Mentoring usually takes place between someone with experience and someone who needs advice and training in specific areas. Starting the process of mentoring duos sometimes skip the step where they talk about how we agree to go through this process together. What is important to you? What is important to me? What can each of us commit to in order for this to work well for both of us?
This free template below helps you to structure a conversation around what the mentor and mentee specifically agree to commit to. How many hours per month/quarter would we like to spend talking through specific topics?
Feel free to add additional items which would be important to discuss during the first meeting when you (mentor and mentee) agree on how to proceed. This kind of discussion may seem unnecessary, but covering these items upfront can save a lot of disappointment and misunderstandings later when items you might have imagined would be obviously included in your mentoring agreement vary from what the other person may have thought. It is not a contractual agreement as much as it is a summary of what you do or don’t want to commit to for the duration of the mentoring relationship.
When it comes to time commitments, it is also advisable to agree for the mentoring process to have a set time period – 12 months or 18 months. And when that time comes, review what has been achieved and learned and whether it makes sense to continue the mentoring relationship or to agree to end it at that time.
The full template can be downloaded below – it is a *.pdf file and it can be imported into MSWord for edits.
According to competence development, there are four levels that a learner goes through on their journey to being consciously competent at a skill they wish to be good at. Knowing which level you are at for the new skill or competency that you are trying to learn is important, but it is also true that until someone gains awareness almost nobody knows when they are at level 1.
Level 4 is the goal that any learner wants to achieve, and it is that state of skillfulness that does not require effort to execute. Think for example of how you tie your shoelaces or drive your car. If you have been doing it for a few years you can probably have many other thoughts in your head and while you are doing it. This is possible because you have reached Level 4 in the skills required to tie your shoelaces or drive your car.
Going from Level 1 to Level 4
Level 1 means you are not skilled at something specific, but you do not know it. Until someone provides you with feedback in this area or until you are somehow confronted with the fact that you have no or limited skills in a specific area. We do not even think about that area as something we need to work on and we are often blissfully unaware of the potential development need in an area. The main way to move out of level 1 is to ask for feedback and to look for ways to understand how your behavior, actions, communications and way of working impact others.
From Level 1 to Level 2 – Get input. When was the last time you asked a friend, a co-worker or a family member “Tell me one thing that I would have to get better at if I would be a better friend/co-worker/member of this family or better at my job?”
Going from Level 2 to Level 3 – Learn and practice using new ways of doing or thinking. This is where the heavy-lifting comes into play. To make this transition of learning a new skill takes focus, dedicating time in your busy schedule to actively acquire a new skill. This requires a lot of discipline and you will not only need to schedule the time for this, but you will need to practice what you are learning on a regular basis and keep track of your own progress. It is important also in this stage to get input from others so that you can gauge the progress you are making towards acquiring and demonstrating skilfulness in new areas.
Going from Level 3 to Level 4 – It just happens. There comes a day when someone mentions that you have been demonstrating your skills in a new area without you being aware of making the effort. At that time, you will have acquired an unconsciously skilled state whereby you no longer need to focus or concentrate very hard in order to demonstrate your skill in a particular area.
What is the value of using this model?
If you are a trainer, it is important to know at which stage your training participants are because it would drive the kinds of information you make available, the kinds of practice sessions you build into your training class and the kinds of tests you provide for them to measure their progress. A pre-test or exercise can often help determine the level of awareness and knowledge that training participants have in the skills area(s) that you will be focusing on during the class. For example, a trainer may use more assessments to increase awareness if the class is at level 1 or the trainer may use more practical exercises and instructional sessions if the person is at level 2 or 3.
As a mentor, it is important to understand not only the goals and development needs that a mentee would like to work on but also what his or her current level of competence is in that particular area. This knowledge helps you to provide helpful guidance to help him or her reach the next level of competence.
As a leader of a department or a function, you will likely have people within your group or team that are at different levels of competence. Situational Leadership will be required from you as you assign tasks, delegate or provide feedback to each person focusing on the level of competence that he or she is at for that particular skill set that is needed.
