Find your mentor

$6C5C365EB06A03D5When I talk to managers I get the feeling that they are important. When I talk to leaders I get the feeling that I am important. – Alexander Den Heijer

Where would any of us be without our mentors? The most famous and successful people in the world have individuals standing behind them who propped them up on their shoulders and said, “You can do it” while pointing the way.

I had an enlightening experience yesterday while speaking with one of my mentors. The type of mentor that I look for display attributes that align with my self- leadership/servant-leadership philosophy. That person is typically experienced in my field, empathetic, and willing to invest time in me; they see potential where other see limits.

Get away from these two types of people: the ones who think you can only go as far as the situation you were born into; and the ones who think you can only go as far as the current situation you are in. – Dee Dee M. Scott

I’ve had excellent mentors in the past. During my time as a military officer, I spent a lot of time ‘picking the brains’ of my commanders. It was not always a fruitful endeavor, but when I encountered a strong and willing mentor, I was hooked.

Through others we become ourselves. – Lev Vygotsky

Development of self, of the leader within, has been a passionate pursuit of mine since I was introduced to leadership theory in college. Recognizing, through reflection and feedback, the potential within us and the character traits we need to enhance is an essential aspect of self-leadership.

Seeking the advice of others is a step that many people neglect. Perhaps we are afraid of being rejected, maybe we are shy, or perhaps we don’t really know what we are looking for in a mentor. Whatever the reason, mentors provide that nudge we need, the guidance to become more.

I think it is important to have people in your life who will take an interest in you and your career and help guide you.former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

I’m grateful every day for those few people who have taken the time and invested the effort into mentoring me. I would not be the person, the leader that I am without their example and support. Becoming a mentor to others, either formally or informally, is a constant source of motivation for me.

©2015 Perficitis Consulting Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

How does your organization handle email communications?

email

 

 

It is not uncommon to have major mishaps and misunderstandings based on poorly thought-out emails. Email is the workhorse of most company communication and, despite the volume of emails you send and receive on a daily basis, you should never lose respect for the power of that communication platform.

An email is composed of the written word. Experts suggest that up to 85% of our perception of communication is through non-verbal cues. These cues are absent in email communication.

While it is not practical to take an excessive amount of time to compose each and every email you send, the following are guidelines that will assist in sending cogent and coherent messages; saving your company time and increasing communication efficiency.

*  Compose a pertinent, brief subject that conveys the content of your message
* Use *confidential or [Action Required], as necessary. This allows the recipient to determine more about the contents of your message without having to read the body text.
*  Keep ‘To’ recipients to a small number and only those that need to take action on the subject
*  Keep ‘Cc’ recipients to only those that really need to be informed.  Don’t copy upper management if they have no action to take or don’t need the update.
*  If the subject is controversial, contains bad news or is addressing a performance issue, don’t send it.  This is better addressed in a conversation so that complete and meaningful communication can take place.  Face to face conversations about sensitive topics minimize misunderstandings, misdirected information, and opportunities to mistakenly include uninvolved parties.
*  If responding to an inflammatory email, type your response and read it multiple times, go to bed and read it again in the morning and then send. Perhaps it doesn’t merit a response or the response would be better addressed in-person.
*  Use appropriate salutations to set the tone. First names are common, but when addressing C-Suite-level individuals, it is not typically advisable.
*  Keep emails short and to the point (Brevity breeds clarity) I prefer to use bullets when listing events, actions, and key points.
*  If you expect a response, let the reader know that. Also include information regarding deadlines.
* Proofread! Reread the email at least once to make sure all spelling and grammatical elements are correct.
* Do not Assume Privacy. Ever. Email can be forwarded and reread by others.  Do not write in an email what you don’t want your mother or your CEO to see.
* Always respond promptly. Nothing is more annoying than someone who takes a week to get back to you. Even if you cannot respond fully right away, let the sender know that.
* Email signatures should be standard in the company. You will typically want to see the name, title, location, and basic contact information included in a professional signature block. Avoid cute sayings, links to surveys, and flowery pictures.

 

photo by:

You aren’t in the military anymore.

