Keeping Mentoring and Coaching Goals Up to Date

July 26th, 2011   •   Comments Off on Keeping Mentoring and Coaching Goals Up to Date   

by Rik Nemanick, Ph.D.

Setting goals is a dynamic process that does not end with them being written down. To be motivating over time, goals must be reexamined periodically to both keep them in front of you and ensure they are up to date. Good goals will help guide coaching and mentoring conversations and keep the discussion headed in the right direction.

Mentoring Goal and Coaching GoalsBelow are some ideas on how to approach updating goals after working with a mentor or coach after six months to keep them relevant:

  • Revive. Often mentees pull their mentoring goals out partway through a mentoring cycle to realize they have forgotten one of the goals. This situation is not uncommon if a mentee sets multiple development goals, as one will often dominate more of the conversations than another. Decide if this goal is still relevant, and whether you should devote energy to it.
  • Revise. Sometimes protégés set goals that were too ambitious to accomplish within a year. Other times, they find the goal was not ambitious enough, and had been accomplished early in the mentoring process. If the goal itself is still relevant, you may want to either scale it back to be more reasonable or extend it to get to the next level.
  • Rebuild. You might find the goals you set at the beginning are no longer relevant because circumstances have changed around you. If this is the case, you may want to step back and decide where your energy should be spent going forward. You may want to build new goals that better reflect your current reality.
  • Reaffirm. Mentees also find that their goals are still relevant and that they are making good progress toward them. A good exercise midway through a mentoring process is to look back at the progress that has been made and look forward to the next steps toward the ultimate outcome.

Even if you find yourself revising or rebuilding your goals, you should still take stock of the progress you made toward the original goals you set, and celebrate the success you had. As Dr. Benjamin Mays said, “The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”

Mentoring at a Distance

July 25th, 2011   •   no comments   

Making Long-Distance Mentoring Work

by Rik Nemanick, Ph.D.

 When I first began working with mentoring programs, I was convinced that one of the most important ingredients in successful mentoring was the face-to-face interaction between mentor and protégé. At the time, I couldn’t find any good examples of mentoring pairs making such interactions work. Over the years, I have had a number of clients who have begun to experiment with long-distance mentoring, and I have gained a new appreciation for it. As companies become more global and technology has allowed for more work at a distance including mentoring relationships. Our firm is currently working with several programs where at least 1/3 of the partnerships are at a distance (meaning the mentor and mentee are not in the same geographic location and the majority of their mentoring is conducted over the phone), and one program that is exclusively at a distance. This last program is a global program, where mentors and protégés are separated by geography, culture, and time zones. They do not actually meet face-to-face during the course of the program, instead of conducting all of their mentoring over the phone.

We have obtained some preliminary findings from these mentoring programs about the quality of the mentoring experience. From the studies we have conducted, mentors and protégés who work at a distance experience the same level of satisfaction with their mentoring as those who meet face-to-face. In a few instances, the mentor group who worked at a distance were more satisfied than their face-to-face peers. From conversations with participants in our programs, it seems several factors may be contributing to the success the distance pairs are having. First, mentors and mentees are less likely to cancel a phone call versus an in-person meeting because it is a lower time commitment. An hour-long mentoring call is generally just that: an hour long. For an in person meeting, many mentors and protégés generally have 5 to 20 minutes of travel time on either end of the meeting, and may have to schedule other meetings around that meeting. Given busy schedules, an in-person meeting is more likely to get canceled.

Also, mentees who are scheduling phone calls over several time zones tend to schedule them at the peripheries of the day (before work or after work), making them less likely to compete with other meetings. There was a pair where the mentor was in St. Louis and the mentee was in London. On days when they had a mentoring call scheduled, the mentor would come to work at 7:00 AM to make her call. Finally, if you are on the phone, you likely have your calendar in front of you, making it easier to schedule the next call (if the schedule isn’t already set). People often forget to bring their calendars to in-person meetings, making scheduling the next interaction more challenging.

Below are some of the keys to remember when mentoring at a distance:

  • Schedule many meetings ahead, maybe even the whole year at the beginning.
  • Schedule meetings at the beginning or end of the day where they will be less likely to get canceled.
  • Schedule more meetings than you think you’ll need and give yourself permission to cancel some.
  • Exchange photographs early on. We form stronger connections when we can put a face with a name (or a voice).
  • Take advantage of different communication technology to enhance mentoring (video conferencing, net meetings, etc.).
  • Use instant messaging or other media to let your partner know you are in the office. A protégé can ping his mentor to see if she is available for an impromptu call, emulating the spontaneity of an in-person drop-in.
  • When working at a distance, look for opportunities to meet face-to-face in your normal course of travels.

