I am not a fashionista — I’m too practical, frugal and tomboyish for it. But I love fashion! I read the magazines and blogs; I follow trends and pay attention to designers. And I often combine my love of fashion and reality TV with reality competition shows like Project Runway and The Fashion Fund … So I was really excited when I learned fashion instructor/mentor and long-term co-host of Project Runway, Tim Gunn, was getting his own spin-off show!
On “Under the Gunn”, 12 novice designers are split into 3 teams with each team coached by up-and-coming designer; and each up-and-comer coached by Gunn. The winning designer and the winning coach get a huge prize at the end.
What I immediately found interesting was the relationship of the up-and-comers to the novice designers … Their coaching and developing skills were sorely lacking!
- One was too nice. The coach was so concerned with everyone getting along and not upsetting or possibly discouraging any of the novices that barely any feedback was given. The coach let the novices think their work was great — only to be rudely awakened by tough criticism by the judges on the runway.
- One was too harsh. The coach criticized every choice the novices made until the novices were left with nothing but boring options that lacked innovation. The coach had the novices thinking they weren’t ready for the opportunity and the judges demolished them for playing it too safe.
- One was too hands-on. The coach literally took the scissors and patterns from the novices and started “fixing” their work for them. The product was something that didn’t reflect the novices’ point of view and couldn’t be defended to the judges.
Sound familiar? It should! Because it happens all the time when HR promotes people into new leadership roles.
It is easy to be awesome when working alone and the only person, ideas and results to worry about are your own. However, making the transition to helping others realize their own ideas and results is much more difficult … So difficult, in fact, many are never able to successfully able to do it. Many end up getting demoted, terminated or settling for mediocre results.
What can HR do about this? How do we get ourselves and other managers out from under the gun?
Tim Gunn makes the answer clear — mentoring.
It would have been easy and made great reality TV drama to leave each of the coaches to their own negative devices, knowing it would lead to everyone’s demise … Instead, Gunn made a central part of the show his stepping to provide coaching to the coaches.
If we want to get ourselves and the managers in our organizations out from under the gun, we have to follow this example. We have to create, encourage and foster mentoring relationships. No matter how high we have ascended, we always have more to learn and can benefit from the guidance and wisdom of someone else.
Mentoring is the only way to ensure everyone’s best efforts and best work are brought to the forefront so the outcomes and the competition are at the best level … Because, deep down, we all want to be the best and beat the best when they’re at their best.
Mentoring is how we get HR from under the gun! Got it? Good. Now, make it werk!