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Mentoring and leadership

It comes as no surprise to me that businesses and organizations of all types have set up mentorship programs to increase meaningful relationships among the members of their teams. Why? Because mentoring is one of the most powerful, effective forms of leadership.

Yet I’ve noticed that many are hesitant to adopt the role of mentor. They may feel that they aren’t good enough teachers, or that they lack the confidence to take ownership of their skill sets.

The truth is we’re all mentors, whether we know it or not. And while we may not have fully developed this trait, we all possess the potential to become effective mentors and, at the same time, enrich and empower our leadership.

How does mentoring another give your own leadership a boost?

1. It encourages you to always lead with a good example.

Sometimes we slip into bad work habits and mentoring another causes us to be aware of those bad habits and avoid them.

2. You discover knowledge gaps.

Your mentee may ask questions to which you don’t know the answer. That forces you to research or reach out to co-workers to find the answer, thus expanding your knowledge base.

3. You build communication and people skills.

Mentoring helps strengthen your communication skills in one-on-one situations. Since you are the authority figure, it can also build your confidence and even your public speaking skills.

4. You build credibility

Not only will you build credibility in the eyes of your mentee, but other people around the office will see you as reliable, a go-getter, and someone who knows their stuff. You have enough knowledge and poise to tutor another; you must have what it takes to perform your job well (and maybe even land a promotion!).

How to be a Mentor?

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of mentoring to your leadership, let’s look at the best ways to be a mentor:

Mentors Lead By Example

In an article from The Journal of Leadershipeducational consultants John C. Kunich and Richard I. Lester detail some key aspects of strong mentoring.

A mentor must behave at all times, both publicly and privately, as if the protégé were the mentor’s shadow.

Even in your life outside of work, when people might not be watching, you must stay consistent with your values. At the end of the day, good leadership relies upon a life of integrity. When you take a protégé under your wing, you give them clearance to assess your actions. Don’t take this lightly! It’s a big responsibility, yes, but it’s also immensely rewarding to be able to show your mentee the ropes simply by doing the work you do best.

Mentors Share Their Networks

One of the greatest resources an “old head” owns is a network of people who can help cut through the usual tangle of red tape and quickly obtain the desired result.
Networking usually relies upon sharing contacts and leads, so what better way to give your protégé a head start than equipping them with contacts? Set them up with meetings or informational interviews, give out contact information, or hand them one of your friend’s business cards. I’m sure you can think of people in your life who’ve let you into their already-established network, and I’m just as sure that you appreciate that they did.

Mentors Set Goals And Instill The Value Of Goal-Setting

It should become apparent to the protégé that there are significant differences between workable goals and pleasant but less reality-based dreams, hopes, or wishes.
Because great leaders are able to transform bold visions into reality through the implementation of planning and goal-setting, as a mentor you must also stress the importance of this skill, and work with your protégé on developing goals for themself. A good way to do this is to guide them through the process of differentiating between wishes and workable goals. Get a feel for your mentee’s hopes and dreams. Have them transfer their dreams into workable goals, and write out a long term program with them to get there. With you there as an adviser and a guide, your mentee will learn that visions truly can become reality, but only through long term planning, consistency and gradual steps.

 

Reference

Kunich, John C. and Lester, Richard I. “Leadership and the Art of Mentoring: Tool Kit for the Time Machine.” Journal of Leadership 1-2: (2001) 118, 125, 126.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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There you are, day in and day out, punching the clock. Suddenly, after many dedicated years at an okay job, you are laid off. Unfortunately, that seems to be the story for so many individuals over the last few years. What to do now?

Most people dive into the traditional job search, seeking out something similar to what they had done before. But, that’s not the only option. You could take your experiences and acquired skills and strike out on your own! Or, you could go back to school, even taking just a few classes, and gain new skills for a flourishing business.

Here are a few resources to help get you started when you find yourself thinking about entrepreneurship (running a business), or even becoming a solopreneur (running a business on your own, such as freelancing).

