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:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Webisodes are the New Startups to Watch

Organizational structure and behavior are pretty well mapped out in corporate America. Employees are split into departments,assigned specialized functions, and manage the pretty much the same tasks day in and day out. From the Chief Financial Officer to the lowly office assistant, everyone knows their place and purpose. At a start-up, however, this hierarchy structure gets tossed aside for something more malleable. The CEO is just as likely to bring in coffee and bagels or lock-up the office at night as the rookie intern out of college intern is.

In this blog we like to take a look at different shows like The Office and Undercover Boss to examine organizational behavior, and mentoring and success strategies as they relate to the entertainment industry. Television shows produced by the top networks are almost an exact microcosm of the companies that spawned them. They have all the aforementioned hierarchies and structures in place. Every employee involved, from the director to the key grip is a specialist in their niche.

This, however, is definitely not the case in the emerging webisode industry. Like any other start-up company, webisodes ask employees to be more varied and excel in multiple functions. The director is also a producer, show runner and production assistant. Check out the links to the two very different webisodes below. The first is from a show called Epic Meal Time. The show has an enormous following, but a format structured specifically for ten minute web videos. The is taken from Live from Daryl’s House. In this show Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates fame invites musicians to his country house to hangout and perform. The success of this show has led to it being picked up for network television.

My question to you is this: How do you think mentoring and success strategies play a role in Epic Meal Time where hierarchy and specialization have yet to take root? And do you think a more corporate approach as seen in Live from Daryl’s House improves or diminishes the webisodes authenticity?

Looking forward to hearing your take on this!

Epic Meal Time: Ultimate Pizza Sandwich

Live from Daryl’s House: Episode 54 – Butch Walker

Image Credit:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Organizational Behavior and Casual Friday

Way before I decided that my dream was to teach organizational behavior, mentoring and success strategies, I worked in a mid size corporate office for a time. The CEO introduced a new rule one day that allowed employees to bring their pets, mostly dogs, to work on Friday’s. He didn't realized, however, that this little fringe benefit didn't account for equity theory, or "fairness" in the work place. While some of the employees loved bringing their pets to work and showing them off, others turned their noses up at the "pet shop environment" the office had become. I'm not sure if the CEO ever caught on to the inequity but what they did notice was that productivity was steadily decreasing with all distractions these furry little critters caused. As a result, Bring Your Pet Friday was put on a permanent hiatus.

Today, most employees are too smart to fall for this sort of 'Casual Dress Friday' trickery, and companies are much more cautious about handing out fringe benefits that damage productivity. Nowadays employers are mainly focused on the bottom line. So by now you're probably asking, how does this change/addition affect me?

In May of 2011 I wrote a blog entry entitled: Undercover Boss: CEO or Santa Claus. I found the comment below particularly impressive. It provides a link to a clip regarding the different fringe benefits that employees of Google are receiving. Google's success strategy has been to release several programs that in my opinion are a giant leap forward in fringe benefits. The programs provide needed resources with an attached financial/bottom line value for both the employer and employee.

One great example is that Google provides its employees with free breakfast and lunch- every day! By providing complimentary meals to employees Google keeps them on site, interacting and brainstorming with each other. This not only keeps them happy but all but guarantees an increase in productivity. Additionally, employees can do the math to figure out that these extra meals are essentially a pay increase.

So here is my challenge to you. Read Nicole’s response and watch the video clip, then in the comments section tell me what additional benefits some companies could offer that would meet fulfill the needs of equity theory and help bottom line of the company.

