Managers as Mentors

Mentoring with the Heart of a Host

speech bubbleBeing a protégé in a mentoring relationship can feel like having to give a speech before a large group. Now, there are exceptions, obviously. I do a lot of keynotes and I can’t wait to hit that stage. But, there is a lot of research that says people’s greatest fear is having to speak before a large group. The fear is grounded in the potential of making a mistake and being harshly judged by the audience. The core of mentoring is to the fostering of insight and discover ....read more

The Mentor’s Role as Champion Grower

gardenerWhat do Clint Eastwood in the movie Million Dollar Baby, Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire, and Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans—have in common?  They are all characters who supported and sought the best in others, even in their darkest hours. Growing champions isn’t necessarily about applause, cheers, or approval. All of those actions may be present, but championing makes someone feel treasured, not just appreciated.  They use the philosop ....read more

Life After Mentoring

cheersEffective mentoring relationships are rich, engaging, and intimate. But all such arrangements must come to an end, and no matter how hard we may try to avoid it, every ending has a bittersweet dimension. As Shakespeare so eloquently reminds us, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” As you and your protégé reach the end of your partnership, how do you manage “farewell” with a focus on “well”? You would be remiss in your duties as a mentor to make the parting an occasion for li ....read more

Mentoring is Not About Mastery

The goal of mentoring is not simply learning. The goal of mentoring is to foster betterment . . . better performance, greater productivity, higher effectiveness. Granted there is merit in learning for learning’s sake. But in today’s business world with its razor-thin margins, learning must be for result’s sake. Mentors don’t have the luxury of helping protégés increase their knowledge but not their use of that knowledge. Transfer of learning has been the challenge for all learning facilitators –– be they teachers, professors, trainers, or mentors. The argument often posited is, “Once they leave my tutelage, it is up to them to pu ....read more

The Gift of Balance

Managers_1year_share7There’s a bluebird house on an oak tree six feet from our bedroom window. The same pair of bluebirds comes each spring to build, populate, and empty a nest in it. This past spring, their parenting process caused me to reflect on how instru ....read more

The Gift of Focus

focus target Adult learning and child learning are different when it comes to focus. Children are patient with delayed application and the promise that “someday you’ll find this helpful.” Adults question the worth of knowing the ingredients of the pie at the king’s banquet. As adults, we want real-time relevance and immediate application. And, if the tie to usefulness is unclear or absent, our motivation drops and our attention drifts. ....read more

The Gift of Feedback

Franklin Jones wisely said, “Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.” Managers_1year_share10How do you give feedback intended to fuel growth? Start by recognizing that while giving advice can surface resistance, giving feedback can stir up resentment. Advice is about expanding the scope of knowledge; feedback is about filling a blind spot. In the late sixties I served in Vietnam as an army infantry uni ....read more

The Gift of Advice

adviceSomeone once asked famed college football coach turned ESPN commentator Lou Holtz what he considered to be the toughest part of his job as a coach. With his typical “aw shucks” charm, he finessed the question but ultimately communicated that one of the hardest parts was “teaching lessons that stay taught.” Mentors have a similar challenge. Mentoring can involve everything from chalkboard teaching to spirited discussion to circulation of relevant articles, but one ....read more

Become a Learning Organization

sonytransistorSony was founded in 1946 by Masaru Ibuka (1908-1997) as a small electronics shop in a bomb-damaged department store building in Tokyo. The company had $530 in capital and a total of eight employees.  The radios they manufactured at the time were, like most around the world, crafted with vacuum tubes. The transistor was invented in the early 1950’s.  Most electronics makers knew the invention would revolutionize their industry. All knew it would take time ....read more

How to Spot a Great Mentor

So, you are looking for a mentor! They come in many shapes, sizes and varieties. But, the best mentors have a few common characteristics. Doing your homework with the following mentor shopping list in mind can be the difference between getting stuck with an egotistical braggart or a person who can make a difference in your career development. Partnership Focused read more

Is Your Mentoring Daring?