Having a framework and process for moving from unconscious incompetence to being consciously competent helps mentors and learners. It is easier to select the right developmental tool or resource for development when it is clear which level of being skilled the learner is at. And the starting point is most often the results from 360 reports for leaders or communication and collaboration style feedback tools and exercises.
In February 1969, management trainer Martin M. Broadwell called the model “the four levels of teaching”. Paul R. Curtiss and Phillip W. Warren mentioned this model in their 1973 book The Dynamics of Life Skills Coaching. In the late 1970s, this model was used at Gordon Training International by its employee Noel Burch. He called it the “four stages for learning any new skill”. Later the model was frequently (but incorrectly) attributed to Abraham Maslow, although the model does not appear in his major works.
In many diagnostic tools for leaders and teams there is a scale which indicates how far the leader or the team is on a ladder between two opposite behaviors or style preferences. This could be for example critical evaluation on the one end of the scale and compassionate encouragement on the other side of the scale. (see example below).
These kinds of results are often used to coach and develop leaders and teams towards a desired behavior or culture. In many cases the distinction between the “right” behavior and the “wrong” behavior is more linked to the situation at hand, associated risks and/or the person you have in front of you than a simplistic view of correct behavior. For example it may be less desirable behavior to be overly critical in an evaluation of someone who is new to the role and the company or team. In another instance where the risks are high and the people on the team very experienced it may be more appropriate to perform a critical evaluation in the event of a major failure to achieve desired outcomes than to offer supportive encouragement.
This leads to the concept of managing or working with both of the ends of a linear scale. Choosing both sides in terms of developing leaders and teams can help them to have a bigger capacity to choose the right response depending on the situation. The key is to develop awareness in them. Encourage leaders and teams to embrace more than one behavior or style to respond to specific situations or a tasks.
If we go back to the example above. You may be coaching someone or guiding a class of developing leaders through an exercise and this approach may be useful. Ask them to first of all identify the extreme ends of a scale of possibilities. Then identify for both extremes – the possible positive outcomes from that approach and also the possible negative outcomes.
In a class situation you can also assign it as an exercise between two or more people to brainstorm together.
Once the exercise is complete you can lead a discussion with examples from the class or the leader you are coaching. When may it be appropriate to use one or the other behavior for the best outcome? You can also choose to ask groups that had completed the exercise to prepare a demonstration (role-playing) to show the appropriate way to respond to a situation based on an example they discussed in the group. Or you may choose to provide some case-studies where the leader or class have to identify which may be the best approaches. These practical exercises will further help your participants understand the choices that they have as leaders when facing different situations and how to at least evaluate the best path forward before they go into action.
As a followup action you can ask participants or your coachee to capture examples they come across in the next few weeks/months where they had to make a choice between two opposite approaches and used the exercise above to identify the potential positive and negative outcomes. When using this approach one will will not necessarily avoid mistake or guarantee the most effective approach. The process of pausing and considering options will make the leader or team more effective over time and will improve decision-making.
Some examples you could consider for the exercise above:
Working independently vs working in groups/teams
People focused vs Task focused
Having a structured (fixed) approach vs a creative/open approach
Formal vs Informal approach to others
Monitoring others closely vs holding them accountable for outcomes created
This approach does not invalidate the tests which offer leaders and teams valuable insights into their own typical approaches and style preferences. This is merely another way to approach the outcomes from those tests to help develop more adaptable leaders and teams, which is highly needed in the current environment where change has become a constant and successfully working across borders, cultures and generations have become essential.
Stretch assignments are useful for learning and personal growth and development, because they purposefully contain elements that are challenging in areas where the assignee needs to develop. Designed correctly, a stretch assignment confronts one with the necessity to get out of your comfort zone in order to succeed.
The starting point for designing such an assignment can be multiple data sources:
the person’s own development needs compared to established leadership competencies,
key proven areas of mastery that a company requires from their leaders to advance to the next level,
a mindset or mindset shift that is required to move the company and its leaders into a new way of operating; or
to build competency in specific important areas that are or will be important to the future of the company.