Get creative with your responses! :)

Nicole Uy says:
April 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Personally, I love watching Undercover Boss too. I’ve watched different episodes featuring the CEOs of Hooters, 7-Eleven, Choice Hotels Int’l, Great Wolf Lodge and etc. While I believe that these CEOs who have volunteered to go undercover have good and honest intentions, I think that the “temporary/ one-time rewards” they offer to some employees are not necessarily beneficial. Aside from the fact that these rewards are only given to a select few, I don’t think the CEOs can really improve the condition of their companies unless they truly address the main issue: treat employees/ human capital better by offering more benefits and perks. Although it may be costly for companies, we have learned in class that the benefits definitely outweigh the burdens. When employees are being treated well and when they are satisfied, there is higher productivity, better customer service, and generally, a happy and warm atmosphere.

Aside from companies like SAS and Zappos that we have discussed in class, Google also treats its employees well. The video clip I found talks about just some of the numerous perks of working at Google, which is currently the 4th best company to work for. As you can see from the video, Google definitely spoils its employees. Not only does Google provide gourmet food, free laundry services, free massages, and gym facilities, it also provides free bus services to the office! Therefore, I think that by truly focusing on the wellness and happiness of employees, Google is able to utilize them to their full potential, as well as benefit from their various skills and knowledge. Additionally, unlike the ones offered in Undercover Boss, these benefits are long-term and permanent. Also, they are available to every single employee, from the lower levels to the highest levels.

Thus, by offering these types of benefits to employees, they can become fully motivated and eager to work. Additionally, all of people’s needs are being fully satisfied according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Organizational Behavior and Television MashUps

In September of last year my post What Do You Need From Work touched a nerve with readers generating more than 200 responses! You showed that you are as passionate about pop-culture as you are about office dynamics and organizational behavior.

I thought it would be fun to apply Maslow’s Hierarchy to a mashup TV world. Two of the television shows sited in reader responses were HBO’s Entourage and NBC’s The Office. Let’s imagine a world where Ari Gold and Michael Scott switch places. How would that switch effect the individual work environments?

Start with a level from Maslow’s Hierarchy and imagine how it would be manifested in this mashup. Here is an example:

Love and Belonging
Michael Scott would try too hard to become friends with Lloyd, putting his clients aside in an effort to woo his assistant. Freaked out his new employer’s affection, Lloyd would reluctantly agree to take Michael clubbing leading to more awkwardness than acceptance.

Use your imagination and have fun with this. If you are not familiar with these shows then tell me what other mashups would make for an interesting shift in work place dynamics. I can’t wait to read your responses!

I would like to offer special thanks to Jonathan and Rachel Horrigan for their Entourage and The Office specific comments in response to What Do You Need From Work.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Best Career Advice I've Ever Gotten: ASK!

Yesterday, I experienced a corporate miracle. issued me a refund, going against their strict policy. I was so happy by this experience I started reflecting on the power of asking and who gave me this profound career growth advice. I realized quickly that I know exactly who I learned this message from: I learned the power to ASK from one of my first mentors.

So here's my tale. I'd been working as a consultant at a major media organization in Los Angeles and pursuing my doctoral studies throughout the 90’s. I was happy as could be; bringing in $50/hour teaching classes like Supervision 101 and Assertive Communication. I was happy as could be, that is, until the day I found out that all of my co-workers were making $100/hour! Just like that I went from being engaged and delighted with my work to pissed off and bitter. I could not understand why my client (who was also my mentor at the time) was not compensating me as well as the others! I looked at the obvious reasons first: Were they better at the job than I was? Nope, my teaching evaluations were very high and competitive with the rest of them. Was it because I was younger or doing lower level work? Nope, we were all about the same age and teaching very comparable courses. I fussed and whined to friends and family members, until I finally mustered the courage to go in and speak to my mentor/client about it. First off, I told her that I had found out that the other trainers were making $100/hour. She confirmed this was true. I asked her if my work was not as good as theirs and she said, absolutely not; my work was just as good as theirs. So then I said, “Well why am I not making as much as the rest of them?” And she replied, “Because you never asked.” She explained that she had her manager hat on when making compensation decisions and that when I was initially hired I had asked for $50/hour which she had given to me and I'd been producing and happy. Then, I said, “I am asking now- I want to make $100/hour. Will you start paying me $100 an hour?” She said, “Of course!” I remember asking her why didn’t she offer me $100/hour right out of the gate and she said, “No one will ever just give you what you want in life – you have to know what your worth and what you want and go ask for it. This is of the best success strategies I ever learned. To this day, this mentor is one of my closest friends and influences and I am profoundly grateful for that advice.

