Category Archives: mentorship

Using Stories to Make Your Point

The following is a guest post from Dave Marr at t2 Managment Training in the UK.  t2 is a specialist management consultancy, established to provide strategic leadership training and development for company directors and management training for their teams.   t2 is one of only a small number of leadership and management development providers to have achieved the prestigious Training Quality Standard.

Using Stories in Order to Make Your Point as a Manager

Prolific leaders and high profile managers have often got a few stories to tell in order to get their point across effectively to their staff.

Why are stories effective?

Stories are processed by a different part of the brain to that which we use to follow instructions. Most people have an aversion to being told what to do, but stories can subdue those feelings by giving us indirect instructions that we don’t mind following. A good story often has a moral or a lesson to be learnt and it is this which drives many people to listen and follow suggestions.

Points and examples work in the same way too. They give people information about how things are supposed to work in addition to what is expected of them. This gives clear focus.

From time to time, you might hear a great story. Try to remember the key points and how it might benefit your staff. Then you can pull it out of the hat when you need to motivate and empower your staff to follow specific instructions or to hit a particular deadline. A good storyteller is always at an advantage, but as long as you remember the main points of the story and the point you are making, you’ll be fine.

You can also find a lot of resources online on how to tell a good story and get your point across effectively.  Find some opportunities to practice this technique. You can use previous employees or employers as examples if they are relevant to your anecdote. This will also help you relate to your own story if you use people you know. As you proceed with the story make sure you integrate those all-important indirect suggestions (in addition to the desired outcome).

Be careful, when you begin relating your stories, that you don’t repeat them or explain too much about them. The power of storytelling is to allow your staff to take away the moral or contents of the story and think about it from their own personal perspective. Ambiguity is often more powerful than direct suggestion and can really make a difference to how your staff perceive you and how they work.

Very often people will ‘listen’ to a story’s message that they won’t listen to in another form. The great thing about a story is that it motivates and gives you something to aim for – if they could do it, wouldn’t can’t you?!

If you enjoyed this post, click on the icons below to share with others, or leave a personal comment.  


Leadership Lessons from Colin Powell

Colin Powell offers some great advice on leadership that transcends typical military and business models:  he explains the essence of leadership in a very humanistic way:

If you enjoyed this post, share it on facebook, tweet it, or add a personal comment.

Less than Half of Employees Trust their Boss

This is a guest post from Dan Rockwell at Leadership Freak:

The number one reason employees are happy is they trust their leaders (Lamb & McKee).

Surprisingly, less than half of employees have trust and confidence in their senior managers (Baldoni, Lead Your Boss).

Six Creative Ways to Build Trust

  1. Declare what you want rather than what you don’t want. Saying what you don’t want stops things. Saying what you do want instills confidence to starts things.
  2. Trust is based not only on openness but on keeping a confidence. What you don’t say builds trust.
  3. Honesty plus ability builds trust. An honest electrician isn’t competent to renovate a master bathroom. He may be perfectly honest. However, don’t trust him with your toilet.
  4. Explain organizational performance. For example, don’t hide financial successes in order to keep people hungry.
  5. It’s hard trusting the captain when the ship’s adrift. Stand on the bow with telescope in hand and bravely call out the course. Do your people know where you are going?
  6. Let people know how they fit in and what their work means. Say something like, “When you do “X” it makes a difference.”  Explain the positive difference others make.

Leader as Trust Builder

Employee satisfaction is a complex mix of many factors. Research demonstrates the number one satisfaction-factor is they trust their leaders. Ask yourself the hard question, “Are my employees satisfied?” Perhaps the harder question is, “What am I intentionally doing to build trust?”


(The central premise of this post comes from research done by Lawrence Lamb and Kathy McKee (2005), Applied Public Relations: Cases in Stakeholder Management)

Additional reading, “How Investing in Intangibles — Like Employee Satisfaction — Translates into Financial Returns.”

If you enjoyed this post, click “like”, retweet it, or leave a personal comment. 

Simple Leadership Lessons from George Marshall (guest blog)

George Catlett Marshall served the United States as Chief of Staff of the Army, as chief military advisor to President Roosevelt and as Secretary of State. He created the Marshall Plan, which President Truman insisted bear Marshall’s name, and for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Marshall’s leadership lessons that any boss can apply:

1) Deliver excellent performance.

Recollections of those who served with Marshall paint the picture of a tireless worker who always delivered excellent results. But there is another example of his performance that is simply amazing. Army fitness reports ask the standard question: “Would you want this person to serve under your command in the future?” Two different commanding officers answered that question about Marshal with, “Yes, but I would prefer to serve under his command.”

2) Encourage and develop good people.

Early in his career, Marshall began keeping records of excellent officers that he met. When he was in a position to do so he encouraged those officers and helped them develop. Most notable among the bunch was Dwight Eisenhower.

3) Remove those who can’t do the job and promote those who can.

Marshall’s policy was simple. Those who proved they couldn’t do the job were given other assignments. Then he filled the position with the best person available, even if that person was considered vital elsewhere.

4) Communicate effectively.

President Roosevelt was a sailor and had served as Secretary of the Navy. When Marshall briefed Roosevelt, he always used nautical language familiar to the President. Once he even created a cardboard ship model and used it to illustrate the organization of the Army.

5) Do the kind and the gracious thing.

Stories abound about Marshall’s kindness and concern for others without regard to rank or position. When he was Deputy Commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning during the Depression he discovered that married junior enlisted men had a difficult living on their pay of $21 a month. Marshall made it possible (despite regulations to the contrary) for those families to purchase a pail of food from the mess hall at minimum cost.