Program Specifically for Laid Off Aspiring Entrepreneurs:

Here in Minnesota, the government offers the Dislocated Worker Program to laid off employees. If you want to start your own business, you can take advantage of their Converting Layoffs into Minnesota Businesses (CLIMB) sub-program. CLIMB allows you to work toward building your business full-time while still collecting unemployment, eliminating the “regular” job search stress. They offer counseling, training, and financial help to guide you on your self-employment journey.

Programs for Aspiring Entrepreneurs: 

  • S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers counseling, classes, loans, and special services for minority and women-owned small businesses.
  • WomenVenture provides women with classes, counseling, and loans for successfully starting a small business. Their Guided Business Plan course is a six-month long program intended to help you complete your business plan and strategize every aspect of your business.
  • SCORE is a free mentoring program for small business owners. They also offer workshops and tools to get started and thrive.

Training and Development for Aspiring Entrepreneurs:

 Bolstering your education or training can give you a leg up for starting a thriving business. I know one woman who was laid off after eight years on the job. Because she felt that her skillset was outdated, she decided to take advantage of the classes offered in the programs mentioned above. The classes renewed her confidence and gave her the courage to start a freelance writing business, something she had considered doing for a long time.

Another option to brush up your skills is to take classes online or complete an online degree. Many universities and colleges also offer continuing education certifications if you want a shorter time commitment. The CLIMB program can help pay for these classes.

Use any of the above resources to see if they offer training that may help you move forward in your quest for self-employment. There are many other resources in Minnesota; check out this website for further information on starting a business in this state.

 

It can be scary to suddenly find yourself jobless. But it can turn into an exciting journey toward entrepreneurship, and this state has excellent resources for successfully starting a business. Don’t be afraid to take the path less traveled toward a new career where you call the shots. Contact me if you would like support with your self-employment goals.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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millennial cafe photo

Today’s new batch of workers are not necessarily motivated by old incentives: a decent salary, a benefits package, a few vacation days. In fact, 92% believe that business success should be measured by more than profit. Instead of luring your new hires in and trying to keep them with traditional methods, take the time to understand how Millennials think.

To be brief, Millennials are generally altruistic, enjoy flexibility, crave diverse and challenging tasks, appreciate a healthy work-life balance, and seek fun and camaraderie in the workplace. They also carry quite a bit of college debt and are generally well-educated.

So, how do all those features translate into keeping Millennials motivated and retaining them? What can your workplace do to be better compatible with the way Millennials think and behave? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Consider flexible work hours

According to Cisco Systems, Inc., a whopping 69% of Millennials believe office attendance is unnecessary on a regular basis. Many Millennials are task or goal-oriented and are perplexed by mandatory 9 to 5 office hours. By allowing Millennial workers to have flexible office hours or a couple work-from-home days each week, your company is more likely to mesh with their work styles. Frankly, some Millennials work better at nine o’clock in the evening and, with a flexible work schedule, that’s okay. Just make sure they have clear goals and are accomplishing everything they need to accomplish (which brings us to suggestion #2…).

  1. Give regular feedback

Millennials like specific goals and tasks and they also like to know how they are performing. Keep in mind, Millennials grew up with lots of measuring sticks—video game scores, report cards, standardized tests, social media performance data such as Facebook “Likes” and “retweets.” They need to know if they’re on the right track or performing to standards. On the same token, Millennials like incentives. Consider running inter-office competitions or giving out bonuses (or something as simple as a gift card to Starbucks) so that your Millennial workers have something fun to work toward.

  1. Have a heart

The Millennial generation is known for logging tons of volunteer hours and getting involved in both local and global causes. They care, and your company should too. For example, Dan Epstein, CEO of business consultancy ReSource Pro, allows his staff (which is comprised of 90% Millennials) to form committees and use company resources or time to organize their causes. “Whether it’s weekends with Habitat for Humanity,” Epstein says, “or time off to run in charity marathons, the company’s encouragement helps them feel good about the company.”

