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Archive for the ‘Mentoring’ Category

Leading by Example: Actions Speak Louder than Words

It was the first project I had ever worked on. New to Sydney and the company, I was seconded to work on the ERP project as a Subject Matter Expert. Maybe they thought to have someone new would be good for the project? This project was hard work, and I loved every minute. Every day brought new challenges and things I had not done before. One of those was to develop training plans and materials to train the entire business on how to use the new system. Thinking that the job was done once I finished the documents and plans, it was another ‘rise to the challenge’ moment when the project manager told me I would be delivering the training. Not only was I to deliver the training, but the CEO and MD of the business had both insisted that they were coming to the very first session. Intimidating? Yes, yes it was… I was a junior member of the team, and here were the CEO and MD sitting in the front row of the first training session, asking questions.  But the months of immersion in the system held me steady, and I came through the training session in a good place. Reflecting on it now, I know that they were sending a clear message to the rest of the staff by showing up, being interested, and engaged and being in the first session. They were leading by example. They didn’t understand the system, nor would they likely ever use it. But they did know the power of leading by example. They were demonstrating the behaviour of being willing to learn that we needed at that point in the project. Leading by example means leading yourself first. 1. Showing up (physically and mentally) I have consistently advocated, over the years, for being ‘on-site’ and co-located when we are working on projects. The little things that as outsiders we glean from being in the client space and seeing how they communicate - what gets priority, who gets heard, how the kitchens and bathrooms are kept - help us to navigate the organisation and steer the project successfully. At the moment, it’s really hard to re-create the physical part of this. Building that rapport and understanding of the nuances of the business are much harder. Not impossible, but harder. What are we doing? How are we making this work? Well, to start with I’m actively managing MYSELF. Taking a moment, I remind myself before every conversation that I have no idea what each person's working environment or day is like. Some don’t have the work from home set up that I have. They maybe have small children, sick parents, foster pets or other challenges that have made their way into work life. Parts of our lives that used to be compartmentalised are now all on top of one another, and that can seem overwhelming. This practice reminds me to bring empathy. Taking myself for a walk (even a short one) when I find myself getting emotionally plugged in. If I can’t go for a walk, I’m doing a five-minute burst of push-ups, crunches or something else that gets the blood moving and the energy focus back in the physical rather than the emotional. If you have online calls or meetings back to back, taking a walk and finding a way to shift the energy stops you taking baggage from one conversation into the next. 2. Being interested/ engaged. We don’t have the incidental interactions that we used to so we’re focusing on shorter conversations and meetings. I’m trying to make them more focused and frequent. I’m reminding myself to call on each person who is in the call/group (if that’s possible); it's not possible if you’ve got 20+ people on a call but entirely feasible if you’re in a smaller group. Making time for the informal catch-ups with little/to no agenda. Connecting with people via phone as well as via screen (where relationships are already established sometimes, the phone just takes the constant feeling of ‘on show’ load off). Extending that connection to not just the project team but the broader context of what’s going on in the business and more often, what’s going on in people's lives. In many ways, this working experience has brought more of our ‘whole selves’ into the light in our work lives. Often it’s the casual conversations, that yield valuable information. Insight about someone’s workload, or personal circumstances that potentially impact their capacity or focus on what the project needs from them. Keeping informal connections helps us connect the dots on what else could be going on. 3. Being first A lot of project work is new work. At 6R, we have often worked on ‘the first’ Australian implementation of software, so being first is more familiar territory to us than most. Typically, in software, no one wants to be ‘first’ – being first means you’re learning all the lessons that those who come second will benefit from. Just about everyone wants to be that ‘close second’, gaining the benefits of early adoption without the painful lessons of first, where it’s everyone’s first time. This is everyone’s first pandemic. I hope that there is no ‘close second’. Just like the start of the pandemic, learning new ways of doing things is hard, but some looked for the silver lining, it is the same with projects, be the first to find the silver lining. You can also be the first to take your team through what you have learnt. The first to test the system. You can be first to encourage a colleague, to acknowledge the work someone has put in or to notice an improvement. This all builds your own positive mindset and exercises the self-leadership that we all need to bring to the table right now. What you want to ignite in others must first burn inside yourself ~ Charlotte Bronte   OMNICHANNEL FREE 5-PART VIDEO SERIES We at 6R Retail have been working with retailers for over a decade connecting stores to back-office systems and rolling out eCommerce sites that help retailers and their customers bring the digital and physical closer. In our 5 part video series, we share insights we’ve learned from implementing omnichannel retail features and look ahead to what might be next for retailers. We’ll cover: Ship from Store Click & Collect Endless Aisle Redemption & Refunds Transition Service [mailmunch-form id="796490"]

