Friday Five: A Metaphor is Worth a Thousand Pictures!

Introducing a new series on this blog – Friday Five – where I will curate five articles (with excerpts)/quotes/tweets shared on my personal learning network each week that I found particularly useful, and hopefully you will find some of them valuable too!

Noam Chomsky on The Purpose of Education

“In the colleges, in the schools, do you train for passing tests, or do you train for creative inquiry?”

Such a relevant question for the anxious times we live in where success is not assured by what certificates/degrees you carry but by the value you are able to create out of what you know. A great read!

Quote by Dr Peter Fuda ‏on Twitter

“If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then a metaphor’s worth a thousand pictures.”

Finding right visual metaphors for the message has been a constant (and worthwhile) struggle when creating visual notes

The Untold Costs of Social Networking – Luis Suarez

That’s why blogging is so important nowadays for knowledge Web workers. It’s our home turf. It’s the only online space left out there where we get to set the rules and facilitate the conversations, as they happen, with your various different networks and communities, but without having an intermediary that you know the moment you make use of it is going to abuse your rights (whatever those may well be), whether you like it or not, because, after all, we are the product, remember?

There is always a hidden cost of mindlessly pursuing newer social network platforms when the value you and your community will derive out of it is not clear. For me, blogging has been a constant pursuit for last 10 years and Twitter is where I engage, interact and share.

Do You Need a Mentor or a Network? – Christy Tucker

In a networked world, our lifelong learning should take advantage of the availability of the network. In fact, you can probably learn more from a network than from a single person, even if you only learn a small amount from each individual in your network.

While I have had mentors in my life, I must say that I have learned the most from the communities that I engaged with. Your personal learning network keeps you updated with the latest thinking in your area of work, but the value of a good mentor cannot be undermined. I feel that we also need mentors to contextualize what we learn and enable us in delivering value to our organization/communities through our knowledge.

Mental Models I Find Repeatedly Useful – Gabriel Weinberg

Around 2003 I came across Charlie Munger’s 1995 speech, The Psychology of Human Misjudgment, which introduced me to how behavioral economics can be applied in business and investing. More profoundly, though, it opened my mind to the power of seeking out and applying mental models across a wide array of disciplines.

This is an excellent list of mental models that I will refer very often. A must read if you are interested in how we think, judge and decide and what derails us.

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In the picture: Open Hand Monument, Chandigarh, India (Via my Flickr Photostream)

Critical Competencies for Effective Coaching (And a Book) by Lisa Haneberg

Great coaching is at the heart of meaningful accomplishments. In an organizational and team context, being able to coach people means helping them overcome their own resistance, get unstuck and move forward in the direction of their goals. Great coaching catalyzes great results.

But too often, we see managers and leaders getting so busy on the treadmill of getting things done that they lose focus on how those results are achieved. A leader’s constant job is to strike a balance between getting things done and developing people. Doing one at the cost of the other can be a great disservice to organization and its people.

I recently read revised edition of my friend Lisa Haneberg’s book “Coaching Basics” published by Association for Talent Development (ATD). It is a wonderful resource for organizational leaders, HR professionals and managers if they want to understand the nuances of how to coach others for greatness. I strongly recommend this book.

I was also fortunate to be able to write a blurb in this book where I say,

Companies often tell their leaders to ‘coach’ people without giving any guidance on the ‘how.’ Lisa Haneberg fills this important gap by offering a very useful handbook that clarifies the foundation of good coaching and offers actionable insights and tools for effective coaching.

– Tanmay Vora, Director, Product Development R&D, Basware

But when I read this book, I was instantly reminded of a wonderful post that Lisa wrote in 2014 where she outlined critical competencies of a great coach.

Here are a couple of excellent quotes from Lisa’s post:

“Coaching is a service and we cannot be successful if the learner perceives that we are helping to satisfy OUR needs or wants.”

“Great coaches are able to help learners adopt a more helpful perspective of the situations about which they are struggling.”

And here is a sketch note summary of coaching competencies that Lisa’s post outlines.

