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.  

Getting More Clarity in Our Lives

 
Photo by the Author 

The idea that we can do more in less time is an alluring idea.  Multi-tasking is often the instant fix we crave to deal with the real feelings of being overwhelmed and overcommitted.  If we take a deeper look, the feelings we have are more a part of misguided priorities and moving away from better clarity in our lives.

The Multi-tasking Myth: Clarifying your vision and values

Starting out with a clear definition of what you are (your role), and what you want to do (your values), is the beginnings of real clarification.  

The reasons we feel we need to multi-task is that others have defined our roles and values, and we have let them.  

The reasons multi-tasking doesn’t work is because it isn’t aligned with a clear vision, and tasks are not grouped in a way where energy expended maximizes getting things done. 

Creating your Clarity – Learning to Say No

Another reason that clarity is lost, is that reasonable boundaries in our lives and work are not developed.  

In order to create more clarity, you have to decide on the reasonable limits needed to really succeed in your roles.

 The ‘being everything to everyone’ idea is another example of going down the wrong direction faster.

Developing and Maintaining Real Clarity

  1. Define who you are and what contributions you want to make.
  2. Define the ways you want to serve others.  Clarity without service, is like having empty goals.
  3. Reinforce and reflect daily on whether you are staying on track.  You know that you’re off track when you’ve fallen into many things that don’t get closure in your life.
  4. Keep clarity by evaluating things you do.  Are you allowing yourself to say no?

Having clarity means we are focused on things that have a defined beginning and end.  

Energy is focused, and distractions are minimized.

The Silent Factors Behind Organizational Success

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Sustaining organizational momentum is a result of three key attributes. This doesn’t mean that human resources and capital are not important.  

The intrinsic qualities that make an organization succeed are the things that are not readily seen, but silently there.

The silent factors to organizational success

The Skill that is imbedded in human resources is an area that separates the mediocre from the spectacular organization.  The most critical decision is how each part of your teams are assembled and implemented.  Less skilled individuals can silently weaken the best strategy and effort.  

Everyone says they have skills, but when the rubber meets the road, those with the intrinsic skill carries the organization.

Clarity in thinking or Awareness of the organization, its beliefs, and purpose is a silent driver that helps the different imperatives move or stall.  Those that drive projects, need to be very conscientious and possess great personal awareness.  

Talk is great, but those with the ability to think ahead exponentially drive progress and sustainability. 

Authenticity is making things real and being real.  There are a lot of charlatans out there trying to show something, but with little depth beyond a personal agenda.

Authenticity is present when a person’s skill, and awareness all line up

Many leaders in organizations lack the skill and awareness, and end up acting as if they have no substance. 

Sustaining is about keeping these factors present

When the leader keeps these factors lined up, and makes decisions according to these factors, sustaining the organization occurs more readily.  When the leader takes their eye off of any one of these silent factors, the organization may face weaknesses.

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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Organizational Definition of Codependency

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Photo by the Author

A corrosive threat to building teams is “Codependency.” A term used prominently within the addictions field, the behavior has wider meanings within leading individuals and teams. The basic idea of codependency in organizations is it defeats responsibility, initiative and the health of operations.

Codependency as “under functioning”
When team members are codependent, there is an imbalance in responsibility between members. Norms develop where doing the minimum is silently permitted. Unhealthy alliances develop, and fear of confronting the inequity or dysfunction in the team stifles the group.

Codependency as incompetence
Those that want to appear capable (but lack substance) hide behind a cloak of saying what is necessary or saying what they think others want to hear.

Codependence is fake acceptance
A distorted sense of acceptance occurs when the objective is agreed upon, but the words (commitment) does not match the results. The leader wants good results and accepts the stated intentions, that do not correspond to an individual team member’s actual behavior.

Codependence as rational lies
The use of rational lies (aka rationalization), itself is a form of team and individual betrayal. To avoid accountability a team member uses rationalization and excuses to avoid personal responsibility.

All these organizational definitions of codependency can be corrosive to objectives and the mission. Rampant codependency can significantly lead to human resource costs and deceased morale.

The Power of A Question

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Photo by the Author

When teams function best is when individual team members dare to ask questions of their leaders. To challenge indicates a commitment toward engagement, and a willingness to connect to the organization’s vision.

Questions suggest team engagement because:

1. It means the individual team member cares enough about their individual contribution.

2. Questions indicate that a team contributor is interested in doing rather than complaining.

3. New ideas might be imbedded in the question.

4. Through a question, the process of learning is occurring.

A leader should be very concerned with their team when people stop asking questions. It means that a member’s commitment is waning, a team member is not engaged with the vision, or the leader’s direction lacks clarity.

