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Famous Deaths That Make Me Angry

John Pinette died this week. For those of you who don’t know of him he was a stand-up comedian. A great one. He mostly did fat jokes (at his own expense), and he made millions from a bad experience at a Chinese Buffet. I know as an HR professional, I’m not supposed to find humour in jokes at the expense of others, but with him I couldn’t help myself. The expression “you scare my wife” has been quoted in many a family conversation over the years. I will miss his avoidance of political correctness.

I don’t know why but I’ve been itching to write a blog for some time that focuses on famous deaths that make me angry, so John Pinette’s gives me a good reason to write this.

In our organizations we have great talent and sometimes hasn’t achieved its full potential. In the case of the people on my list, their lives simply ended too soon and for the wrong reasons. I tried to pick people who have died in my lifetime, and who left shoes to fill. This was difficult because I was too young to have been impacted by some of the obvious ones who might be on other people’s lists like Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, etc. Here goes:

  1. John Candy. Who in Canada didn’t love the precious John Candy? Underneath the larger-than-life genius was a complex and deep person. His death never should’ve happened and he died way too soon. When I think of him, I think of this scene in the movie Stripes:
  2. Karen Carpenter. Karen was a beautiful songbird, with a range that should be the envy of most modern divas. I can listen to her all day. She died of complications from Anorexia Nervosa at age 32, which at the time was a newly diagnosed disease. How someone with so much talent could die so young is beyond me.
  3. Jim Croce. Many of you will know Jim Croce by his hit records. What you may not know is how many times he made attempts to “make it”, unsuccessfully before recording “the ones”. Sadly, he died in a plane crash before he ever got to feel the benefits of his success. The fact that he was cheated is what makes me angry.
  4. Freddy Prinze. For me, Freddy Prinze was a trailblazer in terms of helping America move toward racial integration. I was just a kid when Chico and the Man was a hit TV show, and perhaps back then I didn’t appreciate the significance of the show, but I loved the interaction between Prinze and Jack Albertson. His death of suicide by Russian Roulette left a gaping hole that took years to fill. It was a stupid way to die. I once read that George Lopez personally paid for the induction fee for his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That’s a lot of impact for so young a person.
  5. John Belushi. I suppose this one is obvious for the list, in that he died from something stupid and way too early. I was a teenager when Belushi died, learning the skill of juxtaposition from skits like “Little Chocolate Donuts”. That we lost someone so irreplaceable at the peak of his career is what makes me angry. What would’ve been next?
  6. SS Edmund Fitzgerald. Ok, a ship is not a person, so I will add here Captain McSorley and his crew. There is no other story I’ve studied more thoroughly than the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I feel like the wreck is part of my genetic makeup. The Fitz was lost on one of my birthdays. Strangely, I remember that terrible storm, and I remember sitting at the kitchen table the next morning, listening to Wally Philips on the radio and hearing that a major boat had been lost. For the rest of my life I have come to see the Great Lakes as an extension of me and a testament to the power of mother nature and the necessity for following naval procedures. Simply stated, the Fitz should’ve never wrecked and it makes me mad that it did.

Are there other deaths that make you more angry than sad? If yes, why?

Reverse Mentoring: An Invaluable Tool for Personal & Professional Development

I doubt that there are many people who would disagree with the benefits of mentoring programs and relationships.  Mentoring has been an integral part of most organizations’ development programs for years.  After all, what’s to debate about the value of more senior, experienced professionals providing guidance, advice, and coaching to less experienced employees?  The benefits can be realized for both parties; for mentors, the ability to provide advice and share the “I wish I knew this back when….” moments forces them to look inward and reflect on past mistakes as well as past successes, and that reflection and knowledge sharing can help to hone their leadership skills.  For mentees, the opportunity to have that sounding board in someone who has “been there, done that,” talking about real life situations and experiences, can be more valuable than sitting through a theoretical leadership development class, or at least can greatly enhance the learnings from such classes, and can help them avoid some of the mistakes the mentor may have made.

However, have you ever stopped to think about the value that can come out of a “reverse mentoring” relationship?  For those who aren’t familiar, reverse mentoring is exactly as it sounds; instead of the more senior employee providing guidance to a younger, less experienced employee, in a reverse mentoring relationship the individual who would typically take on the mentee role become the mentor to teach the more senior employee.

