Archive for the ‘Own Your Own Career’ Category

Nemesis Mentors

The natural tendency when looking for a mentor is to turn to people who look like us, think like us, or value  the same things we do.

It’s easier, and often precisely how people are matched in some formal mentoring programs.

That can be fantastic.

On the other hand, what about seeking out a mentoring relationship with the person that REALLY frustrates, annoys and angers you? A nemesis who ignites and  challenges you?   Who questions your motives and assumptions? A person that makes you so angry at them, you wonder if you could really be mad at yourself.  One of those guys.

More tricky.

More entertaining.

And likely, more valuable.

In Greek mythology a Nemesis will “give what is due.”  That doesn’t turn out so well in some of those stories.  But what if what is due is just what you need?

I watch this dynamic at play in our church youth group.  And looking back, a similar phenomena happened back in my youth group days (but I was too involved to see it).

Unlike school where you can pick who you hang out with; in the church scene, kids are pretty much required to do stuff with everyone and be nice about it.

The kids that inevitably drive one another crazy, can help each other the most.  They think differently… they care about different things, and often have something that might be missing or underdeveloped in the other.  The growth happens when they spend time really digging in and opening up to one another.  I have seen some amazing peer mentoring magic happen here, one on one– after the storm.

At work, we are all trained to get along, be team players, and work collaboratively to get stuff done, “you don’t have to like each other, just respect one another and work as a team.”

But what about seeking out the person that most annoys you in the group or organization?  Of course, there is a 3.75% possibility that the guy’s just a real jerk.  I’ve met him.  But barring that, how about approaching that person with the Won’t You Be My Mentor? list?

Then, wait for the magic.

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Two Things That Will Get You Promoted

I am often approached by leaders looking to work on my team.

 “what characteristics do you look for when hiring for the top positions in your organization?”

So, I run down my list…

  • unwavering integrity
  • confident humility
  • passionate vision
  • strong track record of results
  • teamwork down, up, and sideways
  • energetic creativity
  • change leadership
  • zealousness for employee development

Which then leads to the next question…

“How do I become better positioned for a leadership role?”

Again I have a list…(all subjects for future posts)

  • Develop a gaggle of fantastic mentors
  • Look at leaders you admire, and learn those skills
  • Pay even closer attention to leaders who annoy you, and figure out why
  • Take lateral moves that make you an all-terrain player
  • Volunteer for special projects
  • Talk to people who are doing your dream job, learn what it takes, and express interest

But that’s just me.

The other day I was sitting in a leadership development meeting… (this time, being developed) …and those same questions came up.

HR began their list of advice… Similar to that above….

Then, one of the most senior leaders in the meeting stood up and said.

“I hear all that… But at the end of the day if you are looking to work for me,

I want to know 2 things:

  1. What are your results?
  2.  What do your people say about you?

Hmmm, that’s pretty clear.

And in fact, all the other things I chat about are all means to one of those ends.

Kind-of like an elevator speech, see (Glass Elevators: Why Elevator Speeches Matter.)

Next time, maybe I will use those… (or maybe not, depends if I am in an elevator).

Please comment:  What matters most when selecting the right  leader?

Is strength your weakness?

One of my first yoga teachers was fond of saying, “too much strength makes you inflexible… too much flexibility makes you weak…always balance.”

At work, the same is true. 

Strength can make us weaker.  

Here’s how…

Over-reliance on one skill

 I love to speak– with energy and enthusiasm.   This comes naturally to me… 

But if I am not careful, that energy can become overwhelming… “is she for real, who gets that excited over this stuff?” 

Since I heard that comment (which ticked me off),  I tone it down (occasionally). 

 I have also been watching for signs of over-used skills around me…to see if I can help.  The number 1 over-used skill has been relationship building.   I have watched folks who are fantastic at building relationships and consensus,  lose credibility when that becomes too much of their focus.

When leaders over-use this strength,  they can lose sight of the real work that needs to be done.  Or even worse, surrender their own instincts or opinion in the spirit of consensus and relationships.

Thinking You Have It “Handled”

Another way a weakness can become a strength, is a feeling that you’ve got that skill handled, and don’t need to work on it.  Can you ever be too good at public speaking, strategy, or finance?  So often I see development plans focused on a person’s weaknesses, overlooking on how they can build on their natural gifts.

Over-reliance on the strength of your team

As a leader it is absolutely vital to build our teams to complement and supplement our weaknesses. That is a strength of a great leader.  The challenge is that over-relying on that strength can also make us weak, not investing at becoming stronger ourselves in those arenas.

An exercise that can help

  • Make a list of your greatest strengths (as an individual or as a team)
  • Next, brainstorm how each of these strengths helps you perform as a leader (or as a team)
  • Then, take that same list and do an honest assessment of where this strength is getting you into trouble
  • Identify some key actions to get a more balanced reliance on that skill

Please comment:  

What strengths are you over-using?

What strengths should you be developing even more?

Glass Elevators: Why Elevator Speeches Matter

Yesterday I attended an important meeting with important people.  I was not scheduled to speak. 

 Until… a  good friend of mine in Finance (p.s. always have a good friend in Finance) batted the conversation my way. 

A gift.

  • What’s our channel’s  mission? 
  • How are our results?
  • What’s our team best at? 
  • How have we improved?

The buttons on the figurative elevator were pressed… time to roll.

You see, I am familiar with elevators, and what can happen in them.

Early Elevators 

Very early in my career, a VP several levels above me asked me to attend a very controversial meeting on his behalf.  To this day, I don’t know if it was deliberate (because he thought I could add value), or  if he really didn’t understand the controversial nature of the meeting, or if he was just scared.

The minute I walked in, I was questioned as to why I was there ( instead of the VP).   I stayed (not knowing if I should), and it was down hill from there.

I listened to all the ideas for the major undertaking that were being presented.  Being completely naive about how to approach such things, I said everything that was on my mind… no filters… to everyone in the room.  This involved questioning the entire methodology of some very well-thought out plans of some amazing leaders.   I was discounted, and should have been.  I did not approach it well.

Sooo…. later that day… when I ran into that VP  in the elevator (huge building, crazy coincedence), I looked at the floor.  The next thing I heard… Karin, I have been thinking.  You may be on to something.   Please tell me what you wanted to say….

I told her and got involved.  That project transformed my career, and she became a fantastic mentor.

A bit later

So years later, as I grew in leadership responsibility, I wanted the best folks on my team to always be prepared to tell their story and share their ideas in a meaningful and concise way.   From time to time, I lead  “mentoring circles” on the subject of elevator speeches.

I always begin these sessions with my latest “elevator speech” as an example

  • what our team is about
  • how we are making a difference
  • real statistics of how we are improving
  • and my leadership vision to lead that team

One time, after doing the session with a great group of front line leaders,  I got into the elevator.  We had just been through a reorganization that week and I had a new senior leader that I had not yet met (but he must have seen my picture). 

He looks at me and says, “Hey, Aren’t you on my new team?  What’s your story?”

So I shared my newly minted elevator speech. 

That worked too.

Since then, I always keep one fresh.

Tomorrow morning

 I am attending another important meeting in a very big hotel… lots of elevators…lots of people.  

 Keeping it fresh.