daring mentorThe essence of mentoring is to help another person abandon his or her comfortable skill, knowledge or attitude to which that person currently clings in order to embrace new but uncomfortable competences.  That means the job of the mentor is to encourage the target of their tutelege to be daring. When my son was attending a private New England high school, parents weekend included all parents going through a challenging ropes course with their son ....read more

Lessons in Protégé Power: Growing Up Means Stepping Out

Welcome to the fourth and final post in the Protégé Power series. If you missed the first three, you’ll want to catch up by reading one, two and three. If you’re caught up, let’s continue! When we left off from our last post... Dale takes your af ....read more

Lessons in Protégé Power: Accepting Gifts Without Guilt

Welcome to the third post in the Protégé Power series. If you missed the first two, you’ll want to catch up by reading this and this. If you’re caught up, let’s continue! When we left off from our last post, Sage was saying to you, the  protégé. . . read more

Lessons in Protégé Power: Get Your Feet Wet Without Drowning

Welcome to the second post in the Protégé Power series. If you missed last week, you'll want to catch up by reading this. If you're caught up, let's get to it! When we left off from our last post, Sage was saying to you, the  protégé. . . SAGE: “Remember the other part . . . YOU have a responsibility to Dale. Now, go ahead and talk about it!” YOU: “Oh, and Dale . . . there is one other goal I have for this experience. I want to do everything I can to make this a great mentoring ....read more

Lessons In Protégé Power: Calming Your Anxious Heart

interviewBeing a protégé can make you feel anxious.  You are essentially admitting you do not know stuff you need someone to help teach you.  And, if that relationship with a mentor is a new one, it can double the apprehension.  Being vulnerable in front of a stranger is not exactly exciting work. Lessons on how to manage your anxiety are presented below in a unique script-like format. Wh ....read more

Mentoring Traps to Avoid

6643612435_c70b9ea8bfThere are countless tra ....read more

Ensuring the Transfer of Learning

2644033718_fdee41f4b6_bThere are many advan ....read more

Are You Creating Protégé Cuttings?

protege cuttingLegacy is one of the s ....read more

Leadership as a Christmas Ornament

ornamentSooner or later it happens if you decorate enough Christmas trees. At some point you discover that almost all of the ornaments are handmade or have some special meaning. Discarded are those generic, store bought ones that looked pleasing to the eye but had no short cut to the heart. The special ones all have stories attached; the store bought ones just have hooks. The annual winter holiday celebration—whether it ....read more

Mentoring Magic: Awesome Queries

socratesIf there were a Mentors’ Hall of Fame, Socrates would be an instant inductee. In a heated argument over whether slaves have souls (the ancient Greeks believed that only smart people would have eternal life), Socrates bet a case of mead (no doubt Greek for Bud Light) that he could teach a common slave the Pythagorean theorem (for those who used it in high school and then filed it away: the square of the hypotenuse of a right t ....read more

The Alchemy of Mentoring

alchemy-imageThe word “alchemy’ has its origin in ancient times when certain practitioners were able to turn common metals into precious metals, like gold and silver. But, the other part of alchemy was the creation of an elixir that, when drank at a certain time (say 5 o’clock), granted the person who consumed the drink immortality and youth. (Today, we would refer to that elixir as Jack Daniels Whiskey—just kidding!). But, the alchemy description is relevant for mentoring ....read more

The Problem with Drive by Mentoring

drive-by-mentoring-imageI grew up on a farm. One of my chores in junior and senior high was milking a cow early morning and late afternoon. It was our family’s source for milk, butter and cheese. Cow milking today involves machines and computers. Cow milking—the old fashioned way—involved an edgy cow, a three legged stool and a stainless steel milk pale to catch the milk squeezed from an udder. I was not a very patient teenager. I was always in a big hurry to get ....read more

Serving through the Lens of a Mentor

Serving-Through-the-Lens-of-a-Mentor-imageKitchen floors in the 1950’s and ‘60’s were largely linoleum. I remembered getting chored with cleaning those floors with a harsh abrasive like Ajax or Comet and then waxing them. My scrubbing days ended, however, when Armstrong came out with the innovative Solarian no-wax floor. My mother had to have the new product. But, there was a back story to this product I learned many years after it was introduced. ....read more

