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How To Find That Key Person That Can Help You Progress in Your Career?

How To Find That Key Person That Can Help You Progress in Your Career?

From the moment we enter this world, we rely on others for guidance. Our parents look after us, teach us how to make decisions, and face challenges. In school, we look to our teachers to help us learn and define our futures. What happens when we leave those formal settings and set out for work in the real world?

We’re so accustomed to having a constant source of feedback, that it can be a shock to step into a professional setting where we’re on our own. Even though we may have graduated to the next step on our career path, we still need guidance.

For the first time in your life, you feel like you’re on your own.

Being new to a career is tough. If you feel like you can hardly keep your head above water, you aren’t alone. One study suggests that one third of new employees quit their jobs within the first six months.[1] Even teachers, the very mentors we crave, have terrible retention rates–somewhere between 17 and 46 percent of them quit within the first five years.[2]

This common thread of job dissatisfaction that runs across many fields is due to a lack of coaching and feedback.[3] For many of us, taking a job is the first time that we don’t have someone guiding us. Suddenly there’s nobody to give us feedback, and the feedback that we do receive is mostly to tell us when we’ve done something incorrectly.

Why you should find a mentor to help your career progress.

Their expertise is invaluable.

Your mentor will have an understanding of the work that you do. They may be a few steps ahead of you on the corporate ladder, or they have worked the job longer. They are usually keenly aware of the internal workings of your place of employment.

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A first year teacher would benefit from partnering with a veteran teacher. The veteran teacher knows how to maximize class time, but they also know the community and the nuances of the school’s culture.

Mentors can offer you guidance about the skills and knowledge you need to be successful.

Many of the struggles that arise for rookies come from differences in education and a lack of understanding about their organization. Mentors can offer guidance about development opportunities that you can take to shore up any weaknesses.

A new educator arrives at their first teaching job with a teaching degree, but they may be teaching in an environment that is different from the places where they learned and student-taught. A mentor might suggest that they take a multi-cultural education class or offer information about customs that are unique to that school’s community.

They can provide constructive feedback.

Your mentor will tell you when you’ve made a mistake, but they’ll also help you come up with strategies for improvement. Nobody likes to fail, but when we are taking risks and trying to move along in our career path, we are bound to make a few blunders. As long as we learn from our mistakes, they can be a valuable part of the learning process.

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Perhaps you just gave your first presentation at work. Your leaders were not impressed with your talk. Your mentor noticed that you were fidgeting, using filler words, and mumbling throughout the talk. They may offer advice on how to exude confidence, and they may agree to go over your next presentation with you so that you don’t make the same mistakes twice.

They can see the big picture.

Since your mentor has been around for a while, they’ll have a broader perspective about the state of your organization or field. They’ve survived the upswings and downturns, and most of them are happy to keep others from making the same mistakes they made.

You’ve noticed that things are tense around the office. Your coworkers seem grumpy, and the stress is beginning to wear on you. Your mentor is the person who tells you what nobody else wants to talk about: a group of senior employees is going through a serious contract renegotiation. People are worried about keeping their jobs. Armed with this knowledge, you may be able to view your colleagues with compassion instead of disdain.

Instead of drowning in insecurities and uncertainties, look to others for guidance. Finding that one person who believes in your abilities can be the difference between moving along on your career path or starting over.

What’s in it for the mentor?

Finding a mentor can seem like a daunting task, but you are probably surrounded by potential coaches. Since mentoring involves time and energy on the part of mentors, they are only going to want to invest these valuable assets in mentees who show promise.[4] A mentor may agree to work with you if they see that you are a driven and capable worker.

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We’re all new to our jobs at some point, and the veterans among us know how that feels. Perhaps they feel a desire to give back to others after someone helped them.

Guiding rookie employees is an excellent way for mentor to advance in their own career. When their guidance contributes to your success, they are able to demonstrate their capacity as a leader. They can also delegate some tasks to you to free them up to work on bigger projects. To the experienced mentor, the tasks they are asking you to do are a real time-sink, but for the new employee, that type of work may be the training that you need to continue on your career path.

Where you can look for guidance

Good guidance can come from almost anyone in your organization or field. A formal mentoring relationship that develops organically over time is ideal, but there are also informal ways that you can find additional help.[5]

1. Speak up and voice your thoughts. The first step to finding a mentor is to show that you are engaged in the success of the organization. Giving voice to your ideas and concerns demonstrates that you take your work seriously.

2. Show your intentions by asking for feedback. Seeking constructive criticism will help you grow. Experienced colleagues will take notice of your desire for self-improvement when you ask for feedback. It is also much easier to mentor someone who clearly wants to improve.

3. Take Initiative. Going above and beyond in your assigned duties is another way to show potential mentors your motivation. No matter how minor your task is, execute it with a high level of care. Possible mentors will see a person who is capable of taking on bigger challenges. They’ll also be more likely to connect you with opportunities to advance your career.

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3. Take your peers as your mentors.[6] Coworkers doing the same job that you do may have a different approach. You could benefit from troubleshooting with them and emulating practices that make them effective. Even if you don’t adopt their methods, learning how to approach work in different ways can help you progress.

4. Observe people in higher-level positions. Whether or not you have a formal mentoring relationship with someone at a later stage in your career path, you can still pay attention to the way they work. The manner in which they organize their time, speak, dress, and interact with others can offer you clues about what you need to do to reach their level.

5. Take advantage of networking opportunities. When you go to conferences and professional development events, don’t be afraid to talk to people.[7] You might find your mentor, or at the very least, gain some insights into the industry.

6. Don’t underestimate the power of attending office social functions. You might strike up a conversation that helps you find someone to give you guidance.

Look for guidance to take control of your situation.

Richard Bransons and Elon Musks of the world didn’t become the successful people they are today without help. Even visionaries have moments when they aren’t sure what they are doing, and they have all been new to their jobs at some point. Finding a mentor (or several) can help you move from a position of uncertainty to a position of strength and confidence.

Featured photo credit: Original image by Gonzalo Martin. Modified by A. Phebus. via flickr.com

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Angelina Phebus

Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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Last Updated on December 5, 2018

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

How do they do it?

By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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3. Demand Learning from Your Team

CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

“The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

“We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

  • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
  • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
  • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
  • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
  • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
  • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

  • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
  • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
  • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
  • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
  • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

    “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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  • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
  • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
  • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
  • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

10. Empower Your Employees

Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

11. Nurture Your Company Culture

Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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