (I'll use the word "Manager") to get together with the group that generated the data. It's an opportunity, at minimum, to acknowledge the time and energy they put into the activity.
Suggest that the Manager share the themes and take-aways from the data. 360 activities have some of the same dynamics as surveys. Participants want to know what happened with their input--and what will change as a result. This is a chance to do just that. And, if the Manager has misinterpreted something, the group can add clarity.
Yes, I know that the feedback is anonymous, blah blah. However, the act of inviting the respondents to come together also invites a deeper level of candor. And the fact of the matter is: These are people with whom the Manager has to work. Sooner or later it will be time to increase the honesty of conversations. This is an ideal framework in which to do that.
2. A Good Reason For A Good Conversation with "The Boss."
If you're the Manager, make an appointment with your boss. Tell what you think you want to do differently. Ask if the boss sees the data and your intended changes in the same way. Or differently. Here's the principle: Giving straight feedback is difficult for a lot, if not most, people. Including the boss. If you provide the data and ask for suggestions, you've done the work that your boss my find tough. It may be the most meaningful conversation the two of you have ever had.
3. A Good Reason For a Good Conversation with Your Reports.
If it's a 360, some or all of those folks provided feedback. I wouldn't call a departmental meeting and declare "Let's share." I would do one of these two:
Make it a point to informally share what you learned and are working on with each person. Do it in the course of normal conversation.
If you have a full group meeting coming up soon, take 10 minutes to talk about the assessment, the process, what you learned, what you are working on, and what kind of support you need to do those things. The payoff? You get help. You set the model that getting feedback and doing assessments is a valuable activity.
4. Self Assessments. Any or all of the above will be helpful to validate your self perception. We have ways of deceiving ourselves on both scales: positive and negative. Have the conversations that will give you an accurate picture.
Let's assume that you--or whoever is being assessed--will use the info for development. Here's the payoff you don't want to miss: the data provide an "objective" reason to have a "subjective" conversation. When you rally around the information, you are in an arena that's focused on performance factors and not necessarily you as a person. (That may be a result. Why not find out while you still have time to make changes?).
Most of all: an assessment offers a legitimate reason to have the kind of conversation you've been missing.