Concentrate on the First 90 Days to Avoid Mentoring Missteps

Today’s guest bloggers are Lois Zachary and Lory Fischler, authors of Starting Strong: A Mentoring Fable.

Mentoring Missteps:

  • Mentors start off a mentoring relationship by drilling down on workplace issues before sufficiently establishing trust and build a solid relationship.
  • Mentoring pairs avoid difficult conversations.
  • Mentoring pairs automatically assume they each understand the need for discretion.
  • Mentees feel compelled to accept mentor recommendations, even though other issues might be more pressing.
  • Mentee goals are not be worthy of a mentor’s time and effort.
  • Goals are too easily accomplished or become a punch list of tasks and to-dos.
  • Goals are beyond the mentee’s capability or position or they don’t align with organizational priorities.

These missteps can be easily avoided if you take the time to lay a solid foundation at the beginning of a mentoring relationship, specifically during its first 90 days.

Engage in conversation. During the first 90 days mentoring partners build a trusting relationship, settle into agreements about how to work together, and focus on creating and working on SMART goals. If trust isn’t established early on, a mentee won’t be real and honest.  She may “posture” and try to look successful.  When this happens it masks a mentee’s real challenges and problems. Conversation will remain on the surface.

  • What questions can you ask your mentee to get her to feel comfortable?

 

Embed structure. Even when trust is established, partners need to put some structured agreements in place to ensure they stay on track and are productive.  Planning, agendas, timelines, confidentiality, deciding how often, where and when to meet all need to be addressed up front.  How do you handle a cancelled meeting?  How do you make the most of your time?  What are the hot buttons each person wants to avoid?  Talking about these at the beginning of a relationship increases the likelihood of mentoring success.

  • What agreements will you and your mentee need to put it place before you get started?

 

Create smart goals. Learning is the central focus of the relationship and the mentee’s goals drive that learning. If the goals aren’t specific, conversations never have a focus.  If goals are measurable, mentoring partners don’t know if they are actually making progress.  Both the mentor and mentee need to be invested in the goals. And not all goals are right for mentoring; they need to be stretch goals, they need to be worthy of the mentor’s time and effort and the energy and commitment of the mentee.  The goals need to make a difference ultimately to the mentee’s career success.

  • How will the goals your mentee wants to work on contribute to his growth and development?

 

The first 90 days are critical to mentoring success. What structures do you need to put in place to make the most of your first 90 days?

To learn more about the mentoring process, watch our recent webinar with Zachary and Fischler, titled The First 90 Days of a Mentoring Relationship.

People Are Not Widgets

“Your people are not your greatest asset. They’re not yours, and they’re not assets.”

Rodd Wagner

In his book Widgets, Wagner refers to the many terms used to codify people for business purposes, like “full-time equivalents,” “headcount,” “talent,” “human capital,” “overhead,” “inventory,” or “aprons.”

“Once people are seen as widgets – as “human resources” – it’s much easier to apply to them the kinds of Operationspeak that should be reserved for raw materials. They are “downsized,” attributed,” “onboarded,” “blended,” “change-managed,” “diversity-trained,” “e-taught,” “force-ranked,” “matrixed,” “requisitioned,” or “made redundant.”

Wagner and his researchers developed the 12 new rules of engagement to counteract this dehumanizing influence:

  1. Get inside their heads
  2. Make them fearless
  3. Make money a non-issue
  4. Help them thrive
  5. Be cool
  6. Be boldly transparent
  7. Don’t kill the meaning
  8. See their future
  9. Magnify their success
  10. Unite them
  11. Let them lead
  12. Take it to extremes

To learn more about how these new rules of engagement work in business, join us for our Soundview Live webinar with Rodd Wagner called Managing Employees As If They’re Real People. Wagner provides a guide to better understanding human nature on the job and to understanding each of the New Rules that emerged from the team’s extensive research. It’s a guide for ferreting out and fixing all the ways your company treats its people like widgets.

