• Making Mentoring Productive

    Take My AdviceMy friend Richard Guha is one of those people I’m extremely grateful to know. He’s a former F100 CEO for Reliant Energy and others, Board Director, and Executive in & out of Residence, advising CEOs & CXOs. This post of his strikes a chord with my experiences, both as a consultant and somebody seeking advice. What’s your experience? Do you think he’s on to something?


    “People are not likely to accept advice and act on it.

    I have spent many years mentoring, coaching and advising yet still find that many people run away from the help. So I try harder and they run away faster. Why is this? There are many reasons why we are really poor at learning from advice and feedback. Most people who leave a job voluntarily do for lack of feedback, most mentoring programs of start-ups have limited success, and corporate advisors complain that they have limited impact. This is as relevant to a member of a Board of Directors as to a mentor of a start-up. I have done both, as well as coached individuals, very many times, and want to pass on what I have learned. Among these are the following:

    We hate change.

    As Alan Deutschman pointed out in Fast Company, there is hard scientific data to support this and explain why.
    The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a research backed finding that people who are unskilled in any area tend to over-estimate their competence , while those who are highly skilled, tend to under-estimate theirs. Most people are not skilled in all the areas they are working in. So, a start-up founder is probably not an expert in doing so. It takes years of doing one thing to acquire real skill in it. Watching “Law & Order” will not make you a detective or prosecutor. It always amazes me when I really dig deeply into many professions, such as teaching or law, how much real skill has taken years of thoughtful practice to learn.
    While Malcolm Gladwell popularized the work of K. Anders Ericsson to say that you need 10,000 hours of concentrated practice to become good at anything, the original work is more nuanced but still emphasizes the role of time and practice to become expert.
    While mentoring and advising are attempts to short-circuit these barriers, people are not naturally good at accepting mentoring. However, it can be learned. As Doug Stone and Sheila Heen, who teach at Harvard Law school have shown People want feedback, but only of the positive kind – appreciation. If they get this, then they usually switch off to further coaching. However, if they get criticized, they have hurt feelings and reduce the pain by not listening any more. Few people really like getting blunt feedback and this means that much mentoring, coaching or advice is wasted.
    As someone who has coached individuals, advised large corporations and mentored start-ups for over 40 years, I have learned a few lessons to improve effectiveness. These are simple sounding, but not easy to implement. Many people think that they can simply mentor, coach or advise based on theirs skills, but do not recognize that these require a completely new set of skills.

    * Make sure that the mentee understands that you have their best interests at heart.
    * Agree structure beforehand so that the emotion is minimized.
    * Make it a non-threatening dialog, so that the mentee is also providing feedback and tells the mentor what they accept and what they don’t. This should be recognized as a way to make the advice more relevant and meaningful.
    * The coach has to make input brief. “Sound-bites” are essential. People do not listen well in long stretches.
    * Use “active listening.” First developed by Carl Rogers, this should be used by both advisor and the person receiving advice. The mentor has to engage in a dialog so that the mentee reacts, responds and shows that the help has been internalized. The mentee also has to have the opportunity to modify the advice working with the mentor to do so.

    So, it is not simply a matter of shouting louder, but of both the advisor and the person advised being conscious of the dangers and working around them.”

  • Moving on, even when you’re scared sh*tless

    scared sh*tlessSometimes we curse ourselves for things we tried, were good at, and then found out weren’t making us happy.

    How many times do we berate ourselves for that drive that keeps us up at night? For chasing the all encompassing, self-inflicted pleasure and pain of piecing together new puzzles?

    Sometimes we go in a direction for a time, knowing it needs to change, but feeling powerless to take the required steps that will produce our freedom and the joie de vivre that comes from taking on something new because we hunger for the challenge.

    The thing that holds us up oftentimes is the self loathing for having outgrown some work, some relationship, some daily pattern of living. We beat ourselves up for “being stupid” because we tried something and it ultimately didn’t seem to take us where we wanted to be. If only you’d played it safe, never taken that road, been “normal” and “smart,” none of this growing pain would have ever happened. Everybody else has figured out how to be happy and settled but you. Is that right?


    If you never grow beyond going to work everyday, plopping down on the sofa to watch the same TV shows, and doing the same things with the same people all the time I have envied you more than I can say at times. I wanted to be that steady, content, peaceful person like my 96 year old maternal Grandma, who is delightfully healthy because she eats, exercises, and takes her vitamins at regular intervals every single day.

    I must have taken after my Dad’s side of the family in more than looks. His family is full of colorful adventurers. There’s nothing more exciting to me than having a new place to see, smell, experience. I love the wind in my hair as I boldly flounder where this woman has never gone before. boldly floundering

    Sometimes you achieve success beyond your wildest dreams and help amazing people who will never forget you. Sometimes it doesn’t go all “postcard” and there are delays, inconveniences, struggles, and outright heartbreaks to our plans as entrepreneurs. It’s easy to blame ourselves for not seeing ahead well enough to avoid the pain, but I believe it’s that forward momentum that keeps us alive and strong. It’s in our Entrepreneurial DNA.

    Be strong. Keep moving, even when you’re scared sh*tless. I’m right there with you! Together, I believe we can overcome the urge to hide when life entices us with the promise of a deliciously energizing challenge.

    Are you feeling the urge to hide when all you really want to do is to launch forward with some new move in your life? Please scroll down and share what you want and what you’re going to do today to make it happen.



    keep moving

  • Tired of your business? “Get in my bed!”


    Shocked Man
    You did what?!

    Movies are the most amazing source of inspiration for me.

    Today as I was giving a complimentary Pinterest teleconference it really came home to me that the most important thing you can do as an Entrepreneur is to do what WORKS.

    Do what feels good to you and what people are responding to.

    Quit trying to to or be something that feels as stale and boring as eating breadcrumbs for dinner.

    In this delightful film clip, substitute Nick Cage’s famous “Now get in my BED” for “Now get on with it!” and my advice for you is the same.

    We aren’t here to make things perfect. As far as I’m concerned, we’re here to make things magic by throwing our love and hearts into it.

    Go where you’re drawn and do what feels good to you. The rest (success, money, etc.) will come.