The Foundation For Mentoring Success

Communication And ​Relationship Building Are Critical

Two key elements are required in order for a mentoring relationship to be successful. In reality, these very same elements are the key to successful relationships in our personal lives. The two key elements are trusted relationships and effective communication.

I have recently seen examples of where the breakdown in effectively communicating with someone can result in the short or long term deterioration of the relationship. If that happens to be in your personal life, imagine the impact that will have on those relationships.

We need to be tuned into their body language and their responses or lack thereof to ensure that the message we want delivered is actually being understood.

We sometimes assume that the person we are talking with understands what we are saying, or worse, apparently knows what we are thinking. That is not always the case.

Be Tuned In
We need to take that step back and ask ourselves before we send the message – how will this be received on the other end? Does it make sense?

We need to be tuned into their body language and their responses or lack thereof to ensure that the message we want delivered is actually being understood.

I have seen, in the professional environment, situations where not communicating effectively or not using active listening skills has contributed to performance deficiencies in an employee. Situations like this typically arise due to a manager or supervisor who does not communicate well and is not very good at building relationships with their employees.

Develop Those Relationships
As a manager or leader, you do need to develop relationships with those whom you work with. Failure to do so will have an impact on your ability to communicate in an effective manner.

As a manager or leader, you also need to consider whether your organisation has set itself up to be mentor ready, if a mentoring culture is what you are building on.

Effective communication is part of the effective mentoring process. Both participants in the relationship need to be able to send and receive information and to do so in an effective manner.

If you are the mentor, listening and hearing what is being said as well as focusing on the trigger words that are being delivered within the conversation will assist in guiding you to the next set of questions that you might ask. If you are unable to capture the trigger words, you will wander aimlessly in your conversation, without it having any meaning or substance.

Build Trust

Trust, no matter how we look at it, is important in our day to day lives. In fact, I would go so far as to say that without trust, you have nothing.

Without trust, we cannot develop meaningful relationships with others – whether they be part of our personal and/or professional lives. Building a trusted relationship is a key element of a successful effective mentoring relationship. Without trust, you really do not have a relationship at all.

Effective mentoring requires effective communication which includes the active listening component and the ability to build trusted relationships.

To build that trust requires work by both participants in the mentoring process. If trust is not established, you will not be successful. I have had a mentoring relationship where we could not connect, and consequently, we did not build the level of trust required to make our relationship work and to be successful.

Work On Your Communication Skills

Effective mentoring requires effective communication which includes the active listening component and the ability to build trusted relationships. Without either one of these elements, you will struggle in having a mentoring relationship with positive outcomes.

Take the time to work on your communication and relationship building skills. Take the time to get some form of training to assist you in this endeavour. Use the practice ground that you have in front of you today – both personal and professional as it will enhance your abilities in both of these areas.

After all, “can you afford not to?”




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Dump Corporate Jargon For More Impact

Long before texting brought us LOL, BTW, CU, and TTYL, organizations used acronyms as communication short cuts. Unlike the text substitutes for benign greetings, laughs and sign offs, corporate acronyms tend to substitute for the fundamentals: Names of products, initiatives and departments. The very essence of “who, what and why” in business!

Although organizations use acronyms to speed up communication, here are three ways they undermine it and how to break the habit:

1.  They Hide And Distance People From Meaning

When product or process names are reduced to acronyms, the name conveys no purpose. This contributes to the perception (and cause!) of process for process sake. For example, the “PBC process” devolves to filling in HR forms and hoping for a raise while the “Personal Business Commitments process” conveys more meaning — what are the commitments, were they delivered and what impact did they have on the business. Camouflage strategic initiatives as corporate jargon and it’s not surprising 80% of employees say they don’t know what the goals of the organization are!

2.  They Exclude People That Don’t Have The Decoder Ring

Good chance your organization doesn’t have an acronym dictionary (or you have to know its acronym to find it). Using code speak to coordinate execution and communicate internally means you’re relying on each individual to raise their hand when they don’t know the code. That’s as effective as speaking Portuguese at meetings in Chicago – some people will get it but the rest will tune out. In challenging environments or where M&A is common, acronyms simply exclude people who can and should contribute value to business outcomes.

3.  They Are Meaningless To Customers

Customers shouldn’t have to decode your conversation. More importantly, using product names with customers can accelerate their understanding. A Global Retention Schedule Management System says what the product is while GRSMS says nothing and is remarkably hard to say! If your organization sells more than one product, avoid acronyms so customers better understand the breadth of purposes and problems to which your product set applies. And remember your group and division acronyms don’t help your customer understand where services, products or staff come from – they give the client another task to do to get value from your organization.

