Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Would Your Peers Vote for You?

Most managers have taken a 360 degree leadership assessment at some point in their careers. You know, those surveys that are sent to your manager, direct reports, and peers, asking everyone to rate your leadership behaviors.

When you get your results, and tear open the report, begin to analyze the numbers, graphs, and comments, which rater groups do you tend to pay the most attention to?

Having debriefed over 1000 of these, and taken them myself, if you’re like most managers, you tend to zero in on your how your manager and your employees rate you. After all, your employee scores should be the most accurate reflection of your leadership capabilities, and let’s face it, at the end of the day, you’d better be meeting your manager’s expectations, right?

Well, here’s something that may convince you to pay more attention to those peer ratings and more importantly, change the way you relate to your peers.

A few years ago, I attended an executive development program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School called Leadership for Extraordinary Performance. We were all required to do a 360 assessment as a part of the program, using the Leadership Practices Inventory. As we reviewed the results in class, the instructors, Jack and Carol Weber, told us about a piece of research they did. Having conducted hundreds of these programs using the LPI, they decided to do a study to see which rater group – manager, direct reports, or peers – were the most significant predictors of promotability. They tracked down program graduates to see who had been promoted, and compared their 360 scores to those that had not been. The results were surprising them; but by now you’ve probably guessed the answer – it was peers!

That was a wake-up call for me, and changed the way I work with my peers and how I think about leadership development.

Scott Eblin, executive coach and author of the book “The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success”, says that newly promoted senior executives need to “look up, down, and sideways”. Most score well on the first two – working with their bosses and direct reports. But they often fail to look left and right; they don’t collaborate with peer department heads. And that’s a big mistake, according to Eblin. Leaving peers out of the decision making process eventually gets managers in trouble, and is a key reason why newly promoted execs fail the senior level.

Patrick Lencioni, consultant and author of the book “Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, has a similar perspective on the importance of peers. He says every manager has two teams; the one they lead, and the one they are a part of (their manager’s). Lencioni claims your #1 team as a manager should be your manager’s team, not your own. Our employees want us to work well with other departments, to remove silos and barriers that stand in the way of their success. When this doesn’t happen, they end up paying the price.

I see the power of peer respect and credibility play out in succession planning all the time. When I work with managers on their development plans, I’ll often ask them to think of a peer that that they see as a role model for a specific leadership competency (i.e., leadership presence, leading change, influence), and someone they would be willing to learn from. I've noticed they all tend to come up with the same few names. And those highly sought after managers are the very same ones at the top of our high potential lists, which end up getting promoted to the next level.

Are you convinced that you may want to re-think how you relate to your peers yet? If so, here’s 10 ways to get started:

1. Don’t try to outshine your peers with your manager. Instead, go out of your way to give them credit and point out their strengths and accomplishments.

2. Ask yourself: “Would my peers elect me to be their next leader?” If not, ask why, and commit to resolving those issues.

3. Start being an advocate for your peer’s work. People expect you to champion your own department and projects; they’ll be surprised when you take a stand for someone else’s pet project.

4. Don’t act or be siloed. Share information, ask for your peers input, and look for ways to collaborate and solve enterprise-wide problems.

5. Passionately defend your peers behind their backs. I know an executive that always said the sign of a healthy team is if they would get into a bar fight for each other.

6. Interact with every peer as if they are as competent and committed as you are.

7. Pay attention to your peers at meeting – listen as if they were your manager. Try watching the body language of your peers at meetings, and you’ll see what I mean by this. When your manager makes a joke, everyone laughs, right? Give your peers that same level of attention.

8. Have regular meetings with your peers to understand their goals, resolve issues, share your agendas, and to help each other out. These meetings can be brief (15 minutes) and informal, but go a long way in building trust.

9. Form “peer coaching” relationships with your peers. Pick something that each of you is good and the other one wants to get better at, and commit to learning from each other.

