Why Aren’t We Mentoring Women?

Study after study shows that over 50% of the Millennial generation would like to have a mentor that spans both their private life and their public work realm. Yet, in the workplace, I find that most organizations do not have a mentoring program and if they do, it is not thriving. What is going on?

There are many reasons to make the case for mentoring, including:

  1. Gets employees engaged
  2. It helps to relieve stress and anxiety, especially for new employees or those in new roles
  3. Creates connections that help people thrive in their work life and at home

These are just the tip of the iceberg. In HR, the case for mentoring shows low employee turnover, increased motivation, increased employee satisfaction, lower conflict and even lower number of sick days taken. There are countless benefits to the morale and psyche of the employee.

Even in churches, the idea of discipline and helping someone grow spiritually has finally taken root. I believe that people are taking mentoring more seriously, especially with the increasing number of baby boomers who wish to impart some of their amazing knowledge to help others grow.

In the old days, apprenticeship used to be the way to pass on tricks of the trade and teach a young person how to take over the business. People used to groom the next generation for decades and bring them along in the ways of the world. Today, that idea has gone by the wayside for most occupations. It still exists in some areas, namely medicine, the arts, and technical jobs, but it is more of the exception than the rule. Men, for some reason seem to take mentoring in stride, allowing succession planning to take place. They also are open with networking and making business connections.

In my 20+ years of working in business, I have not found that to be the case for women. Women for some reason seem to have a harder time sharing their contacts and information. They find other women to be more of a challenge to their authority and thus will not take another under their wing. I don’t find many senior level women welcoming younger women to an open exchange of ideas. Not all women are averse to this, mind you, but again this has not been my own experience.

On the contrary, I find that men are more willing to share ideas, give you advice and support and help you make connections – even as a woman.

I don’t think all the reasons for the failed woman to woman connection are sinister. I think they are a reflection of what is going on in the workforce and that they may not even be aware of the circumstances.  In my last blog, I mentioned that women make up almost 50% of the workforce today, but that less than 10% are in the Executive level of organizations. That is one of the biggest reasons why I haven’t found many women mentoring. Many of them aren’t even in higher positions. Typically, you will find men there and thus, men are more readily accessible than women.

Another reason may be due to added duties in traditional women’s roles: workplace role, wife, mother, care provider, single bread-winner, etc. When there are home duties that are not shared with anyone else, it can become a massive burden for a woman to take on yet another role as mentor. This is supported by a study done by DDI in 2014 that found over 65% of women never had a mentor and a whopping 75% said they would not mentor due to lack of time due to family obligations.

So, what can YOU do?

If you are a woman reading this article, I encourage you to join our Community of Christian Women‘s Group in OKC. It is a group that is getting ready to launch a mentoring  program in the Fall of 2018. If you don’t want to join a group, think about the work relationships you have and see if there is someone who might be interested in a mentor. You could also take the first step and ask someone you admire to be your mentor – it’s a sweet compliment and a great way to establish a positive relationship – even if she doesn’t have time to be your mentor.
Steps to take :

1. Meet monthly! It doesn’t have to be a weekly thing

2. Meet during the workday. If you have time to go have a cup of coffee… You have time to be mentored or be a mentor to someone

3. Start small – you don’t have to join a big formal program with a workbook. Just meet, talk & get to know one another first

4. Join a group that supports and recognizes the value of mentoring (like CCBW for women and CBMC for men).

5. Ask me if you don’t know where to start in your organization! I’d love to help! 

The bottom line is to start somewhere – start in at your workplace, start in your neighborhood, start in your church group… GO and  reach out to someone. You will be blessed far greater than you think and you will find that all those reasons against being a mentor to someone else will melt away.



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Let’s Talk

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My husband & I are Marriage Mentors. We developed the Marriage Mentoring Ministry at our last church and by the grace of God, are helping to create a new Marriage Ministry at our new church. It is an amazing blessing to work with couples who are either seriously dating, are engaged to be married or are newly married. We are NOT counselors, nor do we give advice. This is how mentoring differs from other things. More on that later in another post.

I have taught Business Communication for Undergraduate Business schools since 1997 – coming up on 20 years! Much of what works well for the workplace can and does work well for the home. It’s just that we tend to be more polite to those we work with than those with whom we live. It’s a fact. Familiarity adds to the casualness with which we approach relationships that are close to us. While we take care to watch our words at work, it doesn’t always happen to me at home. I am mostly talking about myself here… I don’t want to point a finger at you because when I do that, I know that four other fingers are pointing back at me (in my case, that is literally true, as I have one husband and three kids! Ha! Ha!).

I taught a Conflict Resolution course earlier this week to College Interns. They were absolutely NOT interested in the session or me, until I asked them how many of them were in a relationship. Most raised their hands and that’s when they got connected into the topic. Sometimes, we think that this stuff we are learning at work does not apply to anything other than work. When you can link things at work to home, that’s where learning becomes valuable and memorable to others.

