Trust: The Critical Ingredient

Liz Selzer - Thursday, August 17, 2017


“I feel like there is a lot going on behind closed doors…”
“I don’t think he is being honest with us…”
“I just don’t trust her…”

The unraveling of trust in leadership might be the reason your organization feels like it is stalling out. An environment of mistrust hurts productivity more than you might think. The above sentiments of mistrust will affect your work setting, and have proven to be the beginning of stalled initiatives, defensive postures, and toxic company culture. This is the point where work becomes a job instead of a joy.


Having the privilege of developing leaders over the past 20 years has given me the opportunity to consider what truly makes them strong. You know, the type of leaders we passionately follow, leaders who inspire us be more and risk bravely. One thing stands out: Trust is a critical aspect to effective leadership. Jesse Lyn Stoner, author of Full Steam Ahead wisely points out that "People follow leaders by choice. Without trust, at best you get compliance." A compliance mindset kills creativity, stifles energy and halts momentum.

Experience has shown me that lasting leadership is not as much about charisma as it is about character. Trust is not engendered through polished speeches and positional authority, but instead by authentically addressing your team. Trust is not as much about appearing right as it is about approaching difficulties with integrity. It is not looking for blame but rather the celebration of the learning from mistakes. Trust is not about the short-term wins, but about many truthful actions over time.

So then, how do we build trust with those who look to us for leadership? Start with giving others your trust. When we trust our team members, it paves the way for them to trust us as leaders. Model authentic humility. Be honest, always. Communicate often and in as many forms as possible. If you don’t have the answers, tell people that and then work to find them. Ask for people’s perspectives and respectfully consider them. Take the time to actively listen to all the members on your team.

Building trust takes time, but in the end, it will save you time as your team is motivated by your authentic vision, creative because there is the safety of trust from which to springboard ideas, more efficient because they aren’t wasting time self-justifying and self-protecting, and productive because they know what is expected of them. Take time to cultivate trust; it is one of the most effective paths to successful leadership.


Lead Them

Liz Selzer - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

  • Leading authentically involves truly wanting to understand others for the sake of learning, not for the opportunity to manipulate. This begins with yourself. If you want to be influential with others, you first need to know yourself. Then lead by learning from others, taking the time to actively listen, intentionally observing, and interacting in such a way that you are able to move past superficial outward impressions.This process can end in a more complete comprehension of your people, leading to more effective choices and decision making for your team as a whole. The best team work happens when everyone's strengths, abilities and passions are executed in synergy with each other. 
  • Ask questions. Get to know your team members by asking them questions like:
- What motivates you?
- What are your passions?
- What is your personal vision?
- How do you learn?
- Under what circumstances do you perform best?


1) Highlight strengths.

 Attract and engage employees, then help them develop and make the most of their strengths. Focusing on strengths will provide personal satisfaction as well as increased contributions to the workplace bottom line. Be sure to validate the team's work and their potential future impact. Validating people has a progressive power as people step into ownership of their influence.


2) Promote ownership.

 Help them find ownership in a common vision. Learn what really matters to the individuals on the team and make that part of your motivation strategy. As they learn to take ownership, encourage them by showing authentic humility and respect toward their efforts.

3) Emphasize curiosity.

Cultivate curiosity and a life-long learning organizational culture. Set the example by showing that you are teachable and desire to learn from everyone. People will follow your leading in this and the learning environment that results will reduce stress through acceptance and increase understanding and respect within your team.


  • 4) Clarify strategy. 
  • Don’t make people figure it out or guess. This saves everyone time and energy. Giving regular feedback, both encouraging and corrective, will provide accountability to that strategy. You really can’t over communicate this connection.
  • 5) Tell stories.
  • When stories are included in your view of the future, it paints the picture of why your authentic leadership vision matters in a tangible and authentic way.
  • 6) Push forward. 
  • Expect what is reasonable from others, but push people forward toward creativity and innovation in their areas of strength. Energize past the comfort of complacency. Help people see the bigger picture and how they are critical to success and moving forward. Advances and improvements then become a matter of course.
  • 7) Secure resources. 
  • Make sure people have the resources that they truly need, not just the ones you think they need. Everyone is different. Again this may take additional time, but in the long run the efficiencies are worth it.
  • 8) Become obsolete. 
  • The goal is to mentor or coach your team until they do not need you anymore, to get them to a point where they are comfortable in their influence and their unique way of making their mark on their work and on those around them.



