Episode 7:

Mitch Matthews is a keynote speaker, a success coach, and a bestselling author. He has an amazing podcast titled Dream, Think, Do. Mitch works with leaders from companies such as NASA, Disney, Booking.com, and more. He is passionate about coaching entrepreneurs and leaders to dream bigger, think better, and do more of the stuff they love.

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why mentoring your employees is so important
  • Mentorship 2.0: how to structure your mentor/mentee relationships to draw out the best results
  • The dangers of “getting a PhD in mentoring”
  • Mentoring with the CEO vs. CFO model
  • How to equip employees to make decisions
  • The fundamental differences between how we were brought up and how millennials were brought up and how to deal with these differences
  • How to mentor someone who is skilled in areas that you aren’t
  • Mitch’s “Mentor Manager Cheat Sheet”

 

The Golden Nugget:

“Verbalizing what success looks like leads to a higher chance of hitting it.” – @mitchmatthews Click To Tweet

Click to tweet: Mitch Matthews shares the inside knowledge needed to run an agency on Build a Better Agency!

 

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Intro:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invest in employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25+ years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there, everybody. Thanks for tuning into this episode of Build A Better Agency where we explore how to build a business that serves you, your employees and your clients. As we all know, the greatest assets that any agency has are their staff. And oftentimes, they are both the source of our greatest joy and sometimes our greatest angst. And that’s why I know today you’re going to really enjoy hearing from our guests, Mitch Matthews. Let me tell you a little bit about Mitch. Mitch is a keynote speaker, a success coach and best-selling author. He has an amazing podcast that I highly recommend called DREAM. THINK. DO. and it is at the top of the iTunes charts for a reason.

Mitch has worked with leaders and teams from organizations like NASA, Disney, Booking.com, and Principal Financial Group, just got off a big speaking gig, seven to eight days traveling, that’s sort of his life, working with folks and coaching. He also speaks in college campuses around the country. He’s really passionate around helping entrepreneurs and leaders dream bigger, think better and do more of the stuff they were put on this planet to do. One of the things that Mitch spends a lot of time doing is working with entrepreneurs and business owners, coaching their teams and mentoring. He also does executive coaching and coaching himself.

Mitch happens to live in Des Moines, Iowa, with his beautiful bride, Melissa, and their sons. In full disclosure, Mitch and I are good friends, we’ve known each other for over a decade and are part of the Mastermind Group together. And so I have had the good fortune of having Mitch mentor me many times. And that’s really what we’re going to focus today is talking about how to better mentor our employees and build them to be bigger, better and stronger for both themselves, for the agency and our clients. So Mitch, welcome to the podcast.

Mitch Matthews:

Thank you, Drew. It’s an honor buddy. Excited to be here.

Drew McLellan:

I am excited about this. So let’s talk a little bit about your background in terms of the coaching and the mentoring that you do, and sort of how you came to have that area of expertise.

Mitch Matthews:

Absolutely. So kind of a background in sales, and then moved into corporate training and loved that. I was a training manager for a $2 billion pharmaceutical company that loved that kind of thing. Started to get a taste of the entrepreneurial life, and so started my own business back in 2002, primarily doing executive coaching and keynoting. And I really enjoyed that. But the more coaching that I did, especially with entrepreneurs, they appreciated the work that we were doing together, helping them to get focused and helping them to really go after their priorities and kind of simplify in some ways, their lives, their businesses, those kinds of things.

Kind of a natural offshoot of that was they were like, hey, help me to do that in my own business, help me to do this with my teams. The things you’re doing with me, I want to be able to do with the people around me to help them get more clear, help them to take more autonomy, be more engaged all of those things. So I’ve started to do more and more training over the last five years, with leaders kind of helping them to infuse more of a mentoring and coaching approach into their leadership DNA. It’s been awesome to see. And I know, especially in agencies, especially with your audience, this is so critical. Because you want to inspire the best work, you want to inspire full engagement, you want to inspire loyalty, you want to inspire creativity, all of those things. And one of the best ways to do that is through mentoring. But so few of us actually received it.

When we were going through the ranks, especially leaders, so many leaders that I work with now, especially that are Gen Xers, that are boomers, they didn’t get a lot of mentoring. Sometimes they might have received a little bit but they didn’t get a lot of it as they were getting started. So it’s something that as people get some skills in, as they start to get more tools and strategies, they start to connect with it, but at the same time there’s a little bit of an interrupt because so few of us actually receive that kind of approach. And so it’s fun to be able to work with great leaders who obviously are always wanting to improve their game. But this is definitely one of those ways that people can do it. It’s fun to see it play out though.

Drew McLellan:

I think you make a great point. That A, lot of us may or may not have mentors, but B, I think the way we define mentors is really, there was an older guy or woman who taught me some stuff. I think what you do that makes it really different is, and I think one of the things for agency owners to kind of wrap their head around is, mentoring doesn’t happen by accident. It doesn’t happen every once in a while. And it is a skill. It’s not just meeting with the person on your team to talk about what they’re working on. It really is a very purposeful activity. And that’s really what I want to talk about with you today is, how do all the over-busy agency owner out there, how do I carve that into my day? And what does it look like? How do I do it well? Help us understand sort of what mentoring is and isn’t.

Mitch Matthews:

Sure. That’s a great question. I love it. And that’s something that we talk about in the training that we do. We talk about kind of the mentor 1.0 model is a great model. It’s kind of that Luke Skywalker and Yoda model. It’s the old, wise sage, and the young up-and-comer, and the old, wise sage just kind of offers all of this wisdom. Maybe it’s the Mr. Miyagi and Daniel San model where it’s the older person with all of the wisdom bestowing it on the younger person. And that’s great. I mean, if you can get it, that’s fantastic. But at the same time, we see especially in the marketplace that we’re in currently, with how fast things are changing with technology, and all of those things.

One of the other things that we see all the time, is that leaders oftentimes are not necessarily any longer the person that beholds the most information or the most wisdom. Technology is changing so fast that oftentimes leaders are the ones that have a perspective, a higher perspective, but they may not have as much wisdom in a given technology or in a given strategy. So we see over and over, and we also see honestly in some organizations, the younger person is actually in a higher position than some older people. So it can’t be age based. And it really can’t always be wisdom based, if that makes sense. So we see a need for a mentor 2.0 model.