Get the book at: TD.org | Amazon

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Also read at QAspire.com:

Coaching Culture: The Art and Science of Success #IndiaHRChat

It was a time to participate in #IndiaHRChat again and the topic this time was “Coaching: The Art and Science of Success”. The topic is very dear to me and it was a great learning experience reading tweets from various people in HR Fraternity. Tweet-Insights from the special guest Mr. Gurprriet Singh (@JoyandLife), Managing Consultant and Head of YSC India helped in understanding the nuances of coaching based on his experiences.

It was fun sharing my insights and participating in this conversation. You can read all tweets in this storified version of the chat. Here are the bite sized ideas on personal branding that I shared or amplified.

Why a Culture of Coaching?

A culture of coaching fosters trust, accelerates learning and builds collaboration.

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Coaching helps people navigate change and be adaptable. Adaptable teams help in organizational adaptability.

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Better coaching = Better team/business results = Satisfied Customers = Better Bottom lines.

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Coaching takes the baton where training leaves it! Coaching complements training and induces behavioral change.

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Coaching increases performance, productivity and job satisfaction at all levels.

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"I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities." Bob Nardelli, former CEO, HomeDepot

Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching addresses specific purpose or task and is time bound. Mentoring focuses on the individual and long term.

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Coaching is the subset of mentoring and focuses on specific goal or task at hand.

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Mentoring is broad & relational while coaching often tends to be about functional improvements. (RT @sundertrg)

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Mentoring is led from the front, coaching supported from behind. Mentor sets agenda, coach does not. (RT @SeapointCenter)

When Should Coaching NOT be Used?

When challenges are related to attitude and thinking of the person, coaching will not help.

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Never ask managers to coach people unless managers have demonstrated capabilities to be a good coach. (RT @ThinKritical )

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Try coaching in a situation of fire/escalation where response time is critical and you may fail. Coaching needs time.

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Never ask managers to coach people unless managers have demonstrated capabilities to be a good coach. (RT @ThinKritical)

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Coaching is ineffective when used as a last resort to retain an employee. (RT @ThinKritical)

Characteristics of a Good Coach

A coach has to be humane. Interested in people. Committed to growing others and elevate their game.

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You can never coach others when you are insecure about yourself. Personal proficiency is a pre-requisite.

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To ENLIST people, a coach has to LISTEN, probably why both words are formed using same letters!

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When people are being coached, feedback is their compass. Trust is the currency. A good coach knows that!

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A good coach needs content skills and context skills – ability to map the knowledge and actions w.r.t. specific context.

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Good coach is: Positive. Enthusiastic. Respectful. Empowering. Supportive. Patient. Result Oriented. Knowledgeable.

The Ideal Coaching Candidate

An ideal coaching candidate is open-minded and willing to learn.

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When it comes to a coaching candidate, as @tom_peters says, “ATTITUDE > ABILITY”

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The coach will appear when the student is ready ! start getting ready. (RT @JonasPrasanna)

Challenges in Establishing a Culture of Coaching

Not having clear objective of coaching exercise OR not aligning the coaching goals with business objectives.

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An organizational culture that thwarts new ideas will seldom succeed in building a coaching culture.

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Coaching being given by people who don’t "get" the essence of coaching.

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Looking for short-term ROI from coaching exercise :)

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BONUS: Read the interview I did with Marshall Goldsmith and Chip R. Bell on The Art of Effective Mentoring to complement these lessons.

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Also Read: Bite Sized Insights on Personal Branding #IndiaHRChat

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Interview: Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith on Art of Effective Mentoring

Last week, Chip R. Bell and Marshall Goldsmith released the revised edition of their classic bookManagers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning. This week, they open up in a free-flow conversation with QAspire on the art of effective mentoring. In my view, this interview is almost a definitive guide to become a great mentor! Let’s get started:

[Tanmay Vora] Chip and Marshall, it is my pleasure interviewing you. Effective mentoring is a great way to elevate capabilities of people. How does one approach mentoring when working in a hyper-competitive business environment where speed and results take up precedence?