Change Hinge: Becoming Proactive

Liz Selzer - Friday, March 31, 2017


There are big changes on our company horizon, and we want to be as proactive about these changes as we can. What hints would you give us?"


If you are trying to make a change happen, understanding the change process is helpful in letting you know what type of resistance you might encounter from others who are involved. You then can understand how to help move them through the process so that they ultimately accept the change. The following steps should help you help others navigate change.

  • 1) Normalize the discomfort, loss, and potentially challenging adjustments they will need to make. 
  • Help them see that their feelings of resistance and frustration are a very normal part of the process of change, and that they can take control of the process by making decisions about how they will proactively move through the change.
  • 2) Get real feedback from all areas of your organization affected by the change. 
  • Show people that their feedback was reflected upon and important, even if it wasn’t implemented. People don’t need to “get their own way,” they just need to legitimately feel that “their way” has been considered.
  • 3) Model positive change attitude. 
  • As a leader, people will take their cues from you. If you are not proactive and positive about the change, others will have a difficult time as well. Be authentic about the losses you may face because of the change, but model how you are proactively finding the positive aspects and moving forward.
  • 4) Mentor your team through the process. 
  • Help them see where their skills will still be used and how their future contributions will matter. Vision cast how this change will contribute to the effectiveness of your organization and the specific reasons it will be positive for the team.
  • Identify the positives the change will bring about. Be very specific. Don’t assume people can see these without your articulation of exactly what the desired outcome is. Remember you have thought through this change and know why it is important, but the people you are working with most likely have not had that opportunity.  
  • 5) Keep channels of mutual communication open. 
  • Make time to hear what people are thinking. Solicit suggestions for how to make the change happen smoothly. Be very clear in your communication, making sure the messages around the change are clear and repeated so everyone understands why the change is occurring and what the future will look like after the change is implemented.


Change Hinge: Finding Control in the Chaos

Liz Selzer - Friday, March 31, 2017


"I currently work in a company that is going through a big change and the process seems chaotic. How can I help my team move forward in the process instead of standing by and watching the change happen?"


As Margaret Mead wisely counsels: “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.”


After going through the first step of understanding the very real losses that people feel when navigating a change, helping people find a sense of personal control in the chaos will help. Change will always be a part of life and our ability to move through it in a healthy way is critical. Understanding the change process and our ability to make choices in the midst of change will allow us to move through it and give us that element of control. This is true even if we did not choose the change.


During change, the point of critical choices people have the ability to make are the decisions to move forward, accept the change and identify what aspects they can control. If this decision is not made, people will stay in a very unhealthy place of loss, uncertainty and discomfort. Movement away from discomfort in the loss and toward the anticipation of what will happen as a result of the change hinges upon these choices. Accepting the change often requires a conscious choice to accept the change and move forward. It does not necessarily mean the person agrees with the change or thinks it is the best course.


However, the choice to accept the change does mean that the person is no longer at the mercy of the change. It means as they move through the change, they will investigate how the change can bolster what they are doing, how it may encourage them to grow in their leadership, and how it may stretch their understanding of their strengths. On the other hand, staying in limbo and indecision will do nothing for their understanding of the new work roles or the future success of their career.


Once we make the decision to accept the change, things begin to move in a positive direction:

-  There is a new energy as we begin to imagine how the change can be a part of our personal mission, leadership, and empowerment of our teams.

  • -  The components of the change are becoming clearer and the effects of the change are starting to materialize.
  • -  Our thoughts and actions are practical and applicable as we now navigate through the elements of the change with intentionality.
  • -  We can now see how it affects our common vision and goals, and how to become more productive as we move forward.


