Reads: Creating a Modern Mentoring Culture by Randy Emelo

I finished a couple of books last week, though I’m not sure if the 20-page “infoline” counts. So anyways, one is this infoline I read on “Creating a Modern Mentoring Culture” by Randy Emelo over at Books24x7. Here are just some of the stuff that I’ve highlighted for myself and for sharing:

Modern mentoring is connecting people across an organization to share critical knowledge and skills. Everyone has something to learn and something to teach, regardless of age or title, and people can be both mentees and mentors at the same time.

Key Pillars of Modern Mentoring

  • Open and Egalitarian
    • everyone has something to learn and something to teach
  • Diverse
    • different perspectives within mentoring communities and relationships help novel ideas and approaches arise in answer to organizational problems or issues people are facing
  • Safe and Judgment-Free
    • people don’t want to show perceived weaknesses by asking for a mentor
  • Independent and Autonomous
    • no need to try to control the amount of time people spend engaged in mentoring, the topics they connect around, or the people with whom they connect.
    • Too much rigid control will only create unwanted barriers to knowledge flowing from those who possess it to those who seek it.
    • Once you have created an enabling structure for modern mentoring, let your employees take the reins of their own learning.
  • Asynchronous
    • technology-enabled communication (email, online communities of interest, business social networks, mentoring and social learning software) is only on the rise and is a key enabling structure that supports modern mentoring
  • Self-Directed and Personal
    • Self-directed learning also allows individuals to learn what is applicable to them right now, gain skills that can help them with their unique work context, and make them more productive.
  • Technology-Centric
    • means to connect with others and a space to collaborate and communicate
  • Flexible
    • allowed and encouraged to shift in and out of your mentoring program and of the mentee-mentor roles themselves, as learning needs and knowledge strengths evolve

If the open nature of modern mentoring is compromised by too much organizational involvement, the quality of mentoring connections and the caliber of learning that takes place as a result of these connections will be degraded.

Creating a Modern Mentoring Culture

  • Re-Educate Leaders
    • need to help organizational stakeholders understand the expanded and broad vision of modern mentoring and its associated benefits
    • must be re-educated to understand that modern mentoring is a productive activity that won’t detract from employees’ effectiveness, but rather will help to strengthen it.
  • Get the word out
    • webinars or e-briefings, various media (podcasts, webinars, or newsletters), brief “commercials” at other training events
    • Sponsor roadshows or lunch-and-learns where mentoring participants share their experiences. Offering a venue for mentoring participants to meet and mingle can help energize your program and provides another opportunity for people to network and make learning connections.
    • Leverage employee resource groups, town hall meetings where a brief presentation could be followed by a question and answer session, Leverage your program’s evangelists.
  • Modernize Current Mentoring Programs
    • expanding your current mentoring programs and making them modern
    • Onboarding – new hires
    • High-potential development
      • brightest talent pull from an array of mentors and knowledge resources [instead of just one mentor]
      • allow high-potentials to be mentors themselves and share their knowledge with others while concurrently learning how to be a leader
    • Augment your formal training initiatives with mentoring cohorts
      • alumni of training programs mentor and advise a group of people currently going through training
      • Peers going through the same training can also connect and share stories around application of concepts learned in class to help cement the newly attained knowledge.
  • Amplify Using Technology
    • Let employees use technologies you have available to communicate and collaborate.
    • Make online employee directories or other skill profiles available to help participants see who would be a good mentoring connection.
    • Allow people to join your mentoring program at any time.
    • Acknowledge the efforts of those in the program.

On retrospectives

When things slip, a typical reaction is to add processes especially for tracking and monitoring. Just take the overhead effort for effort tracking for example. I’ve been in a lot of projects that at one point or another have gotten so delayed. A knee-jerk reaction is to have the team prepare more reports — daily status updates from everyone, summarized daily progress reports from the leads, reports for upper management, reports for client, etc, etc. This has its benefits — it provides more visibility on what’s going on in the project, and it can pacify stakeholders since it gives the impression that you’re on top of things. What it doesn’t do is get more of the actual needed work done. It doesn’t get more work coded. It doesn’t get more tests executed.

