Home    Training    Contact Us   

Mentoring Blog


  • 0 LISTENING ON SCREEN

    Virtual working has turned many of us into unwitting stars of the 10” screen. And while the pandemic zeitgeist is that humanity, young and old, has evolved into sophisticated technology users, there are still some glitches. We have all learned to stay calm when we get kicked out of a meeting and mined our homes for the most compelling and tidy corners to use as Zoom backdrops. We even remember to mute our microphones. But the truth is, for many of us, collaborating through a screen still doesn’t feel natural. At The Training Connection, we’ve been developing new resources to provide mentees with strategies for driving their partnerships from a distance and engaging with their partners virtually. We tend to emphasize attributes such as being prepared, articulating goals, and following up as a means not only for maintaining progress but also avoiding awkward conversations. In this month’s newsletter, we are going to zero in on listening. Listening, as in the art of conversation When communicating through a screen, it can be hard to find the right rhythm between speaking and processing what others are saying. Part of the reason is that nonverbal clues are limited, for both parties. It’s harder to see if the other person is stifling a yawn or fidgeting (“Is this story boring to them?”). Sometimes we can’t get over our own image (“Is that really what my neck looks like?”) or maybe there’s person out of view asking a question (“Mom, can I have a snack?”). There’s at once a lot more going on and, as a result, a lot less in terms of conversational give and take. Psychology Today urges us to lean into listening in order to be heard ourselves. In a recent article, they explained, “in order to know what to say in response, we must know what has been said to us.” Since virtual meetings don’t afford us the same opportunities and cues as in-person meetings, we need to work really hard to simply hear what’s being said. Listening and being present makes us happy Here’s the thing. When unfocused and spacing out, we aren’t only dissatisfied with what we get out of the conversation, we’re downright unhappy. Harvard psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert developed an app to study the “wandering mind.” They contacted 2,250 volunteers at random times throughout the day to find out what they were doing, what they were thinking while doing it, and whether they were happy. They learned that we spend 47% of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we are doing at that moment. According to Killingsworth and Gilbert, we are happiest when we are doing things like exercising or having a conversation- because those activities require us to stay focused on what we are doing. Put your active listening on display People who work in sales are trained to listen more than they talk. They understand that you can’t sell someone something they don’t want. A good salesperson will listen to their customer- a lot- to better understand their context and needs before recommending a product. Being a good listener makes it more likely that they will close the deal. Not to mention, people who are good listeners tend to be perceived as more sincere. Here are some ways to actively listen: Physical signs of listening Sit still, face forward, camera on. Look at the speaker (not at yourself). Take notes. Nod or smile when something they’ve said resonates. Show that you’ve received the message Ask questions periodically, which reinforces your learning and assures the speaker of your attention. Summarize what they’ve said (“so what you mean is…”). Hold judgement, don’t be defensive, avoid sharing opinions or personal anecdotes. Listen to them instead of planning what you’ll say next. Save a great idea until the end. Exude the spirit of a listener Be curious (“That’s fascinating. How did you become interested in this topic?”). Look for commonalities between you and the speaker (“I can’t believe you’re a runner too!”). Stay out of the chat. When people are presenting, don’t participate in the sidebar, stay in the main conversation. Set a good example and encourage others to speak Organizing your words ahead of the meeting so that you can speak in a calm manner with a clear message will help align the talk with the natural pauses. Preparing also ensures that you don’t overwhelm with too many details- which sets the stage for others to run on with their words instead of saying productive things. Send out the agenda in advance and consider starting with something that will encourage others to volunteer or speak up. Maybe even an ice breaker. Sometimes, if you are talking to someone who isn’t a good listener, you can lead them into better behavior by setting an example for how to do it. Save it One reason to stay quiet and listen instead is that it keeps you from using all your best material at once. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once revealed that he believes his edge in joke-writing comes from his habit of writing things down and saving them for the right time. Don’t reveal too much. If you have a great story you want to tell, but it doesn’t fit the conversation perfectly, maybe save it for a time that it does. Also, your stories have the most impact when they’re fresh, not told over and over. If you aren’t always speaking, when you do speak- people listen.  