10. Lastly, don’t run around trying to act like your peer’s leader. You’re not, and you’ll come off being obnoxious. I’ve seen this happen when a “high potential” gets wind that they may be one of their manager’s successors. Although it’s done unconsciously and well intended, the reaction is usually “who the hell died and made you boss?”

Try it. Start showing up differently with your peers today. You’ll be a more complete leader, your peers will thank you for it, and you might even get promoted.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Ban on What Makes CEOs Successful Studies

I hereby announce a ban on “What makes CEOs successful” studies. Or at least the silly, misleading stories that report on the studies. Or the ones that I don’t like.

It seems there’s been a bunch of these recently, and I admit, I’m a sucker for them. I read ‘em all, and pass the interesting ones along to my readers.

This one, published as an Op-Ed in the May 18 New York Times, and picked up in today’s SmartBrief on Leadership, just put me over the edge. It’s not so much the study and findings… it’s the way journalists interpret and report the results.
And I admit, I’m guilty of doing the same thing. It’s a way to attract attention and be provocative. The problem is, it’s misleading, confusing to aspiring leaders, and irresponsible.

Here’s the teaser from SmartBrief:

Lovable CEOs don’t cut it

While executive coaches preach the importance of good people skills, the CEO traits linked to success are organizational and execution skills, such as attention to detail, efficiency, persistence and long hours, researchers conclude. "In other words, warm, flexible, team-oriented and empathetic people are less likely to thrive as CEOs," says David Brooks. "Organized, dogged, anal-retentive and slightly boring people are more likely to thrive."

The Times writer, David Brooks, goes on to say “Traits like being a good listener, a good team builder, an enthusiastic colleague, a great communicator do not seem to be very important when it comes to leading successful companies.”

OK, so we're now giving current and aspiring CEOs permission to be @#%holes!?

The characteristics the study actually correlated with CEO success were:

- Can execute
- Organizational skills
- Attention to detail
- Persistence
- Efficiency
- Analytic thoroughness
- The ability to work long hours (energy)
- Emotional stability
- Conscientiousness
- Provides clear direction
- Humble

So does this sound like unlovable, boring, and anal-retentive? To me, it describes many of the competencies of a successful executive. Not all of them, but there’s sure nothing new or surprising on the list.

I think we collectively need to spend less time studying what makes a successful CEO, or leader, and more time developing those skills. It’s no secret, we already know! It's been studied, over and over. We’ve known for the last 20 years. Just take a credible research-based leadership competency model (DDI, CCL, PDI, Lominger, Linkage), adapt it to your organization, and focus your efforts on developing those skills.

So I swear, I’m going to try to stop, I really am. No more CEO studies.

And I’m going to stop eating chocolate cake, chicken wings, and Doritos and take off that 5 pounds I’ve been trying to lose.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Here’s a CEO That Gets Leadership Development: 3M CEO George Buckley

From Today’s USA Today: 3M CEO George Buckley Focuses on Leadership Training.

The headline is a little misleading…. it’s not just about leadership training, it’s about leadership development, and I have to tell you, this guy really gets it.

3M is the company that placed #1 is the annual Hay Group/CEO Magazine 2008 Best Companies for Leaders survey. They jumped from #15 in 2007, partly because of a change in the ranking methodology, but I suspect also because their leadership development efforts are starting to bear fruit.

Buckley became CEO at 3M in 2005, taking over from Jim McNerney. Prior to that, he had executive positions at British Rail, Emerson, and Brunswick Corporation, where he was CEO. Here’s an interview he did with CEO Magazine after they “won” the award.

Believe me, I’ve read these CEO interviews where they preach the virtues of leadership and leadership development. Some of them sound like they’re reading straight from a script that the head of HR wrote for them. I can sniff ‘em out…. this one is legit.

Here’s why I think so:

1. His approach to leadership development sounds like it’s based on his own experience (mostly at Emerson), as well as fundamentally sound leadership development practices. Sometimes I see one or the other… practices based on unique experiences that don’t transfer organizationally, or good theory that contradicts a CEOs personal reality.

