Mentoring | BridgeBetween.com

Why Mentoring Can Be One of the Keys To Success

Within a company, the mentorship process can help foster communication, build bonds and increase the motivation of the mentor and the mentee!

Intra-company mentoring is probably one of the most underutilized processes out there but the benefits of having experienced employees mentor new or less experienced ones are numerous.

Here are four reasons why mentoring can be one of the keys to success:

  1. Increased motivation and morale
  2. Retention levels improved through effective career development
  3. Improved connection to company mission and values
  4. Improved corporate culture

What are the specific benefits for the mentee?

Mentees are typically people who are new to a company, though they could be long-standing employees who have moved up the ranks and are now entering an area that they aren’t particularly familiar with.

A mentee can be more confident in their role more quickly if they have support from a mentor. Mentors can help mentees by:

  • Providing a range of information, drawing from their own experience, that a mentee would never acquire by reading the company handbook or even shadowing another employee.
  • Being a source of objective information and support, something a manager cannot be.
  • Sharing all of the ins and outs of the department and the company as a whole that aren’t obvious from the outside and sharing details about the corporate culture and how things run — thereby helping the mentee to avoid any unnecessary stumbles.

Further, there are always skills that aren’t in the functional job description but that are nonetheless important to get the job done. It’s these more esoteric details that a mentor can provide, in a positive and supportive framework.

What are the specific benefits for the mentor?

There are several benefits for mentors. Here are some examples:

  • Mentors can achieve a superior level of personal growth by helping a colleague and becoming their support network. Helping others is a key factor in obtaining satisfaction, both personally and professionally.
  • A mentor, while more experienced at the company, likely has room to grow themselves—everyone does! So, the mentor experience will help them to increase their own knowledge base. By helping someone learn the ins and outs of the company, they are re-acquainting themselves with many processes and standards. It’s not always easy to admit that there are things one doesn’t know but it’s a healthy situation when teacher and student are both learning.
  • Softer skills that are important in a leadership role are honed by becoming a mentor: active listening, giving feedback, picking up nonverbal cues, and so on.
  • Mentoring a new employee might also help a person who has been with the company for a long time to feel rejuvenated about their role in the company. Being a subject matter expert is a wonderful thing; being able to share that knowledge with others is even better.

Is there an ideal type of company that could use mentoring?

Not at all. That said, companies that operate with strong departmental silos and little in the way of interdepartmental communication could benefit more than any others from implementing a mentoring program.

Breaking down those silos and opening up lines of communication is a major step in creating a functional workflow for any project. Mentors can help make this happen within a project or for the company as a whole.

Are there pitfalls to mentoring?

If it has one flaw, intra-company mentoring doesn’t always lend itself to creating safe spaces for people to share concerns or complaints. It’s important that mentees do not report to their mentor and that the latter have no responsibility to evaluate the mentee or to the person who does conduct those evaluations.

With this off the table, it opens the door for more frank discussion and a productive relationship.

 

Starting a mentoring program is not difficult but sometimes it’s made easier by the participation of a neutral third party with strong experience in building mentoring programs. From the initial consultation to the final implementation, Bridge Between can assist any company to connect potential to performance!

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Productivity Tips for Leaders | BridgeBetween.com

Essential Productivity Tips for Leaders

Working your way toward sustained success.

You were not born productive or with a manual filled with productivity tips for leaders. If anything, most of us spent the better part of our youths being the opposite. Productivity is learned and if it’s a skill that you haven’t quite mastered yet, it’s not a hopeless ideal!

There are some essential things you can do to be more productive in your day to day and as a leader, modeling the kind of attitude and behavior that you’ll no doubt want to see in your team.

After all, the old saying: “Time is money” has a ring of truth to it, doesn’t it? Wasting time ultimately wastes money, along with other resources along the way, so eliminating as much waste as you can is essential.

Have clear goals

This can’t be overstated: if you don’t have a clear vision as to what the end goal is, you will not be able to find a productive path to get there. Once your vision is clear, you can establish the tasks that need to be taken to achieve said goal.

It might seem redundant to say that you need to prioritize your tasks, in addition to knowing your end goal, but it bears repeating. Team members and leaders alike can end up dithering and flailing around in a multi-tasking quagmire, and ultimately not being very productive, if they aren’t sure where to begin.