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Project and Role Transition Requires Kindness to Self First

Transition projects and role transition both require kindness to self first. When in transition, there are 5 pointers to look out for and to help manage the transition process. From Doing to Managing: Mentoring Through the Transition Career transitions often mimic corporate change. We don’t always know what lies ahead in the future, and that can be scary. Also, we need to time to navigate these uncharted waters, so we can settle into a new phase, whether as an employee moving up to managing or as a work team opening another channel or bringing a new product to market. Mentoring employees who are going from “doing” jobs to management requires finesse and most of all, kindness. Let’s take a look at how to make the process as painless and successful as possible, including how to encourage a culture of kindness. Clear Is Kind Have you ever avoided a difficult conversation or assessment because you felt it was unkind? We’re not talking about telling a friend her new frock is less than flattering but the kind of situation where a work colleague or direct report needs honesty, and you’re avoiding it. Whilst you may feel like you’re doing the other person a favour, in the long run, you’re not. According to research professor and champion of courage in leadership Brené Brown, being clear is the kinder option, even if it’s harder in the short term. “Unclear is unkind,” she says, and can foster undesirable behaviours in the workplace, such as back channelling, passive-aggressive actions, and decreased performance. Encourage Feedback To help with those challenging conversations, encourage your mentee to solicit frank feedback from various corporate tiers, especially as they work through the transition period. This can help to prevent them from being blindsided by opinions that may disagree with their own and to recognise when they have made mistakes. Encouraging feedback will also engender self-determination in the people reporting to the new manager. It sends a message to employees that their thoughts are valued and appreciated, which further supports intrinsic motivation, improved productivity, and even worker retention. Help your mentee develop a plan to address feedback, so they feel proactive rather than pinned down by it. Guard Against Burnout When moving up the ranks into management, employees may be particularly susceptible to burnout. There’s a temptation to feel they need to work longer and harder, in case they miss something. And of course, there may be new tasks or software programs to learn, and some work environments expect managers to handle those on top of their day-to-day duties. If you’re mentoring new managers, encourage them to constantly assess where they can best spend their time. Often, they are still doing things they could be delegating; delegating is one of the hardest things new managers may have to learn. Also, remind them to eat at regular times, not to stay at the office late into the night, and to use weekends to recharge for the coming week. This is good advice for mentors as well! Support a Kindness Contagion Fostering a culture of kindness in the workplace can help with all of the above. Although that may seem a gargantuan task in some organisations, due to size or existing zeitgeist, it is possible. Mercedes-Benz USA decided to do that, originally as a customer service initiative, but it trickled down beautifully to its employees as well, who were given opportunities to drive a Mercedes vehicle for 48 hours at a time of their choice, such as an important occasion. Then, when these employees experienced kindness in the work environment, they reflected it back to their customers. The human brain is much more connected to the heart than many people believe, as a result of our ancestors’ fight-or-flight mechanisms. Furthermore, we now know the brain possesses the neuroplasticity to change, to rewire itself and create new connections. A workplace that is committed to kindness can create change and watch it take off in a kind of viral contagion that benefits employees at every level. As a mentor, you may not be in a position to affect company-wide change at first, but you can still remind your mentees that kindness will help them when they practice it. Eventually, if enough members of any organisation engage in kind behaviours, the company can’t help but see the change their employees want and are willing to demonstrate themselves.