2. He practices leadership development through changing assignments, but believes executives should stay in a job for about four years, in order to experience failure (the best teacher) and sustained success. His predecessor liked to move people around every year or so - musical chairs leadership development – which can be disruptive to the business and yield limited return on the development investment.

3. He invests his time and money in leadership development – not just lip service. He personally spends about one fifth of his time on talent management issues. He spends time teaching and expects others to. Twice a year, he spends 3-5 days reviewing talent.

Even while they are cutting jobs, 3M is not cutting back on leadership development. Why? “It's a little like having double vision. One eye has to focus on today. The other eye has got to focus on tomorrow. Another analogy I often use: My head's in the oven, and my feet are in ice water, but on average I feel OK. Organizations don't fail on averages. It's vital these days for companies to watch costs, and watch cash even more than costs. It's more important to invest to differentiate yourself from the competition. In a 2% recession, you have 98% of the business left. In a 5% recession you have 95% of the business left. You have to focus on what's left, not on what's gone. You're unlikely to do that well if you back off on training and leadership development.”

Here’s another awesome quote: “Years ago, when I worked at Brunswick, I was asked, "George, it's a tough time right now. Should we be spending money on training? What if these people leave the company?" My answer was, "What if we don't, and they stay?"

4. He’s not just focusing on his own replacement, or replacements for C positions. At 3M, they help leaders two to four levels below the CEO develop and transition into new roles. There’s the belief that every employee has the potential to be a leader, and that everyone is responsible for leadership development (not just HR).

5. He knows the difference between what can’t be developed (intelligence, morals) and what can (just about everything else).

At a former company, an HR VP asked me if I could have just ONE thing that would have the biggest impact on the development of our leaders, what would it be? I told her a new CEO. While it wasn’t the best political answer, it’s true. Without CEO commitment, nothing else matters. With it, even a mediocre systems and programs will work.

However, I suspect 3M had a pretty good system and programs before Buckley arrived, and they wouldn’t be as successful without the guidance of Sandy Tokach, the company’s vice president of talent development/organizational effectiveness. Behind every CEO and company that wins awards for leadership development, there’s always a supporting cast behind the scenes putting the infrastructure in place and making it all happen.

That’s leadership development match made in heaven – a committed CEO and a talented HR supporting cast.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Heart of Leadership

Terry Pearce, author of Leading Out Loud, one of my favorite books on leadership and presentation skills, defines leadership as “seeing what is needed (vision) and inspiring others to take action to effect change”.

In order to convince others to change, leaders need to appeal to people’s heads and their hearts. You can't just give them data, facts, logic, and return on investment. The most logical argument won't persuade people unless you've also connected with them on an emotional level.

In fact, emotions play an even more powerful role in human decision making than facts, numbers, and a rational assessment of a proposal's benefits.
Here's four reasons why:

1. Emotion-evoking presentations—such as gripping stories—are more interesting and memorable than statistics and facts.

2. Emotion tends to prompt behavioral changes more quickly than logical appeals do.

3. Responding emotionally requires less effort than logically weighing the pros and cons of a presentation.

4. Emotion-arousing arguments distract people from noticing the speaker's intention to persuade.

In the most successful persuasive situations, people first accept the presenter's proposal unconsciously, based on their emotional response. Then they justify their decision based on a logical assessment of the facts.

The language you choose and the way you compose your argument exert a major impact on listeners' emotions. The following language tools will help to reach people on an emotional level:

Vivid descriptions
Words that paint evocative images in people's minds—deeply tap into listeners' emotions. Describe it the way you would describe a powerful scene in one of your favorite movies.

A metaphor is an imaginative way of describing something as something else, for example, "Time is money." Organizing metaphors are overarching worldviews that shape a person's everyday actions; for instance, "Business is war."

Here are 3 ways to change someone's worldview:

1. Identify a compelling replacement metaphor; for example, "business as partnership." This metaphor focuses a business's efforts on building win-win relationships with key stakeholders, rather than on defeating competitors.