[Chip and Marshall] The same way any leadership or coaching activity occurs…it comes down to priority. In today’s time’s up work world, mentors can be impatient thus rendering the mentoring. Mentoring means starting where the protégé is, not where the mentor wants him or her to be. Mentor and protégé must focus on the quality of the process not a rush to the outcome. Mentoring need not be a long leisurely dialogue away from the chaotic highs and lows of a busy enterprise. Few mentors or protégés have the luxury of time to have a conversation as if over a five-course meal in a fancy restaurant. But, there must be time for a rapport-building appetizer and a where-do-we-go-from-here dessert. There must be time for focused listening and meaningful reflection. And, there must be time for the sincere communication of interest and concern.

[Tanmay Vora] If I am a mentor, what is your #1 tip for finding my protégés. What is your #1 tip if I am looking for a mentor?

[Chip and Marshall] For the mentor, start with people you directly influence and supervise. The old-fashioned view of mentoring as someone outside the leader’s chain of command it no longer relevant. Arie de Guies wrote in his book, “The Living Company” these words: Your ability to learn faster than your competition is your only competitive sustainable advantage.” Leaders create learning organizations. For the protégé, select a mentor who can help you be the best you can, not one you think can help you get a promotion.Remember, you can sometimes learn more from people who are different than from people who are “just like you.”

[Tanmay Vora] In your book, you offer SAGE model of great mentoring. Can you explain that a bit for benefit of the readers of this blog?

[Chip and Marshall] The mentoring model found in this book is built around the belief that great mentoring requires four core competencies, each of which can be applied in many ways. These competencies form the sequential steps in the process of mentoring. All four have been selected for their ability to blend effectively. Not accidentally, the first letters of these four competencies (and steps) spell the word “SAGE”—a helpful mnemonic as well as a symbolic representation of the goal, the power-free facilitation of learning. They are: Surrendering—leveling the learning field; Accepting—creating a safe haven for risk taking; Gifting—the core contributions of the mentor, the main event; and Extending—nurturing protégé independence.

Mentoring is an honor. Except for love, there is no greater gift one can give another than the gift of growth. It is a rare privilege to help another learn, have the relevant wisdom to be useful to another, and partner with someone who can benefit from that wisdom. This book is crafted with a single goal: to help you exercise that honor and privilege in a manner that benefits you and all those you influence.

[Tanmay Vora] Not all managers possess the qualities required to become an effective mentor. What are these qualities?

[Chip and Marshall] Balance. Unlike a relationship based on power and control, a learning partnership is a balanced alliance, grounded in mutual interests, interdependence, and respect. Power-seeking mentors tend to mentor with credentials and sovereignty; partnership­-driven mentors seek to mentor with authenticity and openness. In a balanced learning partnership, energy is given early in the relationship to role clarity and communication of expectations; there is a spirit of generosity and acceptance rather than a focus on rules and rights. Partners recognize their differences while respecting their common needs and objectives.

Truth. Countless books extol the benefits of clear and accurate communication. Partnership communication has one additional quality: It is clean, pure, characterized by the highest level of integrity and honesty. Truth-seekers work not only to ensure that their words are pure (the truth and nothing but the truth) but also to help others communicate with equal purity. When a mentor works hard to give feedback to a protégé in a way that is caringly frank and compassionately straightforward, it is in pursuit of clean communication. When a mentor implores the protégé for candid feedback, it is a plea for clean communication. The path of learning begins with the mentor’s genuineness and candor.

Trust. Trust begins with experience; experience begins with a leap of faith. Perfect monologues, even with airtight proof and solid support documentation, do not foster a climate of experimentation and risk taking. They foster passive acceptance, not personal investment. If protégés see their mentors taking risks, they will follow suit. A “trust-full” partnership is one in which error is accepted as a necessary step on the path from novice to master.