And what that is, is that mentor 2.0 model is not the person who is the wise sage that just bestows advice and sits in warm leather chairs and smokes pipes with the young one as they share information. The mentor 2.0 model is how do you draw out ownership? How do you draw out autonomy? How do you draw out that person’s best work? And how do you do that in a way that’s efficient, that’s rewarding, but also gets results. And so that’s what we talk about. And so there’s different ways to look at that. As an example, one of the things we talked about is project specific mentoring.

A lot of times I think when people think about mentoring, they think more about that career mentoring and helping somebody with their overarching career. And that’s good. And that’s a whole nother category that we do talk about. But project specific mentoring is where you basically you identify someone maybe on your team, someone in your organization where you see they have capability, you see that you really want to invest in that person. And so what you do is you look for a specific project, where you could actually in fact, give them more autonomy, more ownership, more that they could actually run with on their own.

And you communicate that to them like saying, hey, in the past I’ve kind of guided you. I’ve told you what you needed to do. But with this particular project, or with this particular client, or whatever it is, you kind of isolate something, you say, I’m going to take a slightly different approach. I’m going to put on more of the mentor hat here. And I really want you to run with this, I really want you to own this. And so we’re going to check in, we’re going to do some quick kind of check in as we go along, but I really want this to be yours. And what that does is that sends that signal of you’re going to hold them as capable, you’re sending that signal that you believe in them. But you’re also giving them that autonomy that so many of us really long for.

Dan Pink wrote an incredible book. He’s an amazing author. I love him. But he wrote a book called Drive. And if you haven’t read … Drew, I think you’ve read it. But if our audience hasn’t read it, you need to read this book. It is mind-boggling. It’s offensive. It’s frustrating because it basically takes the carrot and the stick model that so many people believe in and it throws it right out the window based on research, based on just incredible stories and all of that. And it really goes to show that when it comes to the marketplace, our core motivators, especially once those base level things are met, our core motivator, especially in the creative class is autonomy.

One of those things is the project based learning mentoring really allows for more autonomy. At same time, it allows for limiting risk, and it allows for learning fast. And so one of those things that we’ve seen is looking for those things and being able to, again, assign or take a slightly different approach really allows that person, that high capacity person to become even higher capacity. At the same time, it also increases a sense of ownership, it increases that loyalty and it increases engagement.

Drew McLellan:

Well, as I’m listening to you, I’m thinking about conversations I have with sort of both sides of the equation. So in my at bootcamps, I’m hanging out with a lot of staffers, and what they tell me more than anything else is they want to be recognized for being capable. And they also want more of their bosses or supervisors attention and time to learn. So what you’re saying aligns perfectly there. And when I’m hanging out with the agency owners, what they are always saying, in one way, shape or form is, I want my employees to behave like they own the joint. So again, that it’s aligning exactly with what everybody wants. I just don’t think most agency owners understand they have … It’s not that they don’t have the skill, they don’t have the recipe for how to do it.

Mitch Matthews:

Right. And it’s one of those things, there’s some pitfalls, especially … And I’ve gotten to work with some agency owners, obviously, awesome people. But there’s some pitfalls that happen, especially for leaders, and I think this applies in spades for agency owners. One of the reasons why leaders are leaders is they fix stuff. They get stuff done. It’s one of those things, the reason why you’re in the role you’re in is you’ve had the answers. And those answers have worked in the past. So when you start to take more of a mentor approach, and when we talk about a mentor approach, generally some of the core aspects of that is instead of telling someone what to do, you actually ask them a question, and kind of help them uncover an answer that they own. Because if they own it, there’s a much greater chance they’re going to feel ownership, obviously, but they’re going to feel like they could do it over and over again. That’s something that they help to create. They own it so they can run with it.

So asking questions, instead of just giving the answer, celebrating the small wins along the way, really guiding them, but also allowing them to have that full ownership. The tension, though, that arrives, especially for established and successful leaders is we have the answer. So to somebody comes to us with a question, the way that we’ve brought value in the past is to give them the answer. Let’s just be honest, that feels good. Feels good to have the answer, right? It feels like, hey, that’s my job, I have the answer. Boy, boom, I’ve given it to you. And that in some ways, that also feels faster. In some ways, it looks faster, because you just answered their question.

The challenge is, is that then you create a relationship of dependency that doesn’t always look like that in the beginning. It’s so funny, I hear this tension where people talk about, I want to give people more ownership, but they never seem to run with it. It’s like, okay, well, what does that look like? Well, I’ll give them a project. But then what happens? They start to give advice. In fact, you can get a PhD in mentoring, basically. I don’t recommend it. There’s a couple of schools of thought, you can get a PhD. There’s Appreciative Inquiry is one school of thought and Motivational Interviewing is another school of thought. You can get PhDs in those. But in Appreciative Inquiry … Yeah. So hey, go check it out. Research it, Google it. It’s scary.

But one concept, especially in Appreciative Inquiry, that I find so fascinating, and what I love about it is that we’ve all felt this. But basically, it’s a phenomenon called the righting reflex. Righting reflex with an R, not a W. But basically what that is, is it’s that sensation we feel when we see something that we need to fix. I see this happen so often when somebody says, okay, yes, I want to take more of a mentoring approach. Yes, I’m going to ask more questions instead of just give answers. But then when people start to do that, they start to ask the question, even though they have the answer, they’re going to ask the question to help that that person uncover their own answer. That righting reflex starts to creep in, almost takes over. Because you just have to blurt it out, just give them the answer or just take the reins back and say, let’s just get this done. And that’s that righting reflex.

What I love about that is sometimes just being able to give a name to a phenomenon helps us to identify [crosstalk 00:14:38] start experience it. Like, there’s the righting reflex. Now at the same time, we don’t talk about, and this is where I always love to call out any chance of rainbows, butterflies and little ponies kind of theories here. We’re not talking about, well, whatever they say, let’s let them do it. It’s those things. That’s not good. One of the things that we talk about, especially when we’re deciding between needing to wear the mentor hat and the manager hat, is I always say that mentoring is wildly powerful. But it’s only powerful if you have kind of a clear area or clear idea of where you want to use it.