  • 0 Motivational Mentoring: Figuring out what motivates your mentee and helping them tap into that to achieve their goals

    The first time I signed up to be a mentor, I thought it would be easy. After all, I’d spent several years as a supervisor in the military—mentoring should be a breeze. So, it came as a bit of a shock when I discovered that mentoring was not only different than supervising, but in some ways, more challenging. The biggest obstacle? My mentee’s motivation—or seeming lack thereof. Despite clear goals, previous success, and the added support of a mentor’s encouragement and accountability, my mentee just did not seem willing to follow through on his mentoring plan. We’ve all heard the Chinese proverb, “You give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish, and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” As mentors, we want to teach our mentees to fish. And while my mentee came to the program with a list of goals, what he was really casting out into the waters for was the motivation to achieve them. So, how do you help a mentee find their motivation? Below are some tips that I found useful. Empathize but don’t assume responsibility. At first, I felt frustrated with my mentee. I questioned why he signed up for the program if he did not intend to do the work. But the hard truth is that we all—every single one of us—have set goals that we then either abandoned completely or endured several failed attempts before finally achieving them. Draw from those experiences to empathize with your mentee and relate to their struggle to get and stay motivated. Better yet, share those experiences with them and talk about how you overcame your own motivation struggles. Be careful, though, that while you are putting yourself in your mentee’s shoes, you do not start trying to take steps for them. You cannot make your mentee achieve their goals, nor should you. The more you do for them, the less you are actually helping (think fish vs. fishing). Do not assume responsibility for their successes or failures. And if you find yourself struggling with the urge to take over or becoming increasingly frustrated with their lack of progress, reflect on your own motivations. Are you thinking about your mentee’s progress as a measure of your success as a mentor? Are you thinking about how you would do things and expecting your mentee to take the same approach because it obviously makes the most sense? Famed director Steven Spielberg once said, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” Help your mentee recognize and admit that they are struggling with motivation. Help them understand things that have worked for others. Help them identify ways they could try motivating themselves. But recognize that this is the most you can—or should—do. The rest is up to them. Be willing to have a difficult conversation. Your mentee may not realize they are struggling with motivation. After a few meetings with my mentee, I realized that what sounded like excuses to me were, in his mind, insurmountable obstacles. He did not think he struggled with motivation—he had instead convinced himself that these challenges that he did not want to work to overcome were challenges that he could not overcome no matter what he did. It was time for a kind, but firm, reality check. So, I reached down into my arsenal of anecdotes and told him about a time I talked myself out of achieving a goal by focusing on all the things that were in my way. The hardest part to swallow about that failure, I shared, was that I will never know whether I could have succeeded because, deep down, I know only that I did not truly try. Discover what drives them. There is no such thing as an unmotivated person. Everyone is motivated to do something. The same mentee who was not motivated to work on his mentoring action plan was working on a master’s degree in his off time. Clearly, he had motivation. The trick is helping your mentee identify what drives them in the areas where they are easily self-motivated and figure out how to transfer that to the task they struggle to complete. Schedule one or multiple mentoring sessions to focus exclusively on motivation. Prime the conversation by briefly sharing your own lessons learned about digging deep and finding your true motivation. Ask your mentee to reflect on times they felt excited and motivated to accomplish a goal in the past and to honestly assess why. Then, ask open-ended questions about their new goals: Why do you want to do that? What makes you excited about it? How long has that been your dream? What have you done so far? What is your plan?Listen closely to your mentee and keep a list of obvious—and potential underlying—motivators that you hear in their answers. Once you have worked together to identify some of their key drivers, discuss ways that they can apply those to achieve their current goals. Don’t give up. When your whole purpose as a mentor is to help someone succeed, it can feel counterintuitive and downright impossible to disassociate your success from theirs. But you must remember that being an effective mentor is about what you do, not your mentee. Just as you cannot take credit for their successes, you cannot take responsibility for their failures. Make time, show up, give honest and meaningful feedback, and follow through on things you have offered to do. If your mentee is not doing their part, be willing to talk to them—and listen—about what is holding them back. Don’t accept excuses, but don’t judge, don’t scold, and above all, don’t give up on them Sometimes, a mentee just needs someone else to recognize their potential and keep believing in them when others would have thrown up their hands. A mentee’s lack of motivation can be a serious test of your own. But even if your mentee never takes a single step toward achieving their goals, if you continuously put your best mentoring foot forward, you will have given them great mentorship. What they do with it is 100 percent their choice and their responsibility.