Talking to others about personal matters is not easy. In the study of Conflict Resolution, I usually start off the session by asking them to think about how conflicts were handled in their home when they were growing up. Did their parent(s) yell? Were they passive aggressive or always trying to keep the peace? These behaviors can definitely influence how you react to conflict.

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There are several ways you can approach conflict resolution – I also wrote about conflict & perspectives in my blog titled “Bridges, Balconies, & Burquas“. The first is to know your behavioral style. Most inventories (DiSC, Myers Briggs, Jungian, etc) are based on two dimensions: Task & People (horizontal axis) and Direct & Indirect (or in the figure, Outgoing/Reserved). There are free online tests you can take (& I encourage you to take them!) to find out how you fall into these quadrants. No matter what you take, the main questions are:

  1. Do you tell people directly how you feel about certain things or do you beat around the bush in order to spare feelings?
  2. Does interaction with others (maybe 20 min or more of talking) energize you or leave you making a mental laundry list of all the things you needed to get done in that time you just spent?

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Answers to those questions will allow you to figure out which side you land on – if you are energized with interactions with others, you will fall near to the “I” and the “S” side. If you are not, then “D” & “C” are more your style. If you are direct, you will go towards the top half of the circle and if indirect, then “C” & “S” may be more like you. Nothing is etched in stone, but knowing how you like to be approached is a good start to communicating with others.

Lack of Communication is one of the top reasons for divorce in a marriage. It is also one of the main reasons why employees leave (1. My boss & I didn’t get along OR 2. My co-workers & I didn’t see eye to eye). That’s it. It’s really that simple. When we start to see where someone might fall into the style spectrum, it’s easier to understand that them being quiet doesn’t mean they don’t like you – it simply means they are processing information & are being Contemplative! In other words, they are actually taking the time to think about what you just said! How many times do we misunderstand what we just saw in another person and shake our heads? The answer: I just did it today! 🙂

So, before you decide to say “Let’s Talk” to someone, you may want to consider how they like to be approached, how they view the world (=differently than you) and also what you may need to do in order to come to a good resolution. If we thought things through on a daily basis, maybe we wouldn’t waste so much energy in assuming a negative situation. The Bible says “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.(NASB – Philippians 4:8). That is a great place to start. In addition, Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” When you watch your words and think for just a second before you speak, it can make a complete difference in the way you approach others and in return, how others approach you.

If you would like to learn more about the DiSC assessment or any of the things I wrote about, I would love to hear from you!

Being Transparent

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There’s a trend in business today to be TRANSPARENT. An organization I have done consulting for goes as far as to have glass walls for their Executive offices so that nothing is hidden from employees. There is a sense of vulnerability there – being exposed for all to see. They can tell when you are on the phone or goofing off on the computer or simply zoning out.

With the Millennial group, the desire to be transparent shows up in church connecting groups, at work and also in friendships. They want to go deep and fast. This can be really off-putting to others who have been told that you should have a line between business and personal, between how much you share and how often. Social media has also impacted this desire to have everything be shared. When I log on to my social media accounts, there are pictures of everything – from what their cat coughed up to the latest pair of shoes they purchased. Do I need to know all that? No. Do I care about all that? Not really (especially not the cat bit). So why share all of it – what’s really behind this?

In Psychology, there is a model used for self-awareness called the Johari Window. This has degrees of what you hide and what you share. Trusting others with information you normally hide will allow you to learn more about yourself that you didn’t know or even understand.

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I did some work with a woman who was completely put together. She had a habit of fixing her make up, hair, etc before each meeting even though not a hair was out of place. Her dress and mannerisms were impeccable. To me, she looked like she stepped out of a magazine with her crisp clothes, polished manners and manicured nails. It was a bit intimidating at first to be around her. I felt like the dumpy friend that some girls take on as a benevolence project to help them become more socialized.

As we worked together more and more, on projects that took us long into the night, she began to disclose more about her hidden self. Not many people know much about her. She was sweet and kind, but had a sharp edge to her that came out now and then. One day, I mentioned to her about how immaculate she always appears and how it can be intimidating so someone who doesn’t know her. It seems like she is absolutely perfect.  She looked at me and said “I was homeless. I lived in a car with my mother until I was 8 years old.”

It blew me away!

What a confession. Still, it didn’t explain why and how she behaves and also how she got to this high paying job with an advanced college degree. She said that a woman who lived nearby noticed that there was a little girl who was always in a car when she went to work in the morning (her mom simply drove her to her work and she waited patiently in the car all day long for her to return). The woman stopped one day and asked my friend why she was not in school. She told the woman that she was waiting for her mom and gave her mom’s name. The woman went and found her mother and got them help from others, helped to place my friend in school and have some type of a home. She worked extra hard to put herself through high school and then college. The way she looked was done on purpose. It was a huge facade that she constructed so that no one else would see what she had to deal with and her past would not come up due to her credentials today.