One of the challenges with taking more of a mentoring approach that I see all the time is that people get excited about it. And so they try to apply it everywhere. And that’s not good. And it actually diminishes the power of mentoring. So we talked about that, basically, a CEO versus a CFO model, that kind of helps people to understand when and where to apply it. So the CEO versus the CFO model. Basically, if it’s the CEO, is if you’re looking to instill creativity, engagement, and ownership, and it’s a lower risk scenario, then that is the ideal place to use more mentoring. If it’s a situation where it’s more CFO, which means it’s clear, it’s fixed, there’s only one way to do it, and it’s higher risk, then you can boldly wear the manager hat.

And then we even talk about that to even use that in some ways under vernacular, like, hey, in this situation, it’s a higher risk situation, or in this situation our timeframes are tight. So I’ve got to make the call here. I’m going to put the manager hat on. But to be able to say, okay, looking for those project based, as an example, those project based opportunities to be able to instill more mentoring kind of that CEO, where you really want to inspire some creativity, some engagement, some ownership, and it’s a little lower risk, then that’s definitely the time to ask more questions, to bestow more autonomy and let them run with it, and maybe even table, your own righting reflex, catch yourself before you just give them the answer and let them run with it.

Drew McLellan:

Is there a structure or a format, or meet with somebody an X number of days, or how often? What does it look like over the course of, say, a month or a couple months? And how much time does it take? Because I know how agency owners are in terms of they’re so time starved. I think it’s one of the reasons why they don’t spend as much time with their team as their team would like them to. So this sounds harder, and it sounds like it would take longer. It’s sort of like taking the toddler shopping with you. It’s going to take three times as long because they walk so slow.

Mitch Matthews:

Exactly. Come on. Exactly. Here’s the thing that that is true. And it’s one of those that none of us have an overabundance of time, especially in the real world. Yes, I know that there’s some four-hour workweek people here. And that’s fantastic. God bless you.

Drew McLellan:

I don’t know any agency owner that’s a four-hour workweek kind of person.

Mitch Matthews:

Exactly right. Love the title of the book. Don’t always see it happen in the real world. So one of the things that we talked about is that the mentoring approach does on the front end appear to take more time. There’s no doubt. Because instead of just giving them the answer, you’re asking a question, as an example. They come to you saying, what do you think I should do in this situation? And just respond back and say, well, what do you think? Tell me what you do. What do you think is the next step to be able to do that? Now, in a project based mentoring situation, we highly encourage kind of the two L’s of science, limit risk and learn fast.

So on the front end, that actually means checking in a little bit more often. Now, those don’t have to be long belaboured sessions, making sure you’re sitting around a table and talking for hours and hours. I actually like those follow up sessions. Well, I should back up. So usually, there’s an initial session where you sit with someone or talk with someone and say, hey, I’d really like to give you a little bit more autonomy, some more ownership over this particular part of the project, or this particular client relationship, I want to give you some more autonomy. And what that means is, when you come to me, I’m going to probably ask you more questions than give you answers, because I really want you to learn, but more so, I want you to take ownership and really run with this.

So there’s that initial session where you’re going to set that expectation. But then depending on the project, or depending on the client, whatever it is to be able to say, all right, let’s talk about when do we need to follow back up. Now, I really believe on the front end, it’s a little bit more labor intensive and a little bit more time sensitive, because you really do want to check in a little bit more often. But I actually suggest those follow up sessions. They can be weekly, but what I actually recommend is that those sessions are about 15 minutes. If they need to be longer, that’s fine, but 15 to 20 minutes, where you’re actually standing. Because sometimes when people sit down, it’s one of those-

Drew McLellan:

They settle in.

Mitch Matthews:

They settle in and we start to talk about a lot of different things. But you really are kind of setting that expectation that, hey, this conversation is about the project and really being able to kind of define what it is that we want to do. Now, that does sound a little bit more labor intensive. But one of the things that we’ve found is that when you take more of a mentoring approach, and really go after it, and really, in some ways, kind of discipline yourself to do that, there is a definite inverse relationship. So much so that we’ve had some leaders actually be surprised by this.

So the inverse relationship is that, yes, it does take a little bit more time on the front end to ask a question, to instill that ownership, to really draw out that autonomy, those best ideas, that full engagement, it does take a little bit more time on the front end. But what we see is over time, it actually takes less and less time. Because what are you doing? You’re equipping that person to run with more. You’re equipping them to actually make decisions on their own, instead of kind of setting up that relationship with dependency, all of a sudden, they’re actually better equipped to make decisions. They’re not even having to think about it because they know not just the answer to one black and white question. Now they know how to make those decisions, and actually feel that they’ve got some autonomy to be able to make those decisions.

It’s funny, this inverse relationship happens. And sometimes it’s subtle, so much so that a lot of times when we work with organizations, we’ll work with them over a period of months. Recently, we did work with this organization over a period of six months. And we did some of the initial training, giving people some tools to run with this. And then continue to follow up. And one of the last sessions, I had a manager pulled me aside and he said, “Hey, I really appreciate this.” He said. “But I might have a problem.” And I’m like, “What’s the problem?” He goes, “Well, I really picked out a couple of people, high capacity people that I really wanted to challenge.” He said, “I think one of them was even thinking about a different job, just because they weren’t really kind of feeling challenged.” And he’s like, “We don’t always feel like they’ve got a place to be promoted to.”

But he said, “I want to try this thing. I’m giving them more ownership just to see how they run with it.” And he said, “It was a little bit more work on the front end, but now we don’t meet as much. Is that a problem?” I’m like, “Are they getting the job done?” He goes, “Yeah.” He’s like, “They’re on fire.” I said, “So where’s the problem?” He goes, “I don’t know.” He said, “I just kind of got used to meeting with them. But now they don’t need it as much.” I said, “That’s a bonus.” That’s one of the payoffs of taking this approach. Is yes, a little bit more labor intensive on the front end. But actually, there’s a payoff for that inverse relationship on the back end.

