Food for Thought

3 simple things we don’t always do.

As a business coach for more than 25 years, there is a lot to be said for learning how to tap into your network of colleagues to learn new skills and help get past business hurdles. Having a mentor is one of the main ways that some of the best business owners have been able to scale and grow their businesses, and it would likely help you do the same. And for many, the opportunity to return the favor is something that they aspire to do in their career. Whether that is taking on a mentee in your industry or helping a key team member grow in their position, there is a lot to consider. One of the most important things that I always encourage others to think about when you first start out, is the structure in which you will hold your meetings.

So today I wanted to share with you a meeting outline that I use when taking on a new business coaching client or mentee, or when coaching a key team member for growth.

1. Check in on key action areas. 

This will vary depending on who you are working with, but the formula will stay the same. Each and every time you meet with each other, you begin the meeting with a check-in on key action items that were left to do at the end of your last session. If they have been unable to take action, delve further into why and address it head-on.

This could look something like: “Casey, last time we talked you said you were going to write up the job description for your new assistant. How did that go?”

2. Troubleshoot and problem solve. 

Once you have touched base on the action items, the next thing you want to discuss is any problems that they are currently experiencing and talk through some solutions or next steps. Be careful not to just “solve it” for them. Instead, help them brainstorm solutions and offer ideas when necessary.

If they say, “I’m struggling with X, how can I handle it?” Help them define the problem, clarify what a solution would need to do for them, create options that would meet these success criteria, and then help them think through and pick the best solution to start with. Also, help them clarify in advance how they’ll react if their solution is or isn’t working, so they can adjust based on what happens.

3. Create action items for the next meeting. 

The last thing you want to do during a mentoring session is make sure that you capture progress and notes, and create action items for the next meeting. Try to capture action commitments clearly in your notes so that you will be sure to have them front and center next time you talk.

Recap and numerate these action commitments at the end of each coaching conversation. This will help enable a clean hand off.

“Sophia, let me recap what you’ve committed to doing before our next call. Two items. First, that you’ll … And second, that you’ll … Did I get that correctly? Great, I’ll make sure I circle back with you during our next meeting.”

Which then, of course, leads us to number one for our next meeting. Using this formula, you will be able to hold your mentee accountable and start to see real growth and development during your time together. Good luck!

It’s all about hiring and retaining people right now.

At the beginning of every year, each member of our team
shares development goals. Throughout the year, we’re
proactive in looking for training and development
opportunities aligned to their goals. When we find
one, all a team member needs to do is tell me the cost,
the time they need, and how they think it will benefit
them in their job. In addition, I send books and articles to
the team on topics that may be of interest. We participate
in frequent team-building activities. Sometimes they
are around the behavioral assessment we use in our
recruiting process. Other times it’s a community service
project or maybe just a team lunch. We share what we’ve
learned through professional development with one
another in our weekly team meetings.
— Jolene Risch
President and Founder, Risch Results | Dallas, Texas
Vistage member since 2020

Developing our people and our teams is critical. I work
with each of my direct reports in finding development
opportunities that they are excited about and buy
into. Without the buy-in and the willingness to learn and
stretch, development dollars end up wasted.
— Julie Thomas
President and CEO, ValueSelling Associates, Inc.
Rancho Santa Fe, California
Vistage member since 2014

Mentor younger business leaders. Each month at
ForensisGroup, we watch “TED Talk Fridays” because I
believe strongly in cultivating a culture of intellectual
curiosity and personal fulfillment.
— Mercy Tolentino Steenwyk
President & CEO, ForensisGroup, Inc.
Pasadena, California
Vistage member since 2007

The most important thing is to find ways for people to
experience different aspects of the business. Start
by having the conversation with the employee to find
out if they are interested in developing professionally. If
they are, let them know you will find ways for them to
have different experiences throughout the company.
Have them lead a committee of cross-functional team
members or spend time learning a different position by
shadowing or doing a rotation into different departments.
Have them attend meetings they would not normally
attend at different levels in the company. This comes with
some coaching and mentoring, and maybe even specific
training. Assign them to bring questions or key takeaways
from their experiences.
— Andrea Fredrickson
President, Revela | Omaha, Nebraska
Vistage member since 2014

Pay attention to culture. You can feel a culture when
you walk through the door. Your employees will vote
with their feet if you do not work every day to offer
them an extraordinary experience while valuing their
contributions. Be a coach, not a manager. Your
employees do not like micromanagers. If you coach
individuals so that they can become their best selves, you
will be able to give and get real feedback. Coaching is a
gift to be cherished in any organization. Develop career
paths. Many employees will give up compensation if you
are focused on helping them grow and learn. If you are
spending more on finding new talent, divert those
funds to keeping and developing the great talent you
already have.
— John Dame
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Vistage Chair since 2007

How can you be the company employees want to come to?