Short cuts are great when they help you get to the intended destination faster; check your acronym habits to see whether they’re short cuts or just bad habits that slow business down. To break a bad acronym habit, try saying “LMNOP” every time someone uses an acronym. It’s a humorous way to point out how nonsensical acronyms sound to those not in the know and how empty they can be even if you do know the code.


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What Do High Performance Teams Look Like?

Does your organization know what high performance teams look like? Most organizations can point to teams who work together harmoniously and get their work done. And those characteristics are true of high performance teams, but they only scratch the surface, according to team expert Dr. Solange Charas. In an interview with Forbes, she pointed to seven key characteristics that boosted team performance to the highest levels:

  • Deal with differences
  • Trust each other
  • Create a meaningful context
  • Handle 
conflict and tension
  • Enact effective leadership roles within the team
  • Ability to apply skills and generate solutions
  • Team self-efficacy

If organizations can get these things right, the payouts are huge. Charas points to results of C-Level teams and boards where higher performing teams yielded greater profitability to their organizations by a factor of 20% or more. 

Its not easy though, or else every company would be performing at high levels. Take a look at that list. It truly comes down to how effectively individual members of a team are able to understand themselves and the others on the team. And more importantly, how well they can collaborate to drive results.

High performance teams are about harnessing the diverse perspectives and overcoming the tendency that individuals, especially leaders and those in high-level positions, have to move ahead with their own points of view.

So how do we get to a place where collaboration naturally occurs and cognitive dissonance is favored as a way to reframe conflict to productivity and performance?

Our research points to the fact that while there are seven distinct factors that each and every person possesses (Analytical, Structural, Social and Conceptual thinking and Expressiveness, Assertiveness and Flexibility behavior), the actual ways that each person exhibits them are completely unique and different.

This is nothing new (every person is unique), but differences in thinking and action account for how to take a team from simply getting work done to getting a team performing at the highest levels, where diverse ideas occur, trust is high and team self-efficacy is optimized.

Brian Uzzi, a Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, highlighted in Harvard Business Review how leaders must foster diverse thinking, stating, “Perspective taking for the leader begins with understanding what each teammate values and then brokering and communicating shared value among teammates.”

In order to uncover these perspectives and take advantage of different perspectives to create balanced, results-driven and high performance teams, there are a few key actions that teams can undergo:

  1. Take a look critically at the people on your team and do an audit. Do you have a wealth of analytical thinking for example? Ensure that someone is taking relationships into the picture. Are you a team of focused, process-driven, structured thinkers? Ensure that the bigger, conceptual picture is in sight and that the team members are working together to craft a shared vision for accomplishment. Are your team members boisterous and outspoken in their approach? Ensure that all voices are heard, even the quiet ones, to make sure that either task or relationships aren’t getting overrun by certain tendencies.
  2. Look for missing perspectives and develop ways to bring those perspectives to light. Balance begins with actually having a many equal sides coming together. This is the heart of cognitive diversity and a strategy must be envisaged to bring perspectives that aren’t there. Bringing a new person onto the team may be one option (use a hiring assessment to determine what kinds of motivators or perspectives will benefit the team most). Asking someone to fill in the roles needed is another tactic, even if it may not be their go-to approach. Simply having awareness of a perspective needed (say a more focused, task-oriented behavioral approach to work), can be enough to allow a team member to actively play this role.
  3. Ensure cognitive diversity is achieving business goals. Having a balanced team will only go so far, unless a balanced approach and collaborative effort is placed into the context of business results and objectives for the team and organization. Cognitive diversity doesn’t need to end at an interpersonal level; it can be built into the very framework of the strategy and work that a team performs.

Finding balance is one big way that organizations can create and nurture more productive high performance teams. It’s a performance indicator and one that you can watch closely to monitor your team performance

Developing The Right Company Culture

I work in a start-up business. I’ve been blessed with a great team who lives and breathes the company culture everyday – people who continue to exude the passion to try new things and develop new ways of streamlining and becoming smart in how we grow and attract the right customers.

We are a small company and we listen to each other – I mean, we really listen and we respect the viewpoints that each has to contribute, no matter how harsh. I believe in transparency, no matter how much it hurts the ego. Especially mine.

Continuous Change Needs To Be Enabled And Nurtured

I always thought I’d get it right off the bat because I was developing this company from the beginning. Not many CEOs have the benefit of creating a vision and cultivating it from its very beginnings. I have. It comes with amazing outcomes but also detrimental effects.

People Are Everything!

