The ‘Stuff of Legend’

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(Business Destinations) — When disaster strikes in the office, it’s essential that boardrooms remain calm, cool and collected. Colleagues must work as a team to overcome obstacles. Yet it’s tricky to work together effectively when employees don’t feel like they’re part of that team. Water cooler chat and after-work drinks are all well and good, but without shared experiences, cohesion in the office may be lacking. When CEOs realized this, the corporate retreat was born. In the eyes of millions of staff members across the globe, it was the birth of a monster.

Team building outside the office may be a great way to craft a forward-thinking workplace, but the conventional corporate retreat can be an agonizingly dull affair. Executives will often leave it until the last minute and book everyone into a standard hotel with a conference room. An unknown (and typically uninspiring) inspirational speaker inevitably joins the fray before encouraging the group to build a bridge out of matchsticks. By no means should that be considered an adequate bonding experience.

However, some CEOs are upping their game. In the last few years, extreme takes on the standard corporate retreat have risen from the ashes of team building nightmares to provide companies with opportunities to grow team spirit in invigorating scenarios. By tossing everyone into adverse (and sometimes, titillatingly dangerous) adventures, colleagues become closer, offices unite and businesses grow. No matchsticks required.

Stuff of legendsnow-hiking-800x600
Some corporate retreats are more creative than others. In the US, a firm called Be Legendary tosses groups into extreme scenarios in which colleagues are given no choice but to work together. The psychologically taxing ‘Cabin Fever’ retreat sees a board trapped together in a single, cramped log cabin for an entire weekend. Tensions in the small, isolated cottage inevitably run high, setting the stage for conflict-resolution training and tight-knit bonding.

More active challenges include the company’s ‘Deep Snow Survival’, which forces participants to work together to survive imminent natural disasters. After a grueling trek into the alpine snowdrifts of the San Juan Mountains, weary hikers are told by their guide that a looming avalanche means the group will be forced to stay in the wilderness overnight. The team must then scramble together to build snow caves and find food.

“Roles disappear. Being the CEO or VP of whatever no longer matters,” says James Carter, founder of Be Legendary. “The memo I wrote last week that pissed everyone off no longer matters. All that matters is that we have to come together to survive. After a group has come together, faced a life-or-death scenario and survived, we have them at a very emotionally raw point and can build them up.
“The beauty of the avalanche scenario is that people rarely question nature. Mother Nature makes a great adversary to bring everyone together because people spend less time pointing the finger and being angry.”

A couple hours after the team has built their shelters, a snowcat arrives to take them to a cozy lodge instead. Yet the relief of a warm shelter by no means marginalizes the power of this unique bonding experience.

“Our extreme retreats are a very careful balance of hope and fear,” Carter says. “Fear is used to bring everyone together to overcome an impossible challenge with life-or-death consequences.” But it’s not all despair, as “hope is then used to get them to speak about what they can accomplish when they come together – almost anything!”

Extreme corporate retreats have proven highly effective for some of the world’s most successful companies; however, CEOs shouldn’t fret if they haven’t got the funds to fly their entire boardroom to Africa. With a little creativity, companies can provide employees with exercises that will not be easily forgotten. As in business, dare to be different in planning corporate retreats. Employees will be astounded by the positive transformation in rapport once they’ve returned to their desks.

Read the Full Article on Business Destinations.

 

Enel Green Power Walks on Fire!

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Walk on fire. Surely that is impossible.

Right?

What if we looked beyond the predetermined notions of what is and is not possible?

This mindset is exactly what the executives of Enel Green Power challenged themselves to as the sun set and the fires roared on Friday night.

Having no idea of the feats they were about to put themselves through, these 17 participants walked outside to see hundreds of logs burning on a sandy terrain in between the corner of the hotel and some palm trees.

Standing a few feet away from the flaming walkway, beads of sweat dripped from the executives foreheads.  Caused by the flames or perhaps some jittery nerves, one thing was certain, it was heating up.

As excited as the team was by the proposition of walking on fire, doubts surfaced when it came time to walk.

“You’re supposed to walk on that?”

“Has anyone burned themselves?”

“What’s the trick?”

Yes you walk on it, ironically only our CEO has burned himself, and the trick lies completely within you.

It takes certain conviction.  When it comes time to take that first step into the ambers of the fire it is because you have committed in that moment to that step.  And with the commitment of the first step comes the necessity of a second.  And a third, and a fourth, and before you realize you are on the other side of 10 yards of burning ambers.