Drew McLellan:

I think agency owners are good at some parts of this naturally. So the giving somebody a bigger piece of the pie to manage or whatever, that unfortunately, most agencies are so [inaudible 00:22:43] and mean that that happens. In fact, I joke that most agency owners initiations or orientation programs hire [inaudible 00:22:52] waited too long to hire you. Here’s where the pencils are. By the way, you have a client meeting at 10:00.

Mitch Matthews:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

So I think they’re pretty good at giving somebody something to own. But I think in terms of helping them understand and being really purposeful on sharing. Look, I’m giving you this to own, and I’m here to coach to learn how to do that, that’s the part that I think agency owners are often fuzzy. So let’s set up a scenario just help us understand some of this specifics. So I’ve got a relatively new account person on my staff, they might have sort of assisted on some projects before, but they’ve never really owned a client relationship. And so I’m ready to give them their first client relationship. Either we want a new piece of business or someone who’s moving on or something. But there’s an opportunity for them to step into a new role with the client. So what does that look like from a conversation point? And what kind of questions do I ask them as we’re going into this?

Mitch Matthews:

I love it. That’s awesome. That’s a great example, too, because that’s one of those that probably is a bridge between the CEO and the CFO, as far as those two scenarios. Because it’s one of those things that’s important, you’re really wanting to inspire that creativity, that engagement, that ownership, but it probably is … Especially let’s just say it’s a new client, let’s just say that’s probably closer to that higher risk scenario, because you really want to wow this new client, you want to make them a raving fan, you want to establish those things. So with that kind of scenario, I think it’s a great scenario, we would actually even suggest something like what we call is Wargaming from a mentoring approach.

So let’s just say you’re getting ready for their initial meeting, that meeting where they’re going to step in as the account manager or they’re going to take more of a visible role. One of the things that we love to do is, and Wargaming is truly one of those things that allows you to kind of that limit risk and help them to learn fast. At the same time, it’s one of those things that really does help them prepare them for specific scenarios, specific situations, and it’s something that allows you to was the leader with all that experience, to utilize some of that experience, at the same time, still inspire some ownership. So let’s just say, hey, we’re going to get ready for this initial meeting. I can tell you a little bit about the scenario. But what do you think? What do you think should be some of the first things we talked with this client about?

Now in your mind the very first question that should be asked. But to be able to ask this person, hey, what do you think, are some of the things that we should be getting into. What do you think that we should talk about? What would success look like at the end of this meeting? Now, what I love about this, too, is you can throw in some kind of Wargaming, some scenario planning, because you’ve sat in on countless client meetings. You know some of the great things that can happen, you know some of the horrible things that can happen. You can even throw out … One time we were at a meeting, and something in the hallway caught on fire. What would you do? Something crazy like that, which I’ve actually had.

Drew McLellan:

Of course.

Mitch Matthews:

What that does is that gets that person thinking a little bit. And so even though they haven’t had the experience yet, or maybe they’ve only had a few of those experiences yet, you’re still instilling ownership, you’re still drawing out that creativity, you’re increasing their engagement. But you’re doing that by asking them questions in preparation for that. And that’s been huge from that standpoint of being able to help people get prepared, still have ownership, but also limiting risks. Because if you hear something as they respond, you’re like, oh, my gosh, okay. You can even throw out, hey, listen, I love the creativity that you’re going for. But I definitely saw this happening in a situation and this is something you might want to watch out for. It’s still that whole being able to have the conversation.

Now, here’s where you also, though, need to decide where you’re going to draw the line for you, where your risk tolerance is. Because this is part of the offensive aspect of mentoring. Is that it does take some humility, and in some ways, it does take a little bit of risk tolerance. I’ll give you an example from our own world. I’ve got a millennial, as an example, a person that’s a year out of school that works for us. Very creative, very excited, very willing to share her thoughts and ideas. Recently, she brought me an idea, we are working with a client, she brought me an idea.

And it was one of those things where I have to admit, there’s a part of me, a switch that flipped. And the thing that happened in my brain was, I have been doing this for 12 years. I have to admit, there was even a part of me that’s like, who do you think you are? This idea, like, I know what works, I know what doesn’t work, that will so not work. But I kind of also assess the situation and thought, you know what, this is a relatively low risk scenario. In some ways, the client that we were interacting with, I kind of thought we may or may not win, I’m not sure. But I kind of thought, why not let her try it?

It kind of reminded me back when I used to work at a bike shop in the little town that I grew up in Iowa. The bike shop manager as I was learning how to sell bikes would say, “Hey, you got to burn a couple of customers in order to get good.” So that kind of went off in my head. So I kind of thought, let’s let her run with this. It’ll be good for her. It’s probably going to go down and fiery flames. But it’ll be good for her to have to deal with that. Well, lo and behold, the thing worked. [inaudible 00:28:34] offensive. I thought there’s no way in God’s green earth that’s going to work, and boom, it worked. And here she came back and I thought, how great is that? And so sometimes we become blinded to certain things based on our success, especially in this changing world.

So as leaders, we have to decide what’s our risk tolerance, and sometimes letting people run with it. Because with an evolving culture, an evolving technology, all those things, sometimes the new idea, even though it goes against what we understand, might be the right idea. So even with doing some of that scenario planning, some of that Wargaming on the front end of something like that can help you to sort through, talk through some of those things that they’re going to do, the actions they’re going to take, the questions they’re going to ask, how they’re going to engage with the client as an example. But it also helps you to filter that, limit risk a little bit and help them stay in that ownership position.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So after the initial meeting, the initial meeting went fine. You did serve some Wargaming. What does that mentoring look like now as they step into that relationship with the clients?

Mitch Matthews:

Let’s say you had a successful … That first meeting went well, you feel good about it. One of my suggestions would be to follow up. Because one of the things as a leader is you want to think about, what are the behaviors that I want to see more of? And so my guess is you have that initial client meeting. One of the behaviors that you’re going to want to see more of is, what did they take away from that meeting? What are their next steps? Now, there’s going to be a part of you that’s going to say, I know exactly what the next steps are. I’m going to tell them what the next steps are. But it’s like, wait, what do I want to see more of? I want to see more ownership.

