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Tag Archives: Margaret Smith professional speaker

In my experience, there is no better way to support and nurture your work team than through mentoring. And mentoring is not just for new hires or people switching roles within the organization; it’s helpful for anyone who is looking to learn a new skill, change roles, or climb the ladder.

There really is no substitution for working with a mentor.

Mentors can offer:

  • Personalized guidance
  • A roadmap for obtaining a new position
  • Lived experience and real-life lessons
  • A bridge to other resources
  • A chance to expand a person’s network

I’ve written about mentoring benefits in a few past blog posts, but today I want to talk about something slightly different: starting a mentoring cohort.

What is a mentoring cohort?

Companies can approach mentoring cohorts differently, but in essence, they are groups of people who are moving through a mentoring program together. That might sound formal, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Typically, each mentee will be assigned a mentor, who will work with them for a certain period of time (3 months, perhaps, or 6 months).

The mentees might occasionally meet up and offer each other support, as well. This often makes sense if the mentees are new in the organization and could use the same type of support or resources. Typically, the mentors have been with the organization for at least a few years and are well-respected and knowledgeable.

How do you start a mentoring cohort?

First, it’s helpful to identify the mentees’ needs. Are they interested in learning more about the organization, in general? Do they have their sights set on leadership? Are they seeking guidance in a particular area? You might send out a survey to discover what type of help people need most.

After you’ve pinpointed needs (and have drummed up some excitement about the program!), start compiling a list of potential mentors. Do your best to match the mentees’ requirements with the mentors’ experience. Then, send a personal message to each mentor, inviting them to participate in the program.

In your email, don’t forget to mention the reason you’ve chosen this person—their expertise in X, their reputation as a top salesperson, their enthusiasm in collaborating with others. Then, be sure to specify the time commitment. Since many people are busy with their day-to-day responsibilities, it’s best to keep this at a minimum (say, 45 minutes every month or half an hour every two weeks).

Once you’ve paired your people, give some mentoring guidelines (suggested questions to ask, suggested meeting times). Then, take a step back and let the mentoring commence! You may want to check in every once in a while (at the midpoint, perhaps), but this should mostly be hands-off for you.

When the program concludes, take a survey to see how it went AND ask your mentors if they would be willing to stay active in the cohort program. Then, start the whole process over again with your next batch of people.

A mentoring cohort is a great way to connect batches of people with appropriate mentors. If you think several people in your organization could benefit from mentoring, I encourage you to initiate an in-house mentoring cohort. And the bonus? You will also gain recognition as a leader, a doer, and someone who is actively trying to improve company culture. A win all around.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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It’s no secret that employee retention is a problem right now. With the Great Resignation (or Great Reshuffle, as some call it), individuals have more leverage than ever before and they are less nervous about quitting when they’re unhappy with their current work situation. That puts pressure on companies—and by extension, company leaders—to recruit and retain top talent.

But there’s no need to panic! There is still a clear correlation between job satisfaction and employee retention. Satisfied workers aren’t going anywhere, despite a tidal wave of resignations. And, fortunately, leaders have the power to influence retention. A recent report by Gallup finds that the number one reason employees leave a job is “due to a bad boss or immediate supervisor.”

So…how can leaders improve? How can they demonstrate respect for and recognition of team members? And, ultimately, how can they retain a talented and motivated team? Increasing pay and benefits may help in the short term, but those incentives only go so far. It’s better to focus on what makes people satisfied in their work.

In my experience, two critical factors pave the way to worker satisfaction: 1) giving people the right work and 2) providing stretch goals. Let’s talk about both.

The first factor involves assigning the “right” work.

I like to think about this factor as “getting the right butts in the right seats.” In other words, different people have different skill sets, talents, and interests. An attentive leader understands where each team member thrives, and attempts to align their people with the appropriate work. If someone loves to dig into the data and run analytics, give that person data-centric tasks. If another person thrives on teamwork and creativity, orient that person to work that involves creative collaboration.

Building an understanding of your team members’ strengths/weaknesses and interests/dislikes takes time. I encourage you to regularly meet with people in one-on-one settings and ask the following questions:

  • Which parts of your job are you liking right now? What’s working?
  • Which parts are not working?
  • What would you like to be doing more often?
  • What would you like to be doing less often or not at all?
  • What does your ideal day look like?
  • What are your personal goals in the company? And what can do to support those goals?

