Mentoring is Not About Showcasing Your Superiority 


When you’re charged with the responsibility of teaching or mentoring others, the way you proceed may result in developing or hindering others.

A Story: “I was once a customer in a well known fast food establishment.  The main customer service staff was mentoring a new staff member.  The lines were long and the veteran staff member shouted orders to the new staff member, but showed him little about the task at hand.  At one point he said: ‘Now for a test…let’s see if you can make one of these….’  As the mentor provided a dramatic showcase for waiting customers concerning his superiority, the new employee looked at us with a frustrated desperation of: ‘What have I got myself into?'”

The lesson: I walked away embarrassed.  As a manager myself, it appeared repulsive that the veteran employee would substitute a teaching moment where support is offered, with a selfish demonstration of how good he was.

Making a Good Mentor: The lesson is that good mentoring is about (or any teaching) is delivering assistance with support, not showcasing your superiority.  

  1. As a mentor you are as much a learner, as a teacher.
  2. Superiority is about you, not the development of others.  It means if I have to look better than you, I must feel pretty weak.
  3. Mentoring is not about discouraging others 
  4. Good mentoring should make others feel more confident.
  5. Teaching others is not about testing them, especially in front of customers. That makes your customers doubt your organization’s capacity.

The sad lesson from the story above is that the veteran employee in all his confidence actually made himself and the organization look bad.  

Teaching capacity in others is about being humble, supportive and caring.  

If you don’t care about the people you teach, how can you expect them to take care of the organization?

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Leading and the Act of Loyalty

  
The act of leading is more than being the visionary, or acting thoughtfully for others.  It is predicated also on how loyal and unconditionally helpful you are to others.

In many ways people cannot follow you if they can’t trust where you’re coming from.  

Great ideas are best acted on when others in the room know where you stand with them.  Teams stall when they don’t know what to expect from you.

Ways loyalty drives others

  1. When others feel you truly respect them.
  2. When you create a clear vision.
  3. Going out of your way to help.
  4. Taking interest in what people want to do.
  5. Being consistent

Servant Leadership, unconditional positive regard, and thoughtful patience are all specific behaviors that can engage your loyalty to others.  

Each time you consider the little things with others, you amplify your influence, and enlarge your leadership footprint.  

The 4 Stages of Influence

Influencing others is a humble and respectful enterprise.

   
Influence is an easy to understand but hard to implement strategy in interpersonal relationships.  The opposite is ‘resistance’, and a close cousin is ‘change’.  The confusing thing is that the meaning of influence sometimes gets mixed up with ‘manipulation’, a less than desirable behavior.

Influence is generally regarded as the ability to change something or someone because you’ve built the trust needed to make it happen.  Influence just ‘doesn’t’ happen, so how does it occur?

The 4 Stages of Influence 

Those that influence the best are those that have the most humility.  

  1. Letting yourself be influenced by others.  When you open yourself to learning, listening and replying, you have begun the process of influencing another.  Going where someone is communicates their importance to you.
  2. Engaging in trusting actions.  It’s hard to influence others without being trustworthy yourself.  This step takes patience and time.  If you’re rushing this, then you’re likely engaging in subtle manipulation.
  3. Having a valued skill or behavior. A component to influencing another, is having knowledge, skill, or behavior that others legitimately value in some way.  Using this in ways that help others is often the glue that builds your ability to build influence and build confidence in your actions.
  4. Showing humility.  Those that influence the best are those that have the most humility.  A person that makes a lot of noise around themselves, creates a shallow outcome of manipulation.  Influencing others is a humble and respectful enterprise.  One meant to build others up, rather than build one’s ego.
  • Which steps may you be using? Which ones are absent as you work with others?

The Importance of Brevity

When is too much, too much?

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Photo by the author

Complexity is often a function of a number of things:

1. ) Obscuring the message.
2.) Creating an air of superiority
3.) A lack of knowledge
4.) Not knowing what to look for

Simplicity’s Impact
Developing a simplicity approach is often desirable and presents more information and insight than communicating a complex message. It may seem a paradox, but the shorter, and more focused a message is, the more the message carries.

Knowing what to look for
Knowing what to look for is an important precursor to knowing what to communicate in a simplified and targeted way. Inexperience in knowing what is important, leads to the need to communicate more information than what is needed, and likely an uncertainty in the communication.

