Business Mentoring & Coaching

Business Mentoring & Career Coaching
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A lot of people think that being a leader is something that either comes naturally or it doesn’t. However, this is not the case. You can teach yourself to be a good leader. A good leader is someone who is able to effectively overcome all of the different challenges they face. A good leader is someone who learns from mistakes so that they can make improvements going forward. With that being said, below, we are going to take a look at three major leadership challenges, as well as providing some tips on how to overcome them.

Keeping your team motivated and inspired 

As a leader, your team is going to look to you for motivation. It is up to you to make sure that everyone working for you is inspired. There are going to be moments whereby people do not feel motivated. You may notice that productivity levels have dipped and that your team does not seem as interested anymore. It is up to you to spot the signs of this. If your employees are unmotivated, look for ways to keep their eyes on the prize. You can break tasks down into smaller jobs and celebrate small wins. You may even want to consider team building activities. 

Managing people without micromanaging 

Leaders can often fall into the trap of micromanaging. This is something that is incredibly easy to do. However, micromanaging can cause employees to feel frustrated and they will assume that you do not trust them. At the end of the day, your team has been employed for a reason; they have the skills and qualities that are needed to succeed. Therefore, you need to delegate tasks effectively. Do not delegate them on a first-come, first-serve basis. Instead, think about who is going to be most suitable for the task at hand. 

Dealing with conflict 

Last but not least, there is no denying that dealing with conflict is one of the most challenging things that any leader has to do. It is healthy for people to have different opinions. However, there does get to a point whereby this spills over, and healthy conflict turns into unhealthy conflict. When this happens, you need to look for ways for conflict to be healthy and constructive. As a leader, you need to make sure that any sort of conflict is steered toward a positive resolution.

Final words on major leadership challenges and how to overcome them

Now, we’ve hopefully given you an insight into three of the most common and difficult leadership challenges. All leaders face challenges in the workplace, and there are going to be times when you do not handle them as effectively as you should. Rather than punishing yourself over this, you need to make sure that you take the time to assess the situation and learn where you went wrong so that you can make better decisions in the future. We hope that the advice provided above will help with this. 

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Virtual literally became a reality with the changes demanded of us through the Coronavirus pandemic. Businesses quickly adapted to significantly reduced personal interaction levels and moved to video calls, meetings, and training by phone or video call.  For some, the benefits have been enormous and they see very little reason to return to old ways, so does this work for virtual mentoring?

Mentoring should support teams and individuals, which is even more critical when working remotely. The feeling of community is easily lost and individuals can suffer stress and feel isolated without it being noticed when they aren’t turning up to an office every day. The virtual world is one way to overcome this and mentoring can undoubtedly be as effective.

Virtual Mentoring Has Many Benefits Even Post-Pandemic

  • Location– remote mentoring immediately removes the location barrier. Virtual mentoring opens up the opportunity for relationships that would never happen in an office.
  • Time Efficiencies– No travel time and sessions can happen from anywhere, be scheduled more efficiently and cost less.
  • Less Social Pressure– Meeting with a mentor face-to-face can cause anxiety and nerves, especially for those with low self-esteem, which can inhibit some natural reactions and become a barrier to progress. Virtual mentoring can be a highly successful way of removing this stress to become a more comfortable and productive process. You can begin with phone calls and move to video calls at a pace that your mentee is comfortable with.
  • Multiple Mentors– Individuals can have multiple mentors through the new flexibility that virtual mentoring offers.
  • Quick To Put Into Action– Mentoring programs within offices tend to become large programs that take planning and big meetings. Virtual mentoring allows this to be scaled down and is much quicker to get up and running as a result.

Overcoming The Challenges of Virtual Mentoring

  • Forming A Connection Wherever possible, encourage participants to use video calls, even if they start without the camera. It gives the option to switch on the camera as you form a connection without changing the basic meeting structure. Make time for the social side and use icebreaker games to get to know each other and become comfortable. Understanding how to mentor an anxious employee can teach skills valuable to all virtual mentoring encounters. 
  • Reducing the feeling of isolation – Mentoring programs have a sense of community that needs to develop even more strongly in virtual mentoring, whether to an individual or a group. Schedule a webinar for those involved before the program’s official start, encouraging participants to feel part of something. Have similar milestone meetings throughout the program to celebrate achievements and progress.
  • Technical Difficulties– You are bound to encounter some technical difficulties, so have a backup plan that everyone understands. Disruption can derail the flow and become frustrating. Check connections are stable before you start and resort to a phone call to get back on track if you can’t fix the issue speedily.

Mentoring may never become entirely remote and there is, we hope, no reason for that to be the case. Still, it is undoubtedly a productive and valuable addition to mentoring services that we see staying around.

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Effective leadership is arguably the holy grail of business and makes all the difference in whether a business thrives or merely coasts. Many books, papers and articles have been written on this topic over the years which creates the dilemma of which is likely to be informative and inspiring and which is destined for the recycling bin.

Read on for our selection on which leadership books are, in our opinion worth reading for insight and inspiration, whether you are an experienced CEO or just starting out on your leadership journey.

1 Learning to Lead by Ron Williams with Karl Weber

Growing up in segregated Chicago was no barrier to Ron Williams getting to the very top of his field in health care and this book sets out to share his personal philosophies as well as useful tips on how to put yourself in the right place at the right time to progress your career.

2 Excellence Wins by Horst Schulze with Dean Merrill

The hotel business is more than most subject to the vagaries and whims of passing trends and a successful hotelier is all too aware that the hotel business is only as good as the quality, enthusiasm and ideas of their employees. Former Ritz-Carlton president Schulze understands the power of a fully committed and engaged staff who contribute towards the success of a business when their ideas and experience are taken on board by managers.