Don’t forget, too, that short term (weekly/daily) goal planning is just as important: it will help you with prioritizing the tasks at hand.

In line with clear goals is the ability to refuse tasks. You have to say no sometimes. If you are constantly taking on meetings, speaking engagements and in general tasks that aren’t related to the goals you’ve set out, your productivity will get bogged down from going in too many directions at once.
 

L.I.F.E. @ A GLANCE PLANNER: Organize your priorities and invest your time wisely.

 

Productivity isn’t about time in the chair

Most leaders who have understood the principles of effective team management have long gone past the point where they equate time in the chair with productivity, in evaluating their team members.

The same applies to you, as a leader. Being the first into the office and the last to leave does not make you productive and it doesn’t really serve to show your team members an effective method to achieve productivity.

A good way to maximize your time is to block off time where you can’t be reached. Notifiers can become the ultimate distraction. Turn the phone to ‘do not disturb’, block the time on your calendar for everyone else to see… disconnect. As a leader, you can’t get away with it everyday, but once in awhile, it’s a great way to get on top of a runaway list of tasks.

Know yourself

Are you more productive in the early morning? Late at night? Right around noon? Do you think better after a workout? Make sure you block off time in your schedule during those productive times, so that you can get the work done that requires a lot of intensive thinking.

Schedule the more routine tasks—like answering emails—for when you’re at a lower point on your productivity scale. A lot of people find that to be middle of the afternoon but to each their own!

TIP: Many high level executives avoid email first thing in the morning. You can get really bogged down in the details of things that you actually don’t even need to be involved in, losing out on what is a highly productive time for most people.

Don’t be afraid to take a break if you need it: slogging through tasks when you’re overtired and undernourished isn’t going to result in good work. This too is a good behavior to model for your team members: if you feel okay taking a break now and again, they will be too.

Choose the tools—and team—that work for you

Some people swear by their phone calendars or apps designed to remind you about everything. Others like to kick it old school and rely on pen and paper (hint: I’m more the latter!) Use what tools work for you, not what’s ‘in’ or ‘trending’!

Having the right team is a major factor in personal productivity as a leader. It’s not about having people who can run with the job without even talking to you: it’s about trust. If you know they can get something done, you will feel comfortable relinquishing the task to them, instead of micromanaging it and losing out on productivity. It’s a win-win too because a team member who feels nurtured but not hovered over will respond with outstanding effort.

Confront the task you hate the most first

Getting rid of the most daunting task first sets the tone for the rest of your day. You can envision it being smoother and more productive if you get rid of the one thing that’s been bugging you or dragging on for a while. A lot about being productive is about mindset. Free your mind from something that was getting between you and creativity and you will see your productivity levels skyrocket!

 

An essential element to productivity is knowing what’s happening today, tomorrow and in the not so distant future. It’s easier to prioritize if you know what’s coming down the pipeline, and a tool like the L.I.F.E. @ a Glance Planner will help you drive your tasks towards your end goal by “Living In Focus Everyday”.

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team communication

Team Communication: How to Speak So Your Team Will Listen

Not only listen, but take action, too.

Team communication should be very important to all leaders. Whether speaking to a large group or a small team, there are ways you can engage with your ‘audience’ so that they will not just hear you but actively listen and even take action on what you’re telling them. It’s an art form, really.

Motivating positive reactions versus acting from a place of fear, or worse, disdain. It’s an important skill for leaders to master in order to be effective with their team.

Be genuine and be present

No matter the size of the group, if you speak to all them as if you were speaking to one of them, you’re more likely to get a positive response. It’s not an easy thing to do at first, and will require some practice, but doing it will reap many rewards.

Appearing genuine and human is essential for people to want to take in what you’re saying and, further, act on it. That really only comes if each person in the audience feels as though you are speaking directly to them. Putting on the ‘big shot’ persona isn’t appealing and doesn’t invite others to act on your words. Be real.

Being present is also important: eye contact for smaller groups, body language that is open and receptive, focusing on what is happening in the moment and not fidgeting, fussing or, worst, looking at a phone. The audience needs to feel that, in that moment, you are 100% there for the message and for them.