So what is all this about? Walking across some flames for a badge of glory, a feat of excitement, or a killer new profile picture on Facebook?

Not entirely.  A fire walk calls for the recognition of certain strengths and a commitment to call on them to breakthrough to a new level of personal potential.

Whether it is a commitment take on the uncertain launch of a platform for a new product integration or committing to being a better spouse, the symbolism behind that first step into the fire is profound.

It is the realization of a new possibility and the ability to make it happen all rolled up into the distance it takes to convert a first down.  That is if you replaced the sweet smell of freshly cut grass with burning wood and ambers.

For this team of fire walkers of Enel Green Power, their walk is behind them.  And what lies in front of them is the commitment to their conviction.  For the ripple effects of forward steps are the ones that can and will shift the trajectory of results.

California Pizza Kitchen Inspires Action on Sailing Adventure

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Executives of the California Pizza Kitchen are creating positive change within their organization taking the time to invest in their most important asset, their people.  Keeping this in the forefront of their mind, they were challenged to learn, communicate, and constantly adapt to a changing environment as they sailed through Newport harbor.

When you examine the characteristics of a successful organizations, the ability to challenge the status quo always surfaces.  In sailing, like in an organization, what is working now will not be the best strategy to use in the future.  In fact, attaching yourself to one strategy will undoubtedly take the wind out of your sails, pardon the pun.

These executives experienced a profound business process when examining changing wind patterns or water currents.  That by recognizing, communicating, and then taking action as one unit, they were able to move forward no matter what conditions were present.

In order to get to places you have never been you must think and act in ways you have never before.  For these executives, only a handful with sailing experience, they were challenged to learn skills in sailing.

Once you have a fundamental grasp of skills and talents you must constantly adapt and change with the environment.  You may have the most talented person at tacking the sail to the starboard side, but if you do this when the wind is blowing the opposite direction, no matter how good you may be at tacking, you will not go anywhere.

By the end of the day each these executives were pointing out ripples in the water, flags blowing in different directions, and changing wind patterns within the sails.  These are called indicators, and if you can effectively identify these you will have a significant advantage over anyone on the water.

Capturing their performance here as a direct translation to the success of California Pizza Kitchen, they were reminded to ask themselves the question, “What are the indicators within my work?”

Just as that person talented at tacking the sail will fail without any direction, an employee equally skilled at his job is doomed to the same fate if no one pays attention to the indicators of the environment.

California Pizza Kitchen left this adventure with the realization that change is inevitable, but if you use it to leverage your ability to thrive, then you will be unstoppable.

Extreme Executive Retreat

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By James Carter

Tim Hume of CNN interviewed Founder and CEO, James Carter, about the extreme nature of our executive retreats and why they are essential for some executive teams:

A short article can never capture everything that is important but Tim does a great job of highlighting the role these retreats have in the ‘Executive Retreat’ realm.

There are many other articles out there that emphasize the value of extreme retreats but they are not to be selected randomly.  Like every other format for retreats, the structure must support the overall goals and outcomes.  Or you just end up having a great time – not a bad thing, but you are losing the value of an executive retreat.

The most valuable time you can spend is having a firm understanding of where you are now – A, and where you want to be – B.  While this is simplistic, it is not necessarily easy.  It may require  great deal of courage to face the current situation!

And once you know A, understanding B is the next step – where do you want to be?  What do you want from your executive team?  Generalities DO NOT work here.  What are specific behaviors you want members of the executive team showing.  If you answer with something like ‘collaborating’, you are not digging deeply enough and keep going.  What will more collaboration do for the organization?

In addition, what are the goals the team must hit?  What are those ‘B’s’?

With those answers in mind, you select the format and structure for an executive retreat.  And perhaps something extreme is in order!

Read more about the A to B strategy.

Read the article here!

 

The Five C’s Of Managing Virtual Teams

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Written with Jennifer Rasmussen

Your face to face kickoff meeting has just been deemed nonessential travel by the powers that be. The project, however, is just as essential as ever. The team members are scattered in offices all over the country. They’ve never met, seen, or heard each other, but they need to work as a unit. Getting them to gel together is your challenge.

Even managers who excel at team building in a live environment can find themselves frustrated when faced with a virtual team; yet fostering a strong team dynamic among people who never meet face to face is fast becoming a necessary skill. These five essential best practices will help you do it.

Communicate.
Communication is the most basic of management tools, and you probably think you have this one down. You know you need to include your team in project planning. You know you need to give timely feedback and immediate updates. But whatever your normal level of communication is, double it with your virtual team.