2. Highlight the weaknesses of your audience's worldview using their metaphor. For example, "By focusing on the our competitors instead of customer support, we've allowed our customer-satisfaction levels to fall."

3. Provide examples of other companies that have achieved success using your replacement metaphor, as in "Our competitor's sales have increased 18% since they appointed account managers to collaborate with the sales team."

Replacing someone's organizing metaphor is never easy—people cling tightly to their worldviews. But by providing powerful evidence of the flaws in an existing metaphor and the veracity of the new one, you can persuade others to at least consider a different outlook.

Analogies—comparisons that include the words "like" or "as"—enable you to relate a new idea to one that's already familiar to your audience. Analogies help people understand and therefore accept a new idea. Analogies also engender feelings of familiarity, which many people find reassuring.

Incongruous analogies and those that use humor are all the more memorable. For example, when Benjamin Franklin once said, "Fish and visitors start to smell in three days," he delivered a vivid message of why people tire of visitors who outstay their welcome.

Stories also help make presentations come alive and drive messages home. They can accomplish the following:
- Grab listeners' attention with riveting plots and characters audiences can relate to
- Simplify complex ideas and make them concrete
- Evoke powerful emotions among listeners
- Stay in your audience's mind long after the facts have been forgotten

So remember: use data, facts, and logic to win their heads; but it’s even more important that you connect with your audience's emotions and win their hearts.

(Adapted from
Harvard ManageMentor's , a great online learning resource for managers)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What Type of CEOs Make Money for Investors?

I found the following study in a recent book called “Who: The A Method for Hiring”, by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, from the management assessment firm ghSMART. Geoff is the son of Brad Smart, a frequent guest blogger on Great Leadership.

While I worry that managers might not read this carefully and jump to the wrong conclusions, it’s worth reading and considering. Take a look and let me know what you think.

What Type of CEOs Make Money for Investors?

If you are a CEO, or want to become one, you may find this enlightening. We conducted the largest study ever done, pairing in-depth assessments of CEO traits with financial performance. What we found may make your head spin. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

To learn whether there is indeed a profile that can predict CEO success, we teamed up with Steve Kaplan, professor of entrepreneurship and finance at the University of Chicago, and his collaborators, professor Morton Sorensen and research assistant Mark Klebanov. Together, we analyzed the data from 313 Topgrading interviews we conducted on private-equity-backed CEOs from 2000-2005. Then we matched the CEO assessments with the actual financial performance they delivered, which we tracked down with permission from our clients.

The results were compelling and controversial. In fact, The Wall Street Journal ran a half-page article about this on November 19, 2007, that attracted a lot of attention.

Boards and investors have a tendency to invest in CEOs who demonstrate openness to feedback, possess great listening skills, and treat people with respect. These executives have mastered the soft skills. We call them “Lambs” because these CEOs tend to graze in circles, feeding on the feedback and direction of others. (Note from Dan: I hate the “Lamb” label!)

Boards love lambs because they are so easy to work with, and in fact, in our study Lambs were successful 57 percent of the time. That is not a bad success rate. A batter who hit .570 over a career could walk backward into the Hall of Fame.

The second dominant profile that emerged from our analysis was of CEOs who move quickly, act aggressively, work hard, demonstrate persistence, and set high standards and hold people accountable to them. We call these CEOs “Cheetahs” because they are fast and focused.

Cheetahs in out study were successful 100 percent of the time. This is not a rounding error. Every single one of them created significant value for their investors.

Conventional wisdom holds that the sort of emotional intelligence Lambs show is the critically important leadership quality. In fact, our analysis agues otherwise. Emotional intelligence is important, but only when matched with the propensity to get things done. Too many executives have fallen into the trap of accentuating their lamb skills at the expense of their Cheetah qualities. They work hard to stay in tune with their employees. They’re well liked on the shop floor and in the boardroom. There’s only one problem: they don’t produce value at anywhere near the rate Cheetahs do.

