Nimble Organizations Embrace and Adapt to Change

The National Football League recently held its annual rookie draft in Philadelphia. It was a life-changing opportunity for many young men. Only a handful of those selected in the draft will go on to have lengthy and successful NFL careers. Before the draft, teams looked at all the measurable factors of the potential draft picks, including height, weight, and speed. However, they also looked for intangibles, such as attitude, ability to respond to stressful situations, and work ethic.

When we think about successful leaders and organizations, there are key success factors that are identifiable and can help us predict business performance. There are also intangible factors that contribute to success and aren’t easily measured or apparent at a surface level. Responding to change falls into that second category. How we deal with and manage change is a key success factor in organizational performance. Nimble organizations and leaders that can pivot and adapt to change will have a positive impact and position themselves for success.

Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations face significant changes related to the economy, technology, customer/stakeholder expectations, and an evolving workforce. The ability to fulfill the missions of our organizations and to be financially sustainable is becoming more complicated. As organizations confront these challenges, it is important to remain nimble and responsive.

The following set of best practices are focused on how organizations and their leaders can adapt to change and remain nimble in a changing environment:

  • Practice continuous improvement
    • Teach, learn, and model key behaviors
    • Create positive individual and organizational habits
  • Manage your response to change
    • Understand your paradigms and blind spots
    • Recognize that to be nimble you must have engaged leaders and staff
  • Stay true to your vision and values
    • Do not sacrifice who you are to become someone or something else
    • Strive for positive growth

The following questions can help leaders focus on continuous improvement:

  • What are your key success factors and metrics?

  • What organizational and personal habits do you need to add or eliminate?

  • With whom should you connect or build stronger relationships?

We all recognize that change is inevitable. But you can be a game changer by focusing on positive improvements, acknowledging and addressing barriers and challenges, facilitating continuous learning and growth throughout the organization, and paying attention to coworkers, family, friends, and your community.

Paying attention to your customers, community, and staff through the development of open and systematic communications channels will help you to adapt and grow during times of change. The ability to respond to change in a systematic and timely manner is characteristic of successful and sustainable organizations and their leaders.

Reprinted with permission from the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.


John Park, Ph.D., Baker Tilly

John, a director with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP, focuses on leadership development, emotional intelligence, and strategic planning.

 

Quick Feet, Clear Minds

QUICK FEET, CLEAR MINDS

Three Ways Walking Meetings Can Make You Happier at Work

As you may have heard, at Diamond6 we are calling October “Walking Meeting Month.”

You have surely heard about the health benefits of walking meetings. I wrote about them briefly in my last article: Killer Chairs: The Sitting Prognosis. Getting up from our desks regularly throughout the day can have benefits for our weight, heart, blood pressure, and even blood sugar levels.

I am incredibly impatient and I like to see results….like yesterday. So, while all the studies on how walking will help prevent heart disease in 20+ years, those facts are not always effective motivation for me to step away from my email. Can you relate?

What I do know is that how we feel is something we can gauge immediately. That can be much more motivating for an instant gratification person like myself. And who doesn’t want to feel better?

Instead of droning on about the obvious PHYSICAL benefits, I want to share with you how walking meetings can help you and your employees’ MENTAL health. Specifically, how incorporating walking meetings can make you happier at work.

So, in brief, are three ways walking meetings can lift spirits in the office: 

1. Moving Makes You Happy: The exact physiological reason why exercise improves mood is still being studied. However, research has shown that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression and possibly even prevent it in the first place. We have all felt the happy high after getting a good workout in at the gym, going for a run, or riding a bike – we’ve done our own research! But, it doesn’t take a 1-hour Zumba class to turn a frown upside down. A 10-minute brief, brisk walk around the office can do the same. 

