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Water Cooler

Information and insight about your career and the workplace at large
October 2005

News and Views

According to a new study of 5,247 hiring managers, 46% of newly-hired employees will fail within 18 months, while only 19% will achieve unequivocal success. It's not that they lack technical skills. It's because they have poor interpersonal skills, which many of their managers admit were overlooked during the hiring process. More

October is Businesswomen's Month in Montgomery County, Maryland, proclaimed so by County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. Celebrate this special month with Gayley Knight, Past President of Women Business Owners of Montgomery County, at a gala luncheon on Friday, October 21, at the Gaithersburg Hilton. Details

Turning into a desk potato? A survey by CareerBuilder.com says that almost half (47%) of U.S. employees report that they have gained weight since they started their current jobs. Are you one of them? What to do


Toolbox

Being part of the commodity crowd erodes your value, writes Rajesh Setty in his "Change This" manifesto on how to distinguish yourself. Written for the technology industry, the manifesto offers good advice for anyone looking to rise above the ordinary-in the workplace or in life. Check it out


NEW: WaterCooler Professional—The Miniseries

In 2005, "Making It Work for You" evolves to "WC Professional," a miniseries of action steps to being your own mentor. Follow this 12-month plan and by January of 2006, you'll have taken a big step towards being your own best advocate in the workplace.

October: Learn to mentor your boss.

"If there's any such thing as a dream employee," the reference said, "she is it." Who could ask for a better recommendation? And so I hired her.

Claire was, indeed, a great employee. Sharp, talented, witty, and wise-tall praise for a 21-year-old. During the time we worked together, we set up a pilot mentoring program so she could begin to practice some basic management competencies, like planning programs and developing budgets.

As all stellar employees do, she's successfully navigated several job transitions since then, and we still keep in touch. And because our mentoring experiment worked well, I continued it with her successors.

I learned a lot, enough to eventually create and teach classes on being your own mentor, and then, of course, to write Mentor Me.

And I've come to realize what escaped me then: Claire wasn't the only one being mentored; I was too. Claire was mentoring her boss. And so can you.

WaterCooler (WC) Personal: The Most Helpful Way to Mentor a Boss

Sam Horn, speaker and author of Tongue Fu!, says one of the most useful techniques for mentoring your boss is to "Get on the A-train": Acknowledge, Apologize, Act.

When a boss points out something wrong, Horn observes, most employees get defensive. Explanations upset managers, because they sound like excuses. She recommends doing the following:

    1. Agree with the boss' observation. For example, if you've been covering the switchboard and your boss calls to tell you you're late for a meeting, say, "You're right. I should have called to let you know I've been covering the phones for Nancy, who's been ill."

    2. Apologize. Say, "I'm sorry for not calling."

    3. Act. Say, "My replacement will be her in five minutes and I'll be there as soon as she arrives." Then make good on your promise.

Quite by accident, Claire, who later took a management position on the staff of a trade publication, found herself in a situation with an angry boss. Horn's advice about taking the A-train proved its worth. The outcome?

The boss reacted completely professionally and later even apologized for getting angry. She'd never apologized to any other employee.

It sounds counterintuitive, but the best way to influence others is to change your own behavior, as Claire did when she refused to get defensive in the face of her boss' anger.

So here's one secret to mentoring your boss: give up any hope you can change him or her, and begin changing yourself.

Want more tips on how to mentor your boss? You'll find them in Chapter 8 of Mentor Me. Get your copy today.