This isn’t to say that Cheetahs lack soft skills. To the contrary, they are talented people whose soft skills played a critical role in their ascent to the top job. The difference, though, is that Cheetahs know when it is time to stop asking for feedback and to attack a target to achieve key outcomes that move a company forward.

The characteristics that make up a Cheetah or a Lamb were statistically significant predictors of success in the job. Steve Kaplan and his team have presented these findings at the University of Chicago, Harvard, Wharton, and Kellogg. We know the results hold true in private equity, and plan to study how extensible these findings are to public-company CEOs. In the meantime, you might consider how these findings apply to you.

Should you always want to be a Cheetah, or do you always want to hire a Cheetah? No. (Note from Dan: this is an important point. Most of the assessment work that ghSMART does is for private equity firms looking for CEOs to turn around troubled buy-out companies. So in these kinds of leadership challenges, a tougher, more directive style would be needed. That doesn’t mean the same approach would work in all situations.)

But if you have the choice to be or hire somebody who errs on the side of being too fast and focused versus being too slow and extremely collaborative, we recommend going with the fast and focused option. In this fast-paced age of business in which we all exist, it appears that speed and focus really count when it comes to delivering great financial results.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Female Leaders: A Rocky Climb to the Top

The deck is stacked against women from the earliest days of their careers, according to new research from DDI. Gender discrimination still prevails in organizations around the world, but is now behind closed doors and preventing female leaders from reaching their highest point.

The new report, Holding Women Back: Troubling Discoveries and Best Practices for Helping Female Leaders Succeed, was prompted by compelling data uncovered by DDI's Global Leadership Forecast 2008/2009 study, which surveyed more than 12,000 leaders from 76 countries.

In the following article, DDI's Chief Scientist and the report's co-author, Ann Howard, provides an overview of the study's startling findings, and offers advice for bucking this trend.

Read the article and watch a video summary:

So what do you think? When it comes to leadership development, is the deck stacked against female leaders? Cast your vote here:

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Leadership Lessons from Mom

I'd like to introduce a new leadership development blog, Leadertalk, written by Rebecca Robinson, from Mountain State University. I have the feeling this one's going to catch on, and I've added it to my blogroll.

In honor of all the Moms (including my own), here's a two part post Becky wrote for Mother's day:

Leadership lessons from Motherhood - Part 1

My friend Lisa is the head of a small corporation in a position valued in the 6 figures. She is also a stay at home mom. Salary.com has a new way to figure out the value of a mom's work. Their annual survey details the wages an employer would have to pay to perform all of a mother's duties. The total for a stay at home mom: $122,732.

According to the survey, the job titles that best match a mother's responsibilities are Laundry Machine Operator, Janitor, Van Driver, Housekeeper, Computer Operator, Cook, Day Care Center Teacher, Facilities Manager, Psychologist—and Chief Executive Officer.

As a CEO, a mom maximizes resources, oversees day to day operations, plans for the future, sets goals, and creates a family culture and identity. The best moms are great leaders, and the lessons we learn from them are useful in any leadership setting.

Great moms (leaders) use words and actions to clearly communicate the vision and values of their family (company). As a leader helps his employees understand the mission of the corporation, a mother provides a framework to help children understand the world around them. As moms, we help our children understand what is important to us both explicitly - "In our family, we use kind words" and implicitly, by modeling appropriate behavior.

Read the rest of post here.

Leadership Lessons from Mom - Part 2

Yesterday, I asked the question: What is a mom's most important work? And the answer is complex; often behind-the-scenes, moms are helping to shape the lives and character of their children. Their roles as leaders are obvious. These leadership lessons from moms can be good tools to put into practice for people who want to make a difference in their families, communities, or organizations.

Great moms (leaders) build a cohesive team. Teamwork is important in companies and families. To get things done, people need to work together well. Effective leaders facilitate teamwork by encouraging cooperation among people and departments. People who are proud of their company and their place in it work harder to achieve the company's mission. Parents can promote a team mentality in their families by helping their children develop kind and caring relationships with each other and providing opportunities to work and play together.