The Great Resignation, the mass voluntary departure of U.S. workers from their jobs, which I wrote about earlier for Inc., is showing no signs of slowing down. Preliminary quit data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that another 3.977 million workers left their jobs in July — just 15,000 behind April’s high-water mark. Much of the coverage thus far has bordered on the hysterical. Certainly, numbers like these, with 15.5 million resignations in all since April, are concerning. But in any crisis lies opportunity for those who recognize it. Or, as the old saying goes, inside every cloud is a silver lining.

Last week, the team at employee experience software provider Limeade released the results of their study, “The Great Resignation Update.” Limeade surveyed 1,000 full-time U.S. workers to try to find out what is behind the Great Resignation and what’s next for workers who have quit or are contemplating a move. But as I read the data and more like it from YPulse, the leading expert in Gen-Zers and Millennials, I became more and more convinced of what I already believed: That most always, life is a zero-sum game; one person’s loss is another person’s gain. A mass departure away from some businesses can spell a mass arrival for others — if they pay attention and respond constructively to what’s important to those who are leaving.

From those forming this mass exodus has emerged a small handful of reasons for their departures. Most of these can be distilled to a general lack of care on the part of the employer. Limeade found that 40 percent left because of burnout, 20 percent reported that they split because they did not feel valued by their former employer, another 20 percent cited discrimination issues, and, finally, 16 percent said that there was no support for their well-being in their former role. Business owners who demonstrate genuine care and concern for their associates have a tremendous opportunity to attract these workers who are leaving in search of what should be table stakes in any organization. And the fact that so many are leaving jobs without having new jobs to go to is an indication of how tremendous an opportunity these toxic organizations have truly created.

Some 28 percent of those who participated in the Limeade study left their jobs with no prospect for a new job. That is, they simply left because they’d had enough … of being tired, of not feeling valued, and of feeling unsupported. Of those who found employment subsequent to leaving, Limeade reported a 43 percent total swing in “feeling cared about” and a 42 percent total swing in “comfort in disclosing mental health issues.” What’s more, 31 percent claimed to have found “better management.” The opportunity for small businesses looking for new associates is tremendous. Not only that, these are people looking for the right things. Almost simply by treating people with kindness and respect, the right people will beat a path to your door. And you won’t have to overpay to get them.

Predictably, the Limeade study confirmed that it’s not all about money. Just 37 percent of the Limeade sample cited more money as the primary reason for switching jobs. Among those who cited other primary attractions, fully 36 percent said they were earning the same (23 percent) or less (13 percent) in their new role as before. For most everybody, money is well down the list of things that truly matter. Smart employers, those that appeal to a person’s sense of meaning and belonging, will attract and keep associates to a far greater degree than one who throws money about while treating people poorly or even ambivalently.

What is further clear from the Limeade study, and confirmed by YPulse, is that employees are emerging from the Great Resignation thinking differently not only about the way they are treated at work, but even about the way work is done. Limeade found that among the top reasons job changers were attracted to their new roles, 40 percent called out the “ability to work remotely,” while 26 percent named “better work-life balance,” and 24 percent cited “flexible work schedules.” Similarly, the team at YPulse found that among the 58 percent of Millennials now working from home, just 40 percent of them are looking forward to returning to the office. In this same YPulse report, 56 percent of Gen-Z respondents say flexible work hours and the ability to work from anywhere are important in a new job. That figure jumps to 67 percent among Millennial females and a whopping 94 percent among married Millennials. For small businesses seeking to profit from this potential new hiring wave, then, winning will be directly proportional to the degree to which they remain open to new ways of thinking about work and new ways of thinking about the people who do the work. Those who embrace new work structures, schedules, and setups while ensuring that leaders are equipped to manage within them will thrive. Those who cling to traditional office designs, workweeks, and management styles, well, they will continue to add to the greatness of this resignation phenomenon having learned nothing from their experience.

The brighter among us learn from having lived through things. If nothing else, the Great Resignation has taught people that they have a choice — worker and employer alike. The employers of choice in this brave new world will be those who understand this and who balance a desire for accountability with basic concern for humanity. Over 15.5 million workers have so far decided that there must be something more. The brightest business owners will be those who show up to give it to them.

Wanna keep employees? Show them the growth plan.

With something like half of workers considering quitting their jobs at the moment, the so-called “Great Resignation” is issue No. 1 for nearly every employer right now. Some employers are throwing money at the problem, others are focusing more on psychological factors that make work more meaningful and sustainable. 

But according to a new survey by people management platform Lattice, there is another lever you can pull to try to hold on to your workers, particularly younger members of your team. And in good news for cash-strapped small-business owners and other budget-conscious bosses, it doesn’t cost a penny (at least initially). 