How Technology Leaders Are Enabling Business Strategy in the Digital Age

With the onslaught of cloud solutions, consumerization of technology and increasingly tech-savvy businesspeople, it’s time for a manifesto for leaders who recognize –– and are nervous about –– the demands of the digital age. Whether you’re an executive, department head or IT manager, The New IT provides an action-ready blueprint for building and strengthening the role of IT in your company –– and prescribing IT’s future.

By using field-tested techniques to align your IT department with your corporate objectives, you can leverage the power of technology across the entire company. The New IT provides a set of tactical and experience-based frameworks to help you and your colleagues conceive a new roadmap. You’ll learn how to bring your business and IT teams together in a way that is truly transformative. The new IT doesn’t just deploy technology. It balances strategy and delivery. It’s interactive and inclusive. It’s as omnipresent as the smartphone and just as revolutionary.

The New IT equips you with the tools you need to succeed in reframing the IT conversation and propelling your business forward.

IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN:

• To identify your current and future IT archetype.

• How and why you need to make your IT portfolio central.

• To reorganize IT into service lines.

• To build a stronger and enduring role for IT as a business partner.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.

 

Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead

WHAT’S WORKED AT GOOGLE

Laszlo Bock, head of People Operations at Google, once interviewed a job candidate who was clearly wearing a new and quite expensive pinstripe suit purchased just for the interview. Bock told the candidate that he had good news and bad news. The good news was that he was hired; the bad news is that he would never wear that beautiful suit again.

Googlers, as the 50,000 employees of Google are called, do not wear suits. However, casual clothes is just one (rather minor) facet of a progressive working environment that has allowed Google to win numerous Great Place to Work awards, not only in the United States but in countries around the world. In his book Work Rules: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Work, Bock details how the company recruits, motivates and manages the highly talented people who join the company.

A High-Freedom Approach

For Bock, a “high-freedom approach” to managing people is key, as compared to the low-freedom command-and-control approach of traditional companies. For example, in addition to mission (Google’s succinct mission statement is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”), the cornerstones of Google’s culture are transparency and voice, he writes.

While many companies insist they champion full transparency of the company’s operations and giving their employees a voice, Google translates the words into unequivocal, on-the-ground action. For example, one would expect that Google would carefully guard its code base — the collection of source code that contains, Bock writes, “the secrets of how Google’s algorithms and products work.” In most software companies, new engineers can see some of the code base for just their product. “At Google, a newly hired software engineer gets access to almost all of our code on the first day,” he writes. The issue is trust, he explains. If you trust your employees, there is no reason not to be transparent and not to let them guide decisions.

As Bock writes in one of the two “work rules” that summarize the chapter on culture, “Give people slightly more trust, freedom and authority than you are comfortable giving them. If you’re not nervous, you haven’t given them enough.”

Each chapter ends with two to four of these succinct work rules that encapsulate the core lesson of the chapter. These work rules are listed at the end of the book, creating perhaps one of the most comprehensive guides to managing people ever gathered in four short pages.

Some of the work rules are progressive but not surprising. The work rules for selecting new employees, for example, are set a high bar for quality, find your own candidates, assess candidates objectively and give candidates a reason to join.

Other work rules may be more unexpected. The rules for compensation begin with “Swallow hard and pay unfairly. Have wide variations in pay that reflect the power law distribution of performance.” In other words, it is often assumed that employees at a certain level should make approximately the same amount of compensation, with some slight adjustment for performance. However, the contribution that employees make to the company will vary greatly from employee to employee. Studies show that the top 1 percent (in performance) of workers generates 10 times the output of average workers. Employees, Bock writes, should be compensated accordingly.

While there are numerous books about Silicon Valley management methods, Work Rules offers both an in-depth exploration of the workings of the iconic company’s HR efforts and policies and a take-away list of practical to-dos valuable to the HR functions of any company.

Markers of Meaning

“The startling truth is that 70% of the workforce is disengaged – their bodies may put in long hours, but their hearts and minds never punch in.  You may even be one of those that’s searching for ways to make work really work for you.  This is a terrible dilemma for organizations trying to motivate employees to do more with less. So how to motivate the disengaged, and further engage the engaged?  It’s not pay, perks, or promotions.

