Tag Archives: mentor

4 Good Ways to Welcome Employees

The first day at a new job means a new company, new responsibilities, new co-workers, a new commute–a whole new routine.

Employers have a lot at stake, too. Many people put a lot of time and energy into picking this new hire. They’re counting on that person to get up to speed quickly and start contributing. They need the new employee to be a good fit.

But according to researchers, new hires aren’t focused just on fitting in, they’re thinking about reinventing themselves. A new job and a new social setting represent a rare opportunity for people to show their authentic selves or even to reshape their personalities.

It’s like the first day at a new school–a clean slate and a chance to be somebody new.

Given this motivation, researchers argue that most organizations focus way too much attention on getting new hires to fit in. There’s certainly a lot for a new employee to learn, and the sooner they get up to speed, the sooner they can have a positive impact.

As many of us have seen from our own careers, it’s tough to do a lot of actual work on your first day. It’s much more about learning about the organization and the role you’re going to play.

See also: How to Shrink Employees’ Waistlines  

Take a look at the top three reasons people quit their jobs within six months, according to a survey by BambooHR:

  • They decided that the work was something they didn’t want to do any more.
  • They felt that they were given different work from what they expected based on their interview.
  • The boss was a jerk.

While these may look like problems with the work and responsibilities at first glance, they may actually have more to do with cultural issues like incompatible management styles and unclear expectations.

With a few tweaks, you can shift your organization’s approach to an employee’s first day and help employees define themselves within your organization rather than feeling like they have to change to fit in. That shift, coupled with some other first-day best practices, can get employees up to speed and productive much more quickly. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Keep paperwork to a minimum

New hires walk through the doors on their first day ready to hit the ground running and prove their value. They want to define their identities, and that usually includes being seen as a hard worker. But at too many organizations, that zeal is squandered on administrative activities like filling out HR forms. The result is a notable dip in spirit and some paperwork that’s filled out really, really well.

As much as possible, keep administrative tasks to a minimum on an employee’s first day. Ideally, new hires will fill out all or most of the forms before their first day. Here’s a great way to communicate a little culture–send an email that says, “We can’t wait for you to dig right in on your first day, so please complete this paperwork and bring it with you.”

2. Prepare for downtime

No matter how prepared you are to welcome a new employee, he or she is going to have some downtime on day one. Inevitably, a meet-and-greet will get rescheduled or something unexpected will crop up, leaving the new hire having an hour to kill. Even after day one, new hires aren’t likely to accelerate to full throttle right away. It will take some time–days, weeks or months, depending on the complexity of the job–before a new hire hits full stride. Continuing engagement and coaching is critical during this onboarding phase.

Have a plan in place that goes beyond just sending the employee back to her desk to, say, fill out paperwork. Instead, give new employees a chance to express some of their personality with an introductory email. Encourage them to be a little less formal, to share a bit of their personal lives and why they’re excited to join the team.

A better option is to set them up with a learning list: online courses, books, articles, webinars and podcasts to help them learn how your organization sees the industry and to show that lifelong learning is a top priority.

Ideally, this list would be created internally as one more way to demonstrate your culture. But there are plenty of external sources, including The Community and other collections of resources.

3. Show your culture

One of the best ways to help new hires find their niche within your organization is to give them a glimpse into your culture from day one. Make a point to include the new hire in social activities in your office–a group lunch, an afternoon trivia challenge, chats about popular TV shows, etc. New employees will feel like part of the team and get a chance to show a little personality.

Demonstrating your culture doesn’t require fun distractions. Bringing the new hire in on a brainstorm session or setting up an informal meeting with a company leader can also showcase the attitudes and behaviors your organization values most.

Or it could be as simple as sneaking a little bit of your company perspective into your welcome letter. Here’s how Apple, for example, welcomes new employees.

See also: The Era of Free Agent Employees  

4. Start your formal onboarding process

Don’t forget to incorporate your employee’s first day into your formal onboarding process. As you work to make the first day engaging and culture-focused, also set the new hire up with a clear path to success over the first several months on the job.

Help the new employee develop a support network, including a mentor, and be sure that new employees know where to turn for the resources they need to do their job successfully. Peer-to-peer learning is a powerful tool that gives employees a certain sense of independence and belonging, which are important attributes to success. Connecting new hires to others who have recently been in the same situation can also help ease new hires into their role and help keep them on track to success.

If you choose to assign new hires a mentor (and you absolutely should), that mentor can take the lead on a lot of these day-one activities, from organizing a company lunch to making the most of downtime.