It doesn’t usually take long for me to trust people. My nature is to give people the benefit of the doubt. I also pride myself in the ability to spot awesomeness. It’s easy for me to latch onto people who speak about the future, new ways of thinking and their personal philosophies about where things are going. These are the people I tend to work with because they have this intrinsic drive that allows them to continuously question existing processes and figure out better ways to get things done. And I love that.

It’s because of this that we’ve streamlined our communication processes, improved our filing system and created a more structured way of running meetings. This has provided immense improvement especially in a company whose principles operate remotely in different parts of the U.S. and Canada. I have Joe Cardillo to thank for that. We’ve also improved the quality of our content. Susan Silver and Amy Tobin continue to be vigilant about producing valued content that our customers will read. I continue to be blown away with how data is being used to gain us more credibility and earn us more traffic in the process.

Being a leader doesn’t mean you know everything. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t pretend I do. What I do know is that what we’ve built today is the work of a collective team that believes in the goals of the company.

Become Uncomfortable … Always

My partner in crime, Amy Tobin, knows this to be true. We often have uncomfortable conversations. Many times these discussions may criticize a decision that has been already made. It often times makes me question some of my personal views on a situation and my own process for coming to the conclusions I have.

As much as it may feel like it’s a personal slight, the criticism stems from the perspective about company direction and focus. I’ve been known to derail direction in response to some cool ideas that present themselves. My instinct has been to say, “Hey, who’s the boss here?” I’m glad, however, I’ve allowed myself the time to regroup and think about what exactly has been questioned and why. I’ve also nurtured one on one meetings to allow more transparency and honest opinion.

In a start-up people will come and go, even the amazing ones. I take comfort in knowing that I’ve done everything I could to allow each one to develop to the point where they’ve felt compelled to spread their wings and find their own way. Regardless of the circumstances, there has been considerable learning on both sides. This is a business that thrives because its players want what’s best for the company. That is truly rare in big business.

Make Mistakes… Then Move On

When I started this business I had absolutely no experience as an entrepreneur. I had some great experience as a marketer but not as a business person. This learning curve has been a steep one.

I won’t lie. We’ve repositioned the mission for this company several times. It’s been in response to market demand or lack thereof. Each time we’ve gone through the exercise of “Who we are and what do we want to be when we grow up?”, everyone provides their honest viewpoint. This challenges us but also forces us to rethink and refocus, with the intention of getting alignment into what the market needs.

I’ve also made wrong decisions: when it came to clients, our people and how things were done. But I’ve learned from them. I don’t doubt I’ll continue to make more mistakes and learn from those as well. It’s inevitable.

As this business grows up and changes, I would hope that I will continue to maintain the values that have been instilled from the beginning. I don’t doubt there will continue to be rough waters ahead but as long as everyone has a voice that is heard and listened to; and as long as they feel valued, will I feel like I’m headed in the right direction.

Overcoming The Fear Of Employee Engagement

Engaging your workforce may be a scary thing. Especially if you haven’t done it much.

As with any relationship, it’s scary to find out that your employees don’t think exactly like you, even if you know that all people have different ideas, plans and ambitions. But these different ideas and plans are what will give your company strength and make employee engagement such a powerful tool for every entrepreneur.

The Benefits Of Engagement

I probably don’t have to emphasize the positive sides of employee engagement. According to ACCOR, 90% of leaders know it’s impact. However, the same study points out that only 25% of companies actually have an engagement strategy in place. (Source. Officevibe)
So we can say, most of the companies out there are not doing something they know is good for them. I can only guess that one reason for that is fear. Fear of change.

You may not like to hear what your employees think. But there’s no reason to fear it. Rather, these options should be embraced.
One of the biggest bonuses of employee engagement is collaboration: sharing ideas and making your company better, stronger and more competitive.

Saving Time And Money

This is one of those essential parts of leadership where you can’t go with what most other leaders are doing. You must do better than most to get an edge for your company. $37 billion is lost every year in the States because of bad communication in the workplace. As a leader, I’d prefer not to lose that kind of money. (Source: Slideshare)

Keeping the most talented people working with you is important for all leaders and HR specialists. Time and money is spent on attracting and training them yet these resources are often lost when they leave for the next project or opportunity.
75% of people who quit their job, actually quit their bosses. The leaders who spend more time with their workers and collaborate with them, are less likely to be broken up with. If we look at our personal relationships, we’re not surprised if a couple breaks up because they’re not talking enough. So there’s no reason to be surprised, if your top talent leaves, when they are not heard.