2. Sunshine Smiles: Vitamin D has long been known to play a vital role in bone health. Now, researchers have found that many part of the brain have vitamin D receptors. For this reason, vitamin D has been linked with depression and other mental health problems. Sure, you can take vitamin D supplements but they aren’t as effective for mood as getting it straight from the source – the sun. So, if you can, hit the pavement or the track and soak up a little sunshine and give you brain a little happy vitamin boost. Check out the Vitamin D Council for more information on this important vitamin and how to get enough of it.

3. Connection, Purpose, Value: A workforce that feels a social connection to one another has a united purpose and feels valued. And obviously, those people would feel pretty darn happy at work! Getting out from behind your desk to walk and meet with employees and colleagues removes the physical barrier of your desk, creating a more open and connected conversation. Aside from having a more relaxed work meeting you also have the opportunity to get to know someone on a more personal level. This can require some vulnerability on the part of the leader. However, when you have the courage to be yourself and show you deeply care about those who work for you, you will create a safe, productive, and happier workplace. This story about the founder of a tech startup is a perfect illustration of how creating connection can be the key to making an organization succeed.


Tanya McCausland, Chief Operating Officer

Tanya is a Board Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant through Bauman College in Berkeley, CA and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.

Killer Chairs: The Sitting Prognosis

You have probably heard the phrase, “sitting is the new smoking”.

I have to admit, when I first read this sentence as a headline while doing research for an upcoming wellness presentation I thought, “Come on, is it really THAT bad?!”. My second thought was, “If it’s true, that is the most alarming and unhelpful piece of health information I have ever read!”.

We now live in a sitting society.

We sit, sometimes for hours, commuting to and from work every day, we sit at our desks, in meetings, at lunch and dinner. Heck, we’re mostly sitting when watching our kids play sports and perform recitals.

Don’t get me wrong. Much of the sitting we do is necessary because of the distances we must travel to get to work and the type of work we do. Naturally, I’m sitting down at my desk while I write this article – how very ironic!

So, is sitting as detrimental to our health as lighting up a Lucky Strike?

There have been several studies over the last few years taking a closer look at how prolonged sitting may be associated with increased risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and impaired insulin sensitivity. However, the results of the most recent study published in Annals of Internal Medicine less than a month ago appear to provide the most reliable recent data. That is because previous studies relied on self-reporting to evaluate the total sedentary time. This study used hip-mounted accelerometers resulting in more objective data.

The most important contribution of this study involved the separating of two sedentary behaviors: total daily sedentary time (how much time we spend sitting each day) and uninterrupted sedentary bout duration (length of time we sit at a stretch before getting up).

Dr. David A. Alter, an associate professor at the University of Toronto in Ontario summarized the two extremes of the finding well by stating; “Persons with uninterrupted sedentary bouts of 30 minutes or more had the highest risk for death if total sedentary time also exceeded 12.5 hours per day. Conversely, in those whose daily sedentary volumes were low, uninterrupted bout lengths had little if any associated effects on mortality.”.

Yes, prolonged sitting does seem to have an impact on our health. Though the exact causes and effects are still unclear, why wait?!

You can be the most effective and respected leader when you take care of yourself and your body. Your organization’s success relies on your health!

This is why we decided to call October “Walking Meeting Month” at Diamond6. As the days start to cool down and the leaves change color we are getting up from our desks and heading outside to discuss business opportunities, brainstorm new ideas, and plan events – all while getting a little exercise and fresh air.

Come walk with us! 

Throughout the month of October, we will be sharing tips, tricks, and strategies around walking while working. Learn about some of the surprising benefits of getting outside in the middle of the day and HOW to actually make that happen.

Then, when you’re outside for your walking meeting snap a picture or take a short video. Post it to our Facebook page, share it on LinkedIn, or tweet it on Twitter, using —-> #D6WalkingMeetingChallenge.

We will be selecting a winner at random on November 1, 2017 from all submissions. The more you walk, the more pictures you take, the higher chances of winning!

Ready. Set. WALK!