  • 0 FINDING MENTORS EVERYWHERE

    In a formal mentoring program, facilitators invest heavily in pairing mentors and mentees. They sort through demographics such as communication style, career trajectory, and experience. They analyze requests and preferences, aiming to create a mutually beneficial experience for both participants. This involved process is critical when planning successful partnerships that will meet the goals outlined in a prescribed program. There is another type of mentoring, however, that is less reliant on a well-engineered matching system. In this month’s newsletter, we will talk about soaking up mentors using daily interactions with colleagues, organizational leaders, or anyone that you find inspiring. In other words, we want to encourage taking on mentors who don’t exactly know that they’re mentoring you. Soaking up a mentor might mean, actively noting the way a well-respected colleague handles an ongoing prickly relationship or observing how a productive supervisor manages their calendar. Every day we are connecting with people on conference calls and email chains who are setting an example of what to do or what not to do in any given situation. Mentors are all around- it’s up to you to take the opportunity to learn from them. Know what you are searching Make a list of immediate needs and long-term goals. Where are your trouble spots? Perhaps your two-year plan is to reach a specific grade-level but you need to get your name out there to even be in consideration for promotion. Maybe you’re struggling to carve a line between professional expectations and personal obligations and looking for clarity on fitting in everything. It could be that the emails you thoughtfully compose are not getting quick responses, leaving you with the sense that the way you make requests isn’t effective. Zeroing in on what you need to do better will ensure that you pick up on the right things when observing others. Take notes and flag examples so that you can refer back to them. Create opportunities to learn Look for relatable learning opportunities. As leadership author Dan Black explains, “It’s all about being observant, which requires having attentive eyes and ears.” Wherever you are, take the time to actively engage, especially if there is someone in the room who you’ve identified as an informal mentor. Raise your hand and get involved in the conversation. Asking questions demonstrates focus and attention, a desire to dig beneath the surface, solve the problem, learn the skill. Asking questions ensures understanding and demonstrates a hunger for learning. Some tips for asking good questions include: Have a general idea ahead of time about the kind of information you seek. If joining a meeting, read ahead to know what is going to be discussed and what areas might need more explaining. Questions should be targeted and meaningful. Show openness when looking for details and try to keep preconceived opinions to yourself. Instead of “I really can’t figure out this weird system and wanted to ask….”, you might say, “What have you heard people love best about this system?” Only ask one-part questions. Overpacking will make it hard for the respondent to offer a clear answer. Leave your comfort zone Don’t be afraid to share your ideas when collaborating with someone you admire, especially colleagues with more seniority. Seek opportunities to talk about the way you have approached a problem and muse about potential strategies. It’s okay to make mistakes when trying to explain. People who know the issue better will jump in with workarounds or additional problem-solving. Consider it free feedback. Be curious Psychology Today explains curiosity as “a combination of intelligence, persistence, and hunger for novelty.” Curiosity adds zest. Cultivate your curiosity about things like leadership and industry knowledge by looking to mentors outside of the office. You might follow a writer on LinkedIn, subscribe to a notable speaker’s weekly podcast, or peruse an industry leader’s Instagram account. Read their biographies and research how they came to acquire their expertise. When they share articles on the topics that interest you, drill deeper to see what sources they have linked or referenced and read those sources for more information and context. Even look to motivational speakers or bestselling authors who demonstrate strong character and an energy that speaks to you. Curate a file of links and snapshots of posts by these lofty mentors so that you can look to them for broad inspiration. Stay curious and keep seeking knowledge. Mentoring is an important contributor to a successful and satisfying career. Joining a formal mentoring program shows your ambition and drive but don’t forget to soak up the mentors who are in your life each and every day. Make an effort to learn from them and follow their wisdom.

