Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tedx Talk: The Lessons I Learned

Kiss and tell? You bet!

Doing a Tedx talk was the professional equivalent of having a crazy fling with a hot young thing. Or so I would imagine. How? Well, consider the similarities. It was so out of the ordinary it didn't seem tangible. I had to gossip to make it real! And when I did the reactions were priceless. But it wasn't all gushing and heart rush. I was really nervous! I lost my appetite and didn't sleep well. My Tedx talk was a 24/7 obsession. There were times I wished that handsome Tedx had never approached me, just left me to my happy everyday life with family and students.

But stress aside, after my Tedx talk on "How to Get a Mentor" the overriding emotion I felt was gratitude. The well known Tedx format forced me to condense 20 years of research about mentoring into a 15-minute hip and informative talk. What a challenge! I stretched my comfort zone and learned valuable lessons about public speaking. It gave me some insight into the pressures media figures must feel. I loved my time in the spotlight, but more than ever I am grateful to have my job as a Professor of Management surrounded by the best students a teacher could ask for.

The primary theme of my talk was about improving our careers by continuing to grow and learn. During my talk I got to walk the talk. Literally. Here is a review of what I learned, hopefully my experience will help you with your next important presentation.

Out with the Old in with the New
An entertaining presentation has to move beyond power point slides and talking points. I had to learn to add mystery and pacing to my talk, while at the same time sounding casual and conversational. I had to tell stories that met a clear learning objective with little repetition. I had to avoid the pitfalls of leaning on established expertise by taking a fresh approach to the subject of mentoring. If (like me) you are ever lucky enough to have a speaking coach take full advantage. Blakely Hull, my coach, was superstar!

Getting to know the other Tedx speakers was a great networking opportunity. And learning that they were also nervous and feeling a little out of their element was comforting. We bonded over our mutual insecurities. I also took the opportunity to schmooze with the audience beforehand, it made staring out at all those expectant faces less nerve-wracking. And of course I practiced, practiced, practiced. I did a practice pod cast, two speaker rehearsals, a run-through with a Ted coach and made my students listen to me at a pizza practice party. When it was time to present I was ready.

When Shit Happens Act Like it Didn't
Presentations are rarely perfect. Sometimes we make mistakes. Other times mistakes happen to us. Here is what happened to me. My talk was going great, just as I had visualized. The audience was into it, laughing when I wanted them to, nodding appreciatively when I wanted them to. And then the audio died. I waited a few moments for the tech-cavalry to arrive. Seeing that I was my own, I continued my presentation, albeit a little louder than before. Finally the MC joined me on stage and announced that we would have to take it again from the top. Yes, I felt a little awkward. Yes, I felt like some of the punch had been taken out of my presentation (the first part anyway). But, the audience quickly reengaged and show went on. In the end the audio snafu was just a small hiccup. And it reminded me how important it is to expect complications and to overcome those complications as seamlessly as possible.

My fifteen minutes are up (for now). I am prepping for tomorrow's class, grateful that there will no cameras and no chance for an audio oops. It will be me and my students and the mentoring and leadership topics we love. There is no place like home!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Does your Mentor or Protege Have a True Color?

We’ve all described friends and colleagues by summing up their personality type. “You know he/she is a _______ type person. While I don’t believe in putting anyone into a specific box (we are all of course individuals), I am quite fond of using the True Colors assessment when teaching students and clients about mentoring. True Colors provides a truncated version of the respected Myers-Briggs instrument giving insight into personality type.

Personality type is a major talking-point in the organizational behavior field. Human resource management and career development professionals often find personality assessments to be really helpful when working with clients. I used this recently with my Legg Mason clients and they seemed to get a lot out of it.

When it comes to mentoring personality types have been oddly overlooked or undervalued. Understanding the core facets of personality type can go a long way towards building a successful mentoring relationship.

What is your personality type? It only takes about 10 minutes to complete the instruments and participants generally find themselves sorted into one of four types:

1) Orange is the color of artisans and adventurers. Orange people are playful, spontaneous, and fun. They value competition, variety, and action. They feel stressed by routine, strick rules and slow anything! Oranges might be perceived as irresponsible, flaky and not serious enough. In terms of leaders, Richard Branson seems like a great example of an Orange personality. Another guess is Greg Mortenson (author of Three Cups of Tea and founder of Central Asia Institute).
2) Gold are the Guardians. They stabilize us and help to keep us from living in a state of disorder. They prefer to do things in an orderly fashion. They are dependable, responsible, and get it done right and on time. Their stress points are lack of punctuality, slackers and messiness. They are often perceived as controlling, dull and rigid. Many leaders and CEO’s are Gold. My guess is that President Barak Obama is a Gold personality types.
3) Blues are idealists and harmonizers. Their desire is for everyone to get along. Value, harmony and beauty are important to them. They do not like arguments, dishonesty or a lack of communication and connection. Blues can be perceived as weak and overly emotional. Although I have not had the pleasure of meeting her in person, my guess is Oprah Winfrey is likely a strong Blue. (and yes, I am a Blue so perhaps a bit partial to this color).
4) Greens are both rational and visionary. They often have an innovative spirit and believe fully in their own competence. And often they do in fact have the answers. Greens are usually intelligent and have deep knowledge and passion about their subject matter. They get stressed by less intelligent people, overemotional people and general incompetence. Greens do not suffer fools lightly and can be perceived as arrogant. I suspect Steve Jobs was a strong Green.
I am of course simplifying personality types quite a bit. People can be a combination of these types and because the True Colors sorts people into four categories, the finer complexity that one would expect in a more sophisticated instrument like Myers Briggs is not present here.
Match-ups matter in mentoring, so if you have a mentoring partner with a different “color” should you be worried? Yes and no. Differences are good because they stimulate dialogue and increase understanding but they must be addressed so here is a short primer:
If your mentoring partner is Orange:
-Lighten up, appreciate their humor and jokes
-Allow some time for irreverence and letting off steam.
-Provided unstructured structure
-They are probably socially adept and have high emotional intelligence- think about how you can learn from and build on those strengths.
If your mentoring partner is Gold:
-Be aware of the importance of time and planning.
-Be sure that you are attentive to their need to organize and control
-Understand that Golds like rules and structure so consider that in coaching conversations.
If your mentoring partner is Blue:
-Spend some time getting to know them. Ask about the small things.
-Ask their opinion on interpersonal issues.
-Be calm about critical feedback but be careful of the tendency to avoid it because you fear their emotional reaction.
-Capitalize on the harmonizing skills of the Blue by allowing them to be the “good cop.”
If your mentoring partner is Green:
-Provide logical explanations and data to support your claims.
-Be clear, precise and linear in your communication.
-Appreciate their ideas and leverage their passion and vision.

And lastly, remember that there is no good or bad color. So what “color” should your mentor or protégé be? Understand the differences and it will all work out just fine.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Managers: Make Media Links Work for You

Media is visual. When used correctly it is a great tool to explicate management concepts. But, you have to respect the sophistication of your audience. They are accustomed to high production values and streamlined, effective messages. Unfortunately, many corporate videos combine low production values, a lack of talent and a hammer the point home message that leaves viewers bored, insulted and tuned out.
If you use a media clip it needs to be clearly linked to the theory or concept and then thoroughly debriefed. Don’t use a bad example to get cheap laughs and don’t try to force your message into an existing piece of media. Your audience knows when you’re trying too hard and they don’t like it.
I always say the first rule of teaching is to keep people awake and the second rule is to teach them something. This idea applies to business as well. If you use a clip, it should grab the audience’s attention and hold it there with a targeted well thought out message.
If you have an idea for a movie or TV show that demonstrates a management concept, please leave it here. I will highlight the best of the best in future blogs.
Keep watching and sharing!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Inspiring Students. Inspired Field Learning.

I have this friend who always knows everything about pop-culture. I mean EVERYTHING. So I asked him if he knew what “torquing” was. He had no idea. He said, “Dunno, sounds like a car thing.” I smiled triumphantly and explained that in fact torquing was a dance, the coolest urban expression out there.

Finally stumping my friend was pretty great. But, there was a purpose to my query—stemming from a moment in class that got me thinking about the strange parallels between booty shaking and organizational behavior/human resource management at a Jesuit University.

Students in my Managing People and Organizations class were giving a great presentation about what they’re learning from this semester’s community based learning project. For this project, students work a minimum of 15 hours in community based organizations and then write two papers and do a presentation about their experiences.

I consistently try to weave their experiences into the class topics related to organizational behavior and human resource management. For example, when we studied organizational culture, the students analyzed the culture of their field learning placements. They served as mentors for kids, visitors to the elderly, and provided food for the hungry among many other activities. In this presentation, the students shared that some of their young charges were “torquing” and it made the students realize how important they can be as mentors. Today’s youth are bombarded with media erected role models, many of whom may not be serving their best interests. My students saw an opportunity to show them another perspective.

I found their insight and initiative inspiring. And this particular group was not alone. My students often surprise me in wonderful ways. Here are a few student led insights that I think can be applied to any job and life in general.

1) Training is not enough. You have to expect the unexpected and be light on your feet when it comes. One of my students was giving out snacks to kids at volunteer afterschool care placement and a conflict ensued. He wondered- “Do I make the kids share?” or is this a real world lesson where sometimes we don’t have enough?

2) Rules are meant to be broken. One of my students was told by her placement official that she was never to assist a resident in or out of their wheelchairs. But, when she encountered an elderly gentleman who was falling, she helped him rather than watch him fall.