Clarity, frequency, and responsiveness are the keys. Experts will tell you that anywhere from 65-95 percent of communication is nonverbal. Yet for virtual team members, your words are often most or all of what they have to go on; they don’t necessarily have the opportunity to pick up on the nonverbal cues that make up so much of your message. So make sure your words are clear, and deliver them often. Because their isolation prevents them from coming across information in less formal ways, regular meetings via conference call or other technology are essential for virtual teams. Have them weekly, and keep the appointment, even if you don’t have any big news to report. Keep the agenda posted electronically in an area the whole team can access, and encourage them to add to it. Finally, make answering your virtual team members’ emails and phone calls a priority to make up for the fact that they can’t drop by your desk or catch you in the hall with a quick question.

Chat.
This is not the same as communication. Communication is professional. Chatting is personal. If you don’t think personal communication is part of your business life, ask yourself if you’ve ever had lunch with a colleague, or stopped to ask how somebody was doing at the water cooler, or looked at the pictures on somebody’s desk. Although your team members hardly need to be kindred spirits to work well together, some level of personal interaction is crucial for team bonding. Virtual teams don’t have lunches together. They don’t share water coolers. They can’t see each other’s desks. Chat cannot easily happen organically, so you need to provide a mechanism for it. Have a virtual pizza party: send a pizza to each location at the same time, and get together in an internet chat session or conference call to gab. Call your team members once in a while just to catch up. There are countless creative ways to introduce chat into your team dynamics; but you must make a conscious effort to do so.

Change it up.
It’s the wealth of technology that we have at our fingertips that makes virtual teaming possible. Telephone and email are far from the only tools at your disposal. Instant messaging systems, collaboration software, group bulletin boards or discussion areas, and chat rooms are all useful for working and meeting together. Many of these tools can be obtained inexpensively or free. Learn what’s out there, and use it all. Vary your methods of communicating, and learn which methods work best for which team members. Some people love email; others prefer the phone. Finally, make sure you are using each type of technology appropriately for the purpose it’s best suited to. If one email has been forwarded and replied to several times among several people, you’d be better off moving the issue to a conference call or online discussion.

Cut out.
One of the most often neglected pieces to building a virtual team is providing a safe place for interaction and discussion without the manager. Whether it’s a regular conference call, a bulletin board, or a chat session, your team needs a “staff room” that isn’t accessible to you. Your live teams can take advantage of their proximity to have discussions about issues without you there, and in doing so they often develop ideas they might not feel comfortable bringing up and working through in your presence. Your virtual team needs the same opportunity. Some managers are uncomfortable creating a space that they can’t get into, but if you ignore this need you not only eliminate a chance for a more free change of ideas, you risk ending up with a team that’s bonded well with you, but not with one another.

Celebrate.
Just because you aren’t there to take your team members out to lunch or just stop by to thank them for a job well done, doesn’t mean that everything you know about rewards and recognition doesn’t apply. Accomplishments must be acknowledged and celebrated, as a group when possible and appropriate. There are literally hundreds of ways to achieve this. Take the time to create a periodic newsletter and email or post it; be sure to have a section in it for accolades. Institute a peer-to-peer award system. Send virtual greeting cards or gift certificates from any of the dozens of websites dedicated to these purposes. Send them each a jar of jam when you reach a milestone. However you do it, just make sure you do.

The principles of managing virtual teams well are not much different from the principles of managing anybody or anything well. Apply two more C’s to these five: consistent and conscious. Practice them that way, and it can be virtually painless.

MENTORING: WHY YOUR MANAGERS DON’T BUY IT?

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Written with Les McKeown

When we’re asked to help refresh or rejuvenate mentoring programs that are struggling to make an impact, the most common underlying problem is lack of clearly defined program goals.

The second most common problem is lack of buy-in by managers and supervisors.

Here’s the top three reasons why this happens:

1. Managers are too busy already

The last thing they need is another set of responsibilities, or another process they have to adapt to.

2. Mentoring is a threat to a manager’s sense of self-esteem

“Why should my employee need a mentor if I’m doing a good job as a manager?”.

3. The managers weren’t consulted

at the outset of the mentoring program design process, which means something is being imposed on them, rather than asked for by them.

The good news is that in our experience, dealing effectively with these issues isn’t rocket science, although it does require a little bravery…Here’s how to make sure your managers ‘Deliver The Mentoring Promise’:

1. CONSULT, CONSULT, CONSULT

ASK your managers what they would like out of your mentoring and coaching program – at the outset.