3 Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

The two ex US navy seal officers who gained valuable leadership experience and more when they led special operations units during the Iraq war bring their unique perspective on how to structure your team for success. Strong leadership is essential whether in the field of war or otherwise and the authors illustrate perfectly how to lead under fire whether real or metaphorical.

4 The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis

How many of us have worked for a company or organisation where the management and leadership was at best sporadic or even non-existent and how many of us have been the ones gallantly struggling to keep things together for customers or other stakeholders. The Fifth Risk offers an insight into how much better and more successful an enterprise can be with the right leadership and support.

5 Leadership is an Art by Max De Pree

This book by the former CEO of the highly successful home and office furnishings company Herman Miller Inc is probably the definitive work on how to build the success of your business through not only hiring the right creative minds but also through placing trust in your employees and nurturing relationships. He makes the point that great leadership is not just about ‘wielding the big stick’ but instead building solid foundations from top to bottom.   

Whether you’re just starting out and unsure of your talents or whether you have innate, instinctive leadership skills we feel sure that there is always something to be gained from the wise words of those who have mastered the art. 

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A great leader understands the importance of communication. Communication skills can undoubtedly be learned to make success easier. No matter how big or small your business or organisation, you need to excel at communication for the sake of your business.

Does It Matter As Long As The Job Gets Done?

In short, the answer is yes. Poor communication leads to low morale, lost sales and missed goals and that hits your bottom line. On the other hand, get communication right and you will rally teams, empower employees and build trust amongst colleagues. 

What Are Essential Skills?

  • Active Listening– hearing and understanding what is being said to you. Knowing when to speak and when to listen, ask questions and listen to what is said. Employees who feel heard, have a chance to express ideas and give feedback feel more valued, are more actively engaged, leading to higher morale and productivity. Keep your focus on the employee and eliminate any distractions. If you want to win them over, they need to know they are an essential part of the company structure.
  • Identifying your leadership style and adapting your communication style you need to understand how employees perceive you and tailor your interactions to influence them to respond. Whilst you may feel you are an authoritative leader, this may not be the best approach to win over a strong employee seeking autonomy. The ability to adapt your communication style will make a difference.
  • Transparency – Leaders build trust through an environment where employees understand the company goals and challenges. Every individual understands the importance of their role within the company and transparent leaders helps make this connection. 5 Powerful things happen when a leader is transparent; this Forbes article shows changes a leader can make to get results.
  • Empathy– this quite possibly should have been listed first, as it is a leadership skill must for success. Acknowledging employees feelings and experiences will help them feel valued. Showing you may not be able to change things, but you hear them will build a more robust, more productive culture that every leader needs for success.
  • Body Language– How you carry yourself can undo thousands of words. Make eye contact and take control of your mouth. Know when to give a smile or grimace and convey warmth with your movements. 
  • Questioning style– Practice asking open-ended questions and how to elicit thoughtful and thorough responses. Clarify and probe when you need to. In doing so, you will get more considered answers and clarity on what is required for all to succeed. Closed questions will shut down opinions and employees feeling that they have no right t be heard.
  • Feedback– Ask for it and be prepared to act on it. If you never implement changes from feedback or are not transparent about why changes cant be made, you will lose employee faith. Let employees know you hear them and inform them of any progress you can or have made if you want them to take you seriously.

Alongside the tips above, we recommend you check out these top 5 leadership books of all time to give you even more strategies for communicating well within your business.

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Mentoring always creates expectations for both parties involved, and it is important as both a mentor to understand which of those expectations you should reasonably expect to fulfil. While many believe that having a strong mentoring program within your business is most beneficial in improving workplace culture, how can you be sure there are no misunderstandings or disappointment, when it is felt by either party that expectations are not being met? 

We look at some tips to help you work out what is reasonable or unreasonable and how to set boundaries.

In the beginning

Before clarifying your mentor relationship with the person you’re mentoring, you should seek to answer some basic questions yourself. Entering into the initial mutual discussion understanding your own expectations and what you hope to achieve, as well as defining what you expect to be offered from the mentoring relationship will give you a good starting point. Once done you will be better placed to have the critical mentor meeting as you embark on the program. 

Understanding Expectations

Seek to answer these questions:

  • What do I expect of the other party?
  • What do I think they expect of me?
  • What are my expectations of the mentoring program?
  • What should the mentor expect of the mentored person’s immediate manager to support them to succeed in the program?

Once you have the answers, you have made progress to understand your own expectations. You should then seek to align these with your counterpart.

At the outset of the mentoring process sit down with the person you’re mentoring and discuss the expectations you have from the relationship, before you progress any further.  As the mentor you should lead the conversation, but you must allow space for the other person to articulate their needs and expectations.

Following these three steps will help you cover some of the key areas you need to clarify:

  1. As the mentor, state your expectations, and allow the other person to ask questions and clarify what is offered and what your expectation means.
  2. As a mentor you are seeking agreement on the expectation. Agreeing a common definition and understanding for every aspect of the mentoring partnership in advance will avoid potential confusion or feelings of resentment later through the mentoring program.
  3. If you cannot agree on any of the expectations or feel that they are not realistic at this time or are not appropriate, you can mutually decide to put them to one side to be revisited at a future time. As the program moves forward there may be a chance for agreement later on or for a mutually agreed adjustment.

As the mentor you are there to guide the person you’re mentoring through the targets and make progress as expected. This role is often used to foster career development, which is of benefit to both parties enabling them to grow within the business and as a person. However, sometimes employees may not progress in as short a time as you think they should, which could cause anxiety on both sides.  Understanding how to mentor an anxious employee is a useful skill to have, allowing you to manage their expectations and your own, so that things do not become problematic.