  • 0 Strategy Versus Tactics: The Case for Delegating

    Many of those in leadership positions, whether middle-management, team leader or senior executive, know they should be delegating tasks – probably more than they already do. Do any of the following “reasons” sound familiar? “I just can’t seem to let this task go!” “I am worried this will fall off the radar.” “I don’t really trust anyone else to get this done.” “This is really complicated and would take more time to explain than to just do it myself.” We can self-talk our way out of delegating to others - and justify it every step of the way! But if we continue to hold on to tasks we could delegate, we are not only holding ourselves back from reaching our full potential, we are holding our team back from reaching their full potential. Sometimes, it’s difficult to discern what tasks are ripe for delegation and reflects that internal struggle we experience between the work that could be done and the work that should be done. If we review our to-do list, we can start to categorize each item as either a strategic task - working ON the long-term goals of the organization - and tactical work – working ON the tasks that implement that vision. Examples of a set of tactical tasks includes the daily work surrounding project management, product development, service delivery, preparing and reviewing financial reports, keeping facilities maintained, training and supporting employees, etc. Strategic tasks focus on the future – those improvements, innovations, growth planning and succession planning efforts that support the overall mission of the organization. In short, strategic tasks are the work we do to set the course and direction, and tactical tasks are the “turns” we take to follow the course. It would follow that the more effort and energy expended on the strategic tasks, the more effective, efficient, and productive the resulting tactical tasks. After reviewing our to-do list, we need to start collecting data. Just like a diet – start tracking everything we spend time on– because we can’t change what we don’t know, and we don’t know what we don’t measure. Pretty quickly, those tactical tasks we just can’t let go of will equate to real time we are losing – resources we are wasting. Still not sold? Here are some other benefits of delegation: Lower Stress! By not delegating, we place a heavy burden on ourselves – we can become so overwhelmed that our functioning and our health suffer. Delegating tactical work can relieve and return more time to us. Build Communication Skills! The process of delegating can break down the sense of hierarchy between us and our team. Explaining tasks and sharing ideas together will lessen the distance among the team’s workers and help continue building trust and respect overall. Efficiency! Effective delegation allows us to maximize time and resources, as it decreases delays in achieving tasks. Effective delegation should be seen as an investment not only in our team, but also in the long-term health and success of the organization. Support Mission! When we delegate, we are required to do the front-work of identifying and putting to paper those clear goals and milestones – the strategic plan - in support of the mission, from which those tactical tasks then spring. Process Streamlining! If we truly invest the time in our strategic tasks – a comprehensive strategic plan supporting the mission – the tactical tasks and the steps to achieve each goal and milestone will be clearly defined and focused. The more we can delegate, the better the plan, the more efficient the task accomplishment – and all comes full circle. “But how do I get my team onboard when I am giving them more to do?” Our employees want to grow, so integrate a development plan into an employee’s Individual Development Plan (IDP) so everyone is on board with how (certain types of) tasks will be delegated to support the employee’s continued professional advancement. Also, delegating is less about giving up responsibility, and more about allowing others to lead. That doesn’t exempt us from speaking up when we see things getting off track, but it does mean letting the employee guide the ship as much as possible.

  • 0 Unwritten rules of the workplace: What every mentee should know

    Every organization has procedures and policies, formal written rules that tell employees clearly what they should and should not do. However, every organization also has a second set of dos and don’ts—a list that few (if any) will tell you about, but that leaders and colleagues will expect you to know and follow.Mentors can help their mentees avoid the discomfort of breaking these unwritten rules. Making mentees aware of the proper etiquette for their organization will help them create a positive impression, which, in turn, can help build a strong reputation and develop critical relationships that can lead to valuable opportunities.Below are some of the most important—but not always intuitive—unwritten rules that you can share with your mentee.Be aware of nonverbal cues. When someone doesn’t like what you’re doing or how you’re doing it, they will often tell you with their facial expressions and body language before they will tell you aloud (if, in fact, they ever do). Watching nonverbal cues can help you determine when you are breaking an unwritten rule.Take “John,” for example, a great guy and a hard worker with an unwitting habit of standing too close for people’s comfort (even before social distancing) when he talks with them. People step back, lean away, and sometimes even hold items in their hands further out in front of them to create additional space. But John is oblivious to these efforts and simply moves closer. He is a nice person and a skilled professional, but this habit unnerves his coworkers and makes them eager to get away. People are too uncomfortable to talk to him about it, but if he paid attention, he would note others’ reactions and realize that they are telling him loud and clear with their body language.Observe your colleagues carefully and watch their nonverbal cues not only to you, but to others as well. You can learn plenty about the unwritten by observing the unspoken.Speak carefully. When you are eager to establish your credibility, build relationships, or contribute to a project, your first instinct may be to jump in wherever you can during conversations and meetings. But you must be cognizant of the way you talk, as this is often just as (or more) important than what you say.Basic common courtesy and conversation skills are unwritten expectations in the workplace. Be polite and professional in every conversation. Don’t interrupt others or clearly demonstrate that you are waiting for them to finish so that you can jump in. Give the person who is talking your full attention—put down your phone or look away from your screen, make eye contact, listen to what they’re saying and, if the situation warrants, take notes. Speak clearly and loud enough to be heard, but make sure you aren’t too loud or forceful. Be aware of your tone and how you word things. For example, are you saying “I” when you could be saying “we”? In less formal conversation, avoid gossiping or complaining about coworkers and oversharing about your personal life.Another important rule is to pay attention to names. Not only is it good to know who is speaking (especially when you are new and still learning who’s who in the room), but it can communicate a lack of care or professionalism if someone must tell you their name more than once. In this same vein, make sure you introduce yourself when appropriate and others when you bring someone to a meeting or stop to have a conversation in which other participants don’t know each other.Show consideration for others. Working in an office means sharing space with other people, and when you share space with the same people for eight hours a day, you can get a little too comfortable. But no matter how well you get along with your coworkers, there are some considerations you should show daily as a matter of keeping things professional. Be mindful of the people you work with. Keep your workstation clean and organized. Cleanliness shows courtesy to others in your workspace, and you never know who is going to walk by or stop at your desk—a dirty desk does not leave a clean impression. To avoid disturbing those around you, keep the volume on your computer low or use headphones, and keep conversations short and quiet in spaces where other people are trying to work. Keep your voice down when taking professional calls at your desk and make personal calls on your cell phone in the hall or other common areas.Strong smells can be just as inconsiderate as loud sounds. Avoid heating or eating odorous food in your shared workspace. Likewise, don’t wear too much perfume or cologne—overpowering scents can be unpleasant and can make some people sick. Swish mouthwash or chew gum or mints after drinking coffee or eating lunch.