The answer is to foster meaning at work, that is, give work a greater sense of personal significance, and thus, make work matter. “    Scott Mautz

Through his research, Mautz has discovered that specific Markers of Meaning exist, or unique conditions that create meaning in and at work. It’s possible to learn how to trigger each Marker of Meaning and inspire elevated performance and fulfillment that sustains over the long haul.

Markers of Meaning:

Direction

  1. Doing work that matters

Discovery

  1. Being congruently challenged
  2. Working with a heightened sense of competency and self-esteem
  3. Being in control and influencing decisions/outcomes

Devotion

  1. Working in a caring/authentic/teamwork-based culture
  2. Feeling connection with and confidence in leadership and the mission
  3. Being free from corrosive workplace behavior

Looking at this list of markers, I can see why such conditions would be motivators for engagement in any company or work environment. But how do we foster these markers of meaning in our organizations?

Join us on July 7th to learn how. We have invited Scott Mautz to present his findings and answers at our Soundview Live webinar How to Motivate By Creating Meaning. You’ll walk away equipped with a host of specific ideas, insight, and practical tools to help do so.

How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale & Agility

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In today’s ever-changing marketplace, every company is at risk of having a “Kodak Moment”— watching its industry and the competitive advantages it has developed over years, even decades, vanish overnight. The reason? An inability to adapt quickly to new business realities. Established companies are at risk, but it’s no easier being an agile startup, because most of those fail due to their inability to scale. Tomorrow’s business winners — regardless of size or industry — will be the ones that know how to combine scale with agility.

In Design to Grow, a Coca-Cola senior executive shares both the successes and failures of one of the world’s largest companies as it learns to use design to be both agile and big. In this rare and unprecedented behind-the-scenes look, David Butler and Fast Company senior editor Linda Tischler use plain language and easy-to-understand case studies to show how this works at Coca-Cola — and how other companies can use the same approach to grow their business.

Design to Grow is a must-read for managers inside large corporations as well as entrepreneurs just getting started.

IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN:

• Key differences between scale and agility.

• What it means to design on purpose.

• The three realities underlying the new normal of today’s marketplace.

• The power of modular design for creating agility.

• How open systems can help you create a leaner organization.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.

 

Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done

PRODUCTIVITY STRATEGIES DESIGNED FOR HUMANSIt seems that every day is the same for most of us: too much to do, too little time to do it. In this hyper-busy, 24/7 world, author Josh Davis’ contention that we can regain control of our lives by being highly productive for two hours a day seems almost silly. Yet in his book, Two Awesome Hours, Davis makes a compelling case that we can get most of the important work done in a total of two hours — or a similarly overall short amount of time (two hours, he explains, is not a magic number but representative of the small amount of highly productive period for which we should aim).Not a MicroprocessorThe secret is to change the mindset of most productivity efforts, which is built on the concept of trying to be efficient for the entire day. The fact — as proven by science — is that machines and computers can be efficient for eight or 10 hours a day, but humans cannot. The brain is not a biological version of a computer microprocessor. You can’t just turn it on and off. It needs to rest. It becomes distracted — and that’s okay.

In short, Davis writes, we need to stop trying to emulate the productivity of machines and instead work with our continually expanding knowledge of how the brain works.

Five Strategies

Based on the science of the brain, Davis has developed five productivity strategies that are designed for humans and not machines.

Strategy 1. Recognize Your Decision Points. It may seem that the moments between tasks are unimportant and, in fact, unproductive. After all, you are not working. As a result, most people rush through what Davis calls “decision points,” those moments in the day when you are deciding what to do next. In their quest to be “productive,” however, people don’t give enough thought to what they should be doing next. They grab the first task they see and end up spending an enormous amount of time on a task that is of secondary importance. “There’s a time and place for the less important work, but leveraging your decision points will help you keep attuned to your larger priorities,” Davis writes.

Strategy 2. Manage Your Mental Energy. Not all hours are the same. This is a major difference with machines, which will work the same no matter when they are operating or for how long. A brain will become tired, and different tasks have more or less impact on brain fatigue. Davis urges his readers to learn when their mental energy is at its peak; this is the time to focus on the most difficult of tasks. And they should be careful not to drain their energy just before that energy is most needed.