Be sure to schedule periodic meetings to catch up with new hires. These scheduled meetings give both the hiring manager and the new hire some dedicated time to review progress, answer questions and stay engaged with one another.

Like many things in life, you will get out of new hire onboarding process only what you put into it. While it takes precious time and effort, the cost of not successfully onboarding your new hire is even greater, and a failed hire will put you right back to the beginning of the hiring process and further from realizing the organization’s goals.

Want to bring new employees up to speed in the rapidly changing insurance industry? An AINS designation is a good place to start.

Easy Ways to Start Mentoring Program

If there is one aspect of business building that has confounded even the smartest of entrepreneurs, it’s developing the team. The reality is that we simply don’t have the skills to develop their skills, and that can have a long-term and negative impact on the business.

Where Are You Today?

In 2015, we conducted research for the FPA’s Research and Practice Institute and Financial Advisor IQ that focused on team compensation and benefits. As part of that study, we examined team development, and I was impressed to see that almost all respondents support their team members’ personal and professional development, through training, financial support or continuing performance reviews.

At the same time, I noticed that most development initiatives were informal. Although 60% of respondents administer formal performance reviews, development activities such as new-employee training are overwhelmingly informal. The same is true for mentoring.

Have Your Considered Mentoring?

Mentoring is one development option that is generally considered very effective. Like all such development tools, of course, it’s only effective if it’s done well. Remember that mentoring can mean you being a mentor to the team, someone else on your team being a mentor to others or simply helping your team find outside mentors. It isn’t just an option for large businesses.

The reality is that mentoring doesn’t have to be a “time-suck” for you personally, despite its reputation for being exactly that. Today, I want to help you think about taking the first step to understanding where your team needs help and the role that mentoring might play in helping them maximize their potential.

See also: The Keys to Forming Effective Teams  

What Are Your Gaps?

An obvious first step is to figure out what gaps mentoring (or any development activity for that matter) is going to bridge. A performance review process is clearly an important first step. You may opt for a formal tool (such as DiSCPredictive Index or any of a range of tools) or you may opt for a good old-fashioned conversation with a team member.

Whichever approach you take, consider the following in evaluating your team members, ensuring that you cover three potential types of objectives.

1. Performance Objectives

  • Success in meeting specific, measurable objectives based on role
  • Joint accountability: the ability to work well with and support the entire team
  • Attention to detail within sphere of role
  • Timeliness in completing work
  • Initiative: goes above and beyond defined role

2. Competency/Development Objectives

  • Customer service skills
  • Sales
  • Time management
  • Public speaking
  • Business writing
  • Leadership
  • Software skills
  • Graphic design
  • Financial planning

3. Personal Development Objectives

  • Personal improvement goals that the team member sees as important to moving career forward, for example:
  • Professional designations
  • Training courses
  • Advanced Business Training

You might also consider skills assessment tools, which differ substantially from performance review tools.  These tools can be helpful when you are thinking more about getting the right people in the right roles – or who to hire in the first place.

Consider the following:

Kolbe. The Kolbe A Index is designed to measure the conative faculty of the mind — the actions you take that result from your natural instincts. The index validates an individual’s natural talents, the instinctive method of operation (M.O.) that enables you to be productive.

VIA Strengths Test. VIA has identified 24 character strengths that are universal across all aspects of life: work, school, family, friends and community. Whereas most personality assessments focus on negative and neutral traits, the VIA Survey focuses on what is best in you and is at the center of the science of well-being.

Strengths Finder. Based on research from Gallup, you access this assessment by purchasing the book. It’s designed to help uncover your talents and incorporates strategies to leverage the strengths you identify.

Mentoring Options

Mentoring is an option (whether delivered formally or informally, internally or externally) that I believe has a strong potential to have significant impact. Of course, it’s not always easy to get moving.

In an interview with Rebecca Pomering for our Spotlight program, we reviewed the three types of mentoring available at Moss Adams. This is a helpful way to think about what you are trying to accomplish and highlights that mentoring can be more or less involved depending on your needs.

At Moss Adams, Rebecca explained that there were three types of mentoring available:

1. The Buddy

A buddy might be assigned for a new employee. That individual may or may not be involved in the actual job training, but is there to help navigate the office and company. The buddy is someone a new employee can ask any question of and not feel judged in any way.

2. The Mentor

A mentor is more traditionally defined as supporting the team member either on a specific topic or skill or on a longer-term basis. Employees may be asked to identify a mentor or go to management if they are looking for support on a specific issue. On some teams, mentors are assigned, but the jury is out as to whether relationships that are not explicitly chosen are as effective.