These are the walls that we set up before us so that we don’t have to share certain things that are painful reminders of the past. Not everyone wants to be transparent. Also, being transparent doesn’t mean that you take pictures of your meal and post it online for your 500+ closest friends to see.

Real transparency comes from being AUTHENTIC. Are you who you say you are? Or are you moody, changing your behavior from one meeting to the next? Are you unpredictable to your staff or to family? Do you say you are a nice person and then chew out the cashier who puts your canned tomatoes on top of your bread? These are the things that allow someone to develop trust in others. Trust is the key to building relationships. Without consistency in who you say you are (=Open Self) and then acting in a way that’s contrary without even realizing what you are doing (= Blind Self), you may not be trusted.

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photo from Kingspeech

In business, if being transparent means not having a hidden agenda, not back-stabbing others to get what you want or throwing them under the bus for a poor decision you made, then that’s not only good but also ethical behavior. In life, sharing difficulties you might have and not just the highlights of trips, awards or other accolades to make others feel inferior might be a great way to real – to be transparent. I know that at church, we sometimes don’t share the hard things of life. We don’t share about our children dropping out of school or doing things they shouldn’t do for fear of being cast out. When we begin to let go of a little bit of the Hidden Self, you increase the window of the Open Self. That’s where you can invite others to share what might be a difficult time in their life and help them to heal from hurts.

This is something we can apply daily in our walk. Just like my friend, even though outwards we may look alright, inside we are not perfect people. Stepping away from being transparent via facebook or instagram to being authentic is a good start to building trust and enhancing all relationships. This becomes an exercise in telling the truth, in doing what is beneficial and also in helping one another see their true self – not just the mask they want to hide behind.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ~Phil 4:8-9

Managing Across Cultures

cultureYesterday, I taught a course on Cultural Intelligence for the State of Oklahoma Office of Management & Enterprise (OMES). Just as your own Intelligence Quotient (IQ) can be measured, so can your Cultural Quotient (CQ). Harvard Business Review defines it as “Cultural intelligence: an outsider’s seemingly natural ability to interpret someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures the way that person’s compatriots would.”

The biggest thing I noticed when was an immigrant to the United States is that this is such an amazing country with many cultures living side by side. Oklahoma City has a Vietnamese district of restaurants and a large grocery market. There is also a large Southeast Indian, Persian, Hispanic and of course, a rich Native American culture. The universities in the area have flourishing International Studies programs. All of these are reasons why in 2016,  Oklahoma City was named one of the nine metropolitan areas for creating an inclusive culture! Surprised? Don’t be! There aren’t many areas in the US that don’t have a cultural impact (inclusion and race). I usually tell my students that you don’t have to go further than your local Wal Mart to find the varied diversity in any US city. If you are even more curious, go to the Ethnic Food aisle at Wal Mart and see how many languages are being spoken there.

Americans don’t give ourselves credit for taking inventory of how much we already know about a particular culture. Growing up with friends from different areas, educational level, socioeconomic status and even generational differences all account for cultural diversity. However when the term “Diversity” is mentioned, we focus on black and white – we are the ones who make it about race only, missing out on the rest of the things that make diversity exciting.

One can easily measure their level of cultural knowledge by taking a Cultural Intelligence quiz online (there are several free ones available – just do a search!). It’s a quick test that takes a look at the four quadrants of Cultural Intelligence (Drive, Cognition, Meta-Cognition and Action). A high score is NOT what you are after on this test. It’s more to show you where you can improve in each area. This is the first step in developing and increasing your cultural knowledge. Application and adaptation are the next two steps.

CQ is quickly becoming a need for managers and leaders. Knowing how to work across cultures to increase productivity is KEY in any workplace or organization. It’s important to note here that the term “culture” also include generational differences. This is one of the main areas I have had to address over the last few years, as the Baby Boomer population decreases and the Millennials increase in the workplace.

The main question that arose from the Cultural Intelligence session yesterday was how far do you go to accommodate another culture before you blur the lines between who you are and the values you hold?

This is a good question to consider. It is truly based upon your own values, beliefs and also your organizational culture and beliefs. If those are in alignment, then the decision making comes easily. If they are not congruent, then there can be dissonance. As a manager, it’s very important to allow for “reasonable accommodation” for an employee’s ethnicity, religion, or other consideration. Flexible time and PTO help to give tremendous creativity on how that time is used. The issue becomes more blurry when ethics come into play. I believe it’s important to stress that when a leader focuses in on one person’s needs or issue (due to inclusion or diversity needs), that that they don’t alienate the other 99 in the office. So taking the big picture into account is a good way to start. Solving issues in a team is also another approach. This will actually allow others to learn more about the culture and do creative problem solving together. The only caveat to this is if the employee wants the issue to remain confidential, so before taking a team approach, ask employee permission.