An understanding of the point of critical choice helps minimize the negative effects of the process, helps us see where we might get stuck, and helps us take control to keep moving through the process instead of getting mired in uncertainty and the very real discomfort of going through change.

Change Hinge: Recognizing Loss

Liz Selzer - Friday, March 31, 2017


"I currently work in a company that is going through a big change. The tension and the anxiety are almost palpable. What is a good first step in understanding why this situation is so stressful and what can I do about it?" 



The most common error in managing change is underestimating the affect it has on people. Many leaders think if they just tell their employees to change, they will. They do not realize how upsetting it is to give up familiar work patterns. Always remember the potential impact of disruption and allow time for adjustment.


First, recognize the losses that occur with a big change. Regardless of how positively the change is embraced, there is always a loss of something. This is the nature of change – one thing stops so another thing can begin. When a change is first put into place, people are likely uncertain what the effects of the change will be. Because of this, they may be cautious and possibly become stalled as they think about how these losses will affect them. There are several types of loss that are common in the work place.


  • Security-Employees no longer feel in control or know what the future holds. They have trouble seeing how their strengths and skills will be perceived after the change, or where they will stand in the organization.
  • Competence-In change, people often feel they no longer know what to do or how to manage their tasks in light of the change. They may even feel embarrassed when faced with new tasks if they are unsure of how to do them. This can make it difficult to ask for the help needed to learn the required new skills.
  • Relationships- The familiar contact with people like old clients, co-workers, or supervisors can change or possibly disappear. In this type of situation, there is potential for people to lose their sense of belonging to a team or an organization.
  • Sense of Direction-In some changes, people may lose an understanding of where they are going and why they are going there. Meaning and mission often become unclear.
  • Territory- At times, there is an uncertain feeling about the spaces that used to belong to individuals or teams. This can be work space, understanding of responsibilities, or what particular job assignments are still theirs. Territory losses include psychological space as well as physical space.


Each of the losses described has a cost. Any type of loss, even of a work space or familiar technology, can trigger an emotional response that resembles grief. As a leader, you will need to help your team members move past these losses and to accept and move forward in the new direction. People who do not display any feeling of loss often save it up and become overcome by a seemingly small transition. It is healthier to express and acknowledge loss when it occurs so those involved can move through the transition process more quickly.




7 Simple Steps to Shattering Stagnation

Amanda Dreher - Friday, January 27, 2017


Is your team continually meeting status quo and upholding tried and true norms, but feeling stuck? It may be time to initiate change.

I know, I said the "C" word, but don't go running just yet. "Change" has gotten a bad reputation. Organizations and leaders alike often see change as a necessary evil and something to be avoided until it is forced by circumstance. When given the choice of initiating change and assuming the potential risks that come with it or maintaining a current familiar path, often the familiar will win out. However, take a look at today's cutting edge organizations -- the ones at the forefront of their industries. They are not hiding from change. In fact, they are embracing it! They are intentional about incorporating healthy change into their culture and are leveraging the innovation, energy and momentum to become leaders in their fields. They are shattering stagnation. 


In an article by Forbes, The World's Most Innovative Companies of 2016, among the top 100 were such recognizable names as Tesla, Under Armour, Amazon, Netflix and others. There are also many names you might be less familiar with such as Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Naver, Rakuten, AmerisourceBergen, and others. What do these companies all have in common? They embrace change. They innovate. They shatter stagnation.


Below is a simple seven step process to help your team initiate healthy change and shatter stagnation in your organization:


1. Analyze

Look carefully at challenges or stagnant places your team is facing. Leave your preconceived notions behind. Look at things with fresh eyes. Take this opportunity to learn -- about where you are currently, about where the industry is and about where you would like to go. Collect as much information as possible. This could be through conducting focus groups, taking surveys, or interviewing current and potential clients or customers. This might also be through attending industry trainings or conventions and studying current trends. This is your chance to learn about what is happening internally and externally.