Tanya McCausland, Chief Operating Officer

Tanya is a Board Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant through Bauman College in Berkeley, CA and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.

Emotional intelligence is the driver of success

Since the mid-1990s numerous books and articles have been written on emotional intelligence (EQ) as a driver of individual and organizational success. Authors Daniel Goleman, Travis Bradberry, and Richard Boyatzis have all written on the key components of EQ and the positive impact it can have in our personal and professional lives. Goleman defines EQ as, “The capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.” He emphasizes that IQ and technical competencies get us into the game; however, a high level of EQ elevates our ability to lead and manage organizations.

In The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book: Everything You Need to Know to Put Your EQ to Work, Bradberry suggests that “EQ is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence.” Bradberry goes on to make the case that leaders with a high EQ are 80 percent more productive than their low EQ counterparts, and this productivity translates to higher income and success in leadership roles. There is a sound business case for understanding EQ and focusing on its development. EQ can be developed and improved over time when we are willing to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, are humble enough to ask for and receive feedback, and take the time to slow down, reflect, and think through what we say and do.

Bradberry breaks EQ down into personal and social competence – the ability to be aware of emotions and recognize certain tendencies and behaviors that help or hinder effectiveness. He also emphasizes the importance of social competence – the ability to manage relationships, understand and empathize with others, and recognize how the environment can influence both our own and others’ behaviors.Jefferson’s quote is particularly relevant to the improvement and development of EQ. Behaviors can be changed when we are willing to practice, adapt to our surroundings, and seek out trustworthy mentors willing to take the time to help move us forward.

For those who watch the detective show Foyle’s War, actor Michael Kitchen provides some wonderful examples of EQ through his ability to use the power of observation, empathy, and self-management to solve crimes. Foyle, has the ability to manage his emotions and nonverbal communication in a manner that allows him to keep criminals guessing. The power of EQ is in the ability to maintain focus and cultivate powerful habits that help leaders bring out the best in themselves and others.

Assessments, training programs, and workbooks have been created to encourage the development and use of EQ. You can develop your EQ through structured training, coaching, and a desire to improve and grow. Multirater 360 degree EQ assessments can provide us with a realistic snap shot of how others see us in a variety of settings and compare that feedback to our self-perceptions. This can be positive and validating at times, and it can also be uncomfortable. I have experienced the feedback of 360s, and regularly work with others to help them understand how the feedback can be used to drive them in a positive and beneficial manner.

Reprinted from CPA Now with permission from the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.


John Park, Ph.D., Baker Tilly

John, a firm director, maintains a targeted consulting practice where he works with his clients on issues related to strategic planning, change management, enterprise risk management and leadership development. He has multiple publications including co-authorship of the book “Creating in House Sales Development Programs “and regularly speaks at regional and national conferences.

 

What new leaders need to do right away

It is inevitable that any organization will have a new leader, and it’s
always an adjustment. While it can be an exciting and hopeful time filled with the possibilities of a new direction, it still takes time to earn trust and loyalty from those who have been there for a long period of time.

Nevertheless, a new leader should see this as an opportunity to learn and engage their team. Below are five tips to incorporate in your leadership style to find immediate success.

Speak to everyone

While your initial instinct will be to speak to the people who hired you and your immediate subordinates, you need to expand your pool. In order for people to support your leadership, you need to show your face and prove that you care about people at all levels. When new leaders come in, some people might be skeptical. Address that skepticism head on and find its foundation. Getting to the root of these issues can immediately help you to succeed as you build your strategic vision for the organization. And who knows what you might learn at the same time. 

Identify influencers

Once you’ve spoken to everyone, find the natural leaders amongst them. This is some of your top talent, and you’ll want to bolster their success. It may take some time to identify who produces the best quality work, but once you do you’ve found the foundation of your company. Be sure to invest in these people and expand based upon their talents.