What?  How does that make sense?  What could a lesser experienced person possibly teach someone who has been in the workforce for years longer, who has amassed a much greater amount of knowledge and experience?

But you see, that outlook can, and will, cause individuals and organizations to miss out on another invaluable way to develop and enhance their knowledge.  Though younger employees may have less business related experience and knowledge gained by years of first hand experiences, they often enter the workforce with more superior knowledge and experience in other areas, particularly technology related.  Younger generations have grown up using technology for most, if not all of their lives, so learning and adapting to new technology is second nature, whereas more seasoned folks may struggle with adoption, or at the very least may find it not quite as second nature to keep pace with changes and advances.  Younger employees may have a keen sense of how emerging technology can be leveraged to enhance not only your own individual knowledge and development, but also how it can be applied to your business.

Still skeptical?  Let me share my own reverse mentoring experience…

I’ve worked at my current company for quite some time.  Although I’ve worked in the same department and with many of the same people for a long time, I’ve always prided myself with keeping myself current and staying abreast of trends.  A few years back, we hired an HR Coordinator fairly fresh out of college who came to us with boundless energy and a plethora of new ideas.  Because many of us in the department had been around for a while, it was easy to dismiss her ideas as unrealistic, or out of tune with the reality of the business.  However, she set to work trying to educate and convince our department of the value of social media for business.  Admittedly, I wasn’t as in tune as I could have been with social media at the time; I was at first a reluctant adopter of Facebook (hard to imagine that now) and I certainly hadn’t even considered Twitter.  But Kelly was persistent in trying to convince me of the value of the connections that could be made through social media, and Twitter specifically; persistent enough that I finally decided to give it a try.  And I can honestly say, that changed my life and professional reach exponentially.  Through the connections I’ve made, I have:

  • Met countless HR pros, consultants, and vendors virtually, many of whom I have since met in person, many of whom have become valuable business contacts and friends
  • Connected with a group of women, who together founded the Women of HR blog.  This gave me the opportunity to give blogging a try (which in itself makes you a better HR pro as you think & write).  I am now editing the blog, which keeps me connected to many intelligent HR pros and constantly exposes me to new ideas
  • Gotten involved in HRevolution, where I have met many of my contacts in person and have been exposed to new and progressive ideas about HR and where the function is going
  • Been invited to be part of the social media teams for large national conferences such as SHRM National and the HR Technology Conference
  • Been exposed to many ideas and concepts that I wouldn’t necessarily have learned about in my day to day job
  • Had the opportunity to work on a team to initiate social media involvement for the NY State SHRM conference, and have had the opportunity to educate other HR pros on the benefits of social media and networking
  • Played an integral part of social media education and development of the social media function at my company

Though it’s possible that I would have eventually stumbled into some of these opportunities, they certainly wouldn’t have happened as quickly as they did without Kelly’s guidance.  And every one of them has made me a better, more well-rounded HR professional.

Although the relationship between Kelly and I was never a formal reverse mentoring arrangement, the benefits were certainly still realized.  I encourage everyone to keep that in mind – you may not even need to establish a formal program, but encourage a culture where all employees are open to learning or teaching anyone, regardless of who is more “experienced.”  You just never know what kind of doors it may open.

Jennifer Payne, SPHR is a 15 years HR veteran with experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development in the retail grocery industry.  She is a co-founder of Women of HR, a blog dedicated to women in HR, leadership, and business.  She has been a contributing writer since its inception, and currently serves as editor.  She has also served on social media/blogging teams for SHRM National, NY State SHRM, and the HR Technology Conference.

Tips for Creating a Successful Mentoring Relationship

Mentoring RelationshipWhat does it take to create a successful mentoring relationship? A mentor and a mentee enter into a mentoring relationship hoping for success, but that doesn’t always happen. Why do some mentoring relationships thrive and others wither? Running the HRPA – Halton Chapter Mentoring Program for the past four years, and asking for feedback after each program session, revealed that successful mentoring relationships share several common characteristics.

Understand “Mentoring”.