Ask most managers “Do you think a mentoring program would be helpful to you as a manager?”, and mostly, they’ll say “Yes!”. Conversely, TELL them: “Here’s a mentoring program that will be helpful to you as a manager”, and they’ll feel imposed upon and that you’re being presumptuous about their skills.

It’s a very small step from asking “Do you think a mentoring program would be helpful to you as a manager?” to asking “What SPECIFICALLY do you think a mentoring program could best do for you?”. Involving your managers in agreeing the OBJECTIVES of the mentoring or coaching program is not just good commercial sense (it grounds the program objectives in reality), it also starts the whole process of achieving buy-in.

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Does this mean you have to get all the managers in a room, endure a four-hour debate and try to accommodate everyone’s point of view, before getting the mentoring or coaching program off the ground?

No – here’s how to achieve the result you want (manager input) without hours of fruitless discussion:

  • Set aside a time – an hour or so, maybe over a lunchtime -when you will make a presentation regarding the proposed mentoring program and seek input on its objectives. 
  • Circulate details to all the managers and supervisors affected, offering them the opportunity to come and contribute to the discussion. If folks are spread around the country, offer to set up a conference call for them to hook into (call you phone operator for details – it’ll cost about $30 to set up for an hour).
  • About 7-12% of the folks you circulate will actually agree to join in the meeting. Of that, about two thirds will actually attend.
  • Those who don’t attend will appreciate the offer being made, and will acknowledge that a consultation process has occurred, even if they didn’t personally participate.
  • The smaller numbers will make for a more manageable, focused meeting. Who knows, you might end up with some evangelists for the program!

2. EDUCATE

Take time to explain to everyone impacted, that your mentoring or coaching program is not being introduced because of any perceived management weaknesses on the part of managers and supervisors.

Make the distinctions between mentoring, coaching, managing and supervising very clear.

Even if your managers are already aware of the distinctions, they will appreciate YOU making the distinctions clear to their employees. It’s hard for a manager to say to her

employees: “Please understand you have not been allocated a mentor because I’m doing a poor job.” It sounds better coming from you.

3. INVOLVE

The protégé’s managers are your key to measuring the impact and effectiveness of your mentoring or coaching program.

The mentors and protégés themselves are too close to the process to be objective.

You can’t personally appraise every mentoring or coaching relationship yourself.

So why not ask the managers help in setting up a simple, non-time consuming mechanism to monitor how well protégés are developing in their mentoring relationship? You can use the consultative meeting outlined above to discuss the best ways for this to happen. For example:

By using a ‘control group’ – some employees who are being mentored, and some who are not, and getting the manager to help you measure the difference in progress between the two, you’ll not only involve the manager, you’ll get her strong approval for the program, as she sees the differences between the two groups. (You ARE going to have a very successful program, right? So this part can’t go wrong…)

J. Leslie McKeown, is the President & CEO of Predictable Success.

Untangling Complex Group Dynamics

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Written with Andrea Corney
Acorn Consulting

One of the factors I talk about in “Getting Traction” is the difficulty in working through complex and abstract issues. In the paper I briefly mention a management team that had spent more than a year spinning on one issue without getting resolution. This is an in depth look at this case study and how the situation was resolved.

THE PROBLEM
At almost every management team meeting an argument developed over what to do about the key competitor. The CEO wanted to buy them out, while others thought this was a waste of resources and would distract the company from the effort to keep innovating ahead of the market. Typically a few members of the team geared up for a fight and the others sank in their seats trying to stay out of the line of fire. The arguments were the same every time and after more than a year the team had yet to make a decision. The argument ate up time and seemed to stymie progress on a number of related issues. The team had split into opposing camps and had started to tune out anything that the other side had to say, even on unrelated issues.

APPROACH
After witnessing several “rounds” of the battle I wrote up my best understanding of the two opposing views. I met with individuals to walk through the issues and make sure I fully understood what they thought and why they thought it. The “why” included all their data points – conversations with customers, past experiences, news reports they’d read, market data,
analogies they’d drawn with other industries, and any other assumptions they had made in reaching their conclusion.

After the one-on-one meetings, I outlined all the issues including data points, assumptions, lines of reasoning and conclusions. I identified and broke out 3 sub-issues that had been shmushed together in previous discussions. (Yes, “shmush” is a technical term that the experts use – don’t try this at home. Some practitioners prefer “shmurgle”, but I think
that clouds the issue.) The sub-issues were (1) the power of a particular competitor, (2) the business model used by a number of competitors, and (3) how much value customers put on different bundles of products and features.