The bottom line in any diversity or inclusion initiative is to address each employee with dignity and respect. That is a common ingredient that crosses global, ethnic, and cultural boundaries. If we stop for a minute to think about what is getting ready to come out of our mouth and take time to analyze the situation, then CQ is already at work. The knee-jerk reaction rarely works when all these factors are involved. Take a moment, think, analyze and give benefit of the doubt to the other party. That is something that will help a manager not just handle cross-cultural issues but most communication issues.

 

Bringing LIFE to Work

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The Coca Cola Company published an article about what “Work/Life Balance” might mean today. There is a shifting trend going on with Millennials (those born between 1982 & 2004). The way work is viewed varies from generation to generation. With the advent of technology, those lines are blurred even more. Just last night, before going to bed, I had a meeting request from someone – there are no real set office hours anymore. People can send meeting requests, texts, e-mails when on vacation, on the weekends or in my case, at night before bed.

This is what gets the younger generation up in arms. If I am working at night on a project, or am logging on to do work-related  stuff, then why can’t I take an extra long lunch or come in a bit later in the morning (after all, I was working on your project)? When the traditionalists see office hours as 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, it’s a valid argument. Work is being done at different times of the day – so why shouldn’t there be flexibility during the 9 to 5 hours?

For those of us who have heard the term “Work/Life Balance” for at least a few decades now, still scratch our heads to see how it actually gets balanced out. For me, personally, it means making sure I am there when I need to be and everything in my personal life takes a back seat. That is NOT the case today. If there is flexibility in the time that you can do your work (and I am talking mainly of a desk job, with a computer that can be accessed from anywhere) then you should be able to do work at 3:00 am if you want to and take off from the office for a 3:00 pm Parent-Teacher conference.

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Why is there such resistance to this flexible time notion? Doesn’t it mean that employees could possibly be working more if they are logging on at all hours of the day? According to the Coca Cola article, it’s about priorities and a seeming lack of respect. “I gotta leave” is the comment and there is no request “Hey, could I schedule an afternoon appointment with my child’s teacher or with my chiropractor or could I take a golf lesson?” Many of the Boomer generation did these things on their own time, especially the exercise or golf lesson part. To even think of doing something like that during the workday is unimaginable.

The bottom line is productivity. If Millennials are focused on the outcome of the project, they don’t care how many hours are spent on it – even if they are working into the night. In fact, many of the Millennials I have spoken to are more productive at night, actually preferring the peace and quiet instead of the morning hours when everyone is showing up to the office. The implication here is to take another look at how we view work.

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We were made to work.In Genesis 2:15, God gave Adam a garden to work – even in a perfect setting, he was given something to do. After the Fall (Genesis 3:17-19), Adam was still going to work, except that it was going to require the sweat of his brow. WORK is not a dirty, four-letter word (okay, so it IS a four-letter word, but you know what I mean). It is something that gives both men and women a feeling of accomplishment and also for some, it is their identity. It is something that is a blessing on us that we are able to use the gifts to produce or make something.

If we look at work in this manner, it is appropriate to conclude that if the end-result is what’s desired, then the hours you spend upon it shouldn’t matter. I cannot tell you how many times at the workplace I have found people chatting it up in the break room, the smoke area outside or by the coffee machine. How many people linger on after meetings for 10-15 minutes, catching up on the weekend or the ball game? There is time being wasted at the office but no one seems to mind, as long as you show up. If someone is accessible and is working from home, then what’s the problem?

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image from Forbes.com – liz ryan

Social media also blurs the lines between work and personal life. Millennials have grown up with social media and are often the first to know details about a new hire. This gives insight to how they wish to work. It is next to impossible to block out your personal life and not bring it to work, especially if there are big things going on that impact your work. The idea to have a workplace that accepts the fact that you have a vibrant life outside of work, that you CAN bring your laptop to the coffee shop and work there as well as the office, to know that when there is an important meeting, you will be present – but when there isn’t a mandate to be at the office, you might go and do some volunteer work… all those might be the new way to see how the office day might be changing.

In addition, work space has also changed. People don’t need large offices, or even desks. Many are choosing to share space where they plug in their computer and get to work. This is a generation that has grown up on the soccer and sports field. They are used to working in teams. They are okay with not having a corner office.

By taking a fresh look at the use of time during the weekday, we can actually invigorate the work day. The re-defined work day can actually go to after hours, into the night and even past midnight. Creativity and productivity don’t have to be limited to the office area and to the desk or cubicle. Instead of separating out our life from work, we can bring new approaches, new ideas and yes, life to work.