Overcoming Fear

Luckily, in business, unlike in personal life, we can rely on technology in our everyday communications and collaboration with our teams. There’s a tools for almost anything your company might need. There are weekly progress reporting software like Weekdone that offer weekly feedback as a perk, or you can choose one of many specific tools that offer only feedback.

All of these tools have one thankworthy goal: making employee engagement and collaboration easier.

Just remember what Larry Ellison, former CEO and founder of Oracle, said: “Taking care of your employees is extremely important and very, very visible.”

There is nothing to fear but the fear itself. Fear is the mind-killer that stops our businesses from evolving and growing. At the same time, fear is not some force of nature that we can do nothing about. Fear is something we can fight and conquer, something that can be overcome on our quest of self-improvement.


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5 Reasons Your Employees Leave (And 1 Big Reason They Stay)

There’s a lot of disagreement about why employees leave their jobs. Is it because they don’t have the chance to grow? A lack of work/life balance? Not being paid enough?

Many of the statistics cited in this article will disagree on what the biggest reason is (since survey responses change depending on where, when, and how a survey is applied). Regardless of ranking, however, it’s clear that the following reasons are why your employees get fed up and leave. Keep these top reasons in mind the next time you’re recruiting, handing out a performance review, or wondering why a top performer took off.


The inability to prove yourself in a higher role (and maybe earn a little more money along the way) is one of the biggest reasons employees leave. Usually, this is because it’s easier to look for a higher position available somewhere else than a similar position where you currently work. This is caused by a lack of internal mobility. The solution, then, is a better system of mobility within your company, which has been shown to increase employee retainment. No way to effect internal mobility? Then attempt to challenge workers. People (in general) need a new challenge roughly once per quarter. Now’s a great time to nab that marketing pro to help you with an employer branding campaign!

Work/Life Balance

You might be happy with how you’re advancing at a company, but if you’re working 70-hour weeks on the regular, you’re going to get burned out. Americans in particular are more prone to work nights and weekends than other developed countries, with 29% of us working weekends and 26% working nights. As workloads pile up, employees get fed up with being able to do the things they want outside work, see their families, and take breaks from an exhausting schedule.

Cutting back those hours by focusing on work done instead of hours worked can go a long way to keep employees happy. Concerned your employees will start turning in poor work without the oversight of management? Don’t be. Autonomous employees tend to prove themselves very quickly, while those who can’t handle the work from home grind do so as well.


In early 2014, BP employees revealed that the company was cutting back employee pensions by up to 75%, and several long-standing employees left because of this. Even if employees like their job, if they feel they’re being cheated out of what’s theirs, they won’t want to work at all. If you have to cut things like pensions or reduce bonuses, be prepared for some turnover.

The tricky job of HR is to facilitate tough situations like the one cited above when the executive board or the CEO is trying to save the big bucks. Consistency in bonuses or benefits is the best way to ensure your people don’t get the perception of being cheated.


There doesn’t have to be a party every time a worker gets their time sheets in before deadline or when they manage to fix the water cooler without outside help. But recognizing when someone’s done a great job goes a long way toward keeping them happy at a job. Companies with active recognition programs have 23% less employee turnover than those without them. Knowing that you’re valued where you work can also make you more productive, so there’s little reason not to start saying thank you to your workers! This can be public (like in meetings or with reward programs and events) or it can be private (via email or during performance reviews and one-on-ones).

Horrible Bosses

Another top reason employees leave their jobs is because of their awful bosses. In 2014, trust issues with a boss was one of the most oft-cited deal breakers for employees. While you can’t demand your employees like you, you can command their respect by trusting them, appreciating their work, letting them make controlled mistakes and of course, avoiding verbal abuse and poor treatment altogether. Again, consistency is key here. Treat your employees as equitably as possible and avoid favoritism at work.

Why Stay?

This may not have been clear when we covered the reasons to leave, but for employees to stay, they need to be happy. The biggest reason employees stay at their job is because they love the people they work with. Use learning management systems to help them get a better sense of their role within the company, and find you who they work (and get along) with best. Offer promotional opportunities when you can and be consistent in both treatment and compensation. If you’re working hard at all of the above, your turnover will be lower in the long run.

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#TChat Recap: Why Internal Customer Service Is So Important

Service must be a total commitment. Service is not just for the front line, but for every employee of any business – from the individual contributor to the CEO, explained Shep Hyken in this week’s #TChat .

Shepard Presentations’s Chief Amazement Officer spoke with us about the traditional ways of thinking of “customer service” – in the form of client facing professionals who help us throughout the sales process.