  • 0 Gratitude is Within your Power

    • Stress
    • by Nicole Bridge
    • 16-06-2020

    In this month’s newsletter we will examine the power of gratitude as a proven antidote for reducing stress and attracting successful outcomes. The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence defines gratitude as “a state of mind that arises when you affirm a good thing in your life that comes from outside of yourself, or when you notice and relish little pleasures.” According to the experts, gratitude is within your power, which means- you can tap into it whenever you need. Thank your mentor Mentors have the uncanny ability to alter our lives personally and professionally, often without even realizing it. When mentorees are in the trenches, tackling development goals and juggling multiple priorities, it can be difficult to pan out to the wider perspective and see your mentor’s impact. Quite often a mentoree will share with us a long list of things they have gained from their mentoring partnership, but then the mentor from that same partnership will worry that the mentoree isn’t getting what they need or enjoying the experience. Take a quick minute to make sure your mentor knows how much you appreciate them. Over the next few weeks pay attention to the lessons you are getting from your mentor and express your gratitude. Be sure to explicitly state what you like about being in a partnership with them. By the way, it is never too late to thank a mentor- even one you worked with years ago. If you have achieved a particular career goal or maybe even felt inspired to enroll as a mentor yourself, send a note and tell them how they left an impression on you. Use your mentoring practice to… pivot: There is no better time than now to use the skills you’ve polished as a mentoring program participant to stand out as someone who is rising to the occasion and demonstrating leadership potential. Here are some examples: Remote working: Many mentoring partners need to collaborate from a distance, using virtual resources to stay in touch. Think about the strategies you’ve used to maintain effective communication with your partner and put those to use with your day-to-day work. Demonstrate technological savviness for others and share tips for staying productive despite location. Work/life balance and time management: Often mentorees learn wellness techniques from their mentors as a means for reducing stress and eliminating emotional triggers. Now, more than ever, is the time to integrate some of these ideas into your new approach to work. Problem-solving: Your mentor has likely shared anecdotes about how they have helped their teams navigate challenges or difficult projects. Maybe you’ve even had an opportunity to observe their leadership skills in action. If you’ve learned a tip or trick that might improve a process or make your manager’s life easier, share. Keep a joy reserve Brené Brown, professor and lecturer, writes a great deal about living a life full of gratitude and joy. In her work, she has warned against “foreboding joy”- our reluctance to let ourselves feel happiness and joy when something good happens because we’re immediately nervous that it will be taken from us. If our supervisor tells us we did a good job on something, we might not be able to relish our accomplishment because we’re overwhelmed by a trickier project that’s running off track. Being selected for greater responsibility or a new assignment, might simply trigger worry about messing it up and disappointing others. If something great happens, let your mentor know. Your mentoring relationship is a safe place to celebrate achievement and build a reserve of happiness to cover you if truly anxious moments hit. Make gratitude a daily practice Establishing gratitude as daily practice or routine helps to start your day on a positive note. Taking time to observe simple pleasures is a way to acknowledge the value of the things you have in your life. Sometimes even focusing on a simple task such as tidying your desk can create a moment for quiet reflection. Start with gratitude and make time for it throughout the day. Here are some ideas to get you started. Write down five things that you’re grateful for: Time spent with your mentor A fulfilling and purposeful career An act of kindness from a co-worker Warmer days A good cup of coffee Another way to practice gratitude is by acting as a beacon of positivity for others. For example: Stay above office gossip Be a voice of optimism Pay kindness forward Regularly write notes of appreciation Write your own story- if you don’t like it, change it If you’re feeling lackluster about your current position and hoping for something new, it shows. Sometimes we can’t help ourselves but answer a simple “how are things going for you?” with a heavy sigh. Maybe we aren’t where we want to be in our career or are unsure how to make the move to the next position or a new department. Try changing the story. When people ask how things are going, tell them that you’re participating in a mentoring program, feeling energized to learn new leadership competencies and make the jump for applying to something new.