Listen—actually listen—to the feedback

Feedback isn’t always verbal. Take non-verbal cues from your audience into account when you are speaking with them. You need to be able to adjust what you’re saying on the fly, so that you don’t lose the audience and you remain connected to them.

Someone who feels they need to say everything they had on their agenda, regardless of how it’s received, simply to ‘make their point’, isn’t communicating effectively. If you’re looking for feedback or an actual dialogue on the subject, you’ll know that you’re not reaching your audience when they tune you out or don’t ask any meaningful questions.

Further to the last point, you should always be looking to create that dialogue. Communicating to create action is not a one way street: it’s not command it, and it will happen. People simply don’t respond to that kind of demagogue like speechmaking.

Focus on the WHY, not the WHAT

When you want people to act on what you’re saying, you have to give them the motivation and, to some extent, that feeling is more important than the acts themselves. Look at it like storytelling: if you tell a group WHY you’re passionate about a new process that you want to put in place, and not just THAT you want to put it in place, you will develop buy in from your audience far more quickly and effectively.

If you start with just the fact of a change that you want them to engage in, you’re putting walls and barriers for those who might be reluctant followers before you’ve even begun. If you start with the why, your motivation, your passion… you will get far more people nodding along with you, understanding your thought process and wanting to run with it on your behalf.

The reality is, most people aren’t born communicators. The skills needed to reach an audience and compel them to action are learned. It’s a major effort for most people but it’s worth every moment spent acquiring the skills and practicing them because communication and leadership are synonymous. You really can’t have one without the other.

 

With that in mind, executive coaching might be just what you need to take your communications, and your leadership, to the next level. Contact us today for more information.

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tumultuous times leadership

Leading Through Tumultuous Times

Whether changes are occurring inside the organization, or outside forces are creating conflict, the key is to accept and encourage change, rather than deflect it.

Change is hard, whether in personal or work lives. There’s no other way to phrase that. It’s just hard. Change management is a discipline, in and of itself, within the realm of human resources because the impact to morale, to say nothing of the bottom line, can be intense when changes aren’t introduced properly.

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change. ~ Charles Darwin

People want to guard what they know, their little piece of the business pie, for fear that they will become expendable if they share it with others. Any changes in an organization often lead to people hoarding their pie slices even more closely than in normal times.

There is one key to effective change management within an organization and that’s the attitude of the leaders. If they don’t buy into the changes, or they’re discomfited by conflict, allowing their agitation to show to the rest of the team, they won’t be able to lead their team through whatever upheaval they need to manage.

All leaders deal with turbulence or conflict, within the organization but they must also deal with influences from without. In fact, a good leader will have a nose for what’s coming and be ahead of the game, where they can.

Strategic, long-term thinking, which is a major focus for most leaders, has to be done in the context of the real world: the current economic climate, the international market, the political realities of the day and so on.

So how can you lead through tumultuous times?

Lead by example

This one should be obvious to most any leader worth their salt but, perhaps in these days more than ever, it’s worth repeating. If you expect your team to work through change or conflict, you have to show them how.

That’s what leadership is, at its most distilled level. Your team is looking to you to show them the way and will be scrutinizing every move you make. Don’t make them guess at what to do next: communicate your vision and goals at every step!

Adapt with positivity

Look at change as an opportunity. The evolution of digital is a great example of how massive and very fast changes can be upsetting but if you alter your frame of mind and see them as opportunities for growth or to capture new business, you can ride the wave with more confidence and success. Example? Banks could have balked at changes in the digital sphere.

After all, there is far less call for tellers when everything can be done via a smartphone. Rather than lose their collective minds, they adapted and built apps and online resources. It’s what customers were asking for, so they embraced it.

Embrace differences of opinion

It’s important not only to acknowledge conflict or change but in fact to embrace it. Through conflict, new ideas are often born.

You’ll never find a better sparring partner than adversity. ~ Golda Meir

It doesn’t need to become toxic or overwhelming to be effective, but a little adversity can create a new vision. This goes back to the previous point about adapting: it’s often from places of difference that these new and interesting opportunities develop.