3) Service and play are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes service gets a bad rap and I admit that while I love to assign these projects to my students, I occasionally have to get over my own fear or discomfort when I actually go to a non-profit to serve one-on-one! But as I listen to my students I am happy and amazed by how much fun they are having. They play sports with kids, make art, carve pumpkins, listen to stories, and go to senior resident prom. In our busy lives we often forget to play. And even more so we forget that joy and inspiration can be found in the have to moments. Serve and play. It’s awesome.

Tell me Dear Readers. What have you learned from field learning, service learning or community based learning that inspires you?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mentoring and the Karate Kid

We all learn in different ways. Personally I learn better through visual aids, but other prefer auditory or a more kinesthetic approach. Media clips work really well in demonstrating learning points.

I find it’s a great way to keep your audience engaged, awake, and ready to learn.
Here we have the original Karate Kid movie that has some great mentoring themes and success strategies.

Ex: The student in this movie is taught by the Karate Master in a rather unique way. The student can’t understand why Mr. Miyagi is having the student wax the car, paint the fence, or even sand the floor. The mentor, being Mr. Miyagi, helps him understand he is building the foundation of the fundamentals by working important muscles so that these skills would become automatic. This movie is a great example of mentoring techniques and it would be helpful to watch and discuss it with your mentoring partner.
If you have any cool ideas for mentoring programs be sure to leave some feedback!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Don't get an "F" in your mentoring program!

It's time for midterms again, which always makes me thoughtful of success strategies and what techniques lend themselves for success and which ones make you gravitate towards failure. A recurring theme for me is, why do mentoring relationships often fail? I think the single biggest reason could be because mentors typically pose tests to their new protégés that protégés are unaware of. This makes it really easy for them to flunk! It seems that this sort of thing happens more than you might think.

Whenever I talk with someone who really knows how to be a mentor, they are usually quite aware that they impose these little tests on their pupils, especially early on in the program. In case you're a mentor and not aware of these sometimes subliminal tests, here's a short list of some of the common ones that protégés encounter:


Are you like me?
More often than not mentors may be consciously or unconsciously looking for someone who is similar to themselves. If you're personality is a complete 180 from your mentors' then you may have to start looking for a new program soon! (in social psychology there is a theory called the similarity attraction paradigm which is just that people like to be with people who are similar).

Do I like you as a person?
It is one thing to know someone as an acquaintance, but what are they like once you get to know the real them? It might be helpful before a mentoring program begins to partake in a little self disclosure about your interests outside of class. To be in a long term mentoring relationship with someone means that you're going to get to know them on a deeper level, and if you don't like what you find there then it will most likely fail.

Do you measure up?
This is a big one. Mentors generally want to know that you're the type of student who'll succeed and maybe even surpass their high standards.

Do you follow through?
In other words, if the protégé commits to a certain goal, did they stick with it till the end?

Do you listen?
Sometimes mentors offer suggestions that seem wacky or off base to their pupils- I am reminded of the movie “Karate Kid.” The main character, Daniel, thought Mr. Miagi was just trying to get him to do his chores for him, but in reality “wax on, wax off” is in fact strengthening his resolve and building his muscle memory.

Will you learn from mistakes?
Everyone messes up from time to time, but mentors want to know that if you make a mistake, you'll bounce back and handle it with grace. Most people that know how to be a mentor have little patience for whining or complaints.

I hope your take this questions into consideration whether you're looking to find a mentor or are currently in a mentoring relationship. In either case, these will help you tremendously.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Olympic Village House Moms and Mentoring!

Well, the 2012 Olympics are nearly over in London and the results so far have been exciting to say the least. The various news sources covering the massive event gave us an audience some extraordinary, in-depth access to the competitors and their often touching back stories. The cameras, however, do not follow these amazing athletes to their 'home' at the Olympic Village.

In the Olympic Village the athletes are asked to live, eat and socialize together during the most intense, pressure filled time of their lives. Talk about a wide range of emotions and personalities-all trying to coexist together for this short time! In a setting like this there is sure to be triumph and heartbreak, empathy and jealousy, hate and love (possibly even the amorous kind.) The “just another day at the office” lifestyle couldn't possibly be further from what they're going through.

The Olympic Village is also home to dozens of coaches and mentors who have been tasked with not only offering career advice to these young stars, but also with keeping them organized and mentally focused. But what if these mentoring programs weren't in place? What if all that responsibility fell to one person—an Olympic Village House Mom! What a hard job that would be, am I right? What type of personalities would thrive in that stressful environment, and which ones would crumble?

In the comments, see if you can 'Weird Science' the perfect Olympic House Mom for the occasion.

Who would she think like?
What does she look like?
Who has a personality similar to hers?
How would she cope with the stress?

Looking forward to your answers!!

Image Source: www.telegraph.co.uk