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Instead of just diving into the “more reports” bandwagon, what I’d like is for the team to look into how we’re currently doing. What’s working for us? What isn’t? What do we need to do differently? These are questions that usually get asked in a retrospective meeting. If we google “retrospective”, a definition that turns up is “looking back on or dealing with past events or situations”. Reflecting on what has happened is but a part of it. In retrospectives, you also try to identify what you need to bring forward to keep your project successful or to recover so that your project will (hopefully) be successful.

I think I can pretty much go ahead and do a little retrospective on my own. We all can do it individually. But that just won’t suffice. I can plan all I want but if the folks who will execute are not aligned with the plan, then the plan will just fail to materialize. And you can come up with all brilliant sorts of ideas and workarounds but if you can’t get the other guy to execute then it wouldn’t matter so much (but I’ll credit your brilliance, of course). Retrospectives need to be a team thing. WE need to come up with plans for improvement that WE are ALL willing to execute or follow through. In the end, there is no one else to drive the project’s success but US as a team.

Slideshare: 26 Time Management Hacks I Wish I’d Known at 20 by @egarbugli

I stumbled upon this deck again and it’s really something that I want to share to the younger ones. Time management wasn’t exactly something I learned when I was starting out. I came from projects where OT would become the norm at certain points, and we even had Saturday work. I was so time-poor. As I grew older, I came to realize how valuable my time is. How I could make up for losses for some things, but I can never get back time I have lost or wasted. And that the more efficiently I manage my time will allow me to spend it on things that matter more.

Saved myself some time by not writing my own presentation covering the same topic.

One of the points I like is #18 which had a quote from Jason Cohen (@asmartbear):

Only ever work on the thing that will have the biggest impact.

I think most especially for the younger ones, we often get sidetracked by initiatives or other non-project related tasks. We fill up our plate with a lot of things. We say “yes” to this and that. But then you have to think about it, step back and look at the big picture, and reflect whether the things that you are doing are really the things that you need to grow or achieve your goals. As an aspiring tester/technologist, are these tasks really relevant to making myself more technical and capable in my craft?

On being overwhelmed (an open letter to the new guys)

Hi, guys…

We’re three weeks in our current project. I know it’s still a period of adjustment for you. You have a lot to take in, and I’ve been asking you to do stuff that is new to you. I know things can be a bit difficult at first. You might feel overwhelmed. You might just want to curl up into a fetal position, hug your favorite stuff toy, and just wish everything away. I know, I’ve been there. And I’m here to tell you to not despair.

Sometimes it’s the fear of having to do something big that freezes us into inaction. We end up not accomplishing anything because our minds are too caught up at the scope of what we have to accomplish.

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. ~ Seneca

When you feel like there’s too much in your plate, here’s what you can do. Take a step back, breathe in, breathe out. Don’t try to tackle everything at once. That’ll just be crazy. Find out what you need to prioritize at the moment, then focus on those. Try to break up the work into smaller bite-sized portions. Taking it one step at a time will make it less stressful and less daunting for you. Sometimes it’s just hard to get the ball to start rolling, but once kicked off, things get easier as you go along.

When you feel like you’re sinking, do not hesitate to call out for help. You must remember that you are not alone in this project. Your team mates are here, we’ve got our senior test automation engineer (Sr. TAE), and I am here (I’m not just a pretty face, you know). We also have support from our team leads and our manager. Don’t take asking for help as a sign of defeat or something that will be taken against you. That may be the case in other cultures or other teams, but I assure you that it’s not the case with me. But don’t take this as a cue that you can just ask for help anytime and every time. What I’d want is for you to learn how to help yourself first. And if you come to the point when you’re already doing your best and things are still not working out, that is when you reach out.

So there. I hope you don’t feel too overwhelmed. Know that you can rise above that feeling and that you have my support.

In the end, everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not yet the end. ~ Fernando Sabino, translated from Portuguese

Cheers,
KC