So- back to Priceline and what happened yesterday. Unfortunately, I have a colleague in the Organizational Behavior industry experiencing a medical emergency right now rendering her unable to travel this week. If you look at the Priceline web site and read the fare restrictions it is pretty clear that there are no changes anyway, anyhow, so sorry too bad! When I gathered the courage to finally call them, the wait was daunting and the music they play while you're on hold repeats reiterates their 'no returns' policy. When I finally got a human being on the phone, I started with “Look I understand your policy and it makes sense, but will you listen to my story and consider making an exception.” Surprisingly, they did so and the folks on the other end of the phone abandoned their script and acted like kind humans. They made an exception and my friend got a large chunk of their money back. If I hadn't asked, that would have never occurred.

Thanks to my early mentor I remembered: You must ask to get what you want. A few tips I have learned: a) You must ask nicely, b) You must be prepared for a No and at a certain point walk away and come up with a Plan B, c) You must give the person you are asking solutions and choices and be clear about what you want.

So- what lessons or career advice have you learned from mentors? When did you ask and get what you wanted? What will you ask for today?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

4 Things Mentors Want From Their Proteges

I get asked all the time, “What do mentors really want from me anyway?” I wish there was a magic potion I could share with you that would create perfectly satisfying mentor-protégé relationships. Although the mysterious alchemy between individual mentor-protégé pairs is usually quite unique, there are four general desires that most mentors would have from their protégés. If you're hungry for more, Susan Murphy and I discuss these ideas further in chapter 4 of Power Mentoring.

1) Mentors want protégés to be like themselves. Remember the movie Austin Powers and the mini me character (for those who are familiar please pause here for evil laugher and pinky finger in mouth!)?! I always think about that character when I consider this concept. I have been writing about perceived similarity (which comes out of social psychology) for a long time now. It is basically the idea that successful mentoring relationships need to have some basis in similarity. In fact, sometimes mentors are initially attracted to certain protégés because they see a younger version of themselves in their protégé or they share similarity in salient demographic characteristics (so a scientist who sees herself in the budding young scientist). However, now we know especially with the prevalence of online mentoring that people can also see similarity in deeper level characteristics (goals, values, interests) which are even more important for figuring out how to be a mentor in the relationship in the long term.

So, how can all of this actually help you? I recommend that you research mentoring programs, find a would-be mentor and get to know them and actively look for areas of perceived similarity. Start with surface level similarity (when I have designed youth mentoring for at risk youth I start with very basic stuff like favorite TV shows, food etc.). Additionally, when getting to know each other initially, you shouldn't discount surface level similarity for bonding and developing a rapport-it might be around favorite books, a love for pets, reality TV or shoes - in other words safe personal topics are okay to broach. When getting to know a potential mentor try to think of some clever getting-to-know you questions that might uncover a hidden area of similarity (For example- I love time travel books so I sometimes ask “If you could go back in time, where would you go and what would you do?” Or I might ask ‘What countries are on your bucket list to travel to and where are some of the favorite place you have seen?)

2) Mentors want protégés who add value with different skills/perspectives. For example, when my co-author and I conducted our interviews for Power Mentoring we interviewed David Dreir (R-CA) who is a Republican. He talked about mentoring ACROSS political parties including mentoring Democrats. He talked about mentoring the junior members of congress in terms of norms, networking, etc. We also spoke with a Disney executive who gave career advice to a Nickelodeon executive - so mentoring across barriers can be very enlightening. Think about how you can complete and add to the mentor’s knowledge base/skills/connections. Do not discount the value of just adding a perspective they have not considered or unbridled enthusiasm.