A few more tips on distance mentoring can be found in a 2003 article in Healthcare Executive, linked here.

Leadership in Practice: Mark Swindell of Pfizer

July 11th, 2011   •   no comments   

Leadership in Practice

A Conversation with Mark Swindell, President, Pfizer Vaccines

Q: Can you give me a two minute synopsis of how you got to where you are now?

A: My current role is president of Pfizer Vaccines. I joined American Cyanamid in 1983, which was acquired by Wyeth in the mid 1990s. Wyeth was acquired by Pfizer late last year. What got me to where I am now is three things: a little bit of luck, a lot of hard work, and the confidence on occasion to take calculated risks. I began my career in finance in the UK.  I took a decision 5 or 6 years into my career to move out of finance and take a commercial role. I worked in sales and brand management for a while, and then had the opportunity to transition from the UK to the United States back in late 1997. Those risks by and large I think have paid off for me.

 Q: How has your leadership style changed over the years? What have you learned?

A: When you begin a career, it is about what you can do, your technical or functional expertise. What you realize as you start to move north in an organization is that it is no longer just about you, it is about the people around you.  You can’t do it all yourself.  If you try to, you will short change yourself and your team.  So, it is about agreeing on the goal, discussing an approach, and then giving people a little bit of room to walk right within certain boundaries.  For me the boundaries are already set by whatever the organizational values are.

 Q: What role does leadership play in those values?

A: Leadership is about setting a vision, which is much more motivating if it goes beyond simply saying we want to be the biggest or we want to sell the most.  The vision that I have tried to establish with the vaccine team is that we want to be remembered as a company that has eradicated certain devastating diseases. That is a big stretch. The eradication of disease is something that sometimes takes generations to achieve, but it is something that the people in the company, and indeed a lot of our external stakeholders, rally around as an inspirational cry. Number two is to set the tone. Great leaders are role models for the people that they work with.  They are authentic; you have to be yourself. If you are not authentic, you get found out pretty quickly. The other thing is the need to be situational, to recognize that, over time, situations vary and you need to modify your management style. You need certain consistency, but you need a certain flexibility at the same time, managing that yin and yang.

 Q: Who have your mentors been, and what impact have they had on you?

A: The person who had the greatest impact on me professionally is a gentleman I first got to know when I was working at Cyanamid in the UK. He took an interest in me and he and I hit it off right out of the gates. He was a tremendous listener.  We would talk about stuff that was going on in my world. I don’t think he ever came up with a solution. He was very good at  helping me find the solution, to see the bigger picture, to identify the big pros and the potential cons of certain situations, and then to come to my own decision.  I ended up actually working for him directly several years later and, as a boss, he was tremendous in terms of helping me appreciate the big picture, the importance of effective delegation and trust in people, and intense interest in talent development.

 Q: What role does mentoring play in your own leadership?

A: Mentoring is something that I have benefited from myself enormously as I have grown and risen up the ranks of Wyeth and now at Pfizer. I make myself available to a selected number of people. I don’t think you can do this for tons of people, certainly can’t do it for hundreds of people, but for a few people to take that intense interest in where they are, what their issues are, and to help them weigh their options, but to always allow them to make their own decisions.

 Q: How are you developing the next generation of leaders?

A: In my generation, there was more of a straight line through the organization. You could be a sales representative, then a district manager, then a regional manager, then head of sales. That is no longer the optimal way to develop your sales leadership.  What we are trying to do is to give people a broad set of experiences, multiple functions, different geographies ideally, multiple different business units within the organization, so that you have a much more rounded set of experiences as you move through the organization.

 Q: Was there anything else you would like to add about your take on leadership?

A: I think leadership is a tremendous gift when you are given the opportunity, and it also comes with tremendous responsibility.  I think the people who thrive are the people that never underestimate the responsibility, but are truly motivated by the opportunity that the gift presents.

Note: This interview reflects the opinions of Mark Swindell personally and does not necessarily express the views of Pfizer Inc. This conversation does not constitute an endorsement of The Leadership Effect, its business or services by Pfizer Inc.

Helping Managers Tackle Performance Problems

July 5th, 2011   •   no comments   

Underperforming employees are tremendous resource drains on your business. Countless management hours and dollars are spent trying to “fix” employees who, at best, don’t perform up to standards and, at worst, are sources of constant aggravation and frustration for those around them.

Join Rik Nemanick and Bob Grace, principals of The Leadership Effect, to learn what tools leaders have for managing challenging employees. Rik and Bob will share their experience from coaching hundreds of managers at organizations like Monsanto, Edward Jones, Bunge, and Covidien as they explore tools to manage performance problems.

