Monthly Archives: March 2021

Is It Really “Impossible”? Stop the Excuses

Some of the changes we’ve seen take place during the pandemic, such as engaged workers successfully working at home productively, actually are continuations of trends that started prior to 2020 (e.g.,  the rise of “gig” workers). At the same time, new trends were started… and now is the time to focus on some which will have positive outcomes in the post-pandemic era. In “The Important Role of “Responder’ in Leadership”, the author, a retired Navy captain, reminds us that one is to increase the extent to which we should challenge limiting beliefs; let’s unleash our potential for growth.

Among many important points she makes concerning leadership, is Dr. Morro’s comment that we can turn “predicaments into progress”.  “When I ran a VA hospital in rural Georgia, I knew telehealth would open us up to recruit better talent and the level of care we needed. We had such modest goals because of buy-in, regulation requirements, and adoption – then COVID hit and wiped those barriers away. What would have taken years to implement happened in a matter of days.”

In the first months of the pandemic, I shared examples of seemingly “impossible” feats of people and companies, as reported by McKinsey & Company and other observers.  Activities that were considered impossible to do or take years to implement, were accomplished in days and weeks because the goals outweighed worrying about the “resistance”. 

For instance, in one of McKinsey’s best reports on this topic, From Surviving to Thriving: Business after Coronavirus, they relate the story of a leading retailer who was exploring how to launch a curbside-delivery business; the plan stretched over 18 months. When the COVID-19 lockdown hit the United States, it went live in two days. There are many more examples of faster, smarter, ways of thinking.

Suddenly the need to keep business going by empowering responsible people to do the “right thing” enabled people to work from home on imperfect devices, without all the rules, regulations, safeguards, etc. that “centralized” office teams” had been using to slow progress. It may not have always been perfect, but with the right intentions, it generally worked. The key was to assess the risk, and then learn from the experience until a new better, faster, and/.or cheaper solution was apparent.

Think of things you, your family and close friends/colleagues were engaged in throughout this last year; how often did the traditional norms and rules serve as limitations and restrictions – only to lose those powers as we progressed forward? We thought we had to work during ”working hours” but now we create them by adding in time that used to be used for commutes; we thought deals needed our personal presence; Zoom filled the gap and will in many cases continue to do so.

As we forge the new “post-pandemic” normal, challenge assumptions, reduce red-tape, find new ways to be agile and service-oriented. Control has shifted; this is your chance to make the next normal more conducive to more responsive, efficient and effective processes!

Time to Plan for Mentoring Internships

With the Spring semester at its midpoint, students are beginning the search for summer internships. This year, possibly more than ever before, it’s important for adults in the labor market to try to open their hearts and companies to offer mentoring internships.

A bit of background. I started offering internships to students in my very first full-time job. The concept was simple: provide students with an opportunity to learn about job/career opportunities, and learn about their own strengths, weaknesses and interests, by integrating them into productive projects within companies. Since then, I’ve worked for public, private, nonprofit and government organizations and served over 650 interns. We referred to them as mentoring internships, because we took extra time to mentor the students so they could make better career choices.  At one point, at a school career fair, we realized that despite the fact that my teams were small, we were serving more students than much larger companies. We even published an ebook to help other companies adopt our mentoring internship model.  (It led to the development of another mentoring program model for companies who wanted to stop the churn of young recruits; one used it successfully for seven years as it engaged new and experienced workers.)

Impact: A recent study by the ASTD (American Society of Training & Development) documents the value of such programs along four key measures:

  • Development: More than 60% of interns and recent college grads list mentoring as a criterion for selecting an employer after graduation; 76% of Fortune’s top 25 companies offer mentoring programs.  
  • Productivity: Managerial productivity increased by 88% when mentoring was involved versus 24% increase with training alone.
  • Retention: 77% of companies report that mentoring was effective in increasing employee retention; 35% of employees who do not receive regular mentoring look for another job within 12 months. 
  • Promotion: 75% percent of executives point to mentoring as playing a key role in their careers.

Why It’s so Important Now. One of the impacts of the pandemic has been a general re-evaluation by students and adults about developing lifestyles and careers. Today’s students face a different world than most older adults. Increasingly, they are living in a digital economy, where physical labor isn’t the key requirement. During their elongated life to 100+, they can engage in lifelong learning to pivot into as many as 10 careers – and provide their services from outside a central office. This enables them to pursue passion and purpose as the commit to mental and physical health, financial security and independence, and meaningful relationships.  Faced with these options, mentoring internships provide an ability for them to learn from the experiences of people who are at the forefront of some of these changes.

It’s clearly more challenging now, since so much of the worker-team is virtual. It is more difficult to onboard and supervise/mentor people who aren’t in the same workspace and have to save the interaction time to scheduled Zoon calls.  But as we get increasing control of our lives through vaccinations, changed office spaces, and new working styles, we will learn how to create hybrid experiences.  Indeed, I resumed taking on interns during the 20-21 academic year to provide experiences for both students who must be 100% virtual (e.g., in Australia) and combined on-site and virtual training for people who are local.

Feel free to reach out to me to answer questions. Reach me at jerrycahn@presentationexcellence.com  

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