Shep then went on to highlight new, more collaborative ways of identifying what customer service can mean and who is really involved. Everyone, Shep explained, has a customer. If it is not the outside customer, then it is the internal customer – anyone within an organization who at any time is dependent on anyone else within the organization. This is the core of developing a powerful and positive internal culture. It is the understanding that everybody supports everybody else in the organization.

I hope you found the podcast and the our 30 minute live #TChat Twitter chat helpful in guiding you to a new pro-active customer-minded approach for your company culture. It definitely gave me something to think about when it comes to employees, recruiting, retention and overall brand and culture awareness.

Did You Miss The Podcast Show? Listen On BlogTalkRadioiTunes or Stitcher:

What’s Up Next? #TChat Returns Wednesday, May 6th from Cork, Ireland:

#TChat Radio Kicks Off at 1pm ET / 10am PT — Our weekly radio show runs 30 minutes. Usually, our social community joins us on Twitter as well. Next week’s topic: The Global Impact of Gender Diversity on Technology Business Performance.

#TChat Twitter Kicks Off at 1:30pm ET / 10:30am PT — Our halfway point begins with our highly engaging Twitter discussion. We take a social inside look at our weekly topic. Everyone is welcome to share their social insights #TChat.

Join Our Social Community & Stay Up-to-Date!

The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks or stay current with trending World of Work topics through our weekly email newsletter. Signing up is just a click away!


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#TChat Recap: How To Turn Horrible Bosses Into Happier Relationships

A bad boss can undermine our ability to work happy and hard. Poor communication skills, micromanaging, lack of direction, bullying — any of these characteristics can make a boss difficult to work with leading to stress, anxiety, frustration, absenteeism and even depression.

This week we interviewed Tony Deblauwe, Founder of consulting firm HR4Change. Tony spoke about how to turn horrible bosses into happier relationships. Tony offered a relaxed and engaging dialogue with lots of practical advice and research mixed in with real life experiences like his startling encounter with a new boss as a young(er) pro in the recruitment sector.

The show highlighted powerful techniques for reinventing your relationship with your boss to turn ‘horrible into happier’. Questions posed to Tony and the #TChat community included: what are common signs of a horrible boss, how do you reduce negativity and create mutually beneficial results with your boss, and what can be done to improve corporate culture?

Did You Miss The Podcast Show? Listen On BlogTalkRadio, iTunes or Stitcher:

What’s Up Next? #TChat Returns Wednesday, April 29th:

#TChat Radio Kicks Off at 1pm ET / 10am PT — Our weekly radio show runs 30 minutes. Usually, our social community joins us on Twitter as well. Next week’s topic: Why Internal Customer Service Is So Important.

#TChat Twitter Kicks Off at 1:30pm ET / 10:30am PT — Our halfway point begins with our highly engaging Twitter discussion. We take a social inside look at our weekly topic. Everyone is welcome to share their social insights #TChat.

Join Our Social Community & Stay Up-to-Date!

The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks or stay current with trending World of Work topics through our weekly email newsletter. Signing up is just a click away!


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The Bravery Of Being Fearlessly Authentic

“We play the game
With the bravery of being out of range
We zap and maim
With the bravery of being out of range…”

—Roger Waters (musician and writer)

Small craters pocked the desk around her laptop dock. Tiny tendrils of sulfurous smoke rose from each one, like poisonous snakes entranced by music only they could hear. Pens lay strewn like bodies left behind on a war-ravaged beach.

Jodi rubbed her eyes with shrapnel scarred hands and gazed again into her laptop screen. She thought, Where did it go?

The email — it was right there with all the others earlier that morning. Her boss, a small, overly verbose man who still wore knit ties from the 1980s, had sent yet another loaded negative critique of her work to her, even accusing her of throwing team members under the proverbial world-of-work bus for her own benefit so she could get in the new leadership development program.

She sat on the message all morning, not knowing how to respond at all this time; she hadn’t done anything to her colleagues to better herself, and yet again, he had convinced her that maybe, just maybe, she had. She wanted to get into the program badly, but had followed the rules and submitted the application just like everyone else, only having a brief conversation with the head of HR because of their relationship.

But when she returned to her desk to respond to him, to attempt to again defend her honor, the email was gone. Vanished. A fresh crater smoked near the framed quote on the back of her cubicle, one that her father had shared with her a long time ago.

Be fearlessly authentic.

She trembled. I am, Dad. I am. But he’s not and now he’s deleting emails from the server. And I don’t know what to do about it, except to get the fuck out of here.

Maybe you’ve experienced something like this, or maybe you know someone who has. Sadly, there are a million related stories out there.

