Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR


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Managing And Developing Leaders

Happy New Year!  Start your new year with a plan to develop your management team to succeed!

Many HR leaders report that developing leadership talent is hard for them, and this goes back to coaching and development.

Google does this well. Using data from hundreds of surveys, feedback responses, performance reviews, etc. they were able to figure out what qualities make a great leader. You can do this for your organization too.

Going through all of this data and finding patterns among responses of what employees think make an excellent manager, you can use that data to develop your talent.

360-degree feedback is an excellent way to discover people’s strengths and weaknesses and come up with a plan to improve.

What Google also does, which you can do too, is create a mentorship program, where the best managers help the lower performing or new managers. Once you’re able to discover what qualities make a good manager, and who has those qualities, create an environment for knowledge sharing.  Good Luck in 2015.


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Life’s Influence

I’d like to say that when I was younger I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life and where I was going – but the truth is like many young people I really didn’t have a clue.  And I do believe that some of the paths I almost took would likely have led to a destination I wouldn’t be happy with today.

But how do you know what you don’t know?

A business colleague asked me the other day what influenced me to start my own business rather than continue to grow with an organization.   My reply was pretty quick. The practice of managing people is often the weakest link in an organization and yet we depend on our employees to run our organizations.    I wanted to take all of the experiences I have gained over the years and offer that expertise to organizations that can’t afford fulltime HR staff, but need guidance in creating work environments that attract and retain top performers.

I started thinking though.  I believe I was always meant to help others in some form or fashion.  So many people influenced my life in many different ways. Not always good, but always good learning.  I would love to take the credit for all the positive choices in my life, but the truth is, even in the worst of times someone is influencing your next decision.

But in my reply to my colleague I reflected on two separate conversations I had in my mid 20’s: one with a more experienced coworker, and one with my boss at the time. I won’t go into the details, but I will say that a couple of 20-minute discussions truly did change my life.

These two people apparently recognized my strengths and understood my struggles. Their suggestions for my professional development came unsolicited; and as I look back I know I probably would never have asked.

If I hadn’t taken advantage of their wisdom when it came to me, I wouldn’t be in the place I am today. It’s impossible to predict just where I would have ended up, but I do know that I am very happy with how it’s all played out so far…

So, to me, those two short conversations were powerful mentoring moments that shifted the course of the rest of my life. I’ve learned that mentorship can come in the form of a structured, formal program; or that it can show up as an impromptu 20-minute conversation while eating lunch.

Who’s helped you out through their words of wisdom? How did that change your life? Were their moments in your life in which you wish someone had offered up their knowledge? When have you been a mentor, and how could this have potentially changed a life?

The point is to not hold back. Share your wisdom. You never know the impact you may have with your words. And the bonus is that the more we give, the more we get back – and the happier we are!


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Who Influenced Your Career?

It’s one of those questions that’s easy to ask but hard to answer: Who influenced you and your career?  What did you learn from them? Why is it so hard to answer? Try doing it and see. If you give it serious thought, it doesn’t turn out the way you’d expect. At least for me, it wasn’t easy. I have been lucky enough to have many great people influence my career, push me to be better, and very important, celebrate my successes. Even when things weren’t going exactly as I planned or envisioned, someone stepped in and helped guide me.  Life has lots of twists and turns with loads of fascinating people along the way. For me it wasn’t one person, it was many.

Think about it, who really inspired you or said something that changed your career trajectory.  I know it sounds like a frivolous exercise, but it’s really not. It’s actually an important question for a number of reasons:

  • First, thinking back to the people, events, and ideals that inspired and changed you has an uncanny way of reinforcing what you learned. I found it to be introspective, rejuvenating, and surprisingly motivating.
  • Second, every successful business person who shares these unique experiences provides insight for thousands of young up-and-comers. It teaches them to listen to and engage a diverse group of potential mentors.
  • Third, it encourages parents, teachers, friends, managers, and anyone with important life lessons to share, to play a role in the personal growth and success of tomorrow’s leaders.

Maybe it will inspire you to either seek out new mentors or become one.


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Navigating through a new company

Getting ahead in your career isn’t just about understanding your business and mastering your daily tasks. You also need to learn your office’s informal networks, the personality clashes and synergies among your co-workers. How do you learn these things if they’re not in the orientation and new hire paperwork you received your first day? Through mentors, of course. To make the mentoring as painless as possible for office new hires, Tough Guide to Work recently offered three common mentoring pitfalls and how to avoid them. 

  • Searching for ‘the one’ Obi Wan. Gandalf. Dumbledore. Watching movies and reading fiction gives us the deep impression that we should be seeking some prodigious figure in our professional lives. Instead we end up having coffee with an exhausted executive who as it turns out has a couple of good ideas and a bunch of neuroses. We expect one person to embody everything we want to become, advise on all areas of our work and life and then it turns out instead we’ve been paired with a human being instead. How unfair. Instead of seeking one perfect mentor, I strongly advocate getting a “Board of Advisors”. Seek out a selection of mentors who can offer guidance on a specific topic. Want great advice on work-life balance, career goals, navigating politics, professional growth, building a network, influencing senior management? It’s unlikely that you will find one genius that gives you everything.
  • Needing to make it official: Senior executives I have spoken to say that they fear the junior employee who asks them to be their mentor. They worry that they don’t have the time, that it will involve having to go for long dinners in trendy places with loud music. They’d prefer to be playing tennis, or spending time with their friends and family. Some of the best mentoring I have had has been in the backs of taxis, during small talk at the end of work meetings and at friend’s weddings at drinks before the long dinner. The other person probably doesn’t see it as mentoring, just a friendly conversation with a younger person. The key here is to remember to ask for informal advice. Try this: “In your experience, what mistakes do you see people like me make?” or how about “What career advice would you have for someone like me?”.
  • Confusing mentors and sponsors. Mentors offer “psychosocial” support for personal and professional development, plus career help that includes advice and coaching. On the other hand, sponsors actively advocate for your advancement. They give protégés exposure to other executives, they make sure their people are considered for promising opportunities and challenging assignments.