Mentoring as a Texas Rig

texas rig“Give me a fish and I eat for a day; teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime.” It is a line we have heard most of our lives. And, really great fishing lessons...at least in Texas...would always include instruction on the famous Texas rig. Anglers with a hankering for bass find it a must-have for their tackle box. The logic behind the Texas Rig carries a similar logic of effect ....read more

Conducting the Learning Symphony

symphonyThe first violinist-conductor of a Johann Strauss concert literally leapt from his seat as the chamber orchestra performed the Champagne Waltz. It was if the composer himself was present--especially since this concert was occurring in the very hall where Strauss performed as a first-violinist-conductor. I was on holiday in Vienna. It made me think of the power of passion and spirit so important in ....read more

The Mentor as Diversitist

diversatist Bet you have not seen that “d” word before. But, think about it. A segregationist supports all vegetables served separately—no tossed salad. An abolitionist negatively argues for doing away with any type of separation—no vegetable section in the grocery store. But, a diversitist (I made that word up) positively supports the power and progress derived from gaining the best from different vegetables, recognizing that great synergy can come from their blending. ....read more

And the winner is…”And!”

and the winner is picSeventy-five percent of corporate mergers fail because of conflicts in leader relationships. Over 50% of marriages end in divorce, largely due to communications. Corporate and marriage counselors will tell you, “It’s not that the parties in the union were talking and stopped talking—they stopped listening.” Conflicts became an arena for a fight rather ....read more

The Mentor’s Message: Model Authenticity

model authenticity“You are Interstate Hotels and Resorts,” said Vice President Jill Kallmeyer at her all-managers conference. “So take personally every encounter with every guest and every associate. Your genuine passion is what attracts guests to our brand.” The words come from a woman renowned for her passion for the associates and customers and her “I’m so excited” spi ....read more

Mentoring as Transportation

jeepIt all started with a party game...those funny “what if” social games that get sillier with late night exuberance and adult beverages. “What fruit would they be if all pharmacists were a fruit?” asked one guest, a deeply serious pharmacist. “If lawyers were farm animals, which one would they be?” teased another guest, targeting his attorney friend. I popped the obvious question—“If mentoring was a mode ....read more

Who’s your favorite mentor?

managers-tell-me-squareThroughout your life and career, you've undoubtedly had a few mentors, even if they weren't officially given the title. Your parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, pastors. All mentors. I've written about a couple of my best mentors: my dad--Ray Bell, a ....read more

The Mentor’s Message: Tell a Funny Story

funnyGreat mentors use effective humor, effectively. Fortunately, mentoring is not dependent on a comedic personality or most of us would be disqualified. But, knowing the construction of humor can sometimes turn a poor joke teller into someone who can bring an added sense of joy to the mentoring relationship. Let’s examine two short jokes and then dissect their construction. From Joe Weinstein: “My dog is worried ....read more

Mentors Facilitate Memory Bubbles

bubbles The last movie that starred Natalie Wood was the 1983 movie Brainstorm also starring Cliff Robertson and Christopher Walken. The gist of the movie was the creation of “the hat”--a helmet-like device that, when worn, could tape an exact experience its wearer was having (sights, sounds, feelings…the whole works). If another person then wore the hat and played the tape he or she would have the precise experience as the person who taped it. You could borrow an adventurer’ ....read more

Great Mentors Don’t Wear Rank

Combat troops are generally better behaved in the field (where battle is likely to occur) than in the relative safety of the rear area. As an infantry unit commander in Viet Nam, I often wondered if it was related to the fact that military leaders remove all markings of rank while in the field. Enemy snipers seek to get battlefield leaders in their cross-hairs to strip their adversary of command. This left the concept of “leadership” less related to obvious authority and more with subtle influence. It also took the focus off of “whom” and placed it squarely on “what.” Those officers who resorted to barking orders in a desperate attempt ....read more