Abundance. Partnership-driven mentors exude generosity. There is a giver orientation that finds enchantment in sharing wisdom. As the “Father of Adult Learning,” Malcolm Knowles, says, “Great trainers [and mentors] love learning and are happiest when they are around its occurrence.”1 Such relationships are celebratory and affirming. As the mentor gives, the protégé reciprocates, and abundance begins to characterize the relationship. And there is never a possessive, credit-seeking dimension (“That’s MY protégé”).

Passion. Great mentoring partnerships are filled with passion; they are guided by mentors with deep feelings and a willingness to communicate those feelings. Passionate mentors recognize that effective learning has a vitality about it that is not logical, not rational, and not orderly. Such mentors get carried away with the spirit of the partnership and their feelings about the process of learning. Some may exude emotion quietly, but their cause-driven energy is clearly present. In a nutshell, mentors not only love the learning process, they love what the protégé can become—and they passionately demonstrate that devotion.

Courage. Mentoring takes courage; learning takes courage. Great mentors are allies of courage; they cultivate a partnership of courageousness. They take risks with learning, showing boldness in their efforts, and elicit courage in protégés by the examples they set. The preamble to learning is risk, the willingness to take a shaky step without the security of perfection. The preamble to risk is courage.

Ethics. Effective mentors must be clean in their learner-dealings, not false, manipulative, or greedy. Competent mentors must be honest and congruent in their communications and actions. They must not steal their learners’ opportunities for struggle or moments of glory. Great mentors refrain from coveting their learners’ talents or falsifying their own. They must honor the learner just as they honor the process of mutual learning.

Partnerships are the expectancy of the best in our abilities, attitudes, and aspirations. In a learning partnership, the mentor is not only helping the protégé but also continually communicating a belief that he or she is a fan of the learner. Partnerships are far more than good synergy. Great partnerships go beyond “greater than” to a realm of unforeseen worth. And worth in a mentoring partnership is laced with the equity of balance, the clarity of truth, the security of trust, the affirmation of abundance, the energy of passion, the boldness of courage, and the grounding of ethics.

[Tanmay Vora] From an organizational perspective, is it important to have a culture of mentoring, starting from the top? How does it help?

[Chip and Marshall] Today’s organization succeed if they are growth-oriented, excellence-focused and innovative Growth is about change, so is learning; excellence is about a pursuit of betterment, so is learning and innovative is about unfreezing old ways to find new ways, so is learning. When the organization embeds learning as a part of its DNA, the expression of that core is growth, excellence and innovation. So, what do leaders do in a learning organization? They mentor!

[Tanmay Vora] Your book is a treasure trove of meaningful advice on the art of effective mentoring. If you had to share one message from the book for aspiring mentors, what would that be?

[Chip and Marshall] Be humble, be curious, be courageous and be willing to share what you know with others in a partnership-relationship.

[Tanmay Vora] Thank you for offering third and revised edition of “Managers as Mentors”. It was a pleasure interviewing you and I am sure, readers of this blog will find your ideas and your book, a very useful resource on developing people and bring the best out of them. Thanks again.

[Chip and Marshall] Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share with your leaders a topic we are passionate about. Happy mentoring!

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Also read: Other Book Reviews at QAspire Blog

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Review: Managers as Mentors by Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith

For thousands of years in India, there prevailed a tradition of “Guru-Shishya” – mentor and protégé in other words. In this relationship, which was a primary form of education then, powerful and subtle knowledge was conveyed to protégé on a one-on-one basis in an environment of complete trust, dedication and intimacy. As realization grew, the protégé would extend his lessons to others and so, wisdom kept flowing across generations.

Cut to the corporate environment today. Ability to provide mentoring is a part of almost every manager’s KRA. They are expected to help people grow and ensure that they learn as they do. Managers are the glue that builds engaged teams in organizations. But the reality is that managers get so engrossed with lines – deadlines and bottom lines – that they forget they also need to help others grow. Sadly, they start looking at people as “resources” to get the job done.

If I were to judge a manager’s performance, I would do so based on two parameters: 1) How effectively do the managers get the job done? 2) While doing so, how much did people in the team grew and learned? To be effective and make a lasting difference, managers have to be mentors first and then guardians of tasks.