Because this isn’t the war for talent we’re dealing with; this is a war on talent. Relentless. Unforgiving. Destructive. Ineffectual leaders not leading the way with the bravery of being out of range, which doesn’t mean literally mean virtual workers dealing with crappy managers “out of range.” It means employees dealing with crappy managers who are inflexible and inaccessible, who attack out of range because they can, because of their authority and the highly misused communications medium known as email, sent from the comfort of a closed-door office less than 10 feet away.

You’ve heard it before — those who can leave, will. And they leave crappy leaders and managers every day (if again they truly can). Billions and billions of dollars each year are spent on learning, leadership development and employee engagement programs, and yet, Deloitte just released new research that shows a huge gap between what business executives say and what they do, and one of the biggest issues highlighted is a lack of focus on leadership development.

And so the war on talent continues, and the authenticity of knowing who we are, what our values are, and being clear on our purpose as leader of self and others continue to float like barrage balloons on D-Day.

According to a new global study of more than 5,500 executives and employees across 27 countries, conducted by Oxford Economics, barely half of the executives surveyed said their companies possess the skills to effectively manage talent, and only 44% have faith that their leaders are capable of driving and effectively managing change.

Plus, only about one-third of the respondents said their firms are prepared to lead a diverse workforce and have the ability to drive global growth.

None of this bodes well for the world of work’s future. This is why it’s imperative that companies devote the required resources to address the leadership gaps that threaten to derail their businesses today and tomorrow.

The good news is that some companies are doing something about developing future leaders, working hard to make them multi-faceted, multi-functional and multi-conversational by giving them cross-functional training and experience. By developing the talent and skills they need, while emphasizing mindful presence and authenticity, companies doing this can position themselves to thrive in the near- and long-term futures.

After attending Elliot Masie’s 2014 Learning Conference for the second consecutive year, where again I spoke (and PeopleFluent has sponsored), I find there’s hope.

For example, listening to the leadership development team from the Universal Orlando Resort talk about the great success of the progressive program they launched in 2010 to develop a pipeline of competent and confident leaders elevated me.

So far, at least 82% of the participants have made it to leadership roles each year, and the participants are promoted six months sooner than non-participants. They also saw an 11% increase in promoting internally, which in turn is giving the program more and more credibility.

And when it came to learning, leadership development and employee engagement, I kept hearing success stories from the likes of Lockheed Martin, Michelin, Shell, GlaxoSmithKline and many other companies. They all seem to understand the business impact of driving deeper levels of learning and employee engagement is dramatic. Deeper engagement from continuous learning drives better talent outcomes and better business outcomes. For companies that have high engagement scores, the results on the business are dramatic.

What’s clear is that when it comes to developing employees and future leaders, too many organizations are simply going through the motions, or worse yet, doing nothing at all. The bravest of companies are reaping a host of benefits, including:

  1. Better business planning—Learning and leadership development leads to better succession planning, which then leads to developing and then putting the right people in the right leadership roles at the right times. When organizations know they have the right people in the queue for key positions, they can proactively plan for the future of the business far more effectively.
  2. Improved retention and lower turnover—Sound learning and leadership development helps to ensure that employees know they’re being groomed for a particular position, which gives them a strong sense of having a clearly defined future within the company. This is a strong retention tool and keeps people from leaving their companies for greener pastures. The resulting cost savings can be substantial but it takes a long-term investment.
  3. Improved employee engagement—Obviously, showing employees a learning plan and defined future with an upward career trajectory is a powerful booster of employee engagement and emotional commitment. And, as employee engagement analysis after analysis has showed the past few years, companies with highly engaged employees experience financial growth rates nearly four times higher than those of companies with lower engagement.
  4. More accurate recruiting—Sound learning and leadership development also helps improve recruiting as well: when employers have a clear understanding of their organizations’ gaps in skills and leadership qualities, they can sharpen their focus on recruiting for specific future roles (even those not yet defined by succession plans), shortening the recruiting process and increasing sourcing accuracy.

Nobody wants a world of work wasteland. Today’s learners are tomorrow’s leaders, so let’s stop waging war on one other and invest in the bravery of being fearlessly authentic and making a learning and leadership development difference.

photo credit: BombDog via photopin cc

Authenticity: A Buzzword Revisited

Written by: Joe Gerstandt, Co-Founder of Talent Anarchy

Unfortunately for all of us, authenticity has recently taken on buzzword status and today the word is thrown around casually and frequently as if it were a simple, safe and common thing. Those of us in the people business might want to think about taking this word back and taking better care of it. Authenticity is a righteous thing. Authenticity is a powerful thing. Authenticity, properly understood, is fundamental to any and all conversations about this work we do, it has a rightful place in any conversation about anything related to working with humans.