The second factor has to do with stretch goals.

When people are bored, they tend to quit. AND when people are overwhelmed, they also tend to quit. Stretch goals sit in the middle of boredom and overwhelm.

A stretch goal is a challenge you might set in front of an individual or team that stretches their abilities, but is still attainable. It’s a healthy challenge—an opportunity to grow and, perhaps, learn new skills (or tap into underutilized skills). When it comes to stretch goals, keep a few best practices in mind:

  • Use SMART goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound)
  • Make sure the team/individual is supported with information and resources
  • Define what “success” means (if only part of the goal is achieved, is that still considered a success?)
  • Make sure objectives are clear (and make yourself available to answer questions in case they’re not)
  • Check in regularly about the stretch goal
  • Celebrate your milestones and wins!

By 1) making sure your people are doing work that aligns with their skills and interests and 2) providing regular stretch goals for your team, you will foster a supportive, motivating workplace environment. No one likes to feel like their talents are wasted. Get your team members in the right set of tracks and provide the fuel to inspire them to move forward. As a leader, you have that power.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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Compared to people of other nationalities, Americans tend to take relatively short vacations. A Resume-Now survey revealed that 26 percent of Americans have never taken off two weeks straight. What’s more, the average American worker only receives 14 days off per year, compared to 30 in Brazil, France, Germany, and Spain, 28 days in Italy, 26 days in the U.K…the list goes on and, sadly, we are at the bottom of it.

So when we do take a vacation, it’s usually brief. Because of that, there isn’t much time to get into “vacation mode” before we’re forced to return to the workplace. Additionally, because our vacations are relatively short, we sometimes feel pressured to see and do EVERYTHING in a short stretch of time. Ironically, that can make us positively exhausted at the end of a vacation.

What to do?

Ideally, Americans would be granted more vacation days in a year AND actually use them. But if that’s not a possibility, it’s smart to get the most out of your vacation, even if it only lasts a week or a few days. To do that, it pays to take several steps to prepare. Otherwise, you’ll be thinking about work duties as you’re trying to relax on the beach or hiking through the woods, and no one wants that.

Try following these five steps:

1. Loop in Everyone Who Matters

When you’re preparing to take a vacation, it’s not enough to simply inform your boss. Loop in any co-workers you regularly work with, clients who will likely email you, or support staff with whom you regularly connect. If you have any responsibilities that need to be covered, be sure to find someone to take over these duties well in advance. Make sure to thoroughly cover the material and answer any questions ahead of time. The last thing you want to do on vacation is field questions about how to log into a certain system or run a certain report.

2. Set Your Vacation Responder One Day Early

Set your vacation responder one day early. This will serve as a reminder to those who regularly email you that you’ll be out of the office the next day. That way, they can quickly run any urgent business by you before you take off.

3. Take a Half-Day on Either End

If you can, take half a day off before and after your vacation. The half-day before your vacay will give you ample time for last-minute packing, watering the plants, passing along instructions to the dog sitter, or any other final preparations you need to make for the next day. When you return, take another half-day to sleep in and have a restful morning. You’ll probably need it if you have a jam-packed vacation itinerary OR if your flight back is delayed.

4. Set Up House Care Well in Advance (and have a backup plan)

There’s always a checklist of routine items that need attention when you’re taking a vacation that lasts more than a couple of days. Your mail needs to be collected (or you need to set up a mail hold through the post office), your plants and animals need care, your sidewalk needs to be shoveled (if it’s winter and you live in a cold climate), your garden needs to be watered (in the summer), etc., etc. To cut down on stress, set up your house care plan well in advance. It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan or person in mind in case your original plan goes awry.

5. Don’t Over-Plan Your Trip

If your itinerary is filled to the brim and you’re spending most of your time driving from attraction to attraction, you likely won’t feel like you’ve had a vacation at all. I encourage you to tone down your vacation ambitions! Aim to see or do one or two things every day, and have a list of backups in case you’re itching to do more. By keeping your itinerary simple and manageable, you’ll have more time to relax, enjoy the company of your travel companion(s), and even be a little spontaneous (you never know when you’ll fall in love with a restaurant/landscape/attraction and want to stay a little longer).

When you’re planning a vacation this year, do your best to be fully immersed in it. With adequate planning, you should be able to press pause on your inbox, feel confident that things are running smoothly without you, and enjoy the moment. You deserve it.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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