Lessons In Leadership: Mentorship
By C. Ross Berry on September 02, 2020
Imparting Waffle House Wisdom
Once you have identified the employee who wants to achieve more how do you mentor them?
Just like the concept of ethos, the idea of a mentor also comes from the ancient Greeks. In fact, the word “mentor” comes from the Greek epic poem, Homer’s Odyssey. Originally based off of the character Mentor, the term now refers to an experienced or trusted advisor.
As can only happen in a Waffle House in Atlanta, a mentor once imparted some wisdom that has stuck with me throughout my career: “First year, learn. Second year, yearn. Third year, earn”. He strongly believed that a person entering a new opportunity should take the time to learn the people, the position and the politics. Following this understanding of your environment, begin to aspire, or yearn, to make meaningful changes to the organization. Finally, use your awareness of the organization and drive to make a difference to build impactful contributions. This idea of continually seeking growth and understanding in a way that can influence your ability to give back truly gets at the heart of mentorship.
Over the course of my career, I have had several mentors who have greatly impacted me. Some have entered my life via a common workplace, and have influenced me by encouraging me to further my education (specifically, to earn my MBA) or by providing wisdom that I would eventually pass on to my mentees. Others, I have sought out with intentionality. Each had different advice to offer, and each was present in my life for a different chapter. As years have passed, some of these mentors have remained mentors and others have shifted to a friend or colleague role.
What each of these individuals had in common was this: they were each further along in their careers and fit the cliché of being older, wiser and more experienced. While we shared a similar ethos, the experiences and decisions of these individuals had led them to the same success I aspired to achieve. Said another way, seek advice from those who have what you want in ten years, and who have gotten there using the same values you already possess. Another commonality among these mentors is that they had each personally invested in my success. This was balanced with an ability to be objective, unselfish and impartial with their guidance.
Mentorship is analogous to a “chain”. At every point in your career, it is advisable to seek out a mentor. But as a link in this chain, you will at some point (often earlier than you think) be in a position to be a mentor and pass experiential wisdom along to others.
Lessons In Leadership: Serving Your Employees
By C. Ross Berry on August 26, 2020
What is a leader’s responsibility to their employees?
A leader should understand that there are generally three distinct types of employees, and each of these employees needs a different type of support from their leader. It is a leader’s responsibility to identify these employees and respond accordingly.
The first type of employee are those who obtain a job and come to work for a paycheck. You may be familiar with Jack Welch’s concept of continuously cutting the bottom 10% of performers within a company. While the concept of helping disengaged employees move to a new opportunity is not inherently flawed, maintaining this practice can be detrimental for several reasons.
At some point, you should reach an equilibrium within your organization where even the bottom 10% are high performers. Continuing to cut employees can create a negative culture where hyper-competitiveness is based in fear rather than the desire to succeed.
Cutting employees also disregards any possibility that you may have hired this individual into the wrong role. An effective leader does not simply cut this employee for underperforming, but instead identifies this individual and aids them in finding a new opportunity that excites them. While sometimes this may be a role outside the company, there could very well be an opportunity within your organization that would be a great fit for this employee.
A second type of employee is the worker that is perfectly content to give their best effort while at work but are not concerned with advancing beyond their current position. These employees are dependable and loyal, and their stability should be recognized and praised. A good leader will provide them with the tools they need to perform their job, and then stay out of their way.
The third type of employee is the overachiever. This employee desires to take on more responsibility—they are ambitious and enthusiastic. A leader can best serve this employee by recognizing this drive and offering the resources to develop their career. This could be providing mentorship, additional responsibilities, or supporting this employee by offering a reference when they take the next step in their career.
At some point, we have all been one of these three employees. The true magic happens when we have the opportunity to interact with a leader who recognizes our potential and provides proper mentorship. Stay tuned for next week’s blog for more about mentorship!
Lessons In Leadership: Interviewing
By C. Ross Berry on August 19, 2020
So, how do you apply the concept of Ethos to a practical situation and why does it matter?
Interviewing (and identifying) the right candidate for your organization is one of the most important functions as a leader. When an employee is well matched to an organization, they are more likely to find the work fulfilling and less likely to leave the company. From a financial standpoint, high employee turnover can be detrimental to the bottom line. It is estimated that the cost of employee turnover can be as high as one year of that employee’s salary, which means that hiring the right person the first time is much more efficient.
Furthermore, understanding the individual ethos of a potential employee can allow a leader to create a balanced team of diverse backgrounds. Consequently, this can result in a more harmonious and effective workplace.
When evaluating a candidate, there are four main criteria that should be met: Education, Experience, Aptitude and Fit. The first three are relatively straight forward. A candidate will mildly, moderately or absolutely meet these qualifications. However, candidates are more than just their qualifications. Fit is arguably the most important of the four criteria, and yet it is often overlooked.
Simultaneously, Fit is the most difficult of the criteria to discern. After determining that a candidate meets the other requirements, a second interview can be held to focus solely on Fit. At this stage of the interview process, the interview should be conversational. Simply asking an open-ended question, such as “starting with you first job post-education describe your professional history up to now”, can allow a candidate to share their own narrative and allow a leader to gain insight on the individual ethos of the candidate.