  • 0 Resilience-Surviving and Thriving During the Pandemic

    • Stress
    • by Ellen Kandell
    • 01-05-2020

    A note from Kathy Wentworth Drahosz:  Working from home is presenting many new challenges including figuring out ways to stay productive and communicating virtually with your supervisors, team members and customers.  Sharing office space and technology resources with your loved ones is creating another dynamic that you may not have had to deal with in the past.  With so many competing priorities, your mentoring relationship might seem like the easiest thing to postpone until things get back to normal.  When actually you may need to connect with your mentor (and they with you) more now than ever!  Mentors can provide a sense of community, connection and support in the midst of all the chaos that surrounds us these days.  In this newsletter, I have invited one of TTC’s strategic partners, Ellen Kandell, to share her thoughts on resilience and how to thrive in this new environment.  Social distancing is almost two months old and it doesn’t look like it will be ending anytime soon. Your hair is shaggy, your roots are showing and you’re not looking your best. If you are a leader you may be concerned about employee productivity and how you will regroup when this crisis is over. It’s causing lots of stress for everyone. Resilience is about getting through this challenging stressful time, adapting and eventually thriving. What is Resilience? Responding well in the face of adversity, trauma or significant stress is how psychologists define resilience. Handling the challenge and bouncing back is part of resilience. Learning from adversity and the ensuing personal growth is also involved. Resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. Rather, it is an ordinary trait that can be learned. Increasing our resilience requires time and intentionality. Our ability to learn and grow from trauma is what resilience is about. Resilience Killers Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant have researched resilience, written about it and developed an organization to foster resilience. Psychologists have found that there are three beliefs that kill resilience. They are personalization-we are at fault, permanence-this crisis won’t end and pervasiveness- it impacts everything.  In actuality none of these beliefs are accurate. If you get stuck on these tracks your resilience will suffer. The strategies below will help foster this important human trait. Strategies to Foster Resilience Connection: Prioritize relationships with people you care about. Reach out to those individuals during good and bad times.  Find groups of people who share similar interest or passions.  Pick up the phone rather than sending a text because it builds a stronger personal connection.  Focus on deep listening and empathetic communication. Lately a lot of groups have been meeting for virtual lunches on Zoom.  Foster community: Teams often have their own culture and traditions.  Sometimes these can be replicated or reinvented in an online environment, such as the Friday Zoom happy hour that my husband’s office organizes. These connections are important to remind you of your purpose. Organized clapping sessions have begun outside of hospitals to show love and appreciation for healthcare workers, see #clapbecausewecare. Wellness: Stress influences our body and mind. Exercise helps release stress. Getting outdoors changes your perspective. Try a new activity like Tai Chi or Qi Gong. Purpose: Scientific research on resilience has shown that having a sense of purpose and giving support to others has a significant impact on our well-being. Research calls it the helper’s high.  Donate to a food bank or a shelter. Make masks and give them to a senior residence.  Embrace healthy thoughts: Practicing gratitude has been shown to lift our spirits. Try to maintain a healthy perspective and watch out for irrational thinking that trips you up. While taking that perspective learn from your past consider, “What has helped you deal with adverse circumstances previously”? learn from that and accept what can’t be changed. My cousin from Germany sent a family message recently containing the following quote from Yosef Kanefsky, a Los Angeles rabbi: “Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.”    Ask a Mentor 3 TIPS to ask your mentor: Connect with your mentoring partner—set weekly partner meetings for the next couple of months. Set new mentoring goals-commit time to focus on a new skill or project listed in your Mentoring Action Plan that you haven’t gotten to yet. Write down 3 things you’ve accomplished each week and share with your mentor.