Mentoring Requires Being Elegantly Adaptive

spider web Early one morning I was in my side yard and walked up on a huge elaborate spider web complete with its designer-tenant. As I approached the artwork, the spider began to vibrate the web sending early morning dewdrops everywhere. The next morning the web was gone without a trace. A bird had obviously flown through it. But, nearby was a brand new elegant web spread between two trees. An ....read more

If Mentoring were a Movie

movieWatching television was often the impetus for backyard play when we were kids. Watch a baseball game and you were looking for your bat and glove by the end of the ninth inning. If it was cowboys and Indians on the tube, we donned bows and arrows or cap pistols as we headed out back to mimic what we had watched. As adults, we still do. Movies and TV influence our work life. How many times at work have you heard li ....read more

Mentoring as Summer Camp

summer campSummer is always the season of summer camp! My nine year old granddaughter, Kaylee, went to her first overnight camp last July...for two weeks and in another state! Before she went, if she talked with her two sisters about summer camp, you could hear the apprehension in her voice. But, when she was packing her camp trunk and looking at the camp website, she was super excited and ready to go...right ....read more

Mentoring Mentors

lois zachary bookWhat are the top critical success factors for making mentoring a part of an organization’s DNA? It was a question used to open a mentoring workshop with a group of senior leaders of a major corporation. Not one single participant mentioned a need for more forms, better procedures, or more effective policies. In fact, the word “program” was not even mentioned. What were refer ....read more

How Tabby Got Rescued

tabbyTabby was a new kitten to the neighborhood. Escaping from her brand new owner’s side porch one afternoon, she climbed to the top of the tallest tree in the area. Neighbors advised the owner to let Tabby come down on her own. But after a night in the tree, the young kitten seemed determined to not go kitty skydiving. The fire department said there would be a $200 fee for a visit from the fire truck wit ....read more

Mentoring Eagles

eagleAn eagle got the neighbors talking. My backyard fronts a large lake with a cove wrapping around each side of the lot. Peering out the side window early one morning, we spotted a giant American eagle struggling to get out of the shallow water in the cove and up onto the nearby sea wall. Our first reaction was the eagle was injured. A call to the neighbors on the other side quickly produced a cheering section. It ....read more

When the Mentor Gets Mentored

learning in the airTom Jones wrote the lyrics to a 1977 disco song performed by John Paul Young. The first few bars of this popular song go: “Love is in the air, everywhere I look around; Love is in the air, every sight and every sound.” Substitute the word, “learning” for “love” and you have the precise objective of partnership-based mentoring. If your protégé gave you ....read more

Mentoring: The Awakening of Insight

insightArchaeologists excavating the pyramids discovered wheat seeds that dated back to around 2500 BC. As in the tradition of antiquity, the seeds were there for the dead pharaoh to eat if he got hungry. The find was important because it would enable scientists to determine what variety of wheat was in use in the ancient world and could be invaluable for engineering new types of wheat. Out of curiosity, the scientis ....read more

Passionate Mentors Remove Spirit Leeches

fireI was fishing with my granddaddy on a summer afternoon. Like many boys, I was more interested in wading in the water than waiting on a bite. I abandoned my cane pole to go swim. Emerging from the water, I discovered a black leech stuck to my leg. “Don’t pull it off,” my granddaddy advised, “we’ll have to burn it off!” Leeches suck the blood from their target; spirit leeches suck energy and passion from t ....read more

Leave the Gate Open for Protégés

  carnation In 1907, Carnation introduced a new advertising tagline for its condensed milk product: “Milk from Contented Cows.” Growing up on a cattle farm where we produced our own milk, I often heard the ads and wondered what made a cow contented. Cows seemed to already have a life without much stress. My dad suggested it probably meant milk from a cow that was (or thought it was) free ....read more