Date & Time

September 22, 2011 – 7:30 to 9:30 AM

No Cost
The Leadership Effect is making this program available at no cost, but seating is limited.

Coffee and pastries from Soulard Coffee Garden will be provided.

Opinions, Incorporated
716 Geyer Avenue
St. Louis, MO


Leadership in Practice: Christine Duffy of Maritz

July 5th, 2011   •   no comments   

Leadership in Practice: A Conversation with Christine Duffy, CEO, Maritz Travel Company

Q: Can you give me a quick synopsis of how you got to Maritz?

A: I started with a company called McGettigan back in 1982, which was a travel business in Philadelphia. I was a project manager working with customers and managing programs in a small group that started with 5 people that focused on the group travel business. I started on the front-line, and we grew that business to 500 people over 20 years. We had offices around the country and about $250 million in revenue. In 2001, when McGettigan was acquired by Maritz, I was president and chief operating officer. My plan was to stay for three years to do the integration and at the end of three years Steve Maritz asked me to come to be president and CEO of Maritz Travel Company.

 Q: How has your style changed over the years from when you first started managing people to today?

A: The opportunity to start from the ground up has given me a different perspective about leading the business. Having started the way I did where you do all of the jobs, my style tended to be much more hands on. As you grow as a leader and you take on more responsibility and broader scope, you quickly figure out that you can no longer be the expert. Your job is really to surround yourself with the right people and then support and empower them to do their job. That actually allows you to handle a much greater scope of work and responsibility.

 Q: What have you found to be the best way to identify the right people with whom to surround yourself

A: For me it has been surrounding myself with people that have different strengths than I do. There is always a tendency to put people in positions that are like you. I believe there are different leaders needed for different times I believe in the idea of surrounding yourself with people who compliment each other’s skills, respect the differences, and creating an environment as a leader where people are comfortable saying what they believe and being willing to step out there and have a different opinion than even the leader.

 Q: How has leading Maritz Travel through this difficult economic period affected your leadership?

A: It has been difficult because our business is our people. When you go through downturns like this, we have had pay cuts, we have had furloughs. It is very difficult to implement those kinds of decisions. We have needed to be extremely transparent, honest, and open, communicating the good, the bad, and the ugly. Building that sense of trust, even though it is painful for people, has served us well. We have been able to keep our people engaged, we have had kept our customer satisfaction scores as high or higher even though we have got fewer people doing more work.

 Q: Have you had any mentors who have had an impact on you?

A: The leader that I had at McGettigan, John Pino, was my primary mentor. He is very much an entrepreneur and visionary leader. He empowered me and gave me a lot of rope to make decisions and take on new assignments. Knowing that your leader trusts you meant it was always so important never to let him down.

 Q: So what role does mentoring play in your leadership style?

A: I am a woman running a business the size of Maritz Travel. I have a sense of purpose and responsibility that how I show up and what I do and what I say is watched by many.  I think I have been able to do something during my career that have helped people believe that they, too, can rise to whatever level of leadership that they aspire to.

 Q: How would you describe the leadership culture you are trying to create with your team?

A: We want to make sure we have people with different backgrounds and different skill sets and create an environment where it is okay to speak your mind. To not have a political environment where it is more about who you are connected to and who you have access to, and for all of our leaders to be very approachable.

 Q: How does that culture impact your business?

A: I think a big deal is how do you keep people engaged when you are asking them to do more with less. You are asking people to make personal sacrifice. You are asking people to believe in a future that they can’t always see. For me the most valuable thing as the leader of our business is that people trust that my intent is always to do the right thing for the business and for our people.  We will make mistakes.  We will take chances or make bets that may not work out. We have external factors that have impact on our business that can be negative or positive to our people, but the idea that people have trust in leadership to me is the most important aspect.

 Q: What are you doing to develop the next generation then of leaders?  How do you prepare for the future?

A: I actually believe the next generation of leaders will be or look quite different than the past.  I really believe that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way organizations lead and manage the work force because the work force is going to look very different.  We see it in our business.  I see it in other companies.  There will be so much more movement for people into different jobs based on the kind of work they want to do. Success won’t just be measured by climbing up a ladder, but by looking at opportunities across. The people will be much better equipped and prepared for the next opportunity. I think part of the responsibility of companies in the future should be around preparing and helping people be equipped for their own futures.

 Q: Is there anything else you want to say about leadership?

A: People tend to look at the president or the leader of their organization and think somehow that these people either think they should have all the answers; the reality is developing as a leader is an ongoing journey that I don’t think ever ends.  I think it is something that good leaders are always looking for feedback and how do I do it better.