  1. Encourage creativity

Inc.com says, “Millennials are the poster children of innovation, and encouraging employees to find and utilize new solutions and outside-the-box thinking can have huge benefits.” The employee gets to learn a new skill or think about a problem in a unique way and the company benefits by tapping into the creative thought that Millennials are known for. One way to keep Millennials interested and encourage innovative thinking is to allow them to present self-defined project ideas to your company’s management. Progressive companies like 3M and Google often give employees time to work on projects of their choosing, which helps the employees feel more independent, engaged, and part of the fabric of the organization.

  1. Offer alternative compensation

Millennials are interested in incentives beyond money. Offerings such as public transit passes (or bicycle commuting credits), shares in the company, or bonus vacation days are all enticing to Millennials (who generally support public transit, like being a part of the larger company picture, and tend to travel far more often than their older counterparts). Another great way to entice Millennials is to offer loan repayment plans (give them a monthly stipend designated toward paying off student debt), or offer them continuing education opportunities (such as encouraging them to pursue an advanced degree or offering office-wide training programs, such as Insights Discovery or DiSC workshops).

Have questions about motivating your new hires? Contact me today and we’ll discuss some personalized strategies that you can start implementing in YOUR company this year.

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training millennials

Millennial workers are the future. The generation born between 1980 and 2000 currently comprises 36% of the workforce and 15% of all leadership roles in the United States, and will continue to grow as members of the Baby Boomer generation retire. Although some workers like to dismiss the Millennial generation as “disloyal” or “entitled,” much of this negative labeling comes from fundamental misunderstandings between generations. Because Millennials will soon be the most prominent demographic in the modern workforce, I decided to dedicate the month of February to this generation. Whether you’re training Millennials, working alongside them, or you are a Millennial, this series should be useful to you. To kick off, I will first discuss training techniques.

Many organizations are not keen on the idea of overhauling their entire employee training program. Yes, it can be costly and time-consuming, but it is an absolutely essential step to take if you want to attract new talent and set up new hires for success. And there’s an additional bonus: According to Sweetrush Training, “Applying these [new training programs] will make your training stronger and more effective for everyone — not just Millennials.” That’s because older generations have many of the same tendencies as Millennials, including a positive response to feedback and an interest in interactivity.

The following is a list of some typical Millennial traits and how they translate into workplace training:

  1. Millennials are goal-oriented and like clarity

Before delving too deeply into your training program, give your Millennial trainees a high-level overview of what you’re going to cover and what they need to know. According to Vivid Learning Systems, “Helping them understand early on what is expected of them helps them not only succeed in training but also on the job. You can do this by clearly communicating training objectives, informing trainees about what information they will be evaluated against and how they will be evaluated, and providing an opportunity for Millennials to ask questions and clarify expectations early on.”

  1. Millennials learn better by doing than seeing

To put it frankly: lecture-style training sessions do not work. Most Millennials have grown up with interactive classrooms in which the teacher promotes learning through games, roleplaying, labs, and asking questions. Actually, this kind of interactive learning environment works well for people in all generations. Instead of talking at your trainees and flipping through powerpoint slides, try something more engaging. Use case studies, group work, scenarios, video clips, question and answer sessions, etc. You’ll find that this training style will keep your Millennial hires interested and help them better retain what they’ve learned.

  1. Technology is second-nature for Millennials

Whether it’s videos, online forums, training software, simulations, or interactive Smartboards, incorporating technology into your training program is essential. Millennials are comfortable with technology and readily turn to it for both education and entertainment. By weaving technology into your training program, you’ll find that Millennial trainees will stay engaged and your company will appear to be more relevant and modern in their eyes.

  1. Millennials are interested in collaboration

According to USA Today, studies show that “Millennials actually like to work in teams more than their elders.” This may seem counter-intuitive, given most Millennials’ attraction to technology (and the amount of time they spend engaged with their smartphones), but a full 60 percent of Millennials would prefer to collaborate in person vs. online (34 percent) or via phone or videoconference (6 percent). An added bonus of including group activities in your training program is that the new hires will get to know each other and begin to form bonds. Given that a positive work environment is typically very important to Millennials, it’s a great idea to get them working alongside and befriending their peers right away.

If you have any questions about creating a new training program for the next generation of workers, please do not hesitate to contact me today.

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