2. Collaborate

Form a group of people who represent each team involved in the process or initiative being discussed. It is also good to represent differing viewpoints from various leadership levels. The more well rounded the input the better. This is the time to take all you learned in the "Analyze" step and combine it with experience and perspective. Create ideas and strategies to transform your learning into potential changes to implement.  Make this a safe environment to hear and explore all ideas.


3. Simplify

Take the ideas generated throughout the process thus far, particularly in the collaboration stage, and use them to formulate a streamlined, simplified, clear plan. You will have undoubtedly developed numerous possibilities by this point in the process. Now is the time to determine which ideas make the most sense for your team. In filtering through the options ask several questions such as: Which ideas fit your vision and mission? Which align with your current strategy? Which will take you where you are trying to go? Which fit your desired corporate culture? Which make sense in terms of time and money? By the end of this step you should have developed a clear streamlined plan.


4. Communicate

Once the new process is determined, it is important to clearly and consistently communicate the reason for the change, the goal of the change and the details of implementation. It is important to gain buy-in from all levels of the team. In order to do that, you must be clear and open with information. Remember, by this point you have likely been considering this change and the reasons for it for months. However, not everyone on your team has. Give them time to process. Help them understand their role. Give them opportunities to respond, give feedback and ask questions. 


5. Implement

This is the stage when the team involved will be putting into practice the items that till now have just been ideas and theories. It is bringing into practice the new ideas. This is where the"rubber meets the road," so to speak. This is also where many teams get stuck. Talking about a change is one thing, but acting on the change is another. Following the plan you so clearly communicated in the previous step, help the team make the necessary adjustments.
Once you have implemented the change, take time to learn and make adjustments as needed. You may notice that ideas on paper might need a little tweaking when put into action. This is an important step in the process. 


6. Standardize

Following any adjustments, begin to standardize the process and role it out on a larger scale. This is where the change becomes fully integrated into the day to day. This will likely take some time, but you can help your team by demonstrating your commitment to the new. As you lead by confidently stepping into the change, your team will follow. 


7. Celebrate

Remember to celebrate the dedication, hard work and accomplishments of the team. This step is easy to overlook, but don't. Your team needs to know that they are seen and appreciated. This step can take on numerous forms, depending on your corporate culture. Regardless of what it looks like, be sure to use this time to appreciate and inspire your team. 


Don't settle for status quo. Don't get stuck in the norm. Use these seven simple steps to shatter stagnation in your organization.


FAQ's of Distance Mentoring

Amanda Dreher - Wednesday, November 30, 2016


What is distance mentoring?

Distance mentoring is just as it sounds, mentoring across a distance. Some of the reasons this type of mentoring occurs are: a) one or both mentoring participants travel frequently; b) the mentoring partners live/work in different areas of the city, state, country, or world, or; 3) the person with the desired expertise/learning does not reside in close proximity.


Is it really mentoring?

Yes, the true power and effectiveness of mentoring comes from consistent accountability and encouragement given to mentees as they work on personal and professional goals. Mentors can hold mentees accountable and encourage them over a distance. If the mentoring pair has a clear commitment to the expectations and goals of the arrangement and is dedicated to promoting a progressive relationship, distance mentoring can be a powerful learning tool.


Is it a last option or a valid strategy?

In the past, many mentoring pairs saw this as a last option—it was the only way to create the learning situation they desired if they did not reside near their mentoring partner. Now, many see that distance mentoring offers a host of new learning opportunities and helpful/strategic relationships to explore. Since the number and type of mentors and mentees we can have is limited only by our time constraints and ability to commit to the relationship, distance mentoring is being recognized as an opportunity for more than one learning experience.


How time consuming is it?

This depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you want to learn one skill – that is relatively simple. An informal mentoring relationship lasting only a few meetings is appropriate. If you are seeking mentoring for a more complicated skill set, character development, or work/life integration support then a longer and more regularly scheduled situation is more fitting. The most important aspect to mapping out the time commitment is to discuss the goals thoroughly and set clear expectations regarding length, time span, frequency and intensity of distance meetings.