It’s a question of having an open mind, in order to be able to see the possibilities. Within a team, within an organization or even within an industry, or a country, adversity can lead to interesting changes so long as the leaders acknowledge it in the spirit of growth, as opposed to destruction.

Doing things the way they’ve always been done isn’t an open door to growth, but endless conflict isn’t either. A good leader will weave a path between these two extremes and inspire their team towards change. It’s not always an easy sell but worthwhile for the company, and leader, that can get it right.

It’s not always an easy sell but worthwhile for the company, and leader, that can get it right.

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Team Morale: 5 Things You Should Avoid Doing

Team Morale: 5 Things You Should Avoid Doing

It’s easier than you might think for a leader to upset the morale of a team.

If you are in any kind of management or leadership role, you know that managing different personalities and work styles can be difficult. Everyone has their little peccadillos that need to be handled appropriately.

But there are things that some leaders do that will almost universally upset the balance and morale of a team. It’s not that your team are delicate snowflakes that need to be handled with kid gloves, but they are people and they have feelings. If you abuse them or their trust, you will have a morale problem on your hands that will be very difficult to walk back from.

Team Morale: 5 Things You Should Avoid Doing

Here are some ways you can really freak out your team. The moral of this story? Don’t do them.

1. Be an Emotional Yo-Yo

One minute, you’re happy and laughing. The next minute, you’re slamming your office door and giving people the silent treatment. Are your mood swings even related to work? Or are you bringing your personal life to the office? Like the Hare and the Tortoise, slow and steady wins the race. Whatever is going on in your life or at the office, you need to display outward calm and control.

I knew a manager once whose employees would do a walk-by of her office to peek in at her and see how she was looking before daring to go in to ask for time off, or even a simple query about a project. That’s not leadership. The instability this causes among team members is a major hit to morale.

2. Be a Bully

Unless you’re wearing a crown, you don’t get to behave like a bully. And even if you are wearing a crown, it might not be a good idea. Intimidation and public humiliation are not management techniques. Using threats to get results will not propel a project forward in a positive way but will result in people feeling like their jobs are constantly on the line.

It even comes down to the way you communicate with your team. Good leaders ask for input and make requests. Bad leaders demand things of their team. The rules of the game apply to you too, and don’t think your team won’t notice if you think they don’t.

3. Make Poor HR Decisions

Even worse than making a poor HR decision is not making them at all. Your team needs you to make hard decisions, not pussyfoot around. Not dealing with team members who aren’t performing or have a negative attitude is a great way to bring down morale. It looks like you have no interest in the team or the project at best, or that you are blithely unaware of the problem, at worst.

Putting the right people in the right roles so that they can do their jobs effectively is not an exercise in politics or patronage. It’s an exercise in getting the job done. The right people are those who are qualified and motivated to do the work. If you’ve done your job correctly, by putting together a good team, you won’t need to micromanage them, treating them like kindergartners.

4. Stop Communicating With Your Team

This is on the same line of thought as ‘not being an emotional yo-yo’, above, but even more so, a good leader is straightforward with their team. Don’t make your staff guess at what you’re trying to tell them. Improperly communicating expectations will just result in the team not meeting them. Why? Because they can’t read your mind!

Feedback is essential for good team building. Not the dreaded once a year annual review, which no one appreciates, but on an ongoing basis. A good leader will offer positive or constructive feedback throughout the lifecycle of a project. Bad leaders will say nothing until they’re unhappy, equating feedback with criticism. Eventually, team members will avoid communicating with a leader who can’t or won’t share useful comments.

In the same vein, building a culture of blame and finger pointing instead of finding solutions to problems is a communication issue. If you are only looking for the holes and who created them, instead of finding ways to mend them, you’re not going to get far.

5. Take the Credit Where It’s NOT Due

By far, one of the easiest ways to upset a team is to blame them when things go wrong but take all the credit when things go right. Worse, if you refuse to admit when you don’t know something or when you are wrong about something. It comes down to being forthright and clear with your team, and having an understanding that without them, you have nothing. Appreciating their efforts is the single best way to boost their spirits and commitment.

Building a team and being a good leader are remarkable goals. They’re totally attainable as long as you keep both feet on the ground and work to achieve them with honesty and purpose.

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