Congratulations – you’ve just been selected to participate in a corporate mentoring program. Or maybe you took the initiative and enlisted a mentor yourself. Or perhaps, a seasoned pro has begun to formally or informally take you under his wing. Whatever the case, way to go!

Now comes the tricky part: what should you get mentoring for?

One of the difficult parts of entering a new mentoring partnership – especially for first-time mentees – can be deciding what exactly to invest a mentoring relationship toward. On one hand, it’s great to have a partner committed to your development. On the other hand, it’s hard to know where to start.

Confused Professional2

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If you have a leadership role at work, solving problems is just part of the equation. It doesn’t take long to realize that problem-solving can be pretty complicated. What type of problem is it? What caused it? What is the best action to take? And on top of all that, often times we either feel unqualified or under-resourced to come up with the best solution.

Welcome to organizational leadership.

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What comes to mind when you think about continuous improvement? Hopefully you believe it’s a leadership responsibility we all share each and every day. “CI” doesn’t discriminate based on seniority, title, pay grade or job function. Good ideas can come from everywhere. And in a changing environment where what worked yesterday may not work best today, there is all kinds of opportunity.

That being said, continuous improvement isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen by itself. It requires the active involvement of as many people as possible… which brings me back to the question: how do you think about continuous improvement?

Continuous Improvement

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I haven’t forgotten one of my first coaching interactions that took place years ago. My client was stuck. She talked about wanting go back to school and make some new contributions with her life. But she couldn’t do it, she explained. What was holding her back? Her husband didn’t fully support her to the extent she needed. I remember thinking, well, why don’t you try it anyways?

I’m not sure if she ended up pursuing school in the years since or if she’s still waiting for that support. Here’s what I do know: having other people in your corner can mean the world – especially the ones closest to you. But unfortunately sometimes the support of others is unavailable. Then what?

It’s a popular belief these days that no one attains success on their own. There is always a supporting cast. In many cases this is true, but fortunately, not in all. If you’re on your own, you can still make it. Here are the top two reasons:

Lonely Journey

 

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I was able to attend my fourth Leadercast seminar earlier this month. This year I attended a simulcast in Orlando, FL. As always, it inspired me with both new and familiar ideas. The theme this year was bravery. Here are some of my key takeaways – and you can also catch up on the social conversation with the tags #leadercast and #thebraveones.

Leadercast 2015

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Is complexity leaving your organization behind?

That’s a question we considered at a workshop I attended recently. Author Mark Miller and a team of facilitators walked a large group through the content of his new book Chess Not Checkers. The boardgame imagery? It’s symbolic for what happens as organizations grow. In the early stages of most small organizations or teams, the rules are simplistic and team members may play interchangeable roles much like the game pieces in a checkers game. But as growth occurs, complexity kicks in. Roles require specialists to address additional complications. The playing field starts to resemble a game of chess, rather than checkers. If we’re not careful, we’ll fall behind.

Chess1

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“I’ve got a guy.”

That was one of the key messages of a sales training event I visited recently. The new sales consultants were supposed to realize they didn’t need to know everything about the services they were providing – they had plenty of other “experts” to support various parts of the deal. It’s a lot easier to sell when you don’t have to know everything yourself.

Which leads me to ask the question: whose “guy” (or gal) are you? And do they know it?

Here’s why it matters:

Business Guy

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What happens when you fall down? I have a pastor friend whose church plant recently had to shut its doors after a couple years of financial, emotional and time sacrifices. Another friend’s restaurant wasn’t able to renew the property lease and now it’s closed. Several colleagues have had high profile work projects in both the recent and distant past overlooked, postponed or shut down after significant mental and emotional effort. What comes next?

There’s no question that setbacks are a part of business – and a part of life. We can minimize some of them, but we won’t be able to avoid them completely. Once they happen, it’s what comes next that is the crucial part. If you find yourself encountering a setback, here are some next steps.

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How much is waste costing your organization? It’s possible you may not have thought much about it before. After all, things are busier than they’ve ever been and we all have our jobs to do. As long as we can get the work done and enough funds are coming in the door, it’s a good day, right?

You’ve heard the old adage “a penny saved is a penny earned.” But consider the following business scenario: if your operating profit is 10% and you are able to eliminate enough waste to lower your costs by 10%, your profits will nearly double without earning any addition revenue. Pennies aren’t worth much in today’s dollars, but add a few zeros on the end and it adds up quickly.

You don’t need to be in a profit-producing role or be Six Sigma certified to be a productivity leader. There’s waste everywhere – in for-profit and non-profit organizations alike – and in every function. It’s a leadership responsibility to identify and drive out waste when we see it.

Money Down Drain

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You don’t have to look far to look far to see the verbal abuse bosses take. Whether it’s water cooler gossip, happy hour banter or social media posts, people aren’t happy with their leader and don’t hold back when telling why. Some are more politically savvy and only think what others say out loud.

Forbes reported recently that as many as two million employees quit their jobs each month. One of the most significant reasons: they dislike their bosses.

It’s only fair to acknowledge that some managers earn their scorn. I should know, one of my jobs as an organizational development consultant is to help make bosses better bosses. I suppose if everyone was already excellent, I’d have less to do. But it’s only fair to give credit where it’s due. So let’s take a closer look at the great things bosses do.

Business Woman

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If you’ve been responsible for delivering business results for any length of time, you’ve probably hit a wall once or twice with people. Someone’s feelings got hurt, another manager is difficult to work with, company politics create unseen landmines, some colleagues disagrees with you and a couple may be out to get you. As often as not, we may be the problem. Additionally, we humans are the ones causing the accidents, forgetting key dates or deliverables, creating ambiguity, making mistakes and communicating poorly. Getting results are tough enough as it is, before we introduce people into the mix!

Automation has added enormous business efficiency over the years and will continue. But it’s important to keep in mind that whatever business we’re in, we’re ultimately in the people business. Since we can’t eliminate the human element (besides, would we really want to?), we’ll have to figure out how to capitalize on it.

The Creation of Man by Michelangelo Sistine Chapel

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As a University of Kansas basketball fan, I’ve never rooted for Duke. But there is a Duke moment that stands out in my memory. It occurred probably 10 or 15 years ago. Duke was in the process of getting upset in the NCAA Tournament. They were playing hard that day but not well. Near the end of the game, the senior star player fouled out, highlighting the frustrating day for everyone. As he exited the floor for the last time as a college athlete, he headed straight for Coach Mike Krzyzewski with tears streaming down his face and the two shared a prolonged embrace.

My first thought was that Coach K must have really messed up his black suit hugging a really sweaty guy (probably a sign that I’d make a terrible basketball coach). The second was how evident the bond between the leader and the followers was that day. It wasn’t an expression of victory, but one of commitment.

Coach K Sideline

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