Can I really build a relationship with my mentoring partner over a distance?

Because communication is the strongest face to face, it is helpful to meet in person with your mentoring partner at least once during your relationship. But if this is not possible, follow best practices for building relationship and communicating across distance. (See the article 6 Best Practices for Mentoring Across Distance for additional insight). Practices like using video conferencing options whenever possible, being prepared for your interactions, engaging regularly, etc. will support a strong distance mentoring relationship.


Top 3 Benefits and Challenges of Distance Mentoring

Amanda Dreher - Sunday, November 27, 2016

Distance mentoring, or mentoring without consistent face-to-face meetings, is becoming more than just a necessary evil. Companies are now seeing the benefits of this paradigm and are crafting strategies to make the most of the advantages. They are finding it to be a potentially powerful strategy for helping people develop. The best person to be your mentor may not be in close proximity. With the advantages of today’s electronic media, we can access relationships and learning that was not possible years ago. Distance mentoring can be an effective strategy particularly for global companies.


Distance mentoring has a number of benefits. Consider the following:

  • 1. It opens up new pairing opportunities: If proximity isn’t necessary, then you are not limited to who you can have for a mentoring partner.
  • 2. Lessons restrictions of location, time: Being able to use electronic media for your interactions opens up locations and times that you would not have if the interaction was always face to face. If you travel, or work odd hours, you can still reach out and communicate with your mentoring partner.
  • 3. Allows for more thought on interactions: Since communication does not have to be real time, there are opportunities to be thoughtful about your reactions and input. You can say things the way you want, with thought and consideration.



    Understanding and addressing the challenges of distance mentoring will add to its success. Address these early:

  • 1. Building trust: Without all the non-verbal cues that can be informational in face-to-face meetings, it is more challenging to establish trust. To cover this, be extra conscious of communication, be authentic and honest, and avoid any trust busters.
  • 2. Keeping up momentum: Make sure that you have scheduled your interactions and electronic meetings for the time commitment. Remember to celebrate successes along the way. Address frustrations and challenges quickly so they do not slow down progress. Try to vary your meeting agenda so meetings don’t become too predictable. Remember to share personal stories to continue to build your relationship.• 

  • 3. Communication challenges: Be careful with making assumptions on written communication.

Assume the best and if something does not seem right address it quickly. Verify your communication and make sure that what you meant to say is what your partner understood (and that you understand the meaning behind what your partner communicates to you).


Yes, there are challenges to developing a mentoring relationship through the span of distance. However, these are greatly overshadowed by the benefits that can be realized through distance mentoring.

6 Best Practices for Mentoring Across Distance

Amanda Dreher - Sunday, November 27, 2016

Before you attempt distance mentoring, check your beliefs and feelings about this strategy. If you’re stalling, you may need to make a paradigm shift in your thoughts and emotions. Choose to recognize distance mentoring as a viable strategy, build enthusiasm for it, and find ways to maximize its benefits and reduce its disadvantages.

  • 1. Set expectations: Agree on a regular meeting time, put it on your calendar and keep your commitment to it. Discuss what ways and how often you will communicate, expectations for confidentiality, how you will give encouragement and feedback, and what the objectives for the relationship are.
  • 2. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Communication is critical and yet may be a stumbling block for those who enter this new challenge without intentionality. Floating along will not be an effective strategy. Taking charge will. Black and white words carry the color of your perceptions and therefore may not complete the communication with its full intended meaning when communicating only through email, text, and LMS systems. We have to err on the side of “over communication.” When possible use real time communication.
  • 3. Cultivate trust early: Be intentional about doing things to build trust. It is difficult for learning to occur if the mentee does not feel the mentoring relationship is safe. To build trust, meet more often at the beginning, use visual interaction whenever possible (e.g. facetime, video conference, SKYPE). Take time to get to know each other on a personal level by sending pictures, telling stories and being authentic and vulnerable. Listen without agenda. Encourage whenever you can.
  • 4. Take on a learning stance: Instead of assuming things about your mentee/mentor, show genuine curiosity about your partner. Ask open ended questions and really listen to the response.
  • 5. Discuss cultural differences: If there are cultural differences, discuss them up front. Talk about what the best ways are to build trust, how you feel best giving/receiving feedback and the best ways to encourage and hold accountable, etc.
  • 6. Create structure that works: Discuss early what structure your interactions should take. Adjust as necessary. Consider making this simple processes a consistent part of your mentoring meetings.
    • a. Send an agenda and progress on goals in advance. Mentees take the lead in preparing and sending these prior to the meeting.
    • b. Turn off computers and cell phones that are not in use for the meeting; remove other distractions.
    • c. Call/login (or be ready to receive the call/login) exactly on time.
    • d. Review progress from last session, discuss successes and challenges. Plan for new sets of activities to work on for the next mentoring period.
    • e. Take notes and date them. File them so they stay together and where both the mentee and mentor have access.
    • f. Send a summary of agreements and next steps.

