You Only Have Ninety Days To Make An Impression.

I have a question for you. You just started a new job. You have been through what passes for the company orientation. You are comfortably situated in your cubical, and you have all the office supplies you need. The folks from IT will be down later in the day to set you up on your company laptop, company mobile phone, and they will even allow you to mirror some of the company applications on your own personal devices should you decide.

You have meetings set for the next several days, to meet with your team leader, supervisor, and the group manager. To say you’re excited would be an understatement. This is a big step for you. In all reality, it is really your first “real” job. All those other jobs, tending bar, working at the local hardware store, along with those few jobs you had that were shall we say, a tad bit dubious, are nothing compared to this one. This to you is where you start to make some real money. This job is why you went to college; this is the beginning of you starting a career.

So I ask this question of you, how much time do you think you have to make an impression? After all, from the way the cute HR Rep talked it seems like this is a place you can have a great future. Plenty of opportunities all you have to do is apply yourself and life will be great. But, again, I ask, how long do you believe you have to demonstrate you are someone that the company should make a long-term investment in?

Allow me to say both questions are rhetorical. Let me provide the correct response. You have ninety days, nine zero. Another way of looking at it is, you have three months to adapt, adjust, conform, and impress. Not a lot of time you say. You’re correct. But, it’s not impossible. However, let me be clear, fail and the outcome can affect you in ways you would never image.

Let me introduce you to two concepts, R.I.C.O., and P.E.O. The first RICO stands for Regular Access, Immediate Feedback, Consistent Measurement, and, One to One Relationship. The second PEO stands for Personal Economic Opportunity. They are connected. How they are connected will be discussed in a series of posts.

Before I continue with an explanation of RICO & PEO, It is important you understand you are working on an unofficial/official time limitation. You have approximately ninety days in which you need to:

a)gain a basic understanding of the roles and responsibilities of your job,

b)become rudimentary familiar with the company’s organizational structure,

c)build basic relationships,

d)develop basics of a plan that allows you to demonstrate your value to the company on a level that you are noticed by those who can enhance your career.

Simply put, during your first ninety days, you to have developed a plan by which you can demonstrate you can turn the value you’ve consumed into valued created. That you are someone who is an asset and not a liability.

I know, seems like a lot, especially for someone who is new, but, if you have plans for advancement with any company you work for, then you need to stop behaving like a recent college graduate. You need to start thinking and behaving like a seasoned veteran of the interoffice game of politics.

As cliché as this sounds your chances of having a successful and profitable career depends on what you do during your first ninety days on the job. Over the next several weeks I will be sharing some thoughts and insights on how you can develop a plan that will allow you to become a corporate star during that ninety-day time frame. Watch this space.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2016

Mentoring Programs, One Size Won’t Fit All

Mentoring and mentorship are topics often discussed and many believe they understand the concept of mentoring. Oddly enough a number of misconceptions prevail around the concept of mentoring as well as, the development and implementation of a lasting and effective in house mentoring program.

On topics of this nature I like to start with a definition. So let’s begin with a definition of mentoring from Kathy E. Kram, a well know authority on the topic. She has written numerous papers and her book, “Mentoring at Work” provides an in depth discussion on the topic. She says: “Mentoring functions are those aspects of a developmental relationship that enhance both individuals’ growth and advancement. These functions are the essential characteristics that differentiate development relationships from other work relationships.” The key here is “a developmental relationship” in other words, helping with someone at the early stages of their career. Providing them with guidance and insight (the mentor has gain over time) that will enhance the mentee’s growth and advancement. The mentor is someone the mentee can approach for advice about issues, and strategies that best help in dealing with issues the mentee is unfamiliar with. This advice will assist in their overall development and growth, increasing their value to the organization they work for.

What we have is the beginning of a relationship if handled correctly by both parties often results in mentee receiving invaluable advice coupled with enhanced skills and abilities that allow him/her to rise within the organization and be able to take on increasing levels of responsibilities. This growth is beneficial to the company, they gain a talent employee who can increase the bottom line, the mentee moves up the proverbial corporate ladder, and the mentor gains a potential ally as they move forward in the company.

Sounds great right? Normally one would be correct in their thinking. There’s just a few things wrong with the above mention process. This type of process is typically the providence of large and hierarchal companies. Companies who have implemented a formal mentoring program in place. These formal programs tend to be laborious and often fail to deliver as promise because they lack the spontaneity of the mentor and mentee discovering each other. In formal mentoring programs the mentor and mentee find themselves yoke through some artificial process in the mistaken belief it’s a more efficient process, and that it will provide the “perfect” match of mentor to mentee. The stiffness of the program limits the program’s ability accommodate the needs of a changing workforce. Today’s workforce is indeed changing and, so must programs that would advance talented and help retain talented people. This includes mentoring programs.

In a recent Talent Management article it discussed the concept of peer-to-peer mentoring. The article’s author describes it as an agile form of mentoring that allows for the “blending peer to peer mentoring with social media.” He also describes it as a “network of peers across business unites, geographies and generations who share a vision of interpersonal and professional growth.” One might consider an interesting and innovative concept especially when you introduce the aspect of social media. Not wanting to take anything away from the author’s insight, the concept isn’t really new, it’s been around for years, what makes it appear new and innovative is the availability of the tools that seem to make this form of mentoring more agile. Let’s face it if you can get your message across in 140 characters, along with reaching out to a number of contacts in a matter of seconds, you can indeed seem to be agile. Don’t misunderstand I’m not disagreeing with the concept just pointing out that some things that appear new have had their start in a different form, or as a good friend of mine once told me, “same stuff just different packaging.”