Read the rest of this one here, and more on leadership and leadership development. Welcome to the blogosphere, Leadertalk!

I'd also like to introduce another new blog, 2nd Ladder, for those interested in starting a second career. It's written by Bill Matthies, author of Business Widom.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Leader of the Future: Ten skills to begin developing now

Thanks to new blogger Loraine Antrim for letting me know an article that I wrote for CW Bulletin was just published.

Here's a link to the site and article, and you can read it right here as well.

The Leader of the Future: Ten skills to begin developing now
by Dan McCarthy

What will tomorrow’s successful leader look like? As the Baby Boomer generation continues to transition to retirement and we prepare to hand off the baton of leadership to a new generation, what skills and knowledge will they need to meet the challenges of the future?

To answer that question, we have to take a look at what is not going to change about leadership success. In their book, The Leadership Machine, Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger make the case that the fundamental competencies and skills that lead to effective management and leadership have not changed at all throughout history, and probably never will. Lombardo and Eichinger write, “Throughout the history of layered and organized work, there have always been start-ups, shutdowns, acquisitions, divestitures, expansion, new technologies, contractions, conflict, and consolidations. Each of these situations—although across a wide range of time, content, settings, and contexts—requires the same set of skills. Hannibal taking the elephants over the Alps was a start-up requiring the same skills (and maybe more) as any modern start-up.”

There are a number of research-based leadership competency models that clearly spell out what those critical, never-changing skills are. The Center for Creative Leadership, Development Dimensions International, Personnel Decisions Inc., Hay-McBer and Lominger all have excellent, proven leadership competency models. About 85 percent of the skills listed are the same across all of these models. Things like energy and drive, intellect, decision-making and problem-solving skills, resiliency, and the ability to communicate effectively have always mattered and always will.

What will differ is not what the skills are, but how much they matter in a future that is dominated by rapid change, globalization, economic uncertainty and seismic technological shifts.

While no one can accurately predict the future, we can at least take a look at what’s going on today and take our best guess at what tomorrow’s leadership challenges may require.

Here are 10 skills an aspiring leader can begin developing now in order to be ready to receive that leadership baton in the future:

1. Get global. We are already operating in a global economy; there’s no such thing as a “domestic” business or organization. The world around us affects us all. Get a passport; travel; learn a second language; sell, trade or make something outside of your home country; study abroad; be the first to volunteer for that expatriate assignment.

2. Financial acumen. Can we assume that today’s leaders might have been lacking in the basics of finance, accounting and economics? Or perhaps they’ve delegated this unglamorous part of the job to the so-called experts? Either way, it’s time to get out your graphic calculators from high school and learn how to use them again.

3. Character matters. Character trumps skills every time, and tomorrow’s followers will demand integrity, trust, honesty, self-confidence and loyalty to principles from their leaders. They will also hold tomorrow’s leaders accountable for these values.

4. Technological mastery. Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, and other emerging technologies bring new opportunities to market, sell, communicate, network, partner, innovate, solve problems and lead change. Stay on top of new technologies, experiment, participate and play—even if there’s no apparent practical application (e.g., Are you Twittering yet?).

5. Develop resiliency. The ability to learn and recover from setbacks has always been the key differentiator between successful and average performers. Leaders will need to take risks, be willing to fail, admit their mistakes, learn and move on. Start doing this now. Don’t become paralyzed by mistakes; you’re going to make a lot of them.

6. Shared leadership. The leader of the future won’t be able to do it alone. Leaders will need to recruit and develop strong, diverse teams and be willing to give power away. The current U.S. treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, is learning the hard way about the perils of trying to do everything himself.

7. Learn to surf (lead change). This one seems so obvious, it may not even be worth mentioning. We can safely assume that the waves of change will keep coming at us, faster and bigger, with tsunami-like intensity, so leaders are going to have to learn to ride those waves and lead change like never before.

8. Information synthesis. A key challenge for leaders of the future will be information overload. They’ll need to be able to filter and prioritize what’s important, as well as what’s real, and find meaning in all of that data.