Strategy 3. Stop Fighting Distractions. As with decision points, distractions are often seen as the enemy of productivity. In truth, they can be opportunities for regeneration and refocusing. That doesn’t mean reading the sports pages or cyberloafing on social media sites at will, Davis explains. However, daydreaming for a few minutes while looking out the window can send you back to the task refreshed and newly focused.

Strategy 4. Leverage Your Mind-Body Connection. There is a tendency, Davis writes, to separate the mental from the physical. In truth, mind and body are connected, and this offers opportunities to help (or hurt) your mental capacity by how you treat your body. How, when and what you eat or drink, for example, can make a big difference in your mental capacity. Use the mind-body connection to your advantage, Davis urges.

Strategy 5. Make Your Workspace Work For You. The right physical environment will also play a major role in your productivity. “You often can’t change the place where you work, but there are lots of little things you can do to ensure that your workspace is helping, not hindering your productivity,” he writes.

These five deceptively simple strategies, Davis writes, “are effective not only because they are simple and easy to start implementing but also because they work with, not against, your biology.”

In this quick and engaging read, Davis makes a compelling case that the secret for creating the conditions “for at least two hours of incredible productivity every day” is to forget efficiency and draw on the lessons from the latest research in psychology and neuroscience — two disciplines that have nothing to do with machines.

What I’ve Learned About Being A CEO

Today’s guest blogger is Charles D. Morgan, former CEO of Little-Rock-based Acxiom Corporation, world leader in data gathering and its accompany technology. Today he leads a new tech startup called PrivacyStar. His memoir, Matters of Life and Data: The Remarkable Journey of a Big Data Visionary Whose Work Impacted Millions (Including You).

I’ve been a CEO for nearly 40 years, and whenever anyone asks me what’s the most important thing I’ve learned about building successful companies, I answer with two words: corporate culture.

Leadership is about what you do, not what you say, and a healthy corporate culture is evidence of a CEO’s leadership. Some of that evidence is physical, such as daycare centers and basketball courts and exercise rooms, three facets of the culture we created at Acxiom Corporation that contributed to our being named one of America’s “best places to work” by both Working Woman and Fortune magazines.

But while those physical amenities are nice to have, I believe it’s the more abstract parts of a corporate culture that ultimately matter most. In the late 1980s, Acxiom was growing so fast that we lost our way. We were adding so many people, and building up so many layers of management, that we were having trouble getting things done. By the time we woke up, we had 13 layers of management in a company of 400 employees.

We slashed the management structure down to three layers, eliminated corporate titles—mine became simply “Company Leader”—and got leaner and looser and quicker on our feet. By cutting all those layers of supervision we created a culture of engagement in which our “associates,” as we called our employees, were encouraged to think freely, to make mistakes, and to be as creative as possible. We actually institutionalized a philosophy stressing leadership at every level. “You manage projects, and you lead people,” became our mantra, “but you don’t manage people.” To my mind, there’s no faster way to kill creativity than over-supervision.

Our people responded exactly as I hoped they would—they stopped checking their brains at the door and started enjoying the challenges that came their way. By the end of the 1990s, Acxiom was a fully international company with 5,000 employees and $1 billion in annual revenue. I have no doubt that our success was due to our people’s new sense of freedom—of being respected, trusted, and expected to strive for excellence.

Recently I traveled to Silicon Valley, where the subject of corporate culture came up in several meetings—often in a negative context. At one tech company boasting every luxury that so often characterizes top tech firms today, the executive I met with appeared to resent his pampered young employees. Between the lines, he seemed to be saying, I hate that I have to give these spoiled people all these entitlements, but that’s what it takes to hire and keep them. To me, that seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In contrast, I also met with executives at Hewlett Packard, and they couldn’t stop talking about how Chairman and CEO Meg Whitman had “blown up” the stuffy old HP culture. They showed me the telecommunications room, a space much smaller than a typical boardroom. “This is where Meg spends most of her time,” one executive said. “She sits in here and talks with HP employees all over the world.” Now that’s how to make high-tech really work for you.