Showcase success

In that vein, it is important to also point out the people who are succeeding. This redoubles their efforts, shows that you acknowledge success, and stimulates a culture of hard work. This will also inspire camaraderie and pushes employees to collaborate and address the agenda that you’ve set for the organization in a productive way.

Be an open book

Don’t hide the challenges the company faces. If people feel closed out, they don’t feel readily engaged. While you may not be able to share everything, there are certainly important ideas and issues that you want your employees to consider. And by sharing, you’ve inspired your team because they feel like valued members of the organization.

Value accountability

If you take people’s ideas seriously, then more ideas will flourish. But make sure you take them seriously in a way that you expect results. While it’s great to have someone who can come up with a million ideas off the top of their head, telling your team that execution is key makes them feel inclined to prove their validity. It’s about finding a solution, not only identifying problems.

How to achieve buy-in? Six tips on how to become a great communicator

It’s easy to identify communication as a key component of leadership success, but many struggle to relay an idea or get their bosses, colleagues and subordinates to “buy-in” to their ideas. If you have a strategic vision for your company and your role within it, it is essential to impart that upon others and gain their endorsement.

Below are six tips that you can immediately incorporate to get to that next level of communication success and earn the essential “buy-in” of your peers.

Show it. Sometimes it’s just about looking the part. Communication can be about your outward appearance, often the foundation of your first impression. This doesn’t mean how you are dressed necessarily, but instead how you hold yourself. Prove your confidence by showing it. This can influences how you express an idea: an energetic tone, smiling, nodding, strong eye contact, firm handshake, and an easy and relaxed posture. All these display, engage and bolster “buy-in.”

Keep it simple. Over-explanation will be the first nail in your coffin. If no one knows what you are talking about, then it will be nearly impossible to fulfill your strategic vision. Complexity is valued by the lonely, and triumph is never attained alone. Confident leaders will make it simple for those around them, allowing those people to “buy-in” to the idea. Yes, you might sound smart using industry jargon and flourishes, but there’s no quicker way to lose a room and tamp down excitement.

Share. We have a tendency to want to keep everything close to the chest, but sometimes it’s overkill. If you’re seeking investment from people in your company, they need to know what the hell is going on. Tell them. Sharing information strategically will make you more valuable to your organization and potentially raise your profile as an expert. This is how trust is built, and it will develop that “buy-in” you want from bosses, colleagues, and subordinates.

Improvise. Any great leader can identify a communication formula that works, and it’s needed because the modern work environment forces people to think on their feet. Brevity is the soul of wit and the avenue to the desired “buy-in.” Learn to give off-the-cuff statements that concisely summarize your point in a few sentences or less. Someone who can deliver on his/her feet impresses everyone, and that improvisation is a craft that can be mastered.

Spin a yarn. Humans naturally communicate by telling stories, so use that to your advantage. Add anecdotes to meetings and presentations as well as casual conversations to drive home the points and ideas that you want to impact onto others. Some may find it difficult to remember only the essential point. But once it is illustrated in a story, people can use it as a guiding light to remember and more easily “buy in” to the concept.

Ask questions. Any great leader knows that their education is never complete. If you don’t take the time to hear what’s happening from the basement to the penthouse of your company, then you’re not going to address problems that could blow up later and maybe even miss some opportunities. It’s important to make yourself available and hear from others. Because no mater how smart you are, you don’t have all the answers.

Yes, sometimes the answers won’t matter, but colleagues and subordinates will always appreciate you taking a moment to step back and listen.

Learn “The Cubs Way” and Share the Win

Diamond6 Leadership & Strategy has a soft spot for the Chicago Cubs, as D6 CEO Jeff McCausland is a lifelong fan. But the Cubs are also a masterclass in leadership, especially when we consider General Manager Theo Epstein.

Epstein has broken two baseball “curses” during his 15 years as a Major League Baseball general manager. He first took on the helm of his hometown team — the Boston Red Sox  — where he brought the Curse of the Bambino to an end in 2004. In 2012, he came to the Cubs, completely rebuilt the team and won a World Series within five years.

