Culture & Structure

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  

What Could Innovation Do for Your Company?

As human beings, there’s one set of innovations we’re all waiting for: effective vaccines for Covid-19 and ways to distribute them as quickly as possible.

There’s a second set many of us are thinking about: a system that will enable us to handle the next pandemic a lot better than the one we’re in now. Let’s not be unprepared again!

There’s a third group that the CEOs with whom I work are now talking about: product and process innovations that enable their companies to serve customers better. Helping companies unleash their workers’ creativity and forge innovations has been a special area of interest for me for dozens of years and therefore a subject we discuss in group meetings and executive coaching sessions.

As we have these conversations, I am reminded of a major misconception about innovations: the myth of the lone genius who comes up with an innovation. Instead, the experts remind us that innovations are “cobbled together” by contributions from a number of sources. Henry Ford’s assembly line idea was the product of observations made while watching the meat “disassembly” plants by meat packers, and the replaceable parts concept used in the sewing machine.

In How Breakthroughs Happen: the Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate, Andrew Hargadon focuses on this issue by introducing the concept of the “technology broker” – outsiders who specialize in trying to see how a new idea could be commercialized effectively.  We all know stories about companies where people created innovations that never saw the light-of-day as commercial products and/or services. For instance, Xerox’s PARC’s (Palo Alto Research Center) scientists created the GUI (graphic user interface), the mouse, and other technologies; but did nothing with them. It took an outsider – Steve Jobs to see the commercial applications – and then used them to create Apple Computer. Similarly, Spencer Silver, a 3M scientist, discovered an adhesive that stuck lightly and saw no use for it.  Art Fry found a use for it and engaged others (secretaries) to experiment with it – and created 3M’s Post-it Notes. He was the critical “technology broker”.

Who is your technology broker?   If you don’t already have a group of objective, smart business leaders who look at your ideas and, using  their fresh perspectives, give you insights on how it can be adapted  successfully, now is the time to do so

One of unheralded benefits of belonging to Vistage Worldwide is that you have a set of smart, committed leaders who are constantly coming up with new ideas and approaches, sharing them, and getting constructive, objective feedback from members of their local Peer Advisory group and/or the “special interest” networks to which the 23,000 global members belong.
Why not find out for yourself? Vistage offers appropriate leaders an opportunity to experience Vistage meetings virtually. Just contact me for details.  Email Jerry.Cahn@VistageChair.com or call 646-290-7664.

9 Ways to Influence

Leadership involves getting other people to do things you want them to do. In the world of offices, if both of you are in the same space, you can use your physical presence – including body language, voice tonality, etc. to influence people. When you’re not able to use your physical presence – which is increasingly going to happen as we become a distributed workforce, but have a position of authority, you can leverage the powers inherent in the position. If you lack authority you can use other forms of power – such as “expert” power to influence people. 

Today, more than ever, people work with others as team members lacking the physical presence, and often being peers without authority. So, using other forms of influence become increasingly important to people who want to achieve process or outcome goals.  In Becoming a Person of Influence John Maxwell and Jim Dornan identified nine qualities of influence.  The spell out Influence!

  • Integrity – Builds relationships based on trust
  • Nurturing – Cares about people as individuals
  • Faith — Believes in people
  • Listening  – Values what others have to say
  • Understanding – Sees things from others’ point of view
  • Enlarging – Helps others become bigger
  • Navigating – Assists others through difficulties
  • Connecting – Initiates positive relationships
  • Empowering – gives them the power to lead.

Which are your strengths? Which can be strengthened?  Especially in this Covid-19 era, , now is the time to work on these qualities in order to achieve your team’s process and outcome goals.

Build a Sustainable Business Strategy, Today

The economic impact of the pandemic is forcing many companies to change the existing business model and identify one that will enable them to succeed in the (slow) recovery period. Tweaking the old model may not be enough; a new model that takes into account the changes in buying patterns, technology, financial capital and talent availability, may be needed. Marc Emmer, a business strategy/execution expert who shares his expertise with Vistage’s 23,000 members, recently identified a 10 step framework that you may want to use to help you build a strategy you can execute flawlessly now and in the future.

  1. Develop a true vision that will work in the future
  2. Define your competitive advantage in the changing future
  3. Define who are your new target markets, customers, employees,  partners, etc.
  4. Identify what it will take for systematic growth – technology, people, products, services, etc/
  5. Be data-driven when making ongoing decisions; collect the data to do so!
  6. Think long-term for sustainability. 
  7. But expect the need to make changes in this increasingly VUCA world
  8. Keep the door open to new perspectives and ideas
  9. Come prepared; in a virtual world, people have shorter attention spans, so do the homework
  10. Measure your results and make adaptations and corrections to execute flawlessly

As you develop strategies, measure them and execute them, what new patterns do you note that change the processes?   Share them with us.

Forge Strong Virtual Teams

As we know from our own experiences, forging strong teams – that collaborate and trust each other enough to invest their individual energies to produce a collective perspective – is difficult under traditional conditions where people share offices. It’s likely more difficult when people aren’t working in the same spaces. However, by being aware of the challenges we can strengthen the process. 

In a recent Korn Ferry blog What Really Makes Teams Click Today, Gary Burniston shares a framework  based on an analysis of 150,000 leaders, of what it takes to identify what it takes to lead dynamic virtual team environment  The ADAPT approach focuses on the need to:

Anticipate tomorrow

Drive to elevate energy and others

Accelerate with agility

Partner to tap “collective genius:

Trust to create elevated interdependence. 
As you and your people adapt to the evolving distributed workforce model, think through these five attributes to create more effective virtual teams. Then, share with us what challenges you encounter with each, so we can all forge more effective virtual teams, especially when it comes to spurring creativity to develop innovations.

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