It is not, however, simple. If it were simple, I do not think that these would be our most common regrets at the end of our time on this planet. Authenticity is not simple, it is not neat and orderly, it is not always safe, and it is certainly not common…especially in the workplace.

This lack of authenticity is not a result of people going to work deliberately and intentionally pretending to be someone other than who they are (okay, once in a while that happens!), but rather because of our very real tendency to play small and to keep things to ourselves. There is often real or perceived risk in being different. Our desire to fit in, to belong, to be “a part of,” is probably one of the strongest of human drives and in order to fit more neatly in, we often play down, cover, or deny aspects of our personality or identity that make us different.

We recently spent a day with the leadership of a very cool, very successful company. We could tell that this was an organization that people loved working for. One of the employees gave us a ride to the airport at the end of the day and without any prompting from us, was talking about how and why she loved working for this particular organization. “I have never had a job that I hated,” she told us, “but before this I had never had a job that I loved either. This is the first place I have worked where I do not have to cover up my tattoos, and that may seem like a small thing to a lot of people, but it is not a small thing to me.”

Authenticity simply means being true to who you are. While there are often risks involved in being authentic, whole and unique at work, not being true to who you are comes at a real cost as well. When the individual has to do all of the accommodating, by suppressing aspects of their identity and values to fit in, their sense of self is eroded as well as their level of commitment to the organization.

“There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.”

– Freya Stark

Joining any organization or social group involves a certain amount of conformity. Conformity, shared values, and shared purpose in the right amounts hold people together and provide needed parameters and direction to diverse groups and teams. Too much conformity is dangerous and wasteful.

How is your organization doing? How are you doing?


(About the Author: Joe Gerstandt is a leader helping organizations understand diversity and inclusion. As a keynote speaker and consultant, Joe works with Fortune 500 companies, small non-profits, and everything in between. Seamlessly interweaving art and science, Joe uses stories and research to illustrate how next generation cultures can flourish both inside andoutside the workplace.

Talent Anarchy is the dynamic duo of Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt. The two have stayed busy traveling the world, working hard to provoke, entertain, educate, and inspire. The story of Talent Anarchy dates back to 1999 when Jason and Joe met through work. These two were fated to be friends and realized quickly that they had much in common. One example was their shared belief that much about the world of work could “suck less.”

In addition to the speaking that they do together, Jason and Joe also dabble in event design and facilitation, wrote a book together, Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships, and are in the early stages of their next book.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

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Photo Credit: Curioso Travel Photography via bigstock

From Micro-Shifts To Macro Sands

You_Are_Here“You are here,” the mat reads.

You look down, mouth agape, and you think, “So where the hell is here?”

You’re standing atop a great sand dune among a mountainous range of dunes. Nothing but blue sky above, you’d think the future would look brighter, but it might as well be raining, since the sunlight hurts your eyes and you’re drenched in sweat; the sun’s heat is unbearable.

And there’s no one or nothing else around. No wind, shade or drink to help cool you down. No one to help or even commiserate with.

All you know is that the project you’ve been working on is due and your deadline is what’s pushing the humidity down around you, wrapping you up like a dirty wool blanket once forgotten in an attic chest.

That’s when finally a sand-filled wind whips up leaving grit caked on your exposed face and hands. You close your crusty eyes and wait.


Your metaphorical sandstorm has begun. You’re crazy busy and completely overwhelmed. Combine that with the fact that you’re a remote worker feeling isolated, or maybe you’re just sitting in your own office, open space, or cube feeling isolated – either way your parched and need help.

The good news? You love what you do, and so do most of your peers and colleagues, so through the blistering sandstorm you slowly see hands reaching out to help.

Thank goodness they’re not zombies; that would make for a completely different world of work story.

No, friendly help is here and not a moment too soon. That’s how I felt the past few weeks, and each time helping hands were there, even when I was here, there and everywhere else. I did what I could in kind as well when others felt the same. They didn’t even have to be major assists either; just little incremental things that shifted negatively perceived performance to positively reciprocated reinforcement.

That’s what a high-engagement climate and culture does – they love what the do and whom they do it with and ensure it always gets done.

Why is this important? Because when the hearts and minds of you and your co-workers are emotionally and intellectually invested and engaged (there’s that word again), and leadership is just as committed if not more so, then that all can lead to extraordinary effort and positive financial results.