  • 0 Situational Mentors: Creating a network of learning

    When our son decided he wanted to become the goalie for his lacrosse team, my husband and I were thrilled that he’d set such a challenging goal for himself. We supported him, encouraged him, and believed he could do it . . . but we also knew he would need more than our cheerleading to achieve his goal. He needed someone with knowledge and experience to help him develop the skills and technique that we couldn’t teach. He needed a coach—a situational mentor.   This scenario is every bit as common in professional mentoring relationships as it is in parenting. Mentors often encounter opportunities to help their mentees grow and develop by enlisting the help of other colleagues or leaders in the organization. In fact, in many formal mentoring programs, identifying and recommending situational mentors is an encouraged or required part of the program.   A situational mentor is a subject matter expert who can offer knowledge related to a specific task, skill, or topic. This type of mentoring relationship is generally a short-term partnership that focuses on achieving a particular purpose or goal. Partnering with a situational mentor supplements an established mentoring program or relationship, and allows the mentee to gain a new skill, perspective, or relationship.  There are different types of situational mentoring that mentors can recommend. Here are a few examples.  Job shadowing. Shadowing involves observing another employee at work for a set period (from a few hours to a few days) to gain a better understanding of how that employee performs a specific task or process. People often think of shadowing as an opportunity to spend the day with a senior leader or attend a high-level meeting with a manager, but shadowing can be done with any employee at any level for any task.  For example, in one agency where report writing is a critical focus area, employees can sign up to shadow editors or statisticians while they review reports, or to attend another team’s in-process review to take notes on the types of questions and feedback the team receives. Observing these activities without being directly involved in them allows employees to filter the experience through a different lens and gain valuable insight that they can apply to their own reports. Setting up a similar experience for a mentee is as simple as identifying the activity the mentee would like to shadow, what they hope to learn from the experience, and the right person to ask.   Informational Interviews. Interviews are great for mentees who have questions about a concept or program, or who are seeking career advice from people who have already accomplished objectives they hope to achieve. When I was a mentee in a formal program, a few of my mentoring colleagues met with a successful female executive from another agency. The executive shared her professional story, detailing how she rose through the ranks and learned along the way. Meanwhile, my colleagues and I were able to ask questions and solicit her advice. This type of situational mentorship can also be helpful for a mentee considering a significant job change. Connecting with a professional in the field or position they are considering could help answer their questions and identify issues or considerations they weren’t aware of.   Project-based. Project-based mentoring involves soliciting technical expertise from a subject matter expert to help a mentee complete a project, or to provide feedback on a project the mentee has completed independently. This type of situational mentoring can be longer lasting and more in-depth depending on the breadth and scope of the project. For example, when one mentee was tasked to help present a briefing to the head of the agency, her mentor recommended that she meet with a situational mentor to help her prepare. The mentee met with her situational mentor several times in the weeks leading up to the briefing. The situational mentor listened to the information she needed to present, helped her organize an effective slide presentation, hosted “dry runs” to let her rehearse her section of the presentation, and provided her valuable feedback and advice based on his experience regularly briefing the agency head.   With so many of us working remotely and socially isolating, you may be tempted to postpone recommending or facilitating a situational mentor until things are “back to normal.” But now could actually be a great time to consider your mentee’s goals and objectives and evaluate where in their mentoring plan a situational mentor could add value. The same applications that allow us to attend meetings online can enable mentees to meet situational mentors virtually—mentees may even be able to shadow through screen sharing! And with the delay or cancellation of so many meetings, conferences, trainings, and extracurricular activities, mentees and potential situational mentors might find it easier to schedule a time to meet. These examples highlight how situational mentors can enhance a mentee’s growth and development. Situational mentors don’t replace a formal mentor, but they can add an element of diversity, dimension, and a different perspective—hallmarks of an effective mentoring experience.   In any event, to stay engaged and maximize the benefits of a situational mentoring experience, be sure to follow up with the mentee to discuss what they learned from the experience and how they can apply—and share—the new knowledge or skills that they gained. 