Mentoring is a relationship where, typically, a more experienced HR professional (the mentor) supports a less experienced HR professional (the mentee) in developing or enhancing specific skills, knowledge and attributes that will help the mentee’s career and personal growth. Mentoring is not a job search program, although discussion about career path may come up. Based on feedback received from mentors, the best relationships involve mentees who are positive about gaining knowledge with a focus on career advancement versus mentees who are desperate to get out of their current positions and are expecting their mentors to act as job-search coaches.

Eyes wide open.

Both mentor and mentee should realize that it takes work and commitment to create a successful relationship. Those who enter into a mentoring relationship with an eyes wide open approach realize that it will take work to create a successful mentoring relationship.

Set goals.

Setting goals is important. What do you want to accomplish in the relationship? How will you know if you get there? Can you identify what you learned in the relationship? If goals are not established, time and resources are wasted. Setting specific goals results in mentoring success.

Spend quality time together.

Set regular meetings times, but be flexible. Face-to-face meetings tend to solidify the relationship. Pick a time that is convenient to both of you. Round out communication and follow-up with phone calls, emails, or Skype. The mentors and mentees in the most successful relationships communicated frequently and met in-person regularly.

Be prepared for each meeting.

Similar to setting goals for the relationship, the mentee should come prepared with what they need so the meeting is targeted and productive. Being focused and prepared results in meaningful mentoring meetings. Lack of preparation resulted in meetings that were not productive and could actually become cause for friction and frustration.

Take the initiative.

It is up to the mentee to reach out to the mentor. Yet often it is the mentor who reaches out to set up the first meeting and to run future meetings. Mentees sign up for the program for professional growth and to have access to support from a professional outside their existing company. Mentees who take the initiative had the best results from the mentoring partnership.

Don’t expect to be told what to do.

The best mentor does not tell the mentee what to do. A mentor helps develop the decision-making skills of the mentee using a coaching and helping focus. A mentor asks questions to guide the mentee to make a decision. Why? Because the mentee then owns the decision and there will be no finger-pointing and blaming – “But you told me to do / say / write and it is your fault it didn’t work out.” Mentors who guide decision-making and mentees who don’t expect to be told what to do, have the best relationships.

Share information, networks, and experience.

Share articles, links, and information that will help achieve desired results. Give access to professional networks to help resolve situations. Help by sharing what has worked in the past. Mentoring pairs who realize that sharing goes both ways have successful mentoring results.

Learning goes both ways.

Mentees learn from their mentors. But by mentoring, mentors also learn to think outside what they might be doing every day. Teaching and coaching a mentee reinforces best practices, and enhances coaching skills and knowledge about different industries and work environments. Mentors often report that coaching mentees, who are passionately starting out in HR careers, brings energy and passion back to their own work. Pairs that acknowledge and learn from each are most successful.

Be respectful.

This is a volunteer relationship. Be professional and respectful to each other. Return phone calls and emails, and arrive on time for meetings. When accessing shared professional networks be courteous and don’t abuse the privilege. Respectful relationships lead to successful mentoring relationships.

Understand fit.

Realize that not all mentoring partnerships will work out. If the fit isn’t there after the first couple of meetings, take the high road and tell the person respectfully that the relationship isn’t working as expected. Sometimes the situation can be turned around after a frank discussion about expectations, but sometimes the fit just isn’t right. If that is the case, don’t be tempted to solve the issue by avoidance behaviours such as not returning phone calls or emails. Professionally ending a mentoring relationship that isn’t a good fit, allows both to move on to relationships that will thrive.

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.”   Kenneth Blanchard

Mentoring relationships benefit both the mentor and the mentee. It takes commitment and energy to be successful but it is worthwhile and fulfilling for both parties. If you are interested, check out the mentoring program at HRPA. Most chapters have a program. Get involved and give back to your profession by mentoring an HR professional in your local chapter.

Joanne Royce helps create happy, healthy and productive workplaces that result in engaged people and successful businesses. She provides HR and training support to organizations who believe in the power of people. She is completing her four-year term as a volunteer board member with the HRPA Halton Chapter, and recently accepted a board position with STRIDE, a Halton-based organization whose primary purpose is to serve the employment needs of individuals facing mental health and addiction issues.