Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mentoring change - Part IV

Waiting is always the hardest part.

Whether you desire change (big or small) or you dread it - waiting for it to actually click into place is like a long sleepless night.

There are no shortcuts. You can be better/faster/more experienced; you can seek good tools (mentors, community, education, experience, etc.). But you can't direct the pace of things beyond your control - which is most of change and life :-)

I think this is one of the toughest challenges mentors/friends/peers/partners face: you can't make time go faster or slower. You can only listen and support those going through the event.

I have a friend who just lost a job, another just diagnosed with cancer, another who landed a national TV spot and another who is pregnant. I can't move the outcomes or timings - I can only remind them to use the time that does exist to be as prepared as possible. I wish I could wave a magic wand but change takes the shape and speed it requires.

So in uncertain times, knowing there are no quick pathways, the patience of the community you've built is the best way to pass the time while waiting.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mentoring change - Part III

There is an upside to large-transformative-earth-shaking-life-changing change. It creates new thoughts, ideas and patterns.

Having the world turn upside down gives you two basic choices - you can hide under the covers or you can use the moment to try new things. It's a moment when you have the ability to lead or leave :-)

By leader, I don't necessarily mean someone-in-charge-of-the-whole thing. "Leader" is someone who, at any point and any level, helps others manage the upheaval.

This could be anyone of us if we view leadership as: identifying blocks; offering bridges; encouraging collaboration; seeing links; creating a vision; and delegating the solution details.

My mentors challenge me to be an "agent of change". I accept that challenge and pass it down the line. Consider: When the world turns upside down, it's an opportunity to influence the outcome for when it goes right side up.

Friday, October 22, 2010

No fear!

Often, in the business world, we hear executives talk about the need to connect with younger, fresher ideas.

Because of course, everyone around them only has stale ones. :-)

It made me wonder why younger folks are seen as having stronger ideas when so many folks around me - of all ages - have terrific plans and thoughts.

I think perhaps it is because that youth:
* present their ideas without a filter (no bitter experience that has them qualify their good idea)
* aren't as driven by fear (that it won't work and they'll never get a promotion)

I, for one, refuse to be shaped by fear or bitterness. I'll learn my lesson, pick a new skyscraper and leap off with the certainty that this time I will land well. I will raise my voice. I will lend my voice to yours. I will try new things and revisit some familiar plans.

And I will continue to encourage every young person I know to keep doing what they do instinctively - have no fear!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finding a mentor

Why is it that most of us wait when it comes to getting a mentor (or two)? Is it because of the faery tale that someone will pick us out of a crowd / find us at the soda fountain / see us across a room and say "You! You shall receive all my secrets because you look worthy!"?

The only time I've been picked out of a crowd was for a baseball team in gr. 7 when I could hit like a guy.

It us who needs to pick the mentors out. It's us who needs to say "You! You know things I want to learn!" Believe me, as a mentor also, it's a very flattering moment. Very few will laugh and most will sit still for at least one cup of tea.

1 - research a little - what skills or philosophy are you hoping to explore?
2 - think a little - who in your network embodies what you're seeking? Who in your network knows someone who embodies that? Who - work with me... - in the city/town you live embodies that? Yup, you can approach a stranger if you have your request ready!
3 - prep a little - what exactly are you requesting? what frequency? what's in it for them?

Ah, #3 is what hangs most of us up... stayed tuned; next week we'll explore framing the request! Meanwhile, start asking anyway! Pick out a mentor or two and see how you stand out by being brave.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mentoring change - Part II

Every now and then, the world shifts and we have to scramble to catch up.

I'm talking about the big changes - the ones that catch you unaware and there's no plan, no control, no re-do button. The type of change that throws the 'known' into disarray and you have to rethink big portions of life to fit it all in. Welcome or unwelcome, change of this scale simply sweeps through. There's no plan or long runway; you just find yourself in the thick of it.

And yet you manage.

You use experience and crisis management. You call on a spirit of adventure and innovation. You rely on the community/network you have built and the folks also affected by the change.

This are true transformation moments. The moments for which the daily changes have prepared you. There are no right or wrong answers - only the ability to assimilate and adapt.

As a mentor, you can cheer, listen and share. As a mentoree, you can ask, question and share.