Ways to build brevity into your life
1. Avoid constant second guessing. Learn to trust your intuition.
2. Build skills where you identify your weaknesses.
3. Learn more about what you’re working with. Increased knowledge brings with it increased ability to simplify what you are saying.
4. Where further information is needed, you can expand the message.

When working with new employees, and individuals learning in an area for the first time, be patient, and teach the skill of brevity. Anxiety about a situation needs to be managed. Keeping in mind that having all the information is not necessarily desirable, and that follow up can be a regular and routine part of the communication process.>

Expectations and the Art of Transparency

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Photo by the author

One of the challenges of communicating is managing expectations. Expectations can be “managed” per se, if the message communicated is clear and is free of residual meanings.

The idea of Transparency clarifies what one can expect. The alternative usually results in:

1. Co-dependent communication where we are simply saying what we think others want to hear.
2. Manipulation. We are saying something in purpose that is not really real.
3. Excuse making. We have to justify our positions rather than own them.

How many of us have been in any of these positions?

Making our communication explicit communicates a level of respect for others, even if it is not the kind of message we would prefer to present, or what others would want to hear. Being transparent, means that we are willing to take the appropriate risk to communicate true meanings, specific opinions, and bare bones knowledge, that leaves no questions, and leads not to misconstrued messages, which lead to unmet expectations.

Ways of being transparent
We exercise transparency, when we say what we mean. We help others with hard truths. It may not be immediately comfortable, but it communicates an understanding and reality to others, that suggests that you respect the other person despite the message itself. It also saves you a lot of further defensiveness and justification later, when others “find out” what the factual reality really is.

When Helping is Not Helping

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Having the desire to help others is the calling that brings many into the “helping professions.” For others, it is the day to day service that we do for our families, children and others we work for/or/with.

There is a fine line however when helping is not really helping, but rather a barrier that leads to stagnation or worse yet, fosters an unhealthy dependence.

Indicators of when helping is NOT helping:
1. When the help we provide is not accepted by others

The term I’ve used for years is when helping leads to “help rejecting complainers.” When our helping leads others to excuse themselves of embracing the help, then rejecting it, or avoiding it. This is not a judgment of our help or our intent, but of others’ readiness to change. They may simply not see the same way as you do. They may not value the same things.

2. When the help leads others to make the same poor decisions

Any change effort has to be embraced as well as given. It is hard to understand why what would seem to be needed, is often not chosen by another, and is rejected. The help that is given, only leads others to choose the same poor path. It is helpful to preferably accept that sometimes others are either not ready, have other motivations, or are too fearful to accept the implications of a change.

3. Fear

One of the biggest factors is the fear of the unknown or that accepting the help will actually lead to new experiences. Unless there is great fortitude to change, and a readiness, we will not embrace the help or opportunities provided without an “experience” that drives them toward embracing them. Sadly, fear is the final determinant to changing. We “fear” something else, and it leads to a crisis…which then leads to receiving help. Sometimes humans react when there is a need for rescue, rather than prevention.

Don’t take it personal
Helping others doesn’t always lead to successful results. It is nothing personal, but you will fail to provide others help they need. It is a joint venture not an individual helping effort. Developing a “preference” to see others change rather than an attitude that others “must” change or accept help is a good starting point for the helper which can prevent burnout.

Thoughts:
Are there times when you don’t accept help? Why?

(Photo: By the author)

Dealing With Hollow Commitments

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Photo by the author

Everybody knows it is important to invest to get results. The opposite is true when commitments are empty and we still want to get results.

It’s easy to make commitments, but painfully hard to invest and follow through.

In principle: Those that are truly committed pay their way. There are many that believe a lack of investment will still get a result. How can this be?

Why we think hollow commitments will succeed –
1. We delude ourselves.
2. We become sincerely good rational liars to ourselves.
3. We tell people what we think they want to hear.
4. We actually make up things.
5. We have a rescue fantasy that somehow, it will work out.

The effort we exert is hollow, and half-hearted. The results spotty.

What do we do to curb the hollow committ-ers?
1. We smoke them out. Ask them to prove what they have said they’ve done.
2. Measure results
3. Lay out the discrepancy.
4. Identify the co-dependency.
5. Point out reality.

Hollow commitments are just short term survival tactics for those without enough self-esteem, credibility, or resources. It is a delay tactic to create something that is not real, and it can lead to substantial set backs for others.