Once I’d fully analyzed the issues, I met for a day offsite with three of the key players. I had put each idea, data point and

assumption on a separate, over-sized index card. At the offsite I mapped out all the arguments on a large “sticky wall” – a piece of parachute silk coated with artist’s mounting spray. This format allowed us to move ideas around and identify connections as our thinking developed.

At the offsite, we started by clarifying our goal: the company had a 3-year growth target that the whole team had agreed on. They had also agreed on the product direction that was most likely to achieve that target. We then looked at each of the 3 sub-issues and talked about how they might impact the larger goals. Throughout the day, whenever the discussion got off track, I returned to the shared goals and asked how the discussion was related to these goals.

We walked through one issue at a time, one index card at a time, and focused first on understanding rather than agreement. As we surfaced the assumptions, people talked more about what had led them to these conclusions – data points, assumptions, lines of reasoning. As they started to understand the different perspectives, they were able to let go of rigidly held ideas and come to agreement on a number of points. This focused the debate on a few narrow issues that could be talked out.

We also identified competing assumptions that needed to be resolved. For example: the competitor boasts that it has over 700 customers. How much does each customer buy? What features do they value? Are they large enough to buy our more expensive product? We narrowed these questions down to a few critical ones that needed answers. The next step was some focused market research and informal discussions with partners and customers to answer these questions. Once that data was gathered, the team was able to reach agreement.

OUTCOME
The conflict was resolved. The management team was able to agree on the exact nature of the threat posed by the competitor. They identified 3 potential responses and were able to agree on the one that made the most sense and went ahead with implementation. They then turned their attention to other issues that had been ignored while they were spinning on this area of conflict.

In addition, the team now has an approach that it uses to resolve other sticky issues.

WHY THIS WORKED

1. Created a Setting for Open Discussion
We met on a Sunday with just a small group. Without the usual audience there was very little grand standing and people felt free to “think out loud”. It was also easier for them to open up to different points of view without losing face.
2. Focused Everyone on a Shared Goal
We started with a shared goal that everyone agreed on. This made them partners in solving a common problem, rather than opponents in a zero sum game. The simple structure of seating everyone in a semi-circle facing the sticky wall put them mentally on the same team with the wall being the problem to solve. Rather than beating each other with competing ideas, they worked together on a single problem.
3. Depersonalized the Debate
Breaking everything down into units of thought on index cards served to neutralize the discussion. We could move around, combine and revise the cards. The discussion was around the ideas not which person was right or wrong (or stupid or pig-headed). In addition, once the ideas were in writing and up on the wall, the individuals stopped making repetitive speeches – their ideas were legitimized and preserved. They could let down the vigilance they’d had about being heard and remembered.
4. Increased Listening and Understanding
As I presented all the cards and arguments, everyone heard their ideas spoken out loud by a neutral party. I was careful not to promote one idea over another. Because I’d prepared with one on one interviews, I’d captured all the ideas and was able to feed them back to the group. The group listened without the usual interruptions and arguments. I encouraged questions for clarity and understanding. So we started the day with everyone having the feeling of BEING HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD. This immediately increased their willingness and ability to understand and consider opposing views. In “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey says “Seek first to understand, THEN to be understood.” I find the book a bit hokey and even simplistic, but this single statement is THE secret to resolving conflict.
5. Broke the Debate Into Manageable Pieces
When I was in law school we called this “slicing and dicing the issues”. On exams we’d be presented with a complex set of facts and be asked to identify and resolve the multiple legal issues involved. To do that we had to separate out the relevant facts for each legal issue and develop separate lines of reasoning. You failed if you shmurgled them together.

The cards helped us break things out and then group them into the relevant issues. This also helped depersonalize the discussion. As we “see” the debate mapped out, we start to understand and “own” it. When we don’t understand something, we simplify and label it – usually as “John’s stupid idea”.

6. . Surface Unspoken Assumptions
As the discussion progressed we challenged each other to get clearer and clearer on why we each believed something to be true. This surfaced assumptions that had not been articulated before. Once they were made explicit we could share multiple data points that both supported and contradicted these assumptions. Unspoken assumptions can’t be resolved – the first and most important step is making them explicit. We also set a norm that no assumption was stupid, but also that no assumption was sacred – everything was open for debate.
7. Explore Multiple Options
The discussion loosened up rigidly held ideas. This paved the way for considering multiple options. Research has shown that the quality of decision making rises dramatically when teams consider more than just 2 options. Multiple alternatives leads to a richer and more creative discussion.
Untangling complex issues is hard work, both intellectually and in terms of team dynamics. The approach described here is one way to create a space for doing this difficult work.