It's not about control; it's about taking a deep breath and participating.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

10 Obstacles to Mentoring

We all try to do the right thing... but sometimes when we're rushed, shortcuts and habits can get in the way. Here's my list of things to remember when mentoring:

1 - Telling: Am I simply giving the answer instead of encouraging exploration?
2 - Showing: Am I doing it for my mentoree instead of watching them try it their way first?
3 - Deciding: Am I proposing the solution instead of allowing a decision to come from debate and deliberation?
4 - Belittling Berating Mocking: Am I, in an attempt to be humourous, denigrading someone else's efforts?
5 - Me Me Me: Am I listening or pontificating?
6 - Unavailable Inaccessible: Am I too busy? pre-occupied? uninterested?
7 - One method: Do I believe there is only one answer? Do I start most sentences with "No..." or "Well, but..."?
8 - Sole source: Am I sharing my network and resources for further explorations? Am I trying to be the 'oracle'?
9 - No celebration: Do I remember to celebrate the steps & progress along the way?
10 - Fear: Am I afraid to make a mistake myself? Or admit I don't have the answer/experience to help directly?

What would you add to this list?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Coaching vs. mentoring

Both a manager and mentor will create dialogue, encourage you and correct you. However, while both your manager at work and your mentor "coach" you - there are some differences in the approach.

Your manager will clarify your existing job & accountabilities for you.
Your mentor will explore broad career options.
Your manager will create objectives for your current assignments.
Your mentor will encourage self-reflection and learning goals.
Your manager will teach with a desire to have good performance on their team and for their projects.
Your mentor will ask questions and share personal anecdotes around perceived barriers, challenges & fears with only your development in mind.
Your manager will support personal & career development - usually inside your organisation.
Your mentor will support personal & career development for anywhere you choose.
Your manager will hold you accountable for following direction and achieving your objectives.
Your mentor will cheer you on, while pointing out when you are not being accountable to yourself.
Your manager will assign actions.
Your mentor will suggest actions.
Your manager will listen and escalate issues as they impact the team or project.
Your mentor will listen and keep information as confidential.
Your relationship with your manager is fundamentally one of obligation, driven by your manager.
Your relationship with your mentor is fundamentally one of choice, driven by you.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The “M” list

Knowing that many of you are enjoying a holiday weekend, I thought a lighthearted Fri/Mon post would be welcome before I continue talking about change...

Exploring the different kinds of mentors there are... We either do these things for others or we seek them for ourselves.

Continuing with "M":

Malcontentment-or: Listens and then stops you from whinging and whining when you should be taking action instead
Management-or: Knows the difference between leading and managing
Measurement-or: Shows you how to prove your ROI
Medicament-or: Usually has a good stash of gin
Merriment-or: Usually knows the person with the gin stash
Misalignment-or: Points out when things are off track
Moment-or: Takes time to find the ‘aha!’ in your story
Movement-or: Helps you frame your vision

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mentoring change - Part I

I'm bored with all the old talk around "change" (how's that for irony?). I know that fear and uncertainty are the two most referenced emotions when discussing change.

But let's debunk the change myth just a little.

Change happens every day, everywhere, all the time. You don't eat the same food at every meal; you don't wear the same socks every day; you aren't the same age as a minute ago; and you don't only see the same folks year in/year out even if the only new face is the young cashier at the grocery store.

All this change is acceptable. We make choices - small and large - all the time and things change. Sometimes we can deal with change because it fits a routine or our image of status quo. Sometimes we welcome the small changes as 'fresh' instead of frightening. Change can be choice (a career move) or fact (seasons change).

The point is that change is a constant. All the hype that change must be managed is like saying life will go according to plan. ha! You don't need a plan to handle change; you need an open mind and heart.

Besides - if we were to all walk about each day being afraid or uncertain, nothing much would ever get done or tried.

So change isn't bad, isn't rare, isn't always frightening. Change is just part of our day, our business and our careers.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I had the good fortune to attend TedXToronto last week. The theme was "A Call to Action" which encompassed everything from everyday leadership to new concepts in social funding.

I'm still mulling over what I heard and what it all might mean for me. It certainly will affect the issues against which I seek or offer mentoring in the coming months.

Below are a few quotes on which I'm meditating:

If we make leadership something beyond us then we can avoid it.
Drew Dudley

There is not an "us" and others who live outside that bubble. The bubble is permeable. Dr. Catherine Zahn CAMH

To create change you need partnership and sustainability.
Neil Hetherington

I'm enraged by our inability to collaborate.
Tonya Surman

Only when you truly listen are you then able to build community.
trey anthony

Fear is my friend. Without it I make mistakes.
George Kourounis

We all know one thing about the future - it ain't going to go according to plan.
Neil Parisha

It was inspirational absolutely. More than that, it made me realise that the world isn't waiting for me to get my act together - I'm the only one waiting. So why wait??