So to do a meeting. And again, these meetings don’t have to be hours long, they can be brief. And go in with the expectation, what I’d love to do is tomorrow morning, when we both get back into the office, what I’d love to do is I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think next steps are. And let’s do a 15-minute, 20-minute meeting to talk about next steps. And then you go in and say, all right, great meeting, maybe even give some feedback, celebrate what they did well, because again, you want to celebrate what you want to see repeated. But then say, okay, what do you think next steps are? What does success look like to you in a week with this client? When we talk again in three days, or in six days, or whatever it is, in a week, what success look like for you?

And help them sort through that, but really help them to own that. And be able to say, okay, that’s great. Celebrate the things that you heard and what you agree with, but also say, hey, you might want to also think about this. Or be very clear and say, I love that. You rocked it. But also make sure that you’re taking a look at this. That kind of thing. So it’s that follow up to be able to say, all right, what did you hear? And what what are your next steps? Now, here’s the thing is, is there’s a real temptation to jump in and take the reins. That’s the righting reflex coming up in us to be able to do that. But especially in these situations, where you really want to instill that ownership to be able to say, all right, what do you think what success look like in a week? What are your next steps? How do you want to do that?

And then also, one of the last questions I love to ask is to be able to say, how can I help you? Where do you want me to plug in? Because what that does, is that also invites you into the process. If they say some equivalent format of, well, you do the work. Because they won’t say it exactly like that. But you might hear some something like, well, could you call them? Or could you do this? It’s like, well, no, but I can certainly walk alongside you as you do it. But they also might say, I would love to get your thoughts on this, or I’d love to get your input before I go back to them. Or I’m going to write this up, but would you mind taking a look at it before I send it? Fantastic. That’s great. There’s even a strategy called the righting ruler. It’s actually from the Motivational Inquiry school of thought.

Drew McLellan:

Of course, it is.

Mitch Matthews:

Of course, exactly. Again, you don’t have to get a PhD in this, you just need to listen to Drew McCLellan’s podcast.

Drew McLellan:

There you go.

Mitch Matthews:

So the righting ruler is something that I like, especially as you’re getting someone ready for that next step. So let’s say you’ve had that first meeting, now they’re preparing for a second meeting. Maybe now they’re preparing to go back to the client with the next step in their proposal, or basically, to follow up on the project. One of the things with the righting ruler is it gives you a quantifiable way, in some ways to at least verbalize how ready they feel for the meeting. And so the righting ruler is a strategy where you’d say, okay, we’re getting ready for this next follow up meeting with the client. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being ready to roll, could punch through cement walls, 1 being not ready at all, where do you think you are? And what it does is it allows them to kind of put a number to it.

Now, it’s one of those that it’s still somewhat abstract, but it’s really interesting. A lot of times people might come in at an eight or a seven. Say, okay, great. And the first part of that is to celebrate, okay, you’re at a seven, that’s great. Why are you a seven and not a five? And help them to assess where are they confident. And that’s good to help them say, well, I really feel like I dug in, I really feel like I know their industry, or I feel like I got a real sense of what they want. But I’m maybe feeling a little dicey over here. I’m not feeling as strong over here. Or I’m not quite sure how I’m going to present this or how I might say this, or I’m worried how this person is going to say that. Okay. Well, good.

And then the other aspect of that is to say, okay, you say you’re a seven, would it take to get you to an eight? What’s one thing you might need to do, or one thing we might need to prepare for to get you to an eight. And what that does is again, it helps people to verbalize and kind of assess where they’re at. And it makes it okay for them to not be a 10. But it also helps them to identify those areas where maybe, if they hadn’t had this conversation, they just kind of go in less secure or less confident. But this is one of those things that really kind of allows a conversation to happen where people actually can put a finger on, what’s that thing they still need to do to increase their confidence. It really kind of allows, again, for that engagement or that ownership so people can feel like, yeah. It allows them to verbalize it.

Drew McLellan:

So I’m hearing a couple sort of themes relate to this and I am I want to check in with you to make sure that I’m hearing it right. One of them is helping them be very purposeful in terms of sort of starting with the end in mind. So what are we trying to do here as you’re preparing or as you’re working on whatever the next step is really kind of reminding them to know why they’re doing what they’re doing.

Mitch Matthews:

Yep, exactly.

Drew McLellan:

And then the second one is really helping them be thoughtful about the process so that they’re not just busy, but that they are really thinking about what they’re doing in terms of how do I get to that end goal, whatever it is. So a lot of it’s about just being more mindful.

Mitch Matthews:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And to be able to being mindful and being aware, because it’s one of those things where it’s interesting. One aspect of that is to have that clarity. I love to ask the question, hey, what does success look like? What’s success look like? What’s success look like in a week? What’s success look like in a month? I don’t know if I told you, but our youngest son started to do competitive archery in elementary school. And it’s kind of funny, his first experience was when he went out kind of never really tried it, anything like that. They went. And I think probably in this great effort to protect the kid’s identity and to make sure that nobody felt bad, the first night, they didn’t even set up targets. They basically just had this kind of big curtain across the gym. They give the kids the bows and arrows, and they just started shooting these arrows kind of way out into this curtain.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Mitch Matthews:

All the protect, little-

Drew McLellan:

What if I don’t get a bull’s eye?

Mitch Matthews:

Exactly, right. Right. Right. Right. And he came home frustrated. I think they were again, trying to protect them so they didn’t feel bad about themselves. But he came home frustrated. And I was like, “What’s up, buddy?” And he started to talk through. He’s like, “I didn’t have a target. So I didn’t know if I was getting better.”

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right.  Because I’m hitting the sheet every time.