3) Mentors want to see a compelling characteristic/skill or high potential. In other words, mentors are attracted to people they feel have some compelling interest, talent, or gift. For example, at the end of the semester I often recruit research assistants by picking out the brightest student I liked the best and approaching them with a job after the final is over. Many of these turn into long term mentoring relationships. So if you are good at what you do, you may just naturally attract mentors… although it is best not to wait for that but instead leverage what you are good at.

4) Mentors want protégés who are willing to learn. Mentors want to teach those who want to learn. The most important way to demonstrate that you are willing to learn is by following up! In other words, take any suggestions given by the mentor and loop back and communicate results. Also, by take a suggestion, idea etc. and build on it- so if a mentor suggests reading several blogs to develop ideas for creative writing I suggest that the protégé comes back having started their own blog and has already posted two stories! I think the other key here is to learn from mistakes and take risks. I think most mentors can forgive mistakes and mis-steps as long as there is learning and personal responsibility taken. And here is one other idea – humility. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos discusses this idea in this book. I interviewed Tony a few years ago and he is quite fascinating. Tony is another Harvard wunderkind who sold his first business in his twenties for millions of dollars. Now he runs Zappos and has created a corporate culture that focuses on happiness. He talks about hiring and keeping people who are humble. I think sometimes super smart people do not always have opportunities for humility or they are not always framed this way… and yet being humble is a big part of being willing to learn. This is one most people can work on including yours truly.

Image source:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Newsweek Article on Job Outlook for New Grads

Here is the link to a great Newsweek Article about a brighter outlook for 2012 graduates.

If this doesn't give you any good ideas for your future employment, then stop by for some great career advice!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Everything You Need to Know about Presenting You can Learn from Shark Tank!

Spring is in the air which means students around the country especially in Colleges of
Business are getting ready for that annual rites of passage- team presentations! This is a great chance for students to really show what they have learned from their mentoring programs and practice being on stage. It is also a great way for students to develop some empathy for the job of a professor as they need to research, design, and deliver something captivating that engages and educates.

Sooo- how should a student prepare? First, begin by finding the comfiest chair possible and then sit down and watch some TV! No, seriously Shark Tank is my new Professor Couch Potato guilty pleasure. I finally understand why people scream at the TV during sporting events- I find myself doing the same thing when watching this show!

The basic idea behind the show is that budding entrepreneurs can come in and pitch their products/ideas to five venture capitalists type/money people who are known as the sharks because they eat you alive. These folks challenge, berate, ridicule and sometimes even encourage and fund burgeoning businesses presented to them by their eager founders. It is good fun to watch and a great source of career advice for young entrepreneurs!

Here’s a success blueprint for presenting;
1) Be prepared for the obvious questions! Also, be prepared for the non-obvious questions and the contrarian viewpoint! For example, a couple came in to present “fat tape.” Yup, this is just what it sounds like- it is clear tape to bind up your fat on your arms, legs, butt, etc. and is targeted toward the female market. Kind of like duct tape only clear. The couple had already some success with this yet became defensive when confronted with the obvious question… “What happens when you un-tape your woman and all the fat comes out?!” The uber competitive sharks had a field day with this one and the entrepreneurs became defensive and lost this valuable opportunity.

2) Surprise your audience… pleasantly. On one episode, an entrepreneur came in to pitch educational music software… a bit of a snore until he invited in his surprise presenter, award winning Ingrid Michaelson – he had the sharks eating out of his hands and they were fighting to give him money!
3) Research your audience – One entrepreneur came in to pitch a wine product but three of the sharks were not even wine drinkers so they immediately lost interest.

4) Bring some notes in case you completely lose your mind! One presenter came in and sweated, stammered and went absolutely blank when asked to provide numbers. When you get in trouble, take a deep break, look at your notes and get back on track.