3. The Sponsor

A sponsor’s objective is to actively support and promote the individual in career advancement and development. Sponsors are typically individuals who have the political and organizational connections to make that sponsorship effective. Sponsors may or may not be mentors and vice versa.

See also: How to Pick Your Insight Team  

Talk to Your Team (First)

If you’re considering implementing a mentoring program, ensure you start with clear direction from the team on what will work and what won’t. Below are a series of questions that could form the basis of a survey or a conversation:

  • Have you had experience with any form of mentoring? If yes, what form did it take, and how would you describe the impact?
  • Do you think it would be valuable for us to consider implementing a mentoring program, which we’ll jointly define?
  • How do you think a mentor could help you?
  • How would you describe your ideal mentor? What skills, experience or personality traits would he/she have?
  • Specifically, what kinds of issues would you hope to address with a mentor?
  • Would you prefer to be assigned a mentor or to have support/guidance in finding someone yourself?
  • How would you describe the outcomes of a successful mentoring program for you? What would have to happen for you to describe the process as successful?
  • Is there anything that you feel definitely wouldn’t work when it comes to implementing a mentoring system?

Talk to Yourself (Not Literally)

You’ll also want to get clear on your own goals and objectives for providing or facilitating mentoring. To that end, consider the following questions if you are thinking about finding your own mentor. Or, if it’s for your team, ensure both the mentor and mentee clarify exactly what they’re hoping to accomplish and how they know if they’ll be successful.

  • Exactly what are you trying to solve for? Are you looking to develop a specific skill, gain general insights into a specific topic or have someone you can go to for continuing advice?
  • How long do you anticipate the mentoring relationship to last?
  • How often will you meet, where and for what length of time?
  • How will you both prepare for those meetings?
  • How do you define success?

Personally, I consider team development one of the most challenging aspects of running a business. We surround ourselves with these incredibly talented people, and it’s easy to feel like you are letting them down. Ultimately, development is about prioritizing and booking the time to do something, even if that something isn’t perfect.

Thank for stopping by,


Should You Use a Coach/Mentor?

It’s time to share the results of our coaches and mentors poll.

You may remember that, back in August, we launched a short survey. Thanks to those who participated. We now have stable enough results to give an interesting, at least initial, picture. As someone who works as an external coach and mentor, I was surprised  by some of these results. See if they accord with your experience.

See also: How to Choose a Great Coach  

Having given advice on understanding the difference between coaches and mentors, together with when you might need each, I was keen to see take-up. So, questions in this poll centered on three topics: use of coaches; use of mentors; personal development progress.

Here is what you shared…

Use of coaches

In answer to the question, “Do you have a coach?“:

  • 57% No
  • 43% Yes

The following questions were only completed by the 43%, who answered “yes” to having a coach.

In answer to the question, “What type of coach are they?“:

  • 33% Executive Coach
  • 33% Leadership Coach
  • 33% Professional Coach

Given the preponderance of “life coaches” and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) coaches I have met at coaching events, it’s interesting to see those did not make the list. The focus on the most senior leadership roles still appears to hold true. But it was interesting to see professional coach selected as a title as well.

In answer to the question, “Are they external to your employer?“:

  • 100% Yes

This was the first result to not have an element of surprise. It accords with my experience that most leaders (who do hire) only hire coaches externally, or view any such internal work as “mentoring.”

In answer to the question, “Do you believe you need a coach, to develop your leadership or to sustain high performance?“:

  • 60% Don’t know
  • 20% Yes
  • 20% No

This is perhaps the most concerning answer so far. There has been quite some debate within the coaching community about the need to improve methods of measuring effectiveness, to be able to demonstrate genuine progress or ROI for clients. This answer underlies the importance of that quest. If coaching clients themselves aren’t convinced they need a coach, there is probably more work to do on demonstrating what coaching delivers for them. We all need to see robust, understood metrics become commonplace.

Use of mentors

The next three questions in our survey focused on the use of mentors, with similar structure (to allow comparison with feedback on coaches).

In answer to the question, “Do you have a mentor?“:

  • 67% Yes
  • 33% No

Those results bear out my own experience, of selling coaching or mentoring services into U.K. and European businesses. Many companies appear to value technical or professional mentoring, while remaining skeptical about coaching. Despite that, my experience in mentoring engagements almost always involved elements of coaching, and it may become apparent that is the client’s primary need. But, as mentors are more widely taken-up, let’s see how mentors are being used.