Meg Whitman’s telecommunicating reminded me of Sam Walton, whom I got to know in my early days at IBM; in fact, I made the presentation that resulted in his buying Walmart’s first computers. Even in those relatively low-tech times, Sam showed his leadership by creating a culture of interaction that became part of the DNA of his company. He would climb into his twin-engine piston airplane and fly himself from town to town visiting his growing chain of stores, walking the aisles and listening to his people. It didn’t take long for his managers to get the message, and soon Walmart had a fleet of 20-or-so planes. Every Monday morning at 7 a.m., the little Bentonville, Arkansas, airport sounded like the U.S. Air Force was getting ready to take to the skies.

To me, the lesson is crystal clear: Empowerment always trumps entitlement, and the very best CEOs work to create a healthy corporate culture of engagement with, and self respect among, their employees. That’s the kind of culture that positions a company for success.

To learn more about Charles Morgan and the use of data in today’s business world, join us for our Soundview Live webinar: The Remarkable Story of a Big Data Visionary.

Modern Day Gold Rush

The discovery of gold nuggets in the Sacramento Valley in early 1848 sparked the Gold Rush, arguably one of the most significant events to shape American history during the first half of the 19th century. As news spread of the discovery, thousands of prospective gold miners traveled by sea or over land to San Francisco and the surrounding area; by the end of 1849, the non-native population of the California territory was some 100,000 (compared with the pre-1848 figure of less than 1,000). A total of $2 billion worth of precious metal was extracted from the area during the Gold Rush, which peaked in 1852.

To accommodate the needs of the ’49ers, gold mining towns had sprung up all over the region, complete with shops, saloons, brothels and other businesses seeking to make their own Gold Rush fortune. The overcrowded chaos of the mining camps and towns grew ever more lawless, including rampant banditry, gambling, prostitution and violence. San Francisco, for its part, developed a bustling economy and became the central metropolis of the new frontier.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and a new gold rush is taking place. As Charles Morgan, author of Matters of Life and Data, puts it: “Data mining is the new gold rush, and we were there at first strike, dragging with us all our human frailties and foibles. In this book’s cast of characters you’ll find ambition, arrogance, jealousy, pride, fear, recklessness, anger, lust, viciousness, greed, revenge, betrayal, and then some.”

Morgan, the Founder, Chairman & CEO of Acxiom Corporation (NASDAQ: ACXM), world leader in data gathering and its accompanying technology, grew Acxiom from an early-stage company to an international corporation growing to $1.4 billion in annual revenue during his tenure as CEO from 1972 to 2008.

If you’d like to hear the inside story of this 21st century gold rush from one of the key players, join us on June 30th for our Soundview Live webinar with Charles Morgan titled The Remarkable Story of a Big Data Visionary. You’ll get the inside scoop of the good and bad players in the data industry, as well as learning about how this data gold rush is affecting our business and personal life.

 

Creating Behavior That Lasts –– Becoming the Person You Want to Be

Triggers2

Do you ever find that you are not the patient, compassionate problem solver you believe yourself to be? Are you surprised at how irritated or flustered the normally unflappable you becomes in the presence of a specific colleague at work? Have you ever felt your temper accelerate from zero to sixty when another driver cuts you off in traffic?

As Marshall Goldsmith points out in Triggers, our reactions don’t occur in a vacuum. They are usually the result of unappreciated triggers in our environment — the people and situations that lure us into behaving in a manner diametrically opposed to the colleague, partner, parent or friend we imagine ourselves to be. So often, the environment seems to be outside our control.

Even if that is true, as Goldsmith points out, we have a choice in how we respond. In Triggers, Goldsmith shows how we can overcome the trigger points in our lives and enact meaningful and lasting change. Goldsmith offers a simple “magic bullet” solution in the form of daily self-monitoring, hinging around what he calls “active” questions, six “engaging questions” that can help us take responsibility for our efforts to improve and help us recognize when we fall short.

With these and other strategies, Triggers can help us to achieve change in our lives, make it stick and become the person we want to be.

IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN:

• The most common belief triggers that keep us from changing.

• To identify your triggers and use active questions to counter them.

• The power of the environment to influence behavior and the importance of structure to change behavior.

• Why a “good enough” attitude can harm interpersonal relationships.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.