5) Know the outcome you want before you walk in! Two ladies came in with some very cool outerwear gear but they had no clear objective and quickly crumpled in the face of the sharks severe questioning- they ended up giving up a huge chunk of their company and it was sad to see them fold. You must know what the objectives are of your presentation and stick to them.

Of course, there is more to being a good presenter than watching Shark Tank however these tips can get you started. Good luck on your next presentation!

Monday, May 7, 2012

What the Avengers Taught Me About Organizational Learning

Last night I went to see The Avengers. I know I am about to express a minority, and possibly Anti-American opinion… but I thought the movie was really long and kinda boring. My son tells me I feel this way because I am a girl. Perhaps so but, as I was enduring the movie, I did realized that The Avengers actually had some valuable lessons for an important aspect of organizational behavior- team development.

  1. 1) Individual contributors can be brought together as an effective team when they coalesce around a common enemy, like for instance, a super villain named Loki. So, if you are having trouble getting folks to act as a team in a service learning environment, you might want to consider who the common enemies are.

  2. 2) People with very different personalities and agendas can become an effective team if they have a higher goal that is meaningful to all of them. Spoiler alert but the common goal for The Avengers was saving the earth and all of humanity. Pretty good goal I think.

  3. 3) An extremely important success strategy is to build a team that is composed of people who can appreciate and leverage their complementary skills and differences. In other words, people need to know what their super powers are and how to leverage them. Can you imagine if everybody on your team had an anger management problem and became The Hulk when provoked? Nope, that would not work. But instead if you have one raging Hulk figure, one techno nerd guy with a flying iron suit and tons of money, one guy who wields thunder and understands the enemy culture, one guy who rocks the tights and is steadfastly loyal, and one woman who is strong, beautiful, and can psyche out the enemy then you have a powerful team (I would have liked to see more female super heroes but that is another blog, another time).

The greatest lesson learned from The Avengers is that even a super hero can be more effective at saving the earth when they work as a team. Is your team working for the greatest good these days? Seems like it is a lot more fun when they do.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

6 Easy Steps to Getting a Mentor

  1. Know Thyself- figure out your goals, wishes, and ideas about what you want.  I would like you invite you to take some pressure off. You do not have to know your exact interest in order to connect with a mentor. This will continue to change and evolve. I see this all the time with college students who change their major more times than a fashion model changes clothes!  As for adults in the workforce, the average person changes job 16-29 times and careers 7-10 times. You don’t have to have your exact career mapped out- just know the next step to explore.  Also, I will mention one resource – the Strong Interest inventory based on John Holland’s work with a typology of vocational codes and occupations can be very helpful in helping people match specific interests with certain occupations.

  2. Figure out the go-to people in particular area. Here is where you get to do some research.  Look around – who are the thought leaders in a particular area? Immerse yourself in the writing, the YouTube clips, and the presentations of an individual. If local, see who speaks up, who talks at professional meetings, who is the one person that everyone says you should talk to for career advice… keep immersing yourself- a pattern will emerge and a few names will appear as the go to people.

  3. Think outside the box and consider different types of mentoring programs. What knowledge, skills, or abilities do you want to acquire?  Probably different mentors can help in different ways. For example, perhaps a step-ahead mentor who is several years older than you can help with issues of adjusting to being new to a work environment.   Or maybe you want to connect with someone prominent like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and gain her support as a mentor because you are considering a career in the Foreign Service?  Yes, Hillary is a little busy and probably tough to reach!  But Hillary and other successful people have people that work for them and it is their job to write back when you contact them.  Work on developing a relationship with gatekeepers, and second or third tier connections. A great way to do this is to link in with past professors, alumni groups and take a look at their networks.  Also, think about e-mentors, reverse mentors, peer mentors, as well as traditional mentors.  Also, source out formal mentoring programs.  For more ideas about different types of mentors see my book that I co-wrote with Susan Murphy, Power Mentoring.