Mitch Matthews:

Right. Exactly, right. One day or one time, it was up high, one time it was down low. I didn’t know how to measure that. I didn’t know you know where it was. I didn’t know if I was getting better. And that’s why I love to ask the question, what does success look like? Because if somebody can verbalize what success looks like, then they have an exponentially higher chance of hitting it. One of the other things is, I think in corporate America or corporate communication anywhere in the globe, one of the greatest kind of misconceptions that happens is actual communication happened. You know what I mean? You feel like I have so relayed what the target is here. But unless you hear them verbalize that back to you, you don’t know, in fact, if you’re actually shooting at the same target.

So that’s why I love to have people be able to identify what success looks like, sometimes from a global perspective, what does success look like when we’re talking about client relationship? If they can verbalize that, then there’s much greater chance. But to be able to say, hey, what’s success look like on the back end of this meeting? This particular pitch or this particular interaction, what’s success look like? What are three things that we want to walk away with? What are three things we want that client to experience? Whatever it is. If they can verbalize it, then you’re actually shooting at the same target. But so often, we don’t know. And that’s so important, especially when it comes to taking more of a mentoring approach is just making sure that you’re both working towards that common, that shared target?

Drew McLellan:

Well, too, I think just helping them understand the importance of that question and training them to always ask it. Oftentimes in agencies, everyone’s moving so fast. And your to-do list is so long that success looks like crossing another thing off the list, as opposed to why was that thing on the list to begin with? And it’s all in alignment for a real success.

Mitch Matthews:

Yep.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So agency owners are at the same time starved, that I know a lot of them don’t either know how to do this, or they don’t make the time to do this. Other than time, what are some other reasons why a manager or business owner wouldn’t do this?

Mitch Matthews:

I think time is one of the biggest things. I think one of the other challenges is like we talked about that righting reflex where it’s like, well, I know the answer. So why don’t I just give them the answer because that is going to be faster? I think it’s also one of those things where sometimes it does take some humility, but at the same time, I know sometimes … Well, I would say probably one of the biggest pitfalls, and we already kind of spoke to it a little bit, but one of the biggest pitfalls is that most of us didn’t experience this. Most of us experienced, come in … It’s a little bit like, I don’t know what your …

My grandparents were great, but they were definitely old school. So when we came to dinner at the table, we got to sit at the big table. But we only got to speak if grandpa said something to us. Especially at the table, we can walk around the farm and talk all we wanted. But if we were at the table, you only got to speak if grandpa or grandma asked you a question. That’s just kind of how they went. We all know that that’s a lot of what most of us experienced when we first entered the workplace. We didn’t speak unless we were spoken to, we went after assignments that we were given.

That’s definitely not how millennials, as an example, have been brought up. They come into the workplace because of the education system, because of the way they’ve been treated, all systems we created or at least participated in. It’s one of those things, they come in fully ready to be able to share their ideas, maybe even have their ideas be respected, all of those things. And that’s not something we experienced. So it’s not always a bad thing. But because it’s different than what we experienced, it often feels wrong, and sometimes really wrong. So it’s that whole thing of sometimes offering something that we didn’t get causes some inner tension.

But one of the things that we do see also, again, it’s more of the long-term play perspective, but it’s vital, and we’ve all seen it, is one of the things that we’ve seen is that if a person, especially highly creative, highly engaged people, they want to be able to spread their wings. They want to be able to bring their best, all of those things. And they will continue to search for the organization that will allow them to do that. So although it feels like it takes more time on the front end, one of the other rewards of doing this is loyalty. One of the things that we’ve seen with organizations that have done this or especially …

Well, one of the things that we’ve seen, especially with the millennial workforce, as an example, is they don’t tend to be loyal to an organization, they tend to be loyal to a leader. And one of the ways that leader earned that loyalty is giving them that autonomy and allowing them to fully engage, and all of those things with some guidance. Again, it’s that whole thing of being able to spread your wings with some boundaries, all of those things. But we see people stick around in organizations where they feel valued, in organizations where they’re being held as capable, in organizations where they’re able to bring their ideas to the table.

So although sometimes it does feel like … And it does take more work, it does take more time. Especially on the front end, what we seen with organizations is that, yeah, it might take a little bit more time. But how much time does it take when someone leaves? Because they haven’t been given that autonomy, they haven’t been given that chance to really bring their best.

Drew McLellan:

One of the nuances that a lot of agency owners are facing is not only do they have millennials in their shops, so they have everything you just described, but oftentimes these millennials, especially on the programmer side, or the development side, or some of the technology side, know stuff, which you alluded to earlier in the conversation know, stuff that I as an agency owner don’t know. So now I’m mentoring someone who actually has skill sets and knowledge that I don’t get. So how do you mentor someone in a role like that? So let’s just say I’ve got a programmer who’s doing back end web development. I understand why they’re doing what they do, but I don’t understand how they do it. How do I mentor someone like that?

Mitch Matthews:

Well, it’s interesting. I think in some ways transparency and authenticity are huge when it comes to mentoring. Obviously, having a relationship where there’s mutual trust, mutual respect really enhances communication, but also a mentoring approach. The beautiful thing about this, especially with what we talk about with the mentor 2.0 model, is that in some ways that all … Well, in the mentor 1.0 model, that very thing, the scenario you just painted, the older person, the more experienced person would almost need to hide the fact that they didn’t know what the younger person knew.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Mitch Matthews:

They would need to hide that. That would be a weakness. That would be something that would show them as fallible, that would show them as not capable to be that mentor. In the mentor 2.0 model, in some ways, we celebrate it. To be able to say, hey, listen, I want to say that I have no clue how you do what you do. I want to show you how I respect that. Let me share a little bit of what we need to achieve and why we need to achieve it. But I really need you to show me how we’re going to do that. So let me show you kind of what needs to be done and why. But you tell me how, how we’re going to do it. I’d love for you to walk me through the how. And kind of out yourself and kind of honor their knowledge.

At the same time, you don’t have to say I’m a dummy. I don’t know what I’m doing. But you get to play your role, they get to play their role, but especially getting them talking about how, how they’re going to do it and be able to say, hey, you can kind of treat me like a second grader on this aspect. But what I’d love for you to do is try to explain it so that I can understand it. Here’s the thing that that happens, is as they explain that to you, they also start working through it. They might even say, well, I’m not even sure. Tell me more. I’m not even sure how we’ll do it. It’s like, okay, well, how might we do it? How could we do it?