A stretch is not defined in a general way, but rather it is very specific to a person. While a stretch could mean that one requirement is for the person (plus family, if appropriate) to move to an international location, it inevitably would also include other job-related challenges. Examples include supervising more people, having financial performance targets (for someone who has only had functional roles in the past) or having more complexity such as multiple geographical areas to manage. The key balance to maintain when designing stretch assignments is to ensure that the assignee is put under a certain amount of pressure to learn and grow, but not so much pressure that he or she fails.
Mitigating failure risks
There are a few things you can implement to help monitor how things are going with each assignee and to provide a “safety net” for an assignee to get support from.
Assign subject-matter experts as coaches – depending on the scope of the assignment.
Assign a leadership development coach to help the assignee reflect on experiences, frame up challenges and cognitively choose best solutions and explore new ways of operating to be more successful in the assigned areas of responsibility.
Set up internal-company networking events for the assignees to meet, have opportunities to mingle and share experiences and also include a pre-determined learning event tied to overall leadership development objectives within the company.
Set up a structure of communication moments with the “home” organization supervisor and colleagues – this is especially important if you plan to return the assignee to the same organization at the end of the assignment. Maintaining ties would greatly improve a successful return and reintegration after an assignment. Communication moments like these can also greatly help colleagues NOT on assignment to learn from the experiences and best-in-class solutions their colleague on assignment is mastering.
New and challenging assignments often cause assignees to experience some stress. Supporting assignees to successfully navigate through the new challenges means you should pay attention to a change in behavior or performance which could indicate that he or she is stuck on the learning curve. Signs that things are going wrong are important to notice early-on to maximize chances of turning things around and avoiding an assignment disappointment and/or incurring an assignee retention risk. Pre-departure training should be provided to both assignees and their coaches to understand and recognize signs that things may not be going well and to understand ways to become unstuck in every situation.
Some warning signals:
Expectations for goal achievement by assignees must be specifically captured in a plan and communicated to an assignee along with available rewards for over-achievement of goals. The specific strategic importance of the assignment should also be highlighted as well as the developmental needs to be addressed during the assignment.
Tips for stretch-assignment coordinators:
Ensure that there is a structure that enables assignees to succeed and always follow-through with the check-in points and feedback activities to ensure all is well.
Ensure that all those involved in assignments are clear on the role of management, role and responsibilities of supporting coaches, the role and responsibilities of assignees and the role and responsibilities of assignment supervisors and “home office” supervisors.
Adequately prepare assignees for their assignments: cultural awareness training (for international assignments), language skills (where needed) and if accompanied by family members – consider a session to discuss the practicalities of moving to a new location with those family members present.
Ensure that the assignees get interim feedback on how their assignments are going -at least 3 times per year, but more often if this can be managed. This provides opportunities to refocus and apply new approaches as needed to ensure the assignment is successful.
Provide assignees and stakeholders in assignments ample notification about the end date of an assignment. This assures minimum surprises and helps everyone to plan actions leading to a well-organized return upon assignment completion.
When assignments are successful in achieving or exceeding on all the objectives, assignees should return from their experiences with increased confidence, leadership skills, and maturity. The personal growth and development they experienced should enhance their ability to make better decisions and build stronger interpersonal relationships with those they lead and follow. Being mindful of how to setup and manage stretch assignments can make all of that a reality.
Every employee has different reasons for showing up at work and there are different ways to motivate each of the people working with you. Since one size does not fit all, it is best to stop guessing and to find out for sure what it is that makes those reporting to you love their jobs.
Knowing what motivates your direct reports is a great way to ensure you retain your direct reports. Of course having a good professional relationship with each of your direct reports goes a long way to ensuring that issues which may demotivate them are brought up early and resolved in open dialogue and discussion.
The exercise below can be used by you to first establish what you believe would be motivational before you ask your direct reports to complete the exercise below. Understanding that, as their supervisor, you are most likely not going to get it right without their input may further instill the practice in you to always check your assumptions before you engage when it comes to understanding what would motivate others.
The list below contain outcomes that could be motivational to your direct reports in their jobs. This means that these outcomes would keep them interested in continuing to work in this role, for you and in this company.
Rank the list below in terms of 1 to 14 where 1 means “motivates me the most” to 14 which means “this does not motivate me much.” The ranking is not to say that this is how it is RIGHT NOW, but in the perfect environment, what would be the most vs least motivational to the person doing the ranking.