Here are some new illustrative examples to share:

  • Engaged employees are 21% more likely to be involved in personal wellness efforts (Gamlem), which in turn reduces sick time off work and improves productivity.

This is why we should pool our collective Zen and always go:

  1. From micro-shifts. It’s the little things, the incremental positive activities that keep us all moving forward and on task, keeping work relevant with little waste or margin for error (even when we feel trapped on a hot dune). This is the help we give one another when we’re committed and engaged to one another and the work we do first, from a collaborative problem-solving session to simply a pat on the back – the company ultimately benefits as long as it supports such micro-shifts.
  1. To macro dunes. If you know anything about sand dunes, they shift over time. The incremental changes may not be immediately perceptible, but at some point the landscape evolves in the weathered ecosystem in which it lives and breathes. Individual contributors and leaders alike must elevate themselves and each other continuously in order to adapt to and traverse the evolving workspace, where blue washes out white hot, forever impacting your business.

Hey, here’s a glass of ice water. I’ve got your back.

On Finding the Leader’s Way

“You got up, and you did something. And if trying to find a way when you don’t even know you can get there isn’t a small miracle; then I don’t know what is.”

—From The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

At first, it was simply the gathering of everyday natural things that pleased her: leaves, flowers, sticks and rocks.

These pleasing things, found in her front yard and back, as well as other parks around town, down by the sea, up in the mountains, and other realms of her ever-expanding world, were gathered with awe and handled with care. They were then stored in small plastic buckets outside on the front porch, on the back porch, in and around the house, and inside the cup holders of her car seats.

She studied them endlessly, held up high and down low, then up close and far away, smelled and rubbed, sometimes even licked and tasted. All the while, reverent questions arose of origin and type, of utility and relationships, her mind revolving around magnificent worlds within worlds, a gravity grounded yet flinging her into orbit to watch the universe birth anew, over and over and over again.

Patterns emerged on paper and across the kitchen table, the living room floor, the sofa, her bedroom floor and elsewhere. Some are more abstract than others, mazes and puzzles that only she knows the solutions to, ready to share with her parents, her sister, her teachers and classmates.

Regardless of what career may come for my eldest daughter, she’ll hopefully be college educated and working for a company where her colleagues share knowledge, collaborate with one another and spark innovative ideas, products and solutions. A company that invests in her continuous development, strengthening her skills and competencies.

Maybe she will be a scientist, or an engineer, or a captain of industry, looking for patterns and puzzles to solve in “pleasing things” and more, for those fleeting moments making the world a better place, searching for the magical visions within that will help transcend the unlikely.

And if the statistics hold steady, the pool of qualified women leaders is growing. That according to Sydney Finkelstein, the Steven Roth Professor of Management at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. That’s good news for both my daughters.

But whether you’re a woman or a man, the ability to “finding the leader’s way” in the world of work (and life) against all odds, or less dramatically, one little learning step at a time, is no easy task. Authentic leadership comes from continuous learning that embraces trust without judgment and the belief in everyday small miracles.

Unfortunately the world of work today continues to struggle for leadership. According to Bersin by Deloitte:

Leadership will be a big challenge in 2014. Executives are struggling with leadership gaps at all levels—from first-line supervision through top leadership (more than 60 percent of all companies cite “leadership gaps” as their top business challenge). This year, baby boomers will begin to retire in large volumes; one oil company told me that they expect to lose 30 percent of their workforce in the next three years.

So what to do? Finding the leader’s way today includes these two things:

  1. Encourage Learning. We are all lifelong learners and potential leaders, and from the earliest memories of awe and exploration to everyday “finding our ways” in the world of work (and again life), learning and leadership development should be part of every company’s talent strategy. This ensures that employees are given the learning opportunities they need to develop their leadership skills, and that the organization itself will have the leaders it needs for the future.
  2. Encourage Authenticity. Authentic leadership is all about developing yourself first in a manner that helps others see the complete you, exclusive of any organization’s help. This includes all your strengths, imperfections and accomplishments. We all crave authenticity and you have to be real in order to be heard. The most effective leaders today create dialogue and skillfully use indicators of their humanity. Great leadership is all about partnering and relationships, and the key to building productive teams is to be a little more unfiltered, personal and authentic.

Learning and being authentic are what it’s all about. This includes being willing to spread out our everyday “pleasing things,” looking for patterns and puzzles to solve, for those fleeting moments making the world a better place, searching for the magical visions within that will help transcend the unlikely while finding the leader’s way.

We can get there, girls. You are the small miracles.

Photo courtesy of Kevin W. Grossman.