 



FOR THOSE WHO WANT MORE: Resources on Conflict

One of the classic books on conflict is “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury. It sets out some of the basic groundrules that I find very helpful whenever I do conflict resolution. It is available from Amazon through the link below.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement

The technique of breaking down beliefs into underlying data points, assumptions and reasoning, is captured in a concept called The Ladder of Inference. A good description of this concept is found in “The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook” by Peter Senge, et. al. It is available from Amazon through the link below.

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook

One of my favorite articles from Harvard Business Review is “How Management Teams Can Have a Good Fight” by Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, et. al. The PDF is hard to find now, but check the HBR website:

http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu

How Do I get Started with My Own Team?

GETTING STARTED: Untangling a Current Issue

Identify an important issue that your team seems to be stuck on. Ask individuals to pick an opposing view and describe it as fully as possible so that the person holding that view feels fully understood. Keep going until all the views have been fully articulated TO THE SATISFACTION OF THE PERSON HOLDING EACH VIEW. If even one person doesn’t feel fully understood, you need a more in-depth process to surface and validate all the assumptions.

MENTORING: REMIND ME – WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?

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Written with Les Mckeown

Julie and I just returned from a great few days in San Jose. While there we had an opportunity to work with some folks who wanted to REFRESH a mentoring program that wasn’t getting the results.

The more we looked at it, the clearer it became that the reason the program wasn’t ‘getting the results’ was because the mentoring program had no CLEAR GOALS to start with!

It’s hard to ‘get results’ if no-one knows what the results should be…(As my mother used to say: ‘If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it.’ Typically Irish – it’s not really meant to make sense, but it does…).

How do you make sure your program ‘gets results’?

1. Make Sure You Know Your Mentoring Or Coaching Program’s Primary Function.

There are 16 potential Primary Functions your program could have – choose which one (or two, at most) applies to your program:

  1. Enhancing Recruitment Activities
  2. Enhancing Retention
  3. Getting over a learning curve
  4. Dealing with major organizational change
  5. Bridging competency gaps
  6. Converting training to results
  7. Encourage personal individual growth
  8. Facilitate internal hiring and transfers
  9. Accelerate the development of high performers
  10. Increase the representation of minority interests
  11. Help low performers improve
  12. The development of management
  13. Provide succession and for the development of emerging leaders
  14. For new hires
  15. Help re-vitalize mid-career executives
  16. Assist employees obtain formal qualifications

2. Set Clear, Quantifiable Objectives For Your Program

By setting quantifiable objectives, you will end up with very clear, identifiable and above all, realistically achievable goals for your program.

Relate all of your objectives to the program’s primary function and to a realistic time frame.

Added bonus: by doing this, you will be able to prove the validity of your mentoring or coaching program should one of the ‘powers-that-be’ threaten to pull your program and its budget…

3. Tell The Mentors And The Protégés Why You’re Doing This

One of the ‘Duh…!’ moments we had in San Jose was working out how best to communicate the program’s goals to the mentors and the protégés.

Many companies don’t even consider this step – the program is designed and implemented without sitting down with the mentors and protégés and clearly explaining:

‘This program is aimed at increasing employee retention from X% to Y% over a three year period – we’re doing this to keep you here.’

Or:

‘This program is designed to increase the percentage of jobs we can fill by internal hiring from c% to d% over 18 months. We’re doing this to broaden your skill set, so we can offer you a broader range of career options within the company.’

(Or whatever specific objective you’ve set.)

Think about it…how can the program participants help you achieve your program goals – if they don’t know what they are?

4. Ask The Line Managers

The people best placed to tell you if your mentoring or coaching program is working are the LINE MANAGERS of those involved in the program…

…not the mentors, or the protégés (although their views are invaluable in other respects), and not, you’ll be pleased to know, you (the program coordinator is too close to the program to give a wholly independent assessment).

Give your line managers the written objectives of your program (as arrived at above), and agree a simple mechanism by which THEY will monitor and report on the program’s success in achieving its objectives. Make it simple to ensure their involvement.

J. Leslie McKeown, is the President & CEO of Predictable Success