  4. Make a warm call instead of a cold call- In other words, find someone who knows somebody who can provide an introduction – LinkedIn is  a great tool for this.

  5. Give Back -Make your complementary skills explicit.  For example, a few years ago, I helped a recent MBA grad land his first job in entertainment and marketing.  In return, one day he stopped by my office and said I am not leaving until you get on Facebook and Linked In- I mentored him about getting ahead in his career and in return he became my social media guru. An exchange of technology savvy for technical knowledge is a great example of  reciprocal mentoring.

  6. Follow up, express appreciation and pay it forward.  Keep expanding your network. Since it is Girl Scout cookie time (Samoa’s rock!). I am reminded of the Girl  Scout jingle, “Make new friends, keep the old, new is silver, old is gold.” In other words, we are never too young or old to start creating a network of helping relationships and it is never to soon to pay it forward. .. at my son’s school the eighth  graders are paired as mentors to the kindergartners so for him, he learned how to be a mentor when he was five years old. People who live well never keep learning so we always need to be involved as both mentors and protégés to others.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Undercover Boss: CEO or Santa Claus?

About Me

I am a Professor of Management at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California where I have taught undergraduate and graduate business students for 13 years. I am an author and co-writter of the book Power Mentoring: How Successful Mentors and Protégés Make the Most Out of Their Mentoring Relationships (2005, Jossey Bass). I am currently in the process of writing my second book on career advice called, Career Crossroads. I am also a mom, a pilates and beach workout enthusiast, and an avid fiction reader. I love teaching and writing but I also love to put my son to bed and collapse onto my couch and morph into Professor Couch Potato. Like a lot of people, I have become addicted to Undercover Boss and all shows related to work—I rationalize my couch time as my time to connect with pop culture and in fact often weave in TV and movie clips into my classes on Human Resources Management. But let’s face it—lying around and being amused is a big part of the appeal! For more information about me, you can check out my academic curriculum vitae and professional biography. .

Purpose of this Blog

The purpose of this blog is to provide a consistent commentary on TV shows about the world of work using the lens of management theories and themes. So, I will comment on shows like Undercover Boss, The Office, Outsourcing, The Apprentice, and whatever else strikes my fancy and is recommended to me by my fellow couch potato students and friends. I am going to start with Undercover Boss because watching the show has become my entertainment dope. I hope this blog might be helpful to students, professors, or anybody in business who wants to see how management theory is applied in practice or maybe just wants a slightly intellectual and irreverent spin on their own TV watching. Feel free to use these ideas in your classes, casual conversation, or whatever (as we love to say in Southern California!). I am going to have some fun with this and I hope you do too!

General Overview to this Episode of Undercover Boss

Recently, I watched the episode of Undercover Boss depicting Kim Schaffer, the CEO of Great Wolf Resorts. In this episode Kim Schaffer goes undercover in her company and experiences a day in the life of four entry level jobs: a) Childcare center worker, b) Front desk clerk at the resort, c) Water park employee, and d) Waitress at the resort restaurant. According to the show, Schaffer was promoted from within the organization and interestingly, she is the first female CEO to be portrayed on the show.

What I Loved and Some Related Reading for Further Food for Thought

Here is a list of what resonated for me on this episode:

- I enjoy watching a woman female mentor and I loved that Schaffer copped to struggling with her balance as an executive and wife and mother.

- I loved that she had a supportive stay-at-home husband (hooray for non-traditional roles!) and that she felt guilty for splitting her attention between her kids and work no matter how much support and how cared for her kids are. I do believe that the plight of all working moms, no matter what level of the organization you are at, is to feel guilty. (for a more in-depth take on this you can check out my recent article I co-wrote on Opting In Between which is in press at the Journal of Career Development). Also, check out a book called the The Opt Out Revolt: Why People are Leaving Companies to Create Kaleidoscope Careers by Lisa Mainiero and Sherry Sullivan.