The following questions were only completed by the 67%, who answered “yes” to having a mentor.

In answer to the question, “Do they also work for your employer?“:

  • 60% No
  • 40% Yes

Given the common situation of mentoring being provided by senior leaders within a business, this answer also surprised me. It seems, perhaps in line with the experience I shared above, that the take-up of external mentors has increased. It may just be the language used, or perhaps reflects the time-poor nature of many business leaders. Are companies struggling to free their own senior leaders for mentoring and opting to buy-in mentoring expertise instead? Either way, the answer confirms the greater popularity of mentoring rather than coaching services.

In answer to the question, “Do you believe you need a mentor, to develop in your career or succeed within your current organization?“:

  • 40% Yes
  • 40% No
  • 20% Don’t know

A more positive answer than the equivalent one for coaching, but still the majority answering “don’t know” or “no.” Perhaps the most interesting comparison is the lower number of undecided. It seems experiencing mentoring either clarifies that it is optional or identifies a clear need for this support. Once more, mentoring seems to be better understood than coaching.

Personal Development

Our final three questions focused on respondents’ progress in their personal development and time commitment to any form of such investment.

In answer to the question, “Do you have clear goals for your leadership development this year?“:

  • 50% No
  • 50% Yes

A concerning lack of clarity among responders to this question. If leaders really only have a 50:50 chance of having clear goals to develop their leadership capability, a need for goal-oriented coaching or mentoring is clear. It’s perhaps not surprising from increasingly time-poor leaders, working in business that too often focus on short-term targets. However, it is still concerning and perhaps something for prospective coaches or mentors to emphasize more – the benefits of such goal setting and how they can help clients use them.

In answer to the question, “Are you on track to achieve your goals?“:

  • 60% Yes
  • 40% No

Given the lack of clear goals identified in the previous answer, this positive view of progress risks looking overly optimistic. But, with hindsight, perhaps the wording here encouraged leaders to think about their wider goals. Another interpretation is that without clear goals it is easier to persuade yourself that you are doing fine. Certainly, believing you are on track, while potentially lacking clear goals or any accountability mechanism, could be a recipe for complacency. Does that also drive a lower uptake of coaches?

In answer to our final question, “How much time (per week) do you give to your personal development?“:

  • 67% 1-2 hours
  • 17% 3-4 hours
  • 17% >1 day

In the full version of this question, participants were asked to consider all development activities (coaching, mentoring, reading, training, events, etc). In that context, spending one to two hours a week (<5% of a 40-hour working week) seems far too little. Perhaps that is another sign that “short-termism” can rob leaders of investing what they need to grow and develop in their leadership. I’ve found that if you are not protecting sufficient time to develop your leadership skills, you not only fail to grow but also burn out quicker.

What are you going to do about it?

I hope those results were interesting. Feel free to share whether the scores aligned to your experience.

If you have been challenged by this post, to reconsider investing more time in your personal development and perhaps seeking a coach or mentor, then stop right now. If that thought is going to become more than just wishful thinking, the best thing you can do is commit to an action you are going to take as a result.

See also: Best Insurance? A Leadership Pipeline  

What will you do differently, within the next two weeks? Write it down, preferably with an app that will remind you.

I wish you well with your development as a leader. Today’s customer insight teams need the best leaders possible.

How to Choose a Great Coach

The Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) published a report titled “Coaching for Success: The key ingredients for coaching delivery and coach recruitment.” There’s plenty of interesting snippets of research findings and practical advice.

If you have time, it is well worth a read, but the points that caught my eye were a three-stage process for coach selection. I agree with the ILM that the selection of coaches often still lacks a robust structured process and so am going to share their recommended process as a good example.

This process can be used by individuals for themselves or by someone selecting on behalf of an organization. It assumes that a long list of possible coaches has already been found. To achieve that, you could go as Wild West as a general Google search on “coach”/”leadership coach”/”executive coach.” However, I’d recommend starting with a pre-qualified list like the Association for Coaching (AfC) directory of coaches or equivalents from other coaching bodies.