The Mentor’s Message: Be the Best

runnerWhen I was a boy my parents encouraged me to “be the very best.”  Back then, only the very best got a trophy!  Nowadays the Wheaties® cereal box mantra has changed to “just do your very best” and all the teams get a trophy just for playing.   It’s been a source of discomfort for me for years. Now before you jump on the “promoting self-esteem” band wagon, let me say that I do not believ ....read more

The Mentor’s Message: Honesty is not a Policy

pinochioThe Delta regional jet was packed. As the flight backed away from the gate, the flight attendant began her ritualistic safety spiel about seat belts, sudden turbulence and smoking. She ended by saying, “The flying time to Grand Rapids will be two hours…no, it will be an hour and a half…no, actually, I don’t know.” The cabin erupted with laughter and applause. What jolted the half-asleep plane-f ....read more

The Mentor’s Message: Set Your Protege Free

horse race“Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword. In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.” These powerful words from Job 39 open the movie Secretariat, a film about ....read more

The Mentor’s Message: Turn Castor Oil into Champagne

7386331870_841e6dd98d_zCastor Oil: “A foul tasting oil used in the 1950’s to cure whatever ailment a kid claimed he had that would keep him from having to get on the early morning school bus.” My mother believed castor oil was a miracle cure. From a stomach ache to sore legs to ringing ears, a spoon full of castor oil was the “all-purpose” answer ....read more

On the Loss of a Great Mentor

Oren Harari"Brilliant” is the word we use to refer to a special kind of genius--the type that profoundly influences others. It is more than someone who is simply intellectual. A genius might be a person with a super high IQ but keeps it locked inside. A brilliant person shares the mental gift. “Brilliant” is also the word we use to characterize light. A light with that des ....read more

Death as a Mentor

chip militaryIt is not my style to tell personal war stories. The recent Boston terrorist attack was followed by some struggling with the decision regarding how best to honor those who were tragically killed or injured. Some said pause; some advised cease; and some believed continue on. It brought back memories of a specific wartime incident. During the late summer of 1969, I was commanding an Army re ....read more

My Greatest Mentor: Part 5

Ray BellGreat mentors have impeccable ethics.  And, my greatest mentor, Ray Bell, taught me the most important lesson of all: teaching is an ethical act!  Effective mentors, trainers and change agents must be clean in their learner-dealings, not false, manipulative, or greedy. Competent mentors must be honest and congruent in their communications and actions. They must not steal their learners’ opportunities for struggle or moments of glory. Great mentors re ....read more

My Greatest Mentor: Part 4

business, laughterGreat mentors find humor in most things. My greatest mentor, Ray Bell, was no comedian! In fact, he was a very shy man. But, he enjoyed a great tease and was as quick to laugh at himself as he was to laugh with others. His humor was innocent and authentic, never contrived or sarcastic. Most importantly, he saw lightness ....read more

My Greatest Mentor: Part 3

Great mentors show perpetual curiosity. And my greatest mentor, Ray Bell, was all about curiosity. Daddy asked me questions to which he did not know the answer. That always stood in stark contrast with the experiences I witnessed in many of my friends' parents. My buddies seemed to frequently get questions asked with the slam of a spring loaded bear trap. “Do you have any idea what time it is?” was not really an “I lost my watch” kind of question? But, Daddy never used questions that way.  When he asked a question it always meant he was in search of an answer.  I came to realize it ....read more

My Greatest Mentor: Part 2

[caption id="attachment_54" align="alignright" width="240"]Daddy knew that participation was the route to discovery and insight. Daddy knew that participation was the route to discovery and insight.[/caption] Great mentors are participative partners.  And, Ray Bell, my greatest mentor, was such a partner. The words: “How ‘bout going and getting the tractor and park it in the ....read more

My Greatest Mentor: Part 1

[caption id="attachment_43" align="alignright" width="240"]mentor My dad, my mentor, Ray Bell.[/caption] Great mentors are judgment-free.  And, Ray Bell, my greatest mentor, was such a person.  Daddy could be a stern task master and a tough disciplinarian.  He was very much a perfectionist when it came to performance.  He expected the best, demanded the best and demo ....read more