A. Rank these from 1 to 14 – what motivates me most at the top
Receiving market-aligned compensation for the job I am doing
Recognition for my efforts by my supervisor
My work is interesting and challenges me in a positive way
The company/job comes with excellent benefits (separate from my annual salary)
Pleasant working environment (ambiance, set-up)
My supervisor is fair in making decisions and communicating them i.e. promotion, recognition, expectations.
The knowledge of my colleagues which is shared with me
I have all the information I need to have in order to understand what my priorities are and why I am performing the tasks that I am assigned
I understand exactly what my supervisor expects from me
I have a great feeling of accomplishment in this role/job
This role/job provides me with a lot of learning options, which can lead to promotions in the future
I have a chance to contribute to discussions and decisions that impact me
The people I work with are great people who make me feel included and valued
My opinion is often asked for and is valued by my supervisor
B. Level of current motivation
The next step would be to ask the same employees to rate how much they are currentlymotivated by the same items from above. Comparing these answers with the answers in A. can help you identify possible ways in which you can improve the motivation of each employee reporting to you. For example, if someone had a high ranking motivator in A. and that same item gets a low score in B. that means you should look for ways to impact that area to motivate and retain that particular employee.
Results – what to do next?
Once you have captured the feedback from those who report to you, have individual discussions with each one of them to determine how you can better impact the areas that they scored as the highest importance in terms of motivation and where potentially their scores for current experience were the lowest.
How can I, as your supervisor, help you to have a better experience of this item (high ranking items from A. the list above – especially if that same item has a low score in B.)? _____________________________________________________
Are there ways in which you feel that I can remove obstacles or improve your experience in this regard? (see highest ranking items with low scores in exercise B.) ______________________
Is there anything that you and I need to discuss or resolve to remove any bad feelings or negativity from the past to move forward on a positive note? _________________________
Is there anything that I, as your supervisor, can do better to improve your enjoyment of your job/role at the company?
Be sure to mention (as appropriate – be truthful and honest):
I want you to know that I value your contribution and you are an important team member to this project/department.
I believe we can achieve great accomplishments in this department/team if we work together and communicate openly about what needs to be done and how to support each other in order to have a better overall outcome for the team/department.
I hope you will take the time to let me know of any obstacle that you see which may hinder us in achieving our goals. And I hope you will see any feedback from me in the same light – I want you as an individual to enjoy what you are doing (realizing that not all of our jobs are highly enjoyable – some parts are typically repetitive and maybe mainly administrative) and I want your contribution to the team/department to be clear to you in terms of expectations and how things are going.
Is there anything else you would like to bring my attention or which you think we should discuss before we end our meeting?
After the meeting you may want to consider reviewing your notes. Some items may be easy to action, simply by you emailing or calling someone in order to set something up. Other items may not be so straight-forward. For example, someone with a performance that does not meet expectations may ask for an increase. Set up a meeting with your HR Business Partner or representative to talk through the items and set priorities. Always make sure you are able to provide direct individual feedback to each employee on the items you discussed in your individual meetings with them.
Employees are motivated by different aspects of their roles/jobs at the company and there are many ways in which you are able to influence these aspects. The professional relationship you have with your direct employees also greatly impacts whether someone chooses to stay or leave the company/their role.
In the end some employees will leave and you will need to fill those roles by promoting existing employees or hiring new employees. Ultimately, the sign of a good leader is the number of great leaders he or she creates. When they feel the need to leave to move up, applaud them, keep contact with them and congratulate yourself when you see them succeed regardless of where they end up as a result of your great coaching and support.
One area that often causes misunderstandings and frustrations in the workplace is when two employees have different interpersonal styles and ways of communicating and they do not get along. Being different from each other mostly means that they do not understand why the other party is doing and saying things in the manner that they do. Most of us do have the ability to make small changes to how we do or say things in order to improve collaboration and interfacing with others and this resource can help by creating awareness, which is the first step towards improvement.
