Posts Tagged ‘effective communication’

Don’t Get a Mentor

I have developed and implemented plenty of mentoring programs over the years.   I have done the match-making and developed and led the workshops.

The truth is, after 2 decades of living and leading in organizations, my feeling is, these programs typically don’t work.

What I do believe in is investing time, energy, and commitment into real relationships with great people you stumble on throughout your career.

Like any other friendship, if you keep your eyes, heart and mind open, these folks will show up.

The classic Harvard Business Review article, Discovering Your Authentic Leadership, highlights the importance of having deep two-way mentoring relationships.

“Many leaders have had a mentor that changed their lives.  The best mentoring interactions spark mutual learning, exploration of similar values, and shared enjoyment.  If people are only looking for a leg up from their mentors, instead of being interested in their mentor’s lives as well, the relationships will not last for long.  It is the two-way nature of the relationship that sustains it (George, Sims, McLean, and Mayer, 2007)”

My advice to young leaders:

  • find a mentor early
  • keep adding them along the way
  • invest time and energy
  • care about them as much as they care about you
  • be deliberate about keeping the magic alive

Why have more than one?

I was recently on a hiking tour of the Utah National Parks with my son.  After the first big day of hiking, Seb (6)  looks at me and says, “if we are going to do this again tomorrow, we will need some help…let’s each pick 3 Pokemon to take along…we can summon them up as needed… they’ve got some good skills that can help…”

Turns out he leverages Pokemon like I engage mentors.

I have wonderful “mentors” turned life-long friends who I can rely on (and they can rely on) as needed.  At this stage, I can pretty much anticipate the reaction I will get depending on who I call.

  • One keeps challenging me to take weird jobs
  • Another encourages me to develop my interest and practice of spirituality in leadership (ironically, because it’s important to me,  not because it’s particularly important to him)
  • Another I call when I need to be humbled, or get ahead of myself
  • And, another I call when I am down and need someone to tell me I am “wonderful”
  • And others…

Once I find a good mentor, I never let them go.

One of my favorite such mentors, Gary, died several years ago.  I keep his help alive by thinking “what would Gary say…”   Sometimes his advice just seems to surface when I am on a long run, or really stuck…  I know he is still impacting my life and career.

Give it back

The best part of having had great mentors, is the chance to give it back (same rules apply).

And when it’s real, I never let it go.

This is mentoring week on letsgrowleaders.   I will address a mentoring topic each day.  I hope you will join in the conversation.

Where have you found great mentors?

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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?