All those things as they’re verbalizing it, actually, into it has a great kind of motto when it comes to mentoring. It’s teach, learn, teach. Excuse me, learn, teach, learn. And what it is, is they talk about that you learn, then you teach, and as you teach, you learn all over again. So it’s one of those things where you move people towards teaching. And that’s what you want to do in that mentor 2.0 model. And in some ways, you really give them permission, you give both the mentor and the person receiving the mentoring that permission to learn from each other. And so it creates a safe place, and really create some respect.

Because here’s the thing, we all know it. Like, if we don’t know something, and we are tempted to cover that up, then we almost have to create a persona. That persona is that kind of that image you try to create to be something you’re not. We all know people that are trying to maintain that persona. It’s exhausting to maintain that persona. And usually the only person that is convinced that persona is working is the person trying to maintain the persona. Everybody else like knows that’s not happening. The beautiful thing about-

Drew McLellan:

It’s kind of toupees, I think.

Mitch Matthews:

Exactly, right. It looks right in the light if you wear [inaudible 00:47:02]. So to be able to say that it can be … And that’s one of the things we hear from people is this mentor 2.0 model is freeing that you as the mentor don’t necessarily bring all of the answers. What you do is you bring questions, you bring experience, you bring that place to be able to vet ideas, all of those things. At the same time, you’re inspiring that autonomy and creativity, that engagement. And it really does … If it’s done well, it doesn’t have to be done perfectly. But if it’s done well, it really creates that, in some ways, a sense of mutual respect as well.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I know from the millennials that I talked to is that’s exactly what they’re looking for in a leader as somebody who teaches them but also recognizes their capabilities right off the bat, as opposed to sort of treating them like a beginner. Because in some ways they walk in with more knowledge or more skills than the owner does on the programming side, especially in some cases.

Mitch Matthews:

It’s crazy. It’s amazing. I was at an airport recently, and they let us know that the plane was delayed, and these parents had a little baby. Obviously, they were scrambling to kind of keep the baby busy. The mom handed the baby a magazine. And the baby went to the magazine and started to like run her little finger.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, because she’s on an iPad.

Mitch Matthews:

The baby probably can navigate an iPad better than I can. So it’s one of those things where it’s just the way especially in the way that things are moving so quickly, it’s just the way it is. So to be able to call that out to celebrate that. But also it’s that whole thing of as we do that, though, we can be introduced to new ideas. And one of the things that I found is, is that if we respect those folks who are bringing their new ideas and give them a chance to also share some of those new ideas, it also creates a playing field where you can say, hey, I love that idea. But in this case, we need to go this direction. To be able to verbalize that, to be able to talk through that, so that there is some give and take. As opposed to it doesn’t always have to go their way, it doesn’t always have to go your way. But it is kind of helping to draw that best work and some mutual respect.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So I suspect a lot of agency owners listening to us are thinking this is all awesome. Where is the list of questions that I should ask? I need the blueprint of how to do this. If somebody needs to do more of this, is there a resource you can point them to that would give them, here are 20 questions to ask or here are 20 different scenarios in how you might play it out from a mentoring role? Because I think a lot of agency owners want to do this, but they again as I said, right off the bat, they’re still looking for the recipe.

Mitch Matthews:

Absolutely. Absolutely. So they can go to mitchmatthews.com. Mitchmatthews.com, that’s two T’s, and then just go to the website. Actually, I’ve got a post called Mentor Manager Cheat Sheet. So they can just search the website and find the post, Mentor Manager Cheat Sheet. And it’s got some quick questions to be able to ask, especially in that project based scenario. But also, we have some other scenarios, too, that can get you some questions that kind of give you some different strategies to be able to apply that. So you’ve got kind of that cheat sheet that you could pull out and lean on to be able to do that.

Drew McLellan:

Okay, great. We’ll find that url and stick it in the show notes for people can have it. Okay. This is a topic that I love talking about, so we could talk about forever. But I want to kind of wrap up. And what I try and do with the podcast is make sure that we are handing folks things that they can do right now, they’re excited about it, they’re feeling pumped up about it, and they want to go do something to put this into play. So give the listeners two or three things that they can do immediately, in the next day or so, or in the next hour or so, depending on where they’re at, that they can begin to put this into the DNA of their agency and how they work with their team.

Mitch Matthews:

Absolutely. So one of the steps that you can do is even as you’re listening to this, maybe you even started to think of an individual, where you do want to start giving some more autonomy, some more ownership for. Watch for that person that you say, you know what, I’m going to do some more project specific mentoring with this individual. Because one of the things, like we talked about, one of the biggest risks about mentoring is people get excited about it and then they try to apply it everywhere. It’s a little bit like you got a new hammer, and so you want to use it everywhere. But not everything’s a nail.

So it’s to be able to say, all right, who’s who’s that person that I want to just try to experiment with a little bit more? And identify one or two people. And even think about, let’s isolate that down and say I’m not going to do this across the board. But maybe there’s a specific project or a specific aspect of some client work that you can really say, hey, in this area, and maybe it’s a shorter timeframe, not something that’s for years and years, but to be able to say something specific. And even reach out to this person, say, hey, I’d like to take a little bit more of a mentoring approach with you on this. And the reasons why is I really want you to really fly. I really want you to be able to spread your wings, bring your best work, really take this and own it. So be able to communicate that.

And then as you start to do that, be able to say, all right, isolate maybe a specific area and start to ask some of those questions of, hey, what does success look like? And maybe it’s narrowing the focus. What’s success look like on this project in a week? And let’s follow up on that. I’d really like to talk with you about that. Or what does success look like for this next meeting? And being able to really help them verbalize so that they can be clear on what target they’re shooting at. Then maybe be able to check and say, hey, how can I walk alongside you with that? Is there anything I can do to help? But also to be able to celebrate along the way those accomplishments.