The magic ingredient to get employees to stick around? Career transparency

What is this miracle intervention? Nothing fancier than career transparency, or a clear sense among employees of how they can grow in their jobs and how the company will support their efforts to reach their goals. 

The poll of just over 2,000 employees at medium to large U.S. companies confirmed what just about every other recent survey has shown — workers are incredibly restless at the moment. More than half (54 percent) of those surveyed told Lattice they are looking to change jobs. 

Why are so many scanning job ads and scrolling LinkedIn? At least one major factor seems to be a sense of feeling professionally stuck: 43 percent of respondents said their career paths have either stalled or slowed to a crawl, and 47 percent said they are currently looking for a new job that provides growth opportunities. The craving for a path forward seems especially strong among the youngest workers: 38 percent of Gen-Z employees are looking for jobs with greater transparency around job path and development.  

Thankfully, offering your employees a sense of forward momentum is relatively straightforward, according to Lattice CEO and co-founder Jack Altman. 

“The best way to ensure employees can see the road ahead is through effective and continuous communication. Encouraging managers to regularly sit down with their teams to discuss personal growth and development plans is pivotal,” he tells “Lean in with empathy (this doesn’t mean be a push-over, but rather, really listen to what employees are saying).”

Specifically, Altman suggests three best practices for companies that are looking to offer their people greater career transparency:

  • Make a growth plan. “HR teams should work with employees to create growth plans,” Altman says. “Not all employees are interested in a ‘traditional’ growth plan (working up the ladder). Uncovering where employees want to develop, whether it’s taking on more responsibilities or moving into a different role, helps managers better create career development paths to get them there.”
  • Check in. Having a plan isn’t worth much if you don’t track your progress against it regularly. “Regularly connect with your employees about their career progression,” Altman advises. 
  • Celebrate wins. When an employee does make progress towards their goals, don’t let the occasion pass unremarked. And make sure pay is keeping up with development. Talking with your team about their goals doesn’t cost a thing, but as they make progress, “review compensation when necessary,” Altman reminds bosses. 

And that’s it. Is this wildly cutting edge, never-before-seen management advice? No, but it is still a basic that falls through the cracks at far too many companies. Lattice’s numbers suggest that, at the moment, that oversight is costing bosses good employees. Make sure your people not only know there’s room to grow, but that you’ll help them get where they want to go, and you’ll be far less likely to be unpleasantly surprised by resignations

“Employees are realizing post-pandemic that where and how they spend their time is extremely valuable; it’s even more important now for employers to engage employees in mission-driven work on what makes them fulfilled and motivated,” Altman concludes. Ignore his advice at your peril. 

I’ve assigned watching Ted Lasso to my CEOs. A local CEO said, “Ted Lasso is how you CEO”. I agree.

If you’re a fan of Ted Lasso, the sad news is that the second season finale has been released. I say “sad” because, if you’re like me, you’ve come to look forward to a weekly dose of humor, hope, and optimism. Now that the season is over, we’ll just have to wait. There’s good news though–the season finale included one of the best quotes of the entire series

That isn’t surprising, the show is full of great lines, many of them from Ted himself. In this case, however, the best line came from Leslie Higgins, AFC Richmond’s Director of Communications. 

Warning, if you haven’t watched the season finale, you might want to do that before you read the rest of this article. 

Near the end of the episode, Higgins tells Keeley–who has just been offered the opportunity to start her own PR firm–something that every leader should hear. Keeley is worried that Rebecca, AFC Richmond’s owner, and Keeley’s mentor, will be upset or disappointed that she’s leaving. After all, it was Rebecca that gave Keeley her biggest opportunity and helped her rise to the point where she’s receiving recognition and success on her own. 

Higgins’s response is beautiful, but it would be easy to chalk up as just another Ted Lasso-ism and move on. That would be a mistake. This one is worth taking a beat.

“A good mentor hopes you will move on,” Higgins tells Keeley. “A great mentor knows you will.” 

Two sentences. Fourteen words. That’s it. After two full seasons, this might be the most profound statement from the entire show. It’s definitely the most powerful lesson on leadership. 

It’s worth mentioning that not every leader is a mentor. Some people in leadership positions are terrible mentors. That’s unfortunate, because I think mentoring is an incredibly important part of leadership. As a result, if you’re leading people, you should pay very close attention to those 14 words because they reveal an important distinction between good and great leaders.

Every good leader builds into his or her team hoping they will succeed without them someday. That’s important, but it isn’t the same as knowing they will.

You see, expectations are everything. When you expect something, you behave accordingly. When you expect that someone you lead will move on, you actively work to prepare them for their better future. Your job is different, your expectations are different, and how you approach leadership is different when it’s a given that the people you are responsible for leading will move on. 