The worse case scenario when questioning is abandoned – is a sort of complacency where mediocrity is accepted and the program becomes a drifting entity.

Managers and leaders ought to encourage and welcome thoughtful questions by their teams. It’s the most reliable indicator regarding the health of an organization or program, including the teams that compose those areas.

How Much Control is Appropriate in Management? An Idea Revisited.

The command and control age of management is (or should be) over. The authoritative nature of interaction, and micro-management paradigm where those that have the authority – should know best – is something that has become out of mode, at least in management theory. The current thinking is that employee engagement and releasing others to develop and implement ideas is more desirable.

In a recent conversation with a colleague, the whole idea of “controlling” functions in the organization, and controlling how things get done was revisited. Being trained in both authoritarian and release/engagement management structures, I found the idea brought up again, fascinating.

The idea from my colleague – Doug Butchy (dougbutchy.com) who is a music educator went like this (paraphrase in italics):

I find myself needing to control all aspects of the organization (this being a music performance organization) because I want to make sure everything gets done – to my specifications. I now have a better understanding why others (he was referring to another colleague) always wanted to be in control of all aspects of the details. I find myself doing the same thing, to make sure things are right.

The idea was referring to the details of running a music performance group, but nonetheless an organization that is made up of rules, practices, a culture, and a “way” of doing something. My colleague’s view was that control worked for him in this type of organization. In other organizations however, having a “release” approach – where you engage others to take charge of more of the details, or delegate plans – might seem appropriate – especially where the organization’s competitive advantage is based on unleashing individual creativity in the organization. This definition may seem a bit broad because there are obviously other components that go into managing an organization. For this discussion however, it seems appropriate.

Over the ensuing several days, I have reflected on the idea why having a more control oriented management structure would work in some ways better than a more “stewardship” – servant leadership style would work. Here’s what I have arrived at:

More Control in Management is helpful when:
1. The organization – community or otherwise has a fluid workforce or membership (much like the organization that was being referred to above.

2. Staff, students, members in the organization need substantially more guidance to be successful with the task. In other words there is a learning curve in the organization.

3. The organizational task is more rigid in nature and parameters for the task are clearly understood. This would suit an educational organization, or some community organizations.

Less Control in Management is helpful when:
1. The organization’s task is more flexible, requires individual creativity, is product oriented, and employs professionals to implement their craft.

2. Where exerting more management control will only disrupt the individual capacity of the workers.

3. Where customers are involved – directly in the provision of developing products, and providing services.

Not to confuse Quality Control with “less control”, the idea for less control, does not mean there is less emphasis on adhering to quality standards, policy, procedures and the like. It also doesn’t negate the reporting relationship. Less control means that individuals in the organization are developed in such a way that they learn to manage themselves within established parameters.

The idea of using more control – often gets perceived as being a micro manager, or authoritarian – neither of which is the right definition for using more control with an organizational task. The idea here is that those that use more control are doing so, based on the unique elements and task of the organization they are managing. It has less to do with squelching employee engagement or initiative, or less to do with actually “controlling people”.

Leading Change Through the Barrier of Doubt

Proposing a change almost always leads to some measure of doubt. Be prepared with your “thick skin”, because where there is something new, there is likely someone out there to doubt your vision.

Envisioning the future is not a comfortable endeavor for some, for the following reasons:
1. It requires others on your team to see what you see.

2. Seeing something new, means that some discomfort might need to be tolerated.

3. Sometimes a vision requires working through ambiguity.

4. Someone doesn’t share the same values. They don’t see what you see.

5. The need for control is high between individual team members. Collaboration is low.

Matter of fact, doubt is the opposite of possibility. Often the doubt is a way of adding a “rational reason” to why something won’t work, when there is likely little evidence that it wouldn’t work.

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Photo by: Brian E. Dick

Working through your vision to its conclusion requires the tenacity to take risks in the face of doubt. Knowing that doubt is a cousin to “fear of change”,and that ambiguity is the foundation to creating success, sticking with your plans and principles is the way to work through external doubt.

Ways to work though doubts:

1. Build a team that shares the same value for the change

2. Base your vision on clear principles

3. Accept your detractors – there will always be detractors…

4. Accept the ambiguity between the vision and the planned outcome.

Each step toward the planned outcome of your vision should actually strengthen your resolve to change and over time lessen the doubt that comes from external sources.