Posts Tagged ‘coaching’

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.

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?

Better Get a Bucket: Tips for Listening with Care

I believe that after integrity,  listening is the second most important leadership skill.

And… it is also one of the most difficult.

Listening well is hard.  Listening well, consistently, is even harder.

Lately, I have been paying more attention to what is happening when the listening is good.

The key is having some good buckets– categories to help you organize what you hear, and to feed it back.

People need to know that you  have heard them… that you are with them… and that you got the gist.

Buckets help you organize your listening and feedback.

One on One

Imagine an emotional co-worker coming to you with a long story about why a project is in jeopardy.  You listen intently to what she has to say, and look for the main ideas.  After she is done, you can respond with empathy and understanding.

“I am hearing three main concerns here… let me see I have this right… “and then spill your buckets.

Helping someone to organize their own thoughts makes them feel better, and usually calmer.  Situations seem easier to tackle when they are simplified into groups.

Bigger Groups

This also works in larger contexts as well.  I recently watched an executive who was hosting a big conference get up every 3 hours and feedback the big ideas he heard from each speaker.  He put his buckets on display, reinforced key messages, and modeled the level of listening that should be happening.

I have also used this technique in large town hall meetings.  Rather than respond to every comment, I listen intently and then share  (and respond to) the main buckets of issues.

There is value in the trying

Of course sometimes, your buckets will be wrong.  That’s okay.

It at least helps the conversation along in a productive way.

Try taking a bucket to your next meeting.  It’s exciting to see what might fill it up.

What other skills do you find help with effective listening?

Felons, Leopards, Spots and Feedback

Last night I accidentally had dinner with an old college friend. It was one of those fun chance meetings which quickly leads to a run down of every mutual acquaintance and what they are up to.

“… and Joe (not his real name) is a convicted felon.”

“What! Story please.”

Joe is a bright, talented guy who quickly became a successful businessman. My interpretation of the story is that his white-collar crime was not an oversight or an accident, but a substantial breach of integrity motivated by greed and vengeance.

I looked at my friend, “I am embarrassed and sad to say, that I’m not shocked.”

So why wasn’t I startled by this news? In my interactions with Joe there were times when things just didn’t feel right… in the way he treated his relationships… or stories that just didn’t stick together. At this point, the details are fuzzy… but I do remember thinking, “I should give him some feedback.”

I never did.

What if I had?

What if others had in the 20 years between then and now?

What if friends and colleagues had called this leopard’s’ spots as they saw them emerge-when the stakes were low. What if he had more ticked off people  calling his bluff along the way?  Would he have failed sooner and softer? Or, perhaps they did… I will never know.

What is our responsibility to hold up mirrors for our friends early in the game?

Do you think leopard’s can change their spots?