I don’t believe leading is fundamentally about getting people to follow you. I know that seems confusing because the word “leader” implies that there’s a person at the front of the line with followers behind her. Sure, that’s a part of it. But I think leadership, at its core, is about helping people get somewhere–whether you go with them or not. 

As a mentor, you have an incredible opportunity. Mentoring people is a truly extraordinary gift. It’s a challenge, for sure, but it’s rewarding to see people thrive and grow. 

But as much as it’s an opportunity, it’s an even greater responsibility. Because mentoring people isn’t about bringing the people around you to your level. It isn’t about imposing on them all of your wisdom and experience. It’s about preparing them to go further, to a place that you’ve never been, and a place you may not be able to lead them. 

Good leaders point people in the direction they should go, give them all the tools they need to get there, and then motivate them on the journey. Great leaders, however, prepare people to go even further. They aren’t afraid of pouring into people who might leave and do greater things because that’s the entire point. That’s the call of leadership.

Vistage shares lots of FREE info on being a better leader. Here’s another opportunity this month.

In this free 90 minute event, professional speaker, coach, trainer and attitude expert, Aaron Davis will share personal stories, facts based on research and numerous examples on the power of a positive attitude and the impact it can have on profitability, productivity and the creation of a Championship Culture at your company. Attendees will leave equipped with the tips, tools and techniques necessary to live with the attitude of a champion, and to personally and professionally push for their best – no matter what.

Thanks to Charlene Smith for sharing this article on servant leadership.

Many people hear of transformative leadership, which sees people’s needs as a means to an end. Transformative leadership believes that fulfilling people’s needs will bring a positive change in them. However, servant leadership is a style of leadership that has been gaining popularity because it sees people’s needs as the end in itself. Servant leadership does not expect any outcome other than simply fulling the needs of people. It is implied that serving them will only do well for them.

Servant leadership today

Servant leadership is not only found in theory anymore. Researchers have shifted their studies to empirically verifiable research findings. Many researchers have also been successful in almost accurately predicting the impact and benefits of the servant leadership approach when applied. It is easier to observe and evaluate how effective servant leadership leads to specific outcomes with such findings.

Organizations around the world are directing their focus towards helping people grow and focus. Furthermore, the motivation of those in leadership positions is aligned to serve others, not just to lead, as almost every stakeholder in an institution has access to all information with the click of a button. The days when leadership and data were preserved for the few elites are bygone.

In the organizational sense, servant leadership empowers the subordinates to become leaders in their units. The competitive future belongs to those leaders and organizations, which will have everyone on board empowered to identify and resolve the organization’s problems. It awards organizational citizenship through servant leadership — this means that for employees to show altruism and go beyond their call of duty, the servant leader must empower each of them to feel like a significant member. This is only achievable when the leadership of an organization is concerned with the holistic well-being and growth of everyone.

Job performance is the aggregate of the contribution of all the individuals to the organizational goal over time. It could be task performance or contextual performance. Task performance contributes to goods and services, and it is relatively easy to measure and monitor. On the other hand, contextual performance involves interpersonal and voluntary activities, which help an organization achieve its core goals in a broader context. Contextual organizational goals can only be achieved with a united team of empowered staff and an environment that focuses on the staff members’ holistic welfare.

Globalization has shrunk the world into one village. Different cultures and norms now influence one another across continents. Multinationals are exporting best practices while at the same time learning from their host communities. The vibrant human rights movements across the world have shifted the focus to human needs. In this competitive 21st century, the institutions that will survive are those willing to embrace change and have servant leadership at the core of their organizational structure. However, labor unions, past management and leadership styles based on command, prestige and authority will cease to survive.

How servant leadership will change the world

Promoters and practitioners of servant leadership suggest that once servant leadership is internalized and lived to its tenets, the fruits of successful servant leadership will manifest in every aspect of society through most of the various attributes enumerated by scholars. Everyone will listen and be listened to; hence there will be little or no misunderstandings. This will help in the pursuit of building a united, cohesive community that confronts common challenges in unison. As such, society will be more empathetic, resulting in a more committed society to the growth of every member.

Organizations will be more responsive to the needs of those who work for them and members of the society in which they operate. In essence, that will boost corporate social responsibility more than ever. Also, people will resort to persuasion and dialogue to resolve conflicts and not power and authority that could easily create disaffections and even violence. People will develop a sense of altruism. This will make everyone go beyond the mere call of duty to do that, which will benefit the whole organization or society, even outside of their official duty.

Nevertheless, the failure of servant leadership will only be by those who refuse to conform and opt to stick to the old ways. They might lag us behind in this endeavour but at the risk of finding themselves obsolete and out of business.