9. Ongoing learning and renewal. Formal education can’t stop after graduate school. Leaders will need to devote at least 20 percent of their time to studying, and then be able to incorporate what they’ve learned to continuously reinvent themselves.

10. Partnering. Leaders will need to be able to reach out, collaborate, build coalitions and put their own self-interest aside for the greater good of the organization. The old rules of “winner takes all” negotiation no longer work. Leaders will need to master listening, empathy and the ability to come up with creative win-win solutions.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How to Get the Most Out of a Conference

I'm on tour this week, giving leadership development presentations at two conferences. Yes, even during these challenging times, people are still attending conferences, although the industry is really hurting.

Having attended a lot of these things over the last 20 years, and talked to a few conference first-timers, I thought I would share a few tips on how to get the most out of attending a conference.

1. Choose your conference wisely. Criteria to consider:
- Are the topics a good match for the hot issues and problems you are working on?
- Carefully scrutinize the speakers. Look beyond the handful of rock start keynotes. I prefer a good balance of internal practitioners and external consultants and academics. Don't fall for the sexy topic titles - check out the speaker's background and full session descriptions.
- Talk to a couple past attendees if you can
- It's usually a good sign if the conference has been around for a while, i.e., "the tenth annual..."
- Lot's of networking opportunities, formal and informal
- Value. Could you justify the ROI to your Mom (or your CFO)?
- Location and amenities

2. Take time to to explore and experience the surrounding area. Arrive a day early if you can, or stay a day later. You don't want to travel 1000 miles to someplace you've never been and only see the airport and hotel/conference center. Do some online research, get familiar with the area, print your maps, and allow yourself to be a tourist.

3. Try to suspend your judgement, be open minded, curious, and open to possibilities. We all have the natural tendency to want to evaluate - just don't do it too soon. Try not to be overly skeptical or cynical - you may miss out on some great opportunities.

4. Watch your diet and stay fit. It's OK to indulge a little and sample the goodies, just do it in moderation. I always bring my running gear and find the time to get a few miles in. Even a daily walk is better than nothing.

5. Force yourself to network. This is where you may get the most value from a conference, so don't waste the opportunity. I'm a natural introvert, so believe me, I know how hard this is for a lot of people. Try to keep in mind, that at least half of the attendees are the same way. Ask a lot of questions and be a good listener and you'll do fine. Don't just hang out with people you know. Stay off your cell phone on breaks. Bring a lot of business cards, collect them, and make notes on the back of the cards for follow-up.

6. Don't be one of those attendees that race up and down the trade show isles with a shopping bag, avoiding eye contact with the vendors, and grabbing handfuls of useless junk. Stop and talk to the vendors, ask questions, be courteous, and represent your company in a professional way. Sure, help yourself to the goodies, just don't get carried away. And if you're nice, they may even give you one of the premium goodies they hide under the table.

7. Keep a running list of ideas, insights, and action items; your key take-a-ways from each day.

8. Have fun, but be on your best behavior. It's not spring break. If you're tempted, don't do it. A little alcohol is good to loosen up in the evening during the reception; too much and you might make an ass out of yourself. Don't be that person.

9. Ship your stuff back to your office. If there are binders and other materials, such as books you’ve purchased, arrange to have them sent back to your office. Find a nearby shipping store, and drop off your stuff the day before you leave. This saves you the burden of packing 10 lbs of stuff into your luggage or carryon. Sometimes the conference center has a little office that will do this for you.

10. Don't forget to thank your manager for allowing you to attend. Leave a voice mail with a summary of how you are benefiting from the experience and how much your appreciate the opportunity.

11. Share something with your team or coworkers. Write a summary or do a presentation on what your learned. And bring gifts for your family of loved ones. They've been the minding the store while you've been away.

12. If you can, offer to be a presenter, break-out facilitator, discussion moderator, or any opportunity to get involved. It's a good way to build your professional reputation and enhance your networking opportunities.