- I love that Schaffer cried a lot- I think there are a lot of repressed tears at work by both men and women and yes, dammit, I loved every schmaltzy, contrived, tearful moment!

- I love the human stories and everyday heroism depicted by her employees- If you enjoyed this, don’t miss Barbara Ehrenreich’s classic book, Nickel and Dimed where she goes undercover for a year and takes a series of minimum wage jobs. A new take on this is by Gabriel Thompson who wrote, Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing Jobs Most Americans Won’t Do—the writer goes undercover and works as a lettuce picker, poultry factory worker (warning – you might find yourself switching to a tofu diet!), flower shop worker, and restaurant delivery guy.

- And, I don’t want to be mean but yes I did enjoy watching the CEO picking up shit from the bottom of the pool- that was a deeply satisfying moment, although that might speak more about me than about the show!

WTF and Management Themes

This is the section, where I talk about what made me cringe or sometimes even say WTF? In this episode, my biggest WTF moment was around the short term feel good solutions given to the employees that the CEO encountered while making the TV show.

Thus- the title of this essay- Ask yourself: do you want to be a CEO or Santa Claus? We all know what happens to Santa Claus… retention drops off and disillusionment sets in after a few short years when expectations of the little people are no longer being met. I fear the same fate might be in store when CEO’s approach systemic problems as if they were Christmas morning. I wonder, as I was watching the show, was I the only shouting out, OMG, What about Equity Theory?!

Kurt Lewin says “There is nothing as useful as a good theory.” So check this out:

Equity theory says that each of us compare ourselves to others at work. In fact, we even are likely to find one person in particular that is similar to us in important ways (background education, demographics, etc.) and that becomes our “comparison other.” So, what we do is we compare our ratio of inputs (this is everything we put into a job like our skills, education, effort, our social capital etc. to what we get out of a job which we call our outcomes (like pay, promotions, status, travel, recognition). Everybody is cool and happy when the ratio between your inputs and outcomes between yourself and your comparison other is roughly equivalent. All hell breaks loose though, when the ratio is not in balance. Have you ever been satisfied with your job until you found out your goofy co-worker was making more than you … and suddenly you wanted to make more too? When we find out that someone is getting more than us, it rocks our world.

So, imagine how the employees NOT depicted on the Great Wolfs episode feel about their coworkers who did work with Schaffer and as a result got some pretty sweet rewards? Here were some of the rewards granted to the Great Wolf employees portrayed on the show: a consistent work schedule, a vacation, a paid for college education, a promotion to training manager. I think we all know the answer- I am betting the other employees are feeling that they were unfairly treated (and yes, all employees now get family discount days but let’s face it these don’t compare to the goodies enjoyed by their on camera colleagues).

So what happens next according to equity theory? Simple, people tend to: 1) Withdraw either physically (so they engage in tardiness, absenteeism, or just quit) or psychologically (so they check out mentally), 2) they reduce their inputs (so they don’t work as hard), or 3) they increase their outputs (employee theft, sabotage or other creative ways of getting even).

The Santa Claus CEO is not a syndrome limited to Kim Schaffer, but is endemic to the show and tempting to fall prey too. I would encourage the CEO of Great Wolfs to work on long term systemic solutions that have a broad impact on many employees and the entire organizational culture, rather than on short term interventions that help only a few.

Last Random Thoughts and Key Learnings

Here is something cool I learned from the show:

Question: What is an AFR?

Answer: An AFR is an Accidental Fecal Release.

In the show, the CEO had to pick up an AFR out of the water as part of her training by her supervisor.

For fun, let’s use AFR in a sentence. When my son was 2 ½ he had an AFR in the middle seat of a flight from England to the United States. Or, did my coworkers just have an AFR come out of his mouth—again? You can see, this AFR thing can be loads of fun!