How do you handle hollow commitments?
What do you do when people disappoint you, and don’t invest?

Creating More Impact with Your Staff – The Performance Review

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Photo by the Author

Performance reviews, individual supervision, group reviews can vary in how they are conducted with your staff. Organizations vary.

Individual staff (and groups) have a right to know where they stand at any given moment in the process of their work. Keeping your appraisals until the “yearly review”, or waiting until a problem develops to supply corrective action is the wrong way to do supervisory reviews.

It might appear overbearing to meet regularly with an employee, however the most supportive thing to do is have a transparent discussion with your staff members in the “here and now” and at predictable and regular points.

Reasons why regular reviews are good
There are several reasons why meeting regularly with your staff is a good idea. Several include:

1. A staff member knows where they stand – there are no secrets.

2. Regular development can occur which helps the employee make course adjustments.

3. What is expected, and what is happening can be reviewed now – not later.

4. Institutional values can be discussed, incorporated, and developed.

5. Staff knows you care, and that you are not being critical.

6. Helps build cohesion, retention of employees, and morale.

A Method for Doing Regular Reviews
Preferably reviews should be twice monthly, but can be weekly. They don’t have to be long protracted meetings, and they should have a positive, proactive and helpful atmosphere surrounding them. There are never punitive or critical remarks made. Everything said is transparent. Honesty is the best policy.

The Staff Member Creates the Agenda for the Review
The best review is one where the employee or staff member comes prepared to discuss the issues important to their work. A general outline path can be prescribed by the manager, but it is important that the employee own the outline, and set the topics that are to be discussed. The outline can consist of the following:

Accomplishments
Challenges
Areas of Proposed Development
Project Status/Progress

New Employees Need Mentored
A new employee may need further coaching in the process. Oftentimes, those least experienced in their jobs won’t know the questions to ask, or the material to bring forth. Examples and coaching may be necessary to help the staff member know how to think about their work.

Connection and Engagement is the Key
The overall process should only take about a half hour, but it is a good accountability for both the staff member and manager. These reviews are seen as ways to connect with the leader, and the leader has an obligation to serve and provide guidance where necessary. Importantly, it allows the staff member the opportunity to take initiative, showcase accomplishments, and honestly discuss problems they are having with their jobs or their experience. Opportunities to improve, and change path can be done on an ongoing basis, and more radical corrective action is unnecessary.

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The Anatomy of a Choice

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Photo by the Author

Stephen Covey once said there were three constants in life: Change, Principles, and Choice. The underlying idea of his works was to help others match the right kinds of choices, to their personal vision, mission or governing value network. In doing that we could derive effectiveness in the variety of roles in our lives.

Yet for most of us, choice is the hardest variable. In today’s highly information driven society with its infinite number of personal choices we could make, choices are hard. Even if we have carefully crafted our personal mission, values and roles in our lives, choices are hard, especially when there are competing ones. Beyond this, is how there are so many issues that act on us. Even important roles can collide, and choices can be difficult.

Beyond these challenges is the fact that we can make a choice, but to follow through and see the choice through takes fortitude. The hardest part of a choice may not be the competing nature of paths we can take, but the bridge that needs crossed to implement the choice.

How many people have you met that make good intentional commitments or indicate verbally their intentions toward a choice, but fall short doing the choice? Probably everyone, including ourselves. It is very popular to make the choice, and it feels good because of the perceived accomplishment. The accomplishment of a choice is however the most important and critical step in any choice. Everyone can have good intentions when it is needed (see my article on “Organizational Codependency” elsewhere on this site). Making the choice stick is completely a different animal.

The Anatomy of a Choice

    When you’re planning to make a choice, consider the following elements:

    1. How realistically can I implement the choice?
    2. How many new steps will my choice make for me?
    3. The choice feels good, but doing the choice is like moving against a strong wind.
    4. How much work is involved in this choice?
    5. Who can help me get there, once I have made the choice.

    Of course the above sounds a lot like goals. A preferred definition of choice might be: What behaviors do I need to do? Choice are thoughts, but the behavior portion transitions the choice into action. Using the word goals is about as vague as choice. Without the operationalized behavioral steps and actions, movement will not occur. The anatomy of a choice is often a road to travel itself. It is also a lifelong pursuit of becoming and direction finding in your life.