You might even try out that writing ruler strategy a little bit to be able to say, hey, on a scale of 1 to 10, as you’re getting ready, where would you say you are? And if they come in at a six, don’t say, you’re an eight. Come on. It’s more so to be able to if you’re a six, that’s great. Why aren’t you a 5? Help them to first figure out where they’re confident and why they’re confident. Because even if they come in at a six, that means they’re confident about something. Then say, all right, what would it take, what are one or two things that you could do to help you get to a six or a seven? Just take one or two steps up that scale. And what all of those things are doing is it helps them to verbalize and get clear on what the target is. Because if you help someone get clear and verbalize what their target is, the chances of them hitting it and actually feeling great about hitting it go up exponentially.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. Okay. Any last words or advice or counsel or story that you want to share with the listeners?

Mitch Matthews:

That’s a great question. It’s interesting. As I thought about this approach and all of the stories, I think one of the things that I’d actually turn back around is actually point to you, Drew, as an example of doing this. Because one of the things that I’ve seen you get to do this with your team, you’ve got a busy agency, you guys are doing great work. But one of the things that I’ve seen you do over the years is you really do hold your people as capable. I could see that happen. Now I can brag on you. And this is probably you’re probably like, shut up. But it’s one of those things that I’ve seen you do this where in some cases what that means is verbalizing you’re holding somebody is capable, and maybe you give them a project.

I’ve even seen some of your people like think, oh my gosh, this project is bigger than I am. I’m not ready for this. But you didn’t abandon them. You stayed close. That didn’t mean hovering. But you were accessible. That they could check in with you, follow up with you, and you would check in with them. But what I see now is I see a team of people that you’ve created around you that would take a bullet for you. You know what I mean?

Drew McLellan:

I’m really so blessed.

Mitch Matthews:

You are. But it’s also one of those things where now your business is so busy and full, and you’re traveling all the time. The fruit of that I see now, though, is that you’ve got a team that runs like a ship without you there.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely.

Mitch Matthews:

So yes, it did take more work. And I know you’ve had seasons where it’s a lot of quality time with your team. But now you’ve got this team, that it’s almost like, hey, Drew’s in the office? Because they are now functioning well without you. Now, do they function great when you’re in the room? Absolutely. They still want your input? Absolutely. But you got a team of people that you’ve developed over time, that now can run without you being fully engaged, loving what they do, taking care of your clients when you’re there when you’re not. But you created that by taking this approach over the last few years. You know what I mean?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Mitch Matthews:

In some ways, I think the best story is your story because, yes, you’re still busy. But it’s a different kind of busy, and you still got an agency that’s rock solid. And it’s because you took this time, took this approach over the years, and now it’s running like a clock when you’re in the office and when you’re not. And I think that you’re the example of what it takes to do this, but also, you’re the example of the fruit of taking this approach.

Drew McLellan:

Thank you for that. Thank you. And you’re right, it’s completely changed what our agency is capable of doing. And I could have never done it if I had to help them as much as I did in the beginning or if I had to do as much of the work as I was doing in the beginning. By being in a decent mentor, I’ve allowed myself to get out of the work that other people are better at than I am. Yeah.

Mitch Matthews:

Can I throw one more thing in?

Drew McLellan:

You bet.

Mitch Matthews:

Actually, as I think about your story. One last thing that I think about is, what this also does, and this might, I’m not sure, this maybe opens up a whole other can of worms, but I hope in some ways, this last little bit of wisdom is also freeing. Is your story as an example of this, that this approach also allowed you to figure out who are the right people to have on your bus.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Mitch Matthews:

Because you knew you were probably moving towards this model of being in the agency less and less physically. Right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Mitch Matthews:

And so you started to take more and more of that mentoring approach, you really did give people more autonomy, you were checking in, but you were letting people run with it, all of those things. And in a number of cases, that meant you had great people that really thrived with that approach. But you also had a couple of cases where people didn’t, and they bumped up against that. And in some ways, that also meant you had to ask a couple of people to get off the bus.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Mitch Matthews:

And I think that’s also kind of freeing from the standpoint that a good mentoring approach can also be a good filtering process as well. Not everybody needs to stay on the bus. And so I throw that out there sometimes too, to be able to say, hey, some people are absolutely going to thrive with that mentoring approach. Some people won’t. And sometimes that means that maybe you need to get them at a different position. But sometimes that means you need to get them off the bus. So I throw that out, again, in some ways relating to your example. But I think it’s also something that can kind of be freeing to everybody that you don’t have to save everybody. Is that whole thing of being able to this can also help you to really figure out who are the right people, where are the right positions, and let’s rock with this.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think that’s scary, but as you said, it’s also freeing and it really does separate the good agencies from the great agencies are when everybody on the bus is rockstar, as opposed to pretty good.

Mitch Matthews:

Yeah, exactly. Right. This is kind of one of those one additional thing where you can really intentionally, in some ways, filter some people out. If they don’t respond to that autonomy and that ownership, maybe they’re just in the wrong position or maybe they’re the wrong people. And so to kind of give you that freedom to be able to recognize that and be able to say, all right, I’m really going to watch for those people who do respond to this kind of approach.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. Awesome. I knew this was going to be awesome. I knew you were going to give people a lot of things to think about and a lot of great new tools. And as always, you exceeded my expectations. So thank you so much for your time and for sharing so freely the gifts that you have. As I said in the beginning of the podcast, I’m blessed that I get mentored by you all the time in our Mastermind Groups, and so I knew that you would really bring it today. So thank you so much.

Mitch Matthews:

Absolutely, buddy. It’s an honor.

Drew McLellan:

It was awesome. Thank you. I will talk to you soon. Okay, everybody. Go and put this into play. I want to hear your stories. I want to hear how you’re mentoring your folks. I promise you this can be a game changer for your agency. Take what Mitch has taught you. Go to the show notes. He’s got a lot of great resources on his website. So check that out. And we will catch you soon in another episode. Thanks for listening.

Outro:

That’s all for this episode of Build a Better Agency. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. While you’re there, sign up for our e-newsletter, grab our free e-book and check out the blog. Growing a bigger, better agency that makes more money, attracts bigger clients and doesn’t consume your life is possible here on Build a Better Agency.