The first rule of mentoring
Although it's been a short week, I had some interesting comments around the importance and impact of job mobility and other issues confronting our government's rising leaders. Please continue sharing your ideas and questions by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm a newer federal employee, and I would like to find a mentor to help me grow as a leader. Where should I begin? -- GS 9 Federal Employee
Okay, the first rule of mentoring is, you do not talk about mentoring. Most people who look for mentors make the mistake of asking someone to be their "mentor." It scares people off. It's like asking someone to marry you on a first date.
I've found that the best mentoring relationships are rarely labeled as such -- by either the mentor or protégé. More likely, they consider themselves friends, colleagues or someone whose advice is valuable. To be honest, I've never had a formal mentor, but I've had several colleagues (supervisors, peers and direct reports) who I continue turning to for advice. Take stock of your relationships, may find that you already have a mentor.
Of course, you may be looking for something a little more formal. I have seen agencies develop formal mentoring programs that pair employees with more experienced leaders. While matchmaking is an imperfect science (even though some dating sites may disagree), many people benefit from the structure and support surrounding a more formal program. If you're more comfortable with that approach, you should see whether your agency has a program in place.
I'm a new team lead, and I'm having trouble managing a new employee. Her expectations are unrealistic, and she is struggling with her work. Do you have any ideas about how I can motivate her? -- GS-12 federal employee
Unless you're able to read minds, trying to meet and manage the expectations of your team -- let alone motivating them to their highest levels of performance -- is incredibly difficult. I would suggest setting aside some time, at least an hour, maybe 90 minutes, for an open conversation with your employee about her expectations and motivations.
Here are some things to ask: Did she think her responsibilities would be different based on her hiring process? Is she having difficulty with other team members? Are the two of you communicating effectively?
Remember, you can better understand your employee make your best effort to meet her expectations. However, you're also setting expectations about her job performance. Be crystal clear about the work she must perform -- the quantity and quality -- and provide her with a roadmap for what it will take to achieve the role she's looking for.
Perhaps my favorite comment this week came from Judy Trotter McAfee, a retired program director with 40-plus years of private and public sector experience. She reminded me that mobility may mean moving around among agencies and also moving among sectors. Mobility may even mean moving around within one large organization like the Department of Defense (DOD).
Here's what Judy had to say:
My 40-year career was primarily in the private sector, with 10 years in the public sector. As a Program Director in a private company contracting with the federal government, I had almost daily contact with the federal contracting officials. I was able to educate and train some of the officials on a private sector employment procedure that they actually incorporated into their hiring practices.
My cross-pollenization, as I call it, was invaluable. I had a chance to see how the federal government gets locked into certain processes and does not unlock them readily. If anything, they seem to resist change.
During my private sector work, I was employed by one corporation for more than 17 years, but I made a choice of moving between "staff" and "operations" assignments. I learned so much by doing this, that I never became stagnant. I became an asset to other departments by bringing new ideas and perspectives on doing things. I also kept myself from being bored or from falling into mediocrity.
June 3, 2010; 5:26 PM ET |
Ask the Federal Coach
Save & Share:
Previous: When accidents happen, fed workers emerge from anonymity | Next: Four leadership lessons from the oil-spill's Adm. Thad Allen
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: edward1 | June 4, 2010 12:13 PM
Posted by: arancia12 | June 4, 2010 11:43 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.