Not to minimize what the article is advocating, but, Malcolm Gladwell in his book the; Tipping Point How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference talks about the Law of The Few, which he postulates, “a very small number of people are linked to everyone in a few steps.” If you’re thinking “six degrees of separation” you’re partially correct. Gladwell’s point was in the subtitle of this particular chapter; connectors, mavens, and salesmen. The point of this chapter focuses on the need to have these type of individuals as part of your network. Network being the operative word.

The Talent Management article focus is on agile peer mentoring, is another way of looking at development of a small group of individuals (network) that can provide you with valuable information (mavens), help you connect with others (connectors), and individuals that can show the ins and outs of how to sell (salesmen) your ideas. Gladwell wrote about this 14 years ago. Now we have it as agile peer-mentoring – same stuff different packaging. The different packaging comes in the form of tying agile peer-mentoring in with the use of social media. In Gladwells’ version social media comprised of communication mostly via phone, meetings usually over lunch, and access to information usually meant someone’s Rolodex. Antiquated yes, but, people managed to figure out from whom to get information how to translate into usable knowledge and information that would help boost them up the corporate ladder.

With so much pressure to recruit and retain talent it seems traditional forms of mentoring lack the necessary flexibility by many organizations. The hierarchical mentoring program is still essential it just requires some optional features that help move things along a bit faster as the folks at Management Mentors point out in their white paper Corporate Mentoring Models: One Size Doesn’t Fit All.

Interestingly they briefly discuss eight different models of mentoring with peer mentoring as just one of the eight. Which brings us back to Kram’s point of: “Mentoring functions are those aspects of a developmental relationship that enhance both individuals’ growth and advancement. These functions are the essential characteristics that differentiate development relationships from other work relationships.” Mentoring is a developmental relationship, which means for it to work it must provide what is needed for the mentee to grow, perform at a high level, be able to think strategically and long-term, have the opportunity to take on assignments that will force them to stretch and move out of their comfort zones. Kram is describing what Lao Tzu described as someone who is subtle, intuitive, penetrating, and profound. This person would be, “as respectful as a thoughtful guest, as yielding as melting ice, as simple as uncarved wood, as open as a valley, as chaotic as a muddy torrent.” Both he and Kram are describing a multifaceted mentoring program similar to what the folks at Management Mentors point out in their white paper:

“… for any models to be successful, the organization needs to create a formal structure that allows for the following: connection to a strategic business objective of the organization, establish goals, measurable outcomes, open access for all who qualify, strategic paring of mentors and mentees, mentoring engagement lasting a specified amount of time, expert training and support available, if/when needed , direct organizational benefits.”

This type of program encompasses the developmental relationship that Kram talks about, along with flexibility Donovan suggests in his article on peer mentoring and what Lao Tzu says is ”Tolerating disarray, remaining at rest, gradually one learns to allow muddy water to settle and proper responses to reveal themselves.”

With everything written about mentoring programs and what is and isn’t the best way, has to be confusing – muddy waters – but waiting and sorting out what makes sense for your organization – finding the right model – will lead you to developing a mentoring program that meets your needs and will be a catalyst to your retention program for top talent.

© Timothy A. Wilson All Rights Reserved


If You Have To Ask Maybe You’re Doing Something Wrong

The other day I was talking with someone about mentoring. It was an interesting and lively discussion. The question came up on how to get a mentor. Upon hearing the question, I had to pause as I recalled a similar conversation I had on this very topic ten years ago, and I answered the question the same way I did ten years ago.

If you have to go up to someone and ask him or her to be your mentor, then you’re doing something wrong. It’s my contention that you don’t pick your mentor the mentor picks you. There are over 28,000 books on mentoring and numerous articles in business journals, “white papers,” and conference presentations on the topic of mentoring. However, the two I found the most insightful and useful were Marilyn Moats Kennedy’s book Office Politics Seizing Power Wielding Clout, and Kathy E. Kram’s; Mentoring at Work Developing Relationships in Organizational Life. In Kennedy’s, book Chapter 7, The Politics of Mentoring – or Searching for the Wizard of Oz she describes a process not many people think about when it comes to mentoring.

She posits that a person shouldn’t have just one but a number of mentors each with their own specialty. She points out there are five kinds of mentors (information mentor, peer mentor, retiree mentor, competitive mentor, godfather mentor) in an organization, and I concur with her analysis.

I would also; point out that for the individual who is trying to develop the traditional type of mentor/mentee relationship should be prepared to work at this for at least 18 months.

I understand that what I just wrote may see far fetch because there so much has been written about companies such as IBM, Xerox, Proctor & Gamble’s the large consulting firms and others how they have mentoring programs for new hires.

While these firms have well established mentoring programs there are many others that don’t and have no idea on how to go about putting such a program in place. Consider what Herminia Ibarra a Harvard Business School professor wrote in her March 2000 HBR article; Making Partner: A Mentor’s Guide to the Psychological Journey;

“The protégés spoke first, enumerating the long list of characteristics their idea mentor would possess. This person would be wise, successful, wield power in the firm, have extraordinary technical prowess, care about and have time for them, be nice persona and manage their own life such that work wasn’t everything. As the list unfolded, the faces of the assigned mentors showed increasing alarm. When the mentors first spoke, their words: “That is precisely our fear – that you have expectations we could never possibly meet. We don’t know how to do this job.””

Believe it or not, people have to be trained on how to be a mentor. But, those that understand how to do this do it well and don’t waste time on just anyone. There has to be certain chemistry between the mentor and mentee. The mentor is aware of those individuals who have potential to become rising stars and they will approach them at the appropriate time.

That’s why if you have to ask, maybe just maybe you’re doing something wrong.

© Timothy A. Wilson 2012. All Rights Reserved

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