Dear Coach Joan: Career Advice
In my last blog entry I asked you to submit some examples and questions about work relationships. And they’re starting to come in. But at this point I’d like to share some of my own experiences, both as
a coach hearing from my clients, and experiences based on my corporate career of 20+ years.
I realize that when clients have had key successes, they often attribute them, in good measure, to
excellent people around them, starting with an extraordinary boss or manager:
My Favorite Boss: Robert, The Mentor Manager
When I was interviewing for a ‘reach job’, one where there were several qualifications that I didn’t yet have, I look back and realize that the hiring manager, Robert, was extraordinary. The position was to build a global user group program for a high tech company. I had successfully built and grew user groups for my last company, but I had never done work with a global reach. Additionally, the technology this company offered was far more complex than anything I had worked with in the past.
Robert and I had several meetings, and in them, he reflected back to me the talent, intelligence and ambition that I was bringing, and I confessed to him that I was worried and concerned that I might not be able to do the job. He said he was actually pleased that I had some fears and anxiety because it showed I was thinking deeply about the position and the challenges and I would probably bring extra energy and hard work to the process! And it built trust that I could be vulnerable with him and he showed that he really listened, cared, and that he was willing to be supportive. And he was right! He had me lay out my fears, one by one, and addressed them, assuring me that he would serve as my mentor/coach and that together we would achieve success! And true to his word, he guided me beautifully. In fact, he became my model of how to manage and bring out the best in employees.
I also learned that the best hiring situations are where the employee comes to the position with about 70% of the skills needed for success, but has to grow and develop into the remaining 30%. I learned to look for ambition, confidence and the desire for challenge and growth in employees. And I learned that the best way to fill out a manager role is to include mentorship and guidance, and to make it a WE, a team effort, where we are working from the same side of the table.
How to find a Mentor Manager:
For employees: When you are interviewing, ask the prospective hiring managers for examples of how they grow, mentor, lead their employees. Give examples of how you’ve had successful relationships with managers when they give you challenges, but also give you the resources and guidance to learn and do the job well.
Favorite Co-Worker: The Collaborative Colleague
One of my clients, Linda, worked at a large pharmaceutical company where she was on the marketing side. And she was often on teams with scientists and clinicians from the product research and development side. The company was wise in putting all employees through self awareness programs designed to give them an understanding of their social style and strengths so they could be understanding and flexible when they worked with employees bringing contrasting styles and strengths to their own. Their training included specifics on how to bring out the best in professionals who had different thinking and social styles. And with her keen sense of self and new training skills, Linda, used this knowledge to strategically build strong alliances and programs. The product teams and scientists often made very long and dry presentations. Linda noticed that the teams would come together, listen to the presentations and immediately leave the conference room. She saw there was opportunity to build more trusting relationships that could lead to more productivity.
She felt that more interaction and discussion among the team members could lead to new ideas, questions and directions. So she suggested they have a more social get together that included some partners and associates from other groups. These interactions, in fact, did lead to more opportunities, synergies and ultimately, were beneficial to the product development process and opportunities.
How to Encourage Collaboration Among Colleagues: One easy way is to suggest that each person on the team makes a short presentation on the strengths they bring and even a bit on their out of work interests. I remember initiating this for my team and they found that several were interested in tennis, a couple in walking during lunch and through these social interactions they noticed improvement on the job trust and work productivity.
So here are my examples of great bosses and co-workers. I would love to hear your examples of both good and bad bosses and co-workers. Feel free to comment below or email me as always at firstname.lastname@example.org.