How to Find a Mentor: 7 Simple Steps

Amanda Dreher - Wednesday, October 19, 2016


A common concern many people have about mentoring is finding a mentor. This issue may seem irrelevant if you are participating in a company sponsored mentoring initiative where you will be paired up with a mentor or mentee, but the truth is, even if you are “paired” up now, mentoring is something you should do in all areas of your life throughout your entire life. There will be times when you will need to know how to ask someone to mentor you. Finding a mentor is not difficult, however, it does take some intentionality, and yes, you may be turned down, but don’t let apprehensions prevent you from pursuing this learning opportunity. The benefits you will receive are too vast to pass it up.


Here are a 7 simple steps you can follow to help you find a mentor.

1.  Decide to be intentional. Don’t just sit back and expect someone to come to you. Choose to put your desire for specific learning into action through the following steps.

  • 2.  Know your developmental need. In what areas do you want to grow? What do you want to learn? What are some areas of weakness that you would like to address? What strengths do you want to build upon? Do you need skill mentoring or help with character development issues?
  • 3.  Recognize advantages. Reflect on what the advantages are of having a mentor. There are just certain things that are better learned form another person than from a book or manual (in fact I think most things are!). For instance, if you decide your developmental need is to increase your conflict management skills, then write down a list of advantages for finding someone to mentor you in this area. Maybe you’ll be able to better work with a co-worker that you’ve bumped heads against since the first day she joined your team. Learning to address conflict in a healthy way will calm your temper which will help you think more clearly while you are working throughout the day. This will make you more productive and freed up to do your best work. Listing advantages like these will help motivate you to find the mentor you need.
  • 4.  Set goals to address the need. For example, If you want to become a better proposal writer, you may want to set goals for learning best practices, increasing your grammatical skill, and understanding customer motivational behavior. Knowing these goals can help you identify people who you can learn these skills from. If you are not quite sure what steps to take to address your developmental need, you still need to be specific in the assistance you are looking for so that the potential mentor can evaluate if they can be of help. Be specific on why you have chosen them in particular to help you. “I have watched you work with those around you showing patience as well as passion for your job. These two qualities will be helpful to me as I work with you to begin discerning what goals to set to address my developmental need.”
  • 5.  Observe people. Look for someone who would be a good fit for you. Remember the characteristics we discussed in the last module that make an effective mentor. Use this list as a guide. An effective mentor is:
  • - Experienced
  • - Patient
  • - Encouraging
  • - Discerning
  • - Curious and inquisitive
  • Also, Observe what they do specifically that you could learn.
  • 6.  Connect. Now is the time when you just have to do it. Walk up to them and ask. And, when you approach someone to ask if they’ll be a mentor, be specific! When people know specifically what you want to be trained on, they can better evaluate if they can help.
  • 7.  Verify duration. Make sure you both understand how long your mentoring relationship will be and that you both can commit to the time.


Now it’s your turn. Write down your plan to address each of these 7 steps. Choose to be intentional today.


Mentor Leadership Team




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