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Mentoring: Learning from Others

A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself. — Oprah Winfrey I love this quote, and mentoring, for me, has been the backbone of creating hope and development in my growth. Mentoring has been one of the best investments of my time and energy and has contributed greatly to my focus on continuous learning. Having been a mentee (both formally and informally), and having learnt so much from those who have shared with me - I am now in the position of being a mentor for others, which is a different kind of learning. To be clear, that doesn’t mean I’m done with being a mentee, there's still heaps of learning ahead! Early in my career, I was lucky to have some great bosses who modelled the best on how to support and protect the team. Something that I consider incredibly important, and which can be basically summed up for me in one phrase: When a goal is achieved credit to the team, when something flops it’s all on the leader. I think so much of learning is about modelling. When you become a parent, one of the most confronting lessons is that no matter what you say, your kids will do what you do! So, those aspirational behaviours that the pre-kids you always knew you would absolutely insist upon, actually has to be lived to really take. It's common sense, but it's very difficult to appreciate until you're in it. So, is mentoring just an extension of this ‘Common Sense Manifesto?’ I have followed Colin Ellis and last year was a participant at one of his courses. I wish I had written the 'Common Sense Manifesto' - just the act of committing it to paper is perhaps the thing that makes the most sense! Colin has a way of simplifying and articulating 'common sense' that can be used in your personal and/or professional day. I encourage you to have a read. I feel strongly that there is another point in there somewhere about not wasting [time, attention, raw materials, energy]. Many times in my life I have looked at situations and people and felt that what was lacking was a strong dose of common sense. To me, having a great mentor relationship fits in nicely with common sense manifesto number 6: ‘Never Stop Learning’. How can you keep learning when you don’t have a formal mentor relationship in place? A friend who has recently started running their own business asked me how I get mentoring in my own business life. I have at points had a formal relationship, but right now it’s less formal. Some of the things that I do that keep the learning alive are: Reading (and Listening): I read and I listen. A lot. In the car, on a plane, I even listen to podcasts when I have trouble getting to sleep (some of my personal favourites are below). They’re not all business focused, some of them are just smart people who I explore ideas that I find interesting. Writing: not as much, or as well, as I aspire to, but writing helps me to construct my thoughts and feeds into the development of my own ideas. Sometimes it’s a stream of consciousness kind of blurt and then sometimes it’s trying to put myself in a position where I can see someone else’s point of view. Sometimes it’s this where I’m sharing what has worked for me. Thinking: putting time aside to think is not something I have a special place or space for (yet, I would really like one). Lots of people I know talk about the benefits of meditation and I agree with them, but I spend a lot of time in my work life at a desk/ in front of a screen, so I tend to combine thinking with exercise. I started running because I really hated it, and I keep running because it makes me feel physically tired and allows me to just think. I deliberately don’t run with music. At the start of a race recently I heard one participant say to his running buddy, “How do you do this without music? If I have time to think about this I’ll start to ask myself why I signed up for 21km” – it made me smile. Participating in groups: I recently signed up to a group challenge online. No one is going to check what I’m doing but it’s creating an action list for me, not all of the items need action but so far, it’s been a good experience to re-align and re-focus on some basics. I am in the fortunate position of working with technology teams; things keep changing and there are constantly new things to learn and grapple with, so learning is part of my everyday. It's this learning that allows me to keep developing, contributing to my own knowledge and sharing it with the teams that we work with. 6R don’t specifically align with one type of software or system, we are constantly learning new software, processes and about the people that we work with. My favourite podcasts Chat 10 Looks 3 with Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales Slow Burn by Slate Art of Charm (advanced social skills training for top performers) Freakonomics with Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner On Being Project (deep thinking and social courage to renew life)  

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