He is a managerial legend now, but it still came as a surprise when he was named Fortune Magazine’s best leader in the world — even beating out the pope. Yet his reaction to the magazine’s honor also proves his qualities as a great leader.

The baby-faced manager, only 43, said he was taken aback by the top spot.

“Um, I can’t even get my dog to stop peeing in my house,” Epstein texted ESPN writer Buster Olney. “This is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous.”

But it’s that exact dismissal that is evidence he is such a great leader. It is that rejection that proves his sense of modesty and humility — an integral characteristic of leadership. Epstein would be the first to say that he is not singularly responsible for changing the culture of an entire franchise and bringing the first baseball championship to the city of Chicago in 108 years. But it must be noted that his organizational changes brought the Cubs a victory.

“It’s baseball — a pastime involving a lot of chance,” Epstein told Olney, before bringing up a player he signed as an example. “If [utility player Ben] Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I’m on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I’m not the best leader in our organization; our players are.”

A weaker person would have immediately taken credit for others’ wins, but Epstein is unwilling to bask in that glory. Instead he readjusts it and places the honor at the feet of the members of his organization, such as the players.

A good leader knows that the successes of a “team” isn’t the result of any one person. We must recognize and acknowledge every individual’s contributions or else we create an environment that doesn’t encourage success. No organization wants to stifle good work, so understand the new “Cubs Way” and share the achievement in order to inspire accomplishment.

The Battle of Antietam: an interview with Tom Vossler

Colonel Tom Vossler has long been the lead historian of Diamond6 TVossler_Headshot_2016Leadership. He has taken many of our groups through various Civil War battlefields, providing a historical playing field in which to discuss important leadership lessons.

In the past he has teamed up with Carol Reardon, the George Winfree Professor of American History at Pennsylvania State University, to write a history of the Battle of Gettysburg—A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People. They have a1rjerl95mlcome together once again to write A Field Guide to Antietam: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People.

Diamond6 sat down with Col. Vossler to discuss Antietam, its place in Civil War history, and its leadership lessons. September 17 will be the battle’s 154th anniversary.

Why is Antietam important in the context of the Civil War?

This campaign, this battle, is part of a larger picture called the Maryland Campaign of 1862. There has been a string of Confederate victories as they cross the Potomac to begin this new campaign. What is also important to note is that while the Maryland Campaign is being fought, out west there’s a Confederate campaign for the invasion of Kentucky.

These are two simultaneous Confederate advances into two border states, Kentucky and Maryland. From a political and military strategic standpoint, we must remember that President Lincoln said he must have Kentucky or else he would lose its support.

This battle forces the Confederacy back, which is why this battle is so important. The incursion into the border states is turned back by Union forces.

What are four key moments that turn the tide in this battle?

First, this battle takes place on September 17, following the South Mountain battles, which really disrupted Lee’s plans to invade Pennsylvania. He doesn’t make it that far. Meanwhile, General McClellan, the Union commander, could’ve attacked on September 16, but delayed one full day to get his forces ready. But if you flip that coin, that affords Lee another 24 hours in which to get his forces to the battlefield.

The second moment also has to do with McClellan. During the battle, there is an opportunity for him to commit his reserves to a weak point in the Confederate line, but he hesitates and then doesn’t follow through. He fears if he commits his reserve forces, he won’t have any later. That could have split the Confederate defense. Instead it stays in place and frustrates his movements.

The third key moment is the failure of General Ambrose Burnside to make his attack across the lower bridge. There are three bridges—the upper, the middle, the lower—and his forces were at the lower bridge. He had repeated orders to get across the Antietam to attack the Confederate force on the other side of the creek. He delays, and his delay eats up several hours in the battle. This then ties into that fourth moment.