  • 0 Developing Leadership Competencies

    If a leadership position is something you hope to achieve, signaling this goal to others is a powerful first step. Talk to your supervisor or a mentor (informal or formal) who can offer insights to management, facilitate network-expanding introductions, and plan assignments that hone leadership competencies. Show your dedication and seriousness by actively seeking leadership experiences that you can measure and quantify on your resume. In this month’s newsletter, we will map out some universal leadership competencies and share strategies for cultivating them through hands-on learning and mentoring work. We will also suggest best practices for relating these experiences. Speaking competently about your accomplishments will assure current and future managers of your capabilities. Most Valued Leadership CompetenciesBoldness, decisiveness, effective conflict management...when we reflect on the best managers we’ve encountered, these attributes often come to mind. The best leaders show confidence in their work. The Harvard Business Review asked nearly 200 organizational leaders from around the world to consider which leadership competencies they have found to be most important. Their feedback boiled down to a thematic list that we will share here in ranking order. According to the survey, an effective leader: Maintains high ethical standards while creating a safe environment. Is able to delegate and rely on others to get things done. Communicates frequently so that employees feel connected. Is open to new ideas, willing to learn. Helps others to grow and meet their potential. In other words, being an effective leader takes more than being self-assured. It’s about holding up the organization’s values and mission while nurturing others’ growth and development so that they can do the same. To show your capacity for leadership, consider opportunities to weave these competencies into your mentoring goals. Writing Leadership into Your Development GoalsWhen writing measurable goals that lean into leadership, be practical. Include benchmarks and clear activities that you can easily report back to your supervisor or mentor. For example, if your objective is to expand your network, you might attend an organizational event at a level higher than you would normally (a Director’s meeting, strategic planning session, or budget hearing, for example) to learn new perspectives on your agency’s mission and future. While the primary aim is to expand your network, you will also gain insights into the trends that are impacting the agency’s mission and shape the views and priorities of key stakeholders. Once completed, analyze and summarize your experience so that you are prepared when a supervisor or mentor asks, “Can you tell me about how you are building coalitions?” For example: I attended a Director’s staff meeting to learn about their initiatives and meet the key players who participate. Learning about the department’s contributions to the agency illuminated a new perspective on the strategic direction our organization is going in 2020. It also gave me some ideas for things we can prepare for on our team. More Examples of Leadership-Oriented ActivitiesLooking for more ways to weave leadership into mentoring goals? The best way to make sure your mentoring plan covers leadership opportunities is to actively pursue them. Make time to brainstorm with your supervisor and talk about what you want to accomplish. Here are a few ideas for meaningful assignments to tackle with your supervisor’s support: Form and lead a cross-sectional task force to tackle a division-wide initiative (for example, training on a new procurement system or organizing the summer internship program). Offer assistance to an agency leader to plan a quarterly town hall or state of the organization meeting. Foster new technical skills by partnering with a colleague in a different division to complete a project. Organize a networking event with a small group of program participants to discuss the impact of specific legislation on your agency’s mission. Keep track and be prepared to speak confidently about how the assignments you choose are contributing to your leadership potential. Plan an Informational Interview with an Organizational LeaderDemonstrate your curiosity by speaking with one of your organization’s leaders to find out what qualities they most value. Ask for your mentor’s help in setting up an informational interview. Ask direct questions, such as, “What is the profile of someone you most recently hired into a management position? What stood out about their abilities and experience?” or, “What experience best prepared you for this job?” and maybe even, “Who depends on you most? In turn, who do you depend on most?” Getting acquainted with the leadership culture where you work will flesh out your understanding of what it takes to succeed in a leadership role. Show Passion in All You DoWhen talking about what makes a great leader, we can’t underestimate the impression that passion makes. Energy, optimism, and zeal for learning often mark the divide between those who are simply doing their job and those who have enough charisma and positivity to lead. Smile, mind your posture, get to know your colleagues. Show excitement for the work and ask questions. When you’ve completed an assignment, solicit feedback from your peers and managers. Tell them how their comments will help you do an even better job next time.  

  • 0 MENTORING THROUGH THESE UNCERTAIN TIMES

    For many of us, working from home presents a myriad of new challenges including staying productive and collaborating from afar, all while sharing spaces with our loved ones, fighting temptation to check the news, and possibly even taking on a new role as a homeschooling parent. With so many competing priorities, our mentoring partnerships might seem like the easiest thing to push off until later. Truthfully, however, some of us need mentoring right now more than ever. Mentors can offer advice on staying focused, stepping up with division work, and making sure extra effort is visible to our organizational leaders. It isn’t just about giving us strategies for staying productive; our mentoring partners can offer companionship during a period in which working from a home office may seem disorienting and isolating. At The Training Connection (TTC), we are always advising geographically distanced partners on keeping momentum and making progress against their mentoring goals even when they aren’t able to meet face-to-face. In truth, we sometimes find that meeting virtually can be more efficient than drifting into your partner’s office for a chat. Partners tend to be less likely to cancel a phone call and, in turn, more likely to prepare for it. Mentees usually only dial the phone when they are ready with a list of questions, mentors might come with an article they earmarked, some will even plan to use the mentee’s Mentoring Action Plan (MAP) to orient their conversation. Things you can do over the next few weeks: Check in with your partner. Call them up. Be candid- ask how they are faring. Do they have a peaceful workspace? How is their family and/or roommates? Tell them what this temporary landscape means for you and why you hope to keep the partnership moving. Use technology to stay focused. Facetime is more intimate than a traditional phone call and makes it easier to gauge interest and reactions. Share your screen in a zoom meeting so that you can both look at the Mentoring Action Plan or Mentoring Agreement without losing your place. Establish new norms. Texting might have seemed too casual a couple of weeks ago, but it might be easier and more intimate now. Perhaps you used to catch up during lunch, but if school is closed and the house is noisy at lunchtime, look to plan morning meetings instead. Be candid about your limitations and ask your partner to do the same. Get out your calendar. Set weekly partner meetings for the next couple of months. It might be surprising how much easier it is to keep a regular meeting schedule when it’s planned in advance. Mentees might even jot down a “theme” for each to ensure that the topics are interesting and relevant to their professional development.