General George S. Patton, Jr.For any transitioning veteran, this is a phrase you have more than likely heard in your new civilian role. There are times when a ‘military-style’ approach is not called for, though it may be ingrained in your leadership style. By ‘military-style,’ I mean a command and control-centric, authoritarian style of leadership that requires compliance and swift action that is directed, rather than arrived at through consensus.

I’m not a military apologist; far from it. I have studied leadership for the last 14 years and found that there are times and places for the leadership styles most commonly taught and exercised in the military (or the perceptions that people may have of military leadership and decision making styles)…

“Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way” – Patton

In the corporate environment, those opportunities are few and far between. That being said, there is a reason that many officers and enlisted soldiers, sailors, and airmen leave the service and take jobs in the corporate world. Chances are, they have prepared, done the research, studied and graduated with degrees in appropriate fields, and are the first to adopt the company’s modus operandi when it comes to corporate culture.

A colleague recently related a scenario that happened in his workplace that involved an ongoing change initiative they had been spearheading. The executive leadership had critiqued his performance in a perfunctory fashion by admonishing him that, “you aren’t in the military anymore, you can’t just tell people what to do.” Naturally, he was hurt. This individual is a high-performer. He’d chosen to separate from the service voluntarily to pursue a civilian career and had embraced the differences in the cultures willingly. After speaking to him to get a better sense of the situation, I had to agree that the criticism was unwarranted; my friend had followed the process outlined by the company for the change effort, held the appropriate meetings, and not made any decisions without molding consensus (please understand that this is not always the case; stereotypes do exist for a reason).

That single off-the-cuff remark is a disheartening and demoralizing judgment call on the part of a person we (separated/transitioning veterans) should be able to look up to for advice and leadership.

Many times, those quick words are a simple reaction; one that the leader does not realize will have a tangible negative effect on the veteran. That executive leader has many concerns; this one project is not on the top of her priority list, so she renders a snap judgment (never a good idea) and harms the veteran’s self-efficacy beliefs in the process.

Advice for the transitioning military or veteran already in the corporate world: don’t immediately fight the stereotype. Allowing yourself to react puts you on the defensive and that is never a good place to attack from. Take the time to understand the perception of your executive leader. What did s/he mean by the statement? What feedback had reached her/him that could have colored her/his perception of your leadership style? Have you been communicating appropriately (managing up)?

By working calmly and intentionally to change the perception of former military, you are helping yourself and the rest of your veteran brothers and sisters by easing an outdated stereotype.

Don’t neglect your studies

College student studying in ParkI recently read an article that addressed whether leadership can be learned though study. It was a disappointing article to someone writing a book on leadership and one that I regret has gotten quite a bit of alacrity for its author’s praise of practice over study. I would never presume to discount experience, life’s greatest teacher (quotes like this are often attributed to many people including Caesar, Cicero, and Pliny the Elder).

“We can teach from our experience, but we cannot teach experience.”  Sasha Azevedo

I would say, however, that discounting study in favor of practice is a short-sighted strategy. You won’t know if a person is a good leader simply by what books they’ve read. You will know them by their actions.

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” – 1611 King James Bible, Matthew 7:20

How are we then to continue to improve, without avid study? I would say that improvement through practice alone will yield a poor leadership harvest. Mentorship/modeling are valuable tools. Vygotsky’s theories on scaffolding and the Zone of Proximal Development and Bandura’s Social-Cognitive Theories both show the value there. Consider this: what can a mentor teach but her own learning and experience?

“Is it what the teacher teaches or what the student learns?” -Vergere in “Star Wars, The New Jedi Order, Traitor”

As leadership practitioners, students, and teachers, it is incumbent on us to verify our understanding of the theories that we apply in practice. Only a mindful approach that incorporates robust leadership feedback mechanisms will guard against haphazard application of leadership principles that may easily occur in an organization.

One of the major benefits of study and practice is the intentionality of the act of leadership. We are able to develop as leaders by absorbing best practices through study and contemplation of acknowledged leaders and pioneers in the field and then applying those principles in the practice of our leadership activities. Developing a learning culture ensures that an organization (or a leadership team) will not stagnate, but will continue to thrive and grow.