The downloadable document I am sharing can be used for reviewing relationships with customers, other employees, work-related contacts, and even friends or loved ones. It helps you reflect on the interpersonal style that the other person displays in his or her behaviors. Building on this awareness this resource enables you to be more mindful of the best ways to interact with that specific person to have a better relationship with him or her.
Once you have awareness of how you can improve interpersonal relationships with specific people it may still be difficult to make changes to your own behavior for the betterment of the relationship. Should you get stuck once you have done the first part of the exercise, consider asking others for ideas on how you can best approach improvement in the key aspects you came up with. Depending on the current relationship you have with the person you focused on, you may be able to ask him or her directly. For example: “I noticed that you are very detail-oriented. Can you help me understand how I can better provide you with what you need in order for you to feel comfortable with my contribution on the projects that we are working on together?”
Uses for this resource include:
Own reflection and then taking action to improve on some of your interpersonal relationships.
Discussions with your coach on how to deal with some difficult individuals that you often work with.
Team-building – ask each team member to rate themselves on the items shown and then share with each other as a way to get to know each other better and improve interpersonal relationships on the team. (advocating).
Team feedback – Depending on the time you have available and the size of the team you may also ask each team member to map out each other team member using this resource. This means each person gets feedback from the entire team on how each team member sees them. The outcome could magnify self-awareness in the team and drive interpersonal relationship improvements across the entire team.
Misunderstandings can lead to a lot of misalignments between team members and can result in rework, which is a waste every project should avoid. Better interactions with others make the workday more fun and go a long way towards employees feeling more productive and effective at work.
The ability to reflect and learn from experiences and observations is one I most commonly associate with and admire in the best leaders that I have met over the years. This resource can be used to help leaders reflect on their own behaviors to identify development and improvement needs.
The leadership rating worksheet shared contains a sheet for self rating and also a sheet which can be shared with others for feedback purposes.
The resource (see downloadable file above) is not only helpful for leaders in rating themselves and uncovering possible developmental needs, but can also be used as a 360-type feedback tool. In that case the leader rates himself or herself and then requests feedback from others – in more senior roles, same level peers or in lower hierarchical roles – interacting with the leader on a regular basis. The 360 view can help eliminate any blind-spots that a leader may have concerning his or her own leadership behaviors as the perspectives are from others who often interface with the leader.
The leadership aspects covered in this resource are:
Each of the aspects come with a brief description to ensure ratings are comparable after you have obtained feedback from others.
Uses for this resource include:
Updating your own development plan and setting new goals and priorities for your own development activities
Discussing the results with a coach or mentor to get guidance on what to focus on and how to plan next steps to improve on key leadership aspects.
If a manager rates all of the leaders working in his or her department using this tool you can compare the leaders to each other in terms of strengths and development needs. This would be useful information to help select the best development programs for the team over the next year (for example).
Developing leadership skills is a lifelong journey. We can all learn to do better in some aspects over time and tools like this one can be a very useful check-in for reflection even for those who have been leaders for a long time. It is also true that we expect more from leaders in a globalized business world and concepts like “diversity conscious” and “cross cultural” skills are becoming very important for leaders to be effective on a global scale.
Trustworthiness is the undisputed main characteristic that we look for in a leader and frankly also in any other person we encounter on a daily basis. Trust is a topic that is often discussed in a business context after employee satisfaction or engagement survey results are known in organizations. The topic also often comes up when leadership training or development is considered.
The resource I am sharing consists of some slides highlighting the nature and importance of trust in teams and then it has an exercise which you can do with a group of leaders.
You can use this (download above) file in a few ways:
As a quick exercise (about 20 to 30 minutes) with meeting participants where Trust and Leadership is the topic of conversation or discussion. For example: in a meeting to discuss a recent employee survey where trust came up as an area to be addressed.
As a sub-section within a leadership training course where Trust and Leadership is an aspect of the course.
As a coaching discussion topic where it is important for someone to learn more about actions and behaviors that can contribute to being viewed as more trustworthy.
These slides won’t teach someone all of the aspects of trust and leadership, but they do provide a context for you to explore the topic. You may always choose to follow-up with more exercises or conversations about the topic in future.