Here are the stages that the ILM recommends, to be used like a checklist of questions to ask (I’ve added what I’d say if asked):

Stage 1: Long-list to Short-list

  • What experience of coaching does the coach have? (I could evidence my number of coaching hours and cite previous mentoring experience within a large corporation)
  • Can the coach demonstrate an understanding of the leadership challenges in your industry? (I’ve found some clients value my experience in customer insight leadership or within the insurance industry)
  • What training do they have? (I could evidence my ILM Level 7 qualification in Executive Coaching and Mentoring)
  • What ethical standards do they work to? (I share with clients a copy of the AfC code of ethics and explain that I abide by that)
  • What supervision does the coach have in place? (I use AfC/University of South Wales co-coaching forums)

Stage 2: Getting down to the last few

  • What coaching methodologies does the coach use, when and why? (my primary tools are active listening, Socratic questioning, goal-oriented models and, where relevant, positive psychology tools like Strength Finders)
  • What price do they charge? (average fees can vary around the country, but between £100-250 per hour is typical; I normally charge £150 per hour)

Stage 3: Final selection

  • What does the coach he can achieve for the individual coachee/client? (this is where a free introductory meeting can help me clarify where I may be able to help or if another intervention other than coaching might help more)
  • What do they believe they can achieve for the organization? (it’s always worth doing your homework on an organization and discussing context with a client, before you can offer a view on this)
  • Will the coach and the coachee/client get on? (at the end of the day, a lot comes down to personal chemistry, so I will meet up for a chat over a coffee and let us both assess if we feel it can work)

I hope you find that helpful, especially if you are facing this challenge. The ILM also suggests that competency frameworks from leading global coaching bodies can help, but I like the clear simplicity of the above list.

Has anyone found another approach to selecting a coach worked for them? Please share your experience.


Are Conferences Still Worth the Effort?

I am beginning to wonder more about insurance conferences.

Over the course of my career, I have attended and spoken at numerous external events, some good, some less so. I have presented in the English language and through simultaneous translation and had translators stand by my side and paraphrase what I have said. In reality, I have had no idea what they said, and if it made sense. Who knows?

Paul Carroll’s recent article about the insurance industry’s use of impenetrable language has never been more timely – occasionally I’ve had to explain technical insurance issues in layman’s terms, so that the translator could interpret what I had said. Hiding in jargon doesn’t work in this sort of multi-lingual environment.

But the main reason for writing is to comment about insurance conferences themselves. Are they in need of reinvention? Is the old format reaching the end of its useful life? I don’t mean vendor-organized events, which are explicitly in your face. You’re really in no doubt that this is a marketing vehicle. Big vendors can summon 20,000 people to hear what is new.

What I am talking about is the indirect “third party” event that lands in our in-box with amazing regularity. Attendance numbers on some of these events can be so small that when attendees on free passes have been stripped out (sponsors, exhibitors, speakers), the target audience can be very modest indeed.

Don’t get me wrong. I love standing in front of an audience and sharing my ideas and experience. If we are anything, Insurance Thought Leaders are evangelists, and we want to share what’s on our mind and engage with our audience. But even after 30 years of speaking, I still get nervous and have to go through a personal ritual of preparation. Want to know why? It’s because no one better knows their own business and the business of insurance than the people we speak to, and they are the toughest of audiences to work with.

What that means is that insurance conference audiences attend for one of three reasons: to learn, to reaffirm their thinking or to network. Let’s take these in order.

If you attend a conference to learn, what is it about your organization that it doesn’t provide an adequate training environment? If your focus is individual learning, is sitting in a room watching multiple presentations the most effective way? Won’t you learn more from personal discussion, from coffee with a mentor or from sites like this? (You are less likely to learn if you are checking your e-mails while the presentations are being made.)

If you attend to reaffirm your thinking – well, you are probably well-informed already, and I would be very surprised if what you learn at a conference makes you think too much differently.

And networking? Well, knowing what the competition is up to is always interesting, but how much are they really going to give away? And aren’t the really interesting things happening in other customer-facing industries, such as retail and telco? Customers are setting the insurance benchmark based on the service they are receiving in other verticals.

As the innovation exec of a major global insurer once said to me, “Tony, I know what my competitors are doing. I need to know what innovation is happening in other industries, and how I can take that into insurance.”

We have a new generation of buyers – well-informed, insightful, skeptical, more experienced. They remind me of when I moved from the vendor side to the client side more than 20 years ago and created internal capabilities for insurance carriers that helped transform their models and aspirations. Poacher turned gamekeeper. I wasn’t the first to cross that particular Rubicon, and I’m certainly not the last. (I’m not entirely sure that I have been forgiven by some professional colleagues.)

So – back to conferences. Insurance marketers are increasingly questioning the return on investment for sponsorship. Are they getting to the right audience? Has the audience changed? Do speakers need to be better? Is the presentation format adequate for today’s informed environment?

Aren’t attendees entitled to ask the same questions?

Are some of today’s conferences increasingly mainly for the benefit of the organizers, not the industry?