Number four is the timely arrival of an entire Confederate division commanded by General A.P. Hill. They have forced march from Harper’s Ferry, which the Confederates had captured earlier, and arrived on the battlefield just in time to turn back the advance of the Burnside’s 9th Corps.

There is no clear victor in this. From a larger overview, a strategic and operational overview, what is gained is that Lee’s army is forced out of Maryland and the Potomac River Line is restored.

After the battle, what changes do we see in the Union and Confederate leadership?

In the days and weeks after the battle, President Lincoln goes to Antietam to inquire of General McClellan why he has not followed Lee across the river into Virginia. McClellan essentially sits there with his command. He does not go after Lee, and this frustrates President Lincoln. The end result of McClellan’s delay is Lincoln relieves him of command and appoints a new commander. This leads to a continual roll over of leadership. By the time we get to Gettysburg, none of the higher level Union leadership remains.

The same thing happens in the Confederate Army. They lose a number of key leaders when they reorganize the army. They reorganize in a positive way. The replacement of the leadership leads to a slew of powerful victories.

The leadership question is what fascinates me most about Antietam—figuring out where the leaders who were at Gettysburg were at Antietam.

How then does this battle relate to today’s leaders?

What we’re talking about is the growth of leaders and the sorting out of those less capable. They’re not rising to the top anymore. They’re staying in the same position or getting washed out of the organization. The leadership over time gets better. You can watch this happen from First Bull Run, the first major land battle of the Civil War, as they progress through the war.

For today’s leaders that translates into organizational effectiveness, whether we’re talking about a school district or a corporation. At Diamond6, we’re striving to make them effective organizations through the development of their leadership. These leaders in the army, like in any organization, wherever they are they’re being developed and creating a succession of command. Every organization must think about what they’re doing to allow their leadership to mature and grow. That concept is thoroughly explored at Antietam.

Click here to purchase A Field Guide to Antietam: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People.

 

Is the juice worth the squeeze?

A new turn of phrase has infected the Diamond6 office: “Is the juice worth lemon-your-hand-cut-citrus-squeezing-drop-white-background-54396239the squeeze?”

CEO and founder of D6 Dr. Jeff McCausland began asking the question during staff meetings, and it is something that all employees have started to consider. Essentially, it boils down to the following concept: is the end result or reward worth the time and energy required to accomplish a task? Is what we are doing consistent with our mission, vision, and values particularly if it is going to demand considerable effort and resources?

This is a fundamental question that a leader must ask him/herself every day.

When Dr. McCausland teaches his Gettysburg seminar that discusses the leadership principles learned on one of the largest battlefields of the Civil War, he focuses a fair amount on the idea of innovation. One of those innovations he focuses on is the development of “triage” by American surgeon Dr. Jonathan Letterman.

This 19th century doctor organized injuries into different categories depending on the severity of their injuries: those who couldn’t be helped, those in immediate need of care, and those whose wounds did not put them in immediate danger. Triage is still used to this day during events that involve mass casualty. Emergency medical personnel would have used triage in dealing with casualties at the Boston Marathon bombing or the shooting in Orlando.

Most modern leaders rarely face life-or-death situations, but they must organize their teams to confront organizational problems similarly. At times, we are faced with issues that we can invest all of our time, energy, and resources to, but in the end we are just treading water.

It is at these moments that leaders know to focus on difficulties or complexities that they can resolve, begin to undertake, or are fundamental to what their organization is about. Meanwhile, they must rid themselves of the unsolvable and either relegate the minor problems to a subordinate or push it to a later date when they have time to address it.

Time management is a key characteristic of a good leader.

So the next time you look to conquer your own personal battlefield, take a moment and ask yourself: “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” You may quickly realize that the task you have dedicated yourself to wasn’t worth the few drops of liquid swimming around the bottom of your glass.

The Critical Importance of Mentors

mentoringI have always known that my success in the military and since was due in large measure to several mentors who provided me critical assistance throughout my life. If you are blessed with a mentor, you know that he or she is only a phone call away despite the fact that you might not see each other for several years. I could always call my mentors day or night to seek their advice and assistance.