(Note that the last “Slide” in the resource is not for display purposes, but for you to print out so that the small groups in the exercise have a way to capture their thoughts while going through the exercise.)
Some coaches like to use a tool to help someone they coach look at his or her own life and how things are going from a big picture perspective as opposed to just focusing on one specific aspect of someone’s life like their career success. The goal is to see how much balance there is across various areas in someone’s life. The template helps identify life values and then it helps as a check-up to do maybe once a year to see how things are going in terms of maintaining a balanced life.
People dealing with signs of burn-out may also benefit from using this kind of tool with their coach to see where their lives may not be balanced or may not be a good reflection of their values. Meaning that the choices they make in how they spend their time (for example) do not line up with the things that they care about the most.
Imagine your life looked like a pizza
The starting point is to imagine your life has segments or aspects that matter to you. Imagine there is a segment called Financial health which is important to you because you like to have nice new clothes and a nice car. So you would have to make sure you pay attention to being able to earn money so that you are able to buy those things that matter to you. Another segment may be friends – and it would be important to spend time with your friends or you may find they are less engaged with you. This is how one starts to identify what each of those “pizza slices” of your life may be.
Once you have answered the questions and determined the total score for each segment in your life you can color it in to see a result like this example above. In this case the “friends” segment has a very high score in the result but another aspect like career has a very low score.
This template can be the basis for evaluating your “life set-up” and then you can work with your coach to discuss how balanced this is for you given your priorities in life. If you want to increase the outcomes in a specific area, simply start setting some goals in that area and then plan to follow through with actions to help achieve it.
Interpreting the results from this kind of tool is best done with someone who has experience in this area – like a coach. It is also easier to set goals and create a plan to meet them when you have someone to help you think it through. Holding yourself accountable to make sure you actually work on the actions you have planned can also be supported best by a trusted buddy or coach who can remind you what you had committed to take action on and highlight to you when you seem to be off-track.
Inbox exercises are often used when there is an evaluation of leadership/management style and skills or training in time management, judgment or decision-making. I believe the value of this resource lies in revealing the thought processes of an exercise participant. It reveals HOW the person going through the exercise reasons and reacts to typical tasks that they could face as a manager or supervisor.
While you can keep track of how many pages the person completed within the time provided or how many of the actions the person chose aligned with what is considered “correct” in your company (and desired company culture) the highest value (for me) is the coaching conversations that can be had around the reasons that the actions were chosen. These conversations can really help leaders understand their impact on others and improve their self-awareness as a result.
The exercise setup
The attached inbox exercise requires you to print out items and provide them to intended participants in the exercise. The first page describes the situation which you should share with the participant(s) as part of the exercise. The next two pages are then for your eyes only and they will help you to understand the set-up and what you, as the facilitator, should do with that particular exercise page. The section that follows behind the “Worksheet” page is provided to participants once the Q and A portion of the instructions discussion is over.
Once the participant understands the scenario the worksheets are handed out to him/her to complete. This is the inbox exercise and it is usually a timed exercise. Exercises include aspects like this:
If you choose to include priory setting as one of the test elements, consider using something like the Eisenhower/Covey matrix:
You can read more about it here : Priority matrix write-up If you decide to include priority-setting as an element, this approach will give you a better foundation for debriefing discussions.
You can use this exercise with a class of participants and then I would suggest you have each participant check the work of his/her neighbor once the exercise has been timed-out. Read out the action considered best for each of the incidents and assign a score for correct answers. Of course you can use your own judgment when some participants have similar answers/responses, but just worded it differently.
I prefer to use this with a small group of people who are in a coaching program. The results of their work can then be debriefed more fully with their coaches who can explore their responses deeper by asking questions around : how did they interpret the note/incident? Why did they choose that action? Did they consider other options? If so, which ones? How/why did they decide to select that particular action? How did the limited time impact their thinking and responses?
Leaders learn through reflection and an experience such as this inbox exercise is full of opportunities to reflect on own actions, choices and mindsets. The hardest part about improving one’s mindset or way of doing things, is gaining awareness of one’s own style or impact on others. The specific examples that come out of this inbox exercise is a very tangible basis for reflection with a coach and then choosing better ways in the future.