Mentoring as a concept has been linked to the story of Telemachus in Ancient Greece and the role of Mentor. It is often used as a way of supporting individuals with both their personal and professional development. Organisations often introduce mentoring schemes for their staff as a way of developing their expertise and sometimes these schemes are formal and sometimes informal.
There are many books and resources on mentoring. A couple of ideas to get you started are: David Clutterbuck’s book called “Everyone needs a mentor” and Bob Garvey’s “Mentoring Pocketbook”. Both David and Bob have written extensively about mentoring (and coaching) and are worth reading.
So, if you think that a member of your team has some specific learning and development needs which would be best served by them working with another more experienced individual, then it might be worth considering discussing a mentor with them. They might already have someone in mind or you may know of someone who would be willing to take on the role of being their mentor. Encouraging your member of staff to approach possible mentors will help you check out their commitment to this form of learning and development and enable your member of staff to clarify what they want from mentoring and to set themselves some goals.
Something which is crucial for successful mentoring is the relationship between the mentor and mentee. Other more practical aspects are: how often they meet, what they want to cover and when to end the relationship. As a manager it helps if you take an interest in how the mentoring is progressing and ensure the mentee has an opportunity to discuss any further learning and development needs with you too.
Often mentoring relationships run their course after a few months. Some though do continue for years and can be helpful to both the mentor and mentee. Do consider mentoring as a way of developing your team and perhaps also gain the skills o become a mentor yourself.
So you’ve just gained that promotion that you have worked hard for. There are a number of areas to consider when taking on a team management role. One of the most challenging is when you take over a team you were once part of and you need to consider what your role as a manager of this team involves.
You may be very familiar with the work area and indeed consider that there are some aspects which you can do better than individual members of the team. Keeping certain aspects of the teams’ work to yourself is unlikely to endear you to your team members. You will need to be seen as fair when you are delegating work, including not being as having “favourites” within the team. Learning to delegate effectively is a skill which you should work on developing as soon as you take up your role. There are three areas to consider when delegating work to team members:
- Can the task/activity be clearly explained including key deadlines etc?
- Which person in your team has the knowledge, skills and abilities to carry out the task?
- Who can fit it into their work schedule?
If there isn’t one person who can meet all these criteria then you have some choices to make:
- Can someone take it on and one of their other tasks be re-prioritised?
- Is there someone in the team who would benefit from taking on the task to help further their own skill development? What additional support might they need from you?
- Is the task so unclear that it will be difficult for anyone to do? Do you need to clarify with your own manager what is required?
Managing the work of your team is a key priority for you and you will need to review task/activity allocation on a regular basis to ensure your team is clear about their priorities and objectives and have a chance to develop and grow their own knowledge, skills and abilities. There are “no right answers” when it comes to delegation. Do be prepared to support your team and re-prioritise as needed.
So, if you are like me, dealing with semi-retirement and approaching retirement, how do you want to spend your time? I have taken on board one of Zimbardo and Boyd’s suggestion in their book “The Time Paradox” and am trying to, in their words, “moderate my future intensity”. People with a future orientation can, if they focus on it excessively; miss out on times with their friends and family and spontaneous experiences as they come along. As someone who is currently adjusting to semi-retirement I thought it made sense to try out some of their suggestions for becoming less future oriented:
- Do less not more – not an easy one for me as I find being involved in a wide range of activities motivating. I have been keeping the weekends free in my diary for events as they come up and only taking on work which gives me an opportunity to learn new things.
- Make conscious choices about what you must do and decide what is so important it can’t be put on the back burner – my to do list only has four key items at the moment and they are all things I want to do.
- Stop going to events you don’t like – I am focusing more on social activities with friends and family rather than work events.
- Practice giving and graciously receiving the gift of time – still a challenging one for me and definitely a work in progress
- Try to minimise the intrusion of work into your home life – I don’t do any work at weekends now.
Their final suggestion is to start simply. So, while this approach may not be for everyone, do consider at least one small step to improve how you approach time.
NB: Here is their online questionnaire: http://www.thetimeparadox.com/zimbardo-time-perspective-inventory/.
Are you currently applying for jobs and wondering how to provide examples of teamwork in your application and at interview? Organisations who recruit graduates (as well as other employees at different levels) will usually outline the skills, knowledge, experience and abilities which they are looking for in a specific job advert. Team working is frequently mentioned and this can be something people can find challenging to speak about, particularly if this is for their first job after a period of study. So here are some career tips for you to consider:
- First of all be clear in your application what you have done with regards to working in teams. You may be someone who has been involved in project teams at university, taken part in team sports and/or have direct work experience. Make sure you explain what the team’s objectives were, who was in it and what your role was. Be clear about the activities you were involved in and the results your team produced. Make sure you highlight your own contribution and bear in mind this is a question about teamwork!
- When it comes to the selection process you may be asked to take part in a group activity. Do make sure you play your part in it. Start by ensuring you all introduce yourselves and clarify what the activity is, how long you have got and what you need to do to complete it. In your own mind do work out what and how you will contribute to the group.
- If there is an individual interview as well, then you have a chance to reflect on the group activity and the role you played in it, and to expand on your own previous team work experience. If you can, take a bit of time before your own individual interview, to reflect on your experiences to date and to consider how you might discuss them.
If you are going for an interview in the near future then do consider what and how you might discuss your own experiences of team work. Good luck.
From a personal point of view I have been working on becoming less future oriented as I approach my semi-retirement. What though if you are someone who is in an earlier chapter of your career
. Perhaps you want to develop your career further and/or maybe you have been asked to take on some project work. Being aware of what you need to do, the time frames involved and the potential risks and consequences of your action can help you plan your future more effectively.
Here are some thoughts, based on Zimbardo and Boyd’s book “The Time Paradox”:
- Set some personal and/or professional goals that you would like to achieve today, tomorrow and within the month. Write them down and check your progress regularly. Keeping a weekly diary where you note down your achievements each week is a good way to keep an eye on how you are doing.
- Keep an eye on time – wear a watch, use your phone or tablet.
- Practice visualising meeting your goals. As an aside this is also a useful technique for job interviews and important meetings. Mentally walk yourself through the interview/meeting beforehand to ensure you have considered what you might be asked and how you can reply and contribute to its success.
- Have a “to do” list – be clear about what needs to be achieved today, this week and within the month. Make sure you know which your most important task is each day. Tick items off when they are done.
- Remember the world is grey – it’s a lot less black and white than you think.
- Always keep a longer term reward in mind. I am well known for wanting to have my next holiday set up to look forward to, even if it is six months away.
- Spend time with people with a future orientation to find out more about how they see the world.
You can find out more about your approach to time by taking their free questionnaire: http://www.thetimeparadox.com/zimbardo-time-perspective-inventory/.
Do choose one of these ideas to try out and remember to track your progress. Being more future oriented does mean that you are often able to anticipate problems, particularly in project work, before they cause difficulties; something which is a useful skill to have and will help ensure the success of your work.
I work primarily as a career coach and often encourage people to develop their own self-awareness of what they want from their career by suggesting they carry out some self-assessment activities. The main ones I use are included in the acronym VISTA: values, interests, skills/strengths, talents and aspirations. Here is VISTA in a bit more detail:
Values – what is really important to me?
Interests – what do I most enjoy doing?
Skills and strengths – what could I use more in my work?
Talents – what would best describe what I do?
Aspirations – who do I really want to be?
So if you haven’t done it already do take time to consider your own VISTA and how you can use it to develop your own career goals.
Do spend some time developing your VISTA.