But what exactly is “mentoring” and why is it important? Mentoring has been described as a dynamic relationship in which a more experienced person (the mentor) acts as a guide, role model, teacher, and sponsor of a less experienced person (the mentee). It is based on several distinct elements including:

  • Reciprocity, collegiality, authenticity, and mutuality.
  • Intentional role modeling
  • A “safe harbor” for self-exploration (disclosure)
  • Transformation particularly of the mentee’s professional identity.
  • A connection that endures.

The Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of 1,250 top executives as listed in The Wall Street Journal. It discovered that 65 percent had at least one important mentor. Furthermore, the analysis suggested that executives with mentors had higher salaries, more rapid promotions, greater achievement of career objectives, and higher overall job and life satisfaction. It has also been discovered that organizations with a culture of mentorship have lower attrition rates.

Through this relationship, mentees seek better job performance that may include more involvement in professional organizations. They also want help with networking, job opportunities, and finding greater satisfaction in the organization they are part of. Over time they will likely want assistance in achieving a stronger sense of professional identity, more productivity, and having a greater impact.

I would argue that having a mentor and eventually becoming a mentor is particularly important for those who are members of one of the following professions – the military, medicine, education, the clergy, the media, or law enforcement (lawyers, judges, and police). Such occupations are focused on the continued development of the abstract knowledge associated with the profession and the critical service it provides society. Consequently, the development of the next generation in the profession is a critical requirement. I was amazed how quickly I found other younger officers seeking my advice and counsel as I progressed through my career, and I am confident that most teachers, doctors, lawyers, ministers, journalists, and policemen have had the same experience.

Effective mentors must, first and foremost, take the time to get to know the mentee. Spend the time to learn their strengths and weaknesses as well as their goals. In doing so the mentor must “affirm” the path the mentee is taking while gently shaping as well as redirecting them away from unrealistic aspirations. The mentor is both a teacher and a coach. He or she must look for “teaching moments” during their time with the mentee and, if working in the same organization, demystify the “system” for the mentee while providing the “lay of the land.” The mentor must be prepared to offer counsel in difficulty times but challenge the mentee in order to stimulate their growth. When appropriate, the mentor should actively sponsor the mentee and hopefully match opportunities with their “dreams.” This may also be part of pointing out milestones and successes to the mentee while helping them to objectively step back and appreciate their own progress. Finally, an effective mentor has to be humble and have patience. He or she must be open to feedback particularly as the mentee matures. Nobody wants a “perfect” mentor. Humble mentors model their own fallibility. Important qualities for effective mentors include patience and high-quality emotional intelligence.

Good leaders are not only effective mentors but also seek to create a mentoring culture in their organization. This is difficult to do but essential nonetheless. Leaders must continually stress its importance and how it is closely related to the organization’s mission, vision, and values. It may also require not only traditional mentoring but also peer and team mentorship. An effective program will seek to select mentors carefully, train/support them, prepare mentees, and assess/reward mentors for their efforts. It should also be a topic during annual performance review discussions, and many organizations conduct annual surveys in order to ascertain the level of satisfaction and experience with mentoring. Finally, it should be part of all exit interviews when a member of the organization is departing.

Being a mentor is crucial to the success of any organization, and I would argue a professional responsibility. An expert on mentoring described it as “the seal of approval.” He further observed, “to have a mentor is to be among the blessed. Not to have a mentor is to be damned to eternal oblivion or at least to a mid-level status.”

Furthermore, we would all be wise to remember the words of the author, Robert Louis Stevenson:

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much;
Who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;

Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has left the world better than he found it;
Who has looked for the best in others and given the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration,
Whose memory is a benediction.

Stevenson was clearly describing a mentor. I know because having mentors has been invaluable to me, and I only hope that I have fulfilled my responsibility of being a mentor to others along the way.