When he was Chief of Staff, his own mentor, John Pershing came to visit Marshall in the office. Marshall knew that Pershing hated public displays and being stared at. He also knew that the people on his staff really wanted to see the legendary Pershing up close. Marshall’s solution was to chat with Pershing in his private office, but find an excuse to bring every member of the staff into the office on some errand or other, at which time they could be introduced to General Pershing.

6) Surround yourself with excellent people.

After Dwight Eisenhower was elected President, Marshall wrote a gracious congratulatory letter, in which he said the following. “I pray especially for you in the choice of those near you. That choice, more than anything else, will determine the problems of the years and the record of history. Make them measure up to your standards.”

Boss’s Bottom Line:  Pay attention to the people.

If you enjoyed this blog, click on Facebook, Twitter it or leave a personal comment!

How to start a mentor relationship (guest blog)

In my work as a career coach, I find there are several helpful resources that very few people take advantage of.

Mentorship definitely falls on this list. It’s really a shame. Having a mentor can elevate your professional capabilities exponentially.

And—added bonus—mentors are amazing people. When you take the time to develop a strong mentorship relationship, you get access to a wealth of knowledge and experience, but you also end up with a lifelong friend and potential future business partner. In short, there’s no downside.

Of course, if you aren’t familiar with the concept, you may have questions about how it all works. Well, that’s what I’m here for!! Please allow me to offer some insights.

What Exactly Is a Mentor?

A mentor is a more experienced (typically older) professional in your field who offers you career guidance, advice and assistance from a real world point-of-view. Pretty simple, huh?

Why Should I Bother?

As mentioned above, mentorship offers a host of amazing benefits. A good mentor is wise and willing to share his or her knowledge and experiences in order to help you succeed. It’s like having a wonderful trusted ally to go to whenever you’re feeling unsure or in need of support. They can help you set and achieve career goals, make smart business decisions, overcome workplace challenges, learn new skills or simply offer an outside perspective when you’re facing frustrations at work. The benefits are truly endless.

When Should I Get a Mentor?

Mentors are helpful regardless of where you are in your career. Whether you’re fresh out of college or a few years from retirement, there are always others who have “been there, done that” from whom you can learn. So no matter who you are, I always say, “NOW is a great time to start.”

If/when you’re more experienced, you may want to BE a mentor. Please do so!! It’s an incredibly fulfilling experience and I believe that mentors learn just as much as those they assist. But I encourage everyone to also find a mentor of your own. As humans, we’re always learning and evolving, and even the most experienced professional doesn’t know everything.

More than likely, the mentorship relationships of experienced professionals will not look the same as those who are entry-level or mid-career. You may have a mentor who is closer in age and experience—or even someone who is your junior! As long as the person has qualities and knowledge you can learn from, it’s perfectly acceptable.

Who Should Be My Mentor?

This is a big question and I recommend you take some time to think it over carefully. The choice of person makes a big difference in the success of the relationship and, ultimately, in YOUR success. Look for someone you respect professionally and someone who has a career you’d like to emulate. That doesn’t mean you want to follow in their footsteps exactly; you’re just looking for a person who has had success in your field (or even a similar one) and someone who embodies the professional characteristics you’re working to achieve.

Of course, you also need to find someone who is willing to be a mentor, is eager to share knowledge, will be open and honest with you, will have time to dedicate to you (though how much is flexible) and is trustworthy. You’ll be potentially sharing a lot of sensitive information so this last point is essential.

Lastly, I recommend that you look for someone you like on a personal level, not just a professional one. You should look forward to spending time with your mentor. The conversations should be pleasant, engaging and inspiring.

How Does the Mentorship Relationship Work?

Establish specifics around your relationship in whatever way works best for both you and your mentor. It can be a formal arrangement, an informal one or something in the middle. No matter what, it has to work for both of you. To get started, I recommend that you, as the mentee, come up with your “ideal” relationship. Share the information with your mentor and make sure you leave it open for discussion. Find out how much time they are willing to invest and build a schedule based on that.

For example, my first mentorship relationship was rather informal. My mentor and I would meet via phone about once a month (usually for an hour) and in between these conversations, we would communicate via email. I would send work to him when I needed a quick critique. He would send me links of articles to read when he stumbled upon something I might learn from.

When I was facing a challenge, I’d check in with him for a little guidance and reassurance that I was doing the right thing. A few times a year, he’d UPS me a book. It was an easy relationship for both of us to keep up with, but I got tremendous benefit from it.

The key to success is simply defining the relationship from the beginning. Make it an open dialogue. Ask for what you want and need from your mentor, be willing to compromise, and listen closely to make sure there is agreement. Be sure to clarify your expectations (specifically around things like confidentiality). You don’t want there to be any confusion.

Lastly, let your mentor know that you see this as an ongoing process. If, at any time, the relationship isn’t working for either one of you, the details can and should be reviewed and revised. This doesn’t have to be stressful like a contract negotiation. Remember, it’s supposed to be a fun, growth experience!

What’s In It For Them?

You’re probably reading all of this thinking, “I get why I should want a mentor. But what’s in it for the them?” Good question. And the answer is different for everyone.

Some mentors simply believe in the person they are helping and want to see him or her succeed, and that alone is worth the time and energy. Others look at mentorship as a way of leaving a legacy. As a mentor, you get to pass your wisdom down to the next generation. You have the power to make a huge difference in your industry, your company and even the world.

In truth, some mentors just like the challenge. They like to talk about what they know and their experiences. It’s fun when someone looks up to you. It kind of feeds the ego.

So there are all kinds of reasons mentors do what they do. It’s a win-win situation.

I hope I’ve inspired you to start a mentorship relationship today. And if I failed to address an important question, please post it in the comments below. I’ll be happy to continue chatting about this!!

Guest blog by Chrissy Scivicque  on Forbes 
If you enjoyed this post, click on Facebook, Tweet it, or add your comments below!