How about you? How do you get the most out of a conference?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Why Mentor?

This guest post is by Misti Burmeister, author, speaker, and coach extraordinaire. She's the author of the bestseller "From Boomers To Bloggers", and owner of Inspirion Inc, a Virginia-based, woman-owned business delivering customized leadership development programs, executive coaching, and keynote speeches.

I had a chance to speak with Misti and came away so impressed by her track record of success, her passion for what she does, and her expertise in workplace generational issues.

In this post, Misti offers a provides a solid business case for mentoring and tips on how to increase your chances of success as a mentor.

You shouldn’t mentor! That is, unless you can see how critical mentoring has become both to young professionals seeking to understand the business world and seasoned professionals eager to learn new, innovative technology.

You might consider mentoring if you know what you have to offer and are eager to share what you know with someone else. You will, without question, be an exceptional mentor if you are ready to receive all the rewards that come when you help someone else. You should only mentor if you care about the long-term success of your organization.

“More than 60% of college and graduate students listed mentoring as a criterion for selecting an employer after graduation” (Source: MMHA)

“76% of Fortune’s top 25 companies offer mentoring programs” (Source: Fortune)

“96% of executives say mentoring is an important development tool” (Source: AccountTemps)

“77% of companies report that mentoring programs were effective in increasing retention” (Source: The Center for Creative Leadership)

“35% of employees who do not receive regular mentoring look for another job within 12 months” (Source: Emerging Workforce study by Spherion)

“62% of employees who have received mentoring say they are very likely to stay with their current employer” (Source: Yellowbrick)

“75% of executives point to mentoring as playing a key role in their careers” (Source: ASTD)

For those of you who have clearly decided that mentoring is for you, here are three tips to increase the chances of huge success as a mentor:

Tip One: Know What You Have To Offer. Before deciding to become a mentor, take 30 minutes to write down all the skills/experiences you have to offer. At the end of the 30 minutes, circle the skills/experiences you want to share. This will offer a fantastic foundation for the mentoring relationship. I also encourage you to create a list of skills/experiences you would like to gain – you never know, this could be a great reverse mentoring relationship – you can learn from each other.

Tip Two: Learn What Your Mentee Is Hoping To Gain. Whether you are participating in a mentoring program within an organization or you are looking to mentor outside the context of a formal mentoring program, it’s essential to learn about what your mentee is hoping to gain from you as their mentor. What kind of skills/experiences are they hoping to gain? Perhaps they want to gain your perspective on their experiences as they go along – either way, it’s important to be clear about what they want to gain.

Tip Three: Set Clear Expectations. The vast majority of mentoring relationships fail miserably because expectations were not clear. It’s important that both the mentor and mentee are clear about what they are hoping to gain from the relationship. Sometimes mentees are hoping for certain connections or possibly even a promotion as a result of the mentoring relationship. I highly discourage professionals from entering mentoring relationships for this reason. Instead, focus on the skills and experiences each would like to gain from the relationship. As a mentor, know what you have and want to offer, communicate it clearly and take the time to learn what your mentee is hoping to gain.

Bonus Tip: Get An Outsider’s Point of View. Mentoring relationships can sometimes present challenges. It’s hugely valuable to have someone to bounce ideas off when things are not going as planned. You can seek this kind of support in an executive coach – you can also ask someone you highly respect to provide an unbiased point of view. It’s important that your “outsider” be committed to the success of the mentoring relationship – not simply committed to making you right!

“For every two Baby Boomers leaving the workforce only one young professional will fill their spot.” – Census data

The vast majority of today’s young professionals are in serious need of strong mentors. That is, those willing to help them see how to successfully navigate their careers. They need the guidance and are eager to gain your support. Since the majority of them have never received feedback and many of them have never been allowed to experience failure, they need someone who is willing and able to help them grow.

Fortunately, their growth is a huge advantage to any company or leader. The more time and energy you put into your people, the more they will give you.

Rock on!

Misti Burmeister