Mentoring is an art. This week, Chip R. Bell and Marshall Goldsmith released the revised edition of their classic book “Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning” which I read with great interest. I loved the sub-title which says it all. Mentoring is the highest form of teaching and every manager who wants to make a difference in their people’s lives will find this book useful. I was reminded of the powerful tradition of “Guru-Shishya” while reading parts of this book.

The book starts with a section that defines mentoring. It says,

“At a most basic level, it is simply the act of helping another learn”…“Mentors” are people (especially leaders) who engage in deliberate actions aimed at promoting learning.”…”Bottom line, a mentor is simply someone who helps someone else learn something that would have otherwise been learned less well, more slowly, or not at all.”

The book then goes on to provide practical ideas and case studies that can help any manager in mentoring their team members effectively and thereby build an engaged and connected team that delivers results and grows. I also loved the useful tools (book has an entire mentors toolkit section) like self-check scale for a mentor which helps you assess your own aptitude to mentor others.

On a long run, a manager’s real legacy is not the projects executed, but difference made in the lives of other people. People already have potential hidden (like gold dust within the sand)  and a mentor’s job is to help a protégé so that the gold surfaces. It is about gently and constantly pushing them towards higher plane of possibilities and learning.

Learning and extending that learning to others in an organization is not a “feel-good-nice-to-have” thing – it is a competitive strategy that helps in innovation, improvement and growth.

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Stay Tuned: Subscribe via RSS, Connect via Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. You can also subscribe to updates via email using the section at the bottom of the page.

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Also read: Other Book Reviews at QAspire Blog

8 Lessons I Learned on Being an Effective Mentor

Today, I have been reading and thinking about importance of ‘workplace mentoring’ in building great teams that deliver results. I chose the term ‘workplace mentoring’ because I am writing this from a business context.

To me, simple definition of workplace mentoring is – “An act of coaching/counseling with an intent of improving people, their performance, effectiveness and outcomes”. Since workplace mentoring involves one to one human exchange of values, the line between workplace and personal mentoring is often diminished over a period of time.

What do mentors typically do?

  • Mentors elevate human potential and hence performance.
  • Mentors open up a world of possibilities for people being mentored.
  • Mentors generously ‘give’ – their time, knowledge and resources.

What I have learned about effective workplace mentoring?

  • Effective mentoring is an art and the process of mentoring starts when the value starts flowing from one human (mentor) to another.
  • Building trust is at the core of being a good mentor. The ideas and thoughts of a mentor will never will completely received unless there is a strong trust that mentor is here to help. To make things better.
  • Mentoring is a human activity. Some level of planning helps, but too much of it kills the purpose of mentoring. Let it remain an ‘art’.
  • Mentoring is seldom a formal activity. It happens informally over a cup of coffee, in a one-on-one meeting, at the water cooler, in the canteen and sometimes at the desk of the person being mentored.
  • Mentoring is about transferring benefits of your wisdom by telling meaningful stories, building context and generously sharing knowledge. It is as much about ‘listening’ as it is about ‘telling’. Mentors are people person – they love people and strongly believe in channelizing human potential. They believe in people.
  • That brings me to the ‘generosity’ element. A mentor is generous with his time, resources and knowledge. An effective mentor generously ‘gives’, and hence ‘serves’.
  • Mentoring is a ‘mutual’ game. People follow a mentor by choice – one that is driven by who the mentor is, what value he can deliver and how can it help them in being better. ‘Assigning’ a mentor to someone does not help unless they know their mentor as a person (and their influence).
  • From organization’s point of view, mentoring has to be a top-down initiative. Skill and experience to effectively mentor others should be a primary requirement for job at a leadership position.  A leader’s job is two-fold – drive business results and grow capacities of people while doing that. Mentoring skills are a must to achieve the latter.

Personally for me, mentoring others has been a selfish activity – because it helped me become more people oriented, more social and more thoughtful. Sometimes, spending those unscheduled 20 minutes with a team member over a cup of coffee can be a great energizer.

Have a great week ahead!