Mentorship Start-up “Crash Course”

I very much liked this BNET article by Jennifer Alsever on starting a mentorship drive (here).  The article is rich with sources and tips, so check it out.  The four basic steps are listed below:

Decide Why You Want a Mentor Program — Set your program up to succeed by defining goals and involving top execs.
Pair Up Proteges and Mentors — Create profiles and match people according to your goals.
Set the Rules for Engagement — Make sure people meet regularly — and know what to talk about when they do.
Keep Tabs on the Program — Make sure mentoring is providing the results you want.

Not that I’m looking to integrate mentorship into my group’s social media strategy, I appreciated the explicit decision and goal-setting advice.  I’ve seen many explicit promotions of mentorship in people development efforts, but I’ve never had any real idea of what that mentorship was supposed to accomplish.  Now that I have a chance to drive this topic, perhaps I can learn from those mistakes!

Acknowledging fear when leading change

Wow, the latest PM Blog Carnival (here) sure had some blogworthy entries in this edition…this must be my fifth post inspired by it.  Louise Manning at The Human Imprint had a set of key change management steps (here), the foundation of which is her riff on the well-known Gandhi quote:

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  How does a manager facilitate change – well they need to engage and enable their staff.

I was struck by the vivid example of a father fearing the birth of his children in a change management post by Martha Rice (here) at the CMOE blog.  Fear-based resistance requires a determined, yet gentle change strategy based on acknowledging the fears, accepting those feelings, then adjusting those perceptions to the reality.  Her bullet points are a useful aide memoire:

  • Demonstrating commitment; clarifying your reasons for the change.
  • Inviting questions and responding promptly
  • Using active listening skills; show that you hear and understand the concerns of others, but don’t take on or “own” their burdens
  • Increasing communication and information sharing
  • Reinforcing the value of your team members
  • Providing regular updates on the progress and benefits of the change (e-mails, bulletin boards, memo’s, briefings, etc.)
  • Working through the “harsh realities” of change
  • Being accessible to team members
  • Setting aside time for individual coaching

Mis-using Management by Exception

Mike Chitty’s post on “Whack a Mole Management” (here) prompted me to think about how I position and coach on management by exception.

Whack-a-mole is an arcade game in which you try to hit ‘moles’ that pop up randomly on a board using a rubber mallet….  Whack-a-mole management is based on the same principles.  The challenges are the ‘moles’. As each challenge presents itself to managers, they hit it hard and fast with the hammer of position and conventional wisdom.  It’s exhausting, but fun.

Management by exception can quickly turn into “whack-a-mole” management.  Many inexperienced managers fall into the trap of thinking that MBE means only working issues, when it is really a principle for empowering line managers.  This article is a few years old, but I like the way it summarizes the approach (here), especially these five tips for avoiding the pitfalls of MBE:

  1. Combine MBE with MBWA (management by walking around).
  2. Clarify the level of authority for each newly delegated responsibility. Level A might be, “Do it. You don’t have to tell anyone.’ Level B, “Do it. Then let me know about it.’ Level C, “Do it only after checking with me.’
  3. Make sure lower-level managers are comfortable with their expanded authority. Review policies, practices, and procedures.
  4. Enlarge the definition of “exceptions’ to include favorable variances that should be reported to higher management.
  5. Use coaching and guidelines to encourage those who have received new authority. Higher management should show patience when they goof and express appreciation for their successes.
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