Become a 21st Century Executive

Serving as a guiding inspiration to help the next generation with making the right career choices, The 3 Minute Mentor team have created a new book, Become a 21st Century Executive: Breaking Away from the Pack. This easy-to-read and clear-cut manual for any worker, manager, and leader of any sort who finds themselves muddling through their job and career.

In each chapter, Become a 21st Century Executive provides practical advice on how to avoid being a stuck-in-the-middle manager, and how to start behaving and becoming a 21st century executive.

Avaialble at now.


Getting Promoted Faster


Even with the best career plan, you still may not be getting all of the career opportunities and promotions you feel you deserve. If that happens, you need to figure out why.Someone who has otherwise created a realistic schedule for promotions is likely to find the reason for a lack of promotion exists in the answer to one of these three questions:

  1. Is it your company?
  2. Is it your role?
  3. Is it you?

Is It Your Company?

If you are not getting promoted, you could be held back by the company’s own limitations. For example, a small company is likely to have a limited number of promotions available. This is particularly true if you are the only one, or one of a few, who do a certain type of work. The company culture also may not be a good fit for your management and leadership style.

If this is true in your situation, you need to recognize that you may not get promoted in your company no matter how hard you work or how much you deserve it. Once you recognize the limited role this type of company can play in your career progression, you can decide whether to stay with the company, and for how long. I have seen too many people become “Stuck-in-the-Middle Managers” out of frustration because they do not recognize how limited their prospects are at their current company, and are reluctant to move on.

Is It Your Role?

You may be able to trace your limited promotion opportunities to the nature of your role. If you are a senior individual contributor who has spent years deepening your knowledge and experience in a particular area, it can be difficult sometimes to make the jump to a management role. You may have made yourself irreplaceable in this key role! No one is willing to move you elsewhere and lose access to your expertise. Many people move into roles and jobs that limit their careers. For example, working on a team whose work is not considered essential to the business can hold you back. If people do not value the work you do, they will not raise you as a prospect in promotion conversations. Some companies recognize these issues and encourage people to move around to different functions and departments as they build a career. If your company is not doing this, you can make these decisions for yourself.

Is It You? 

In my first job as a director, I promoted a member of my team to a management position. After I announced the promotion, another member of my team approached me to ask why I had not considered him for the job. I replied that I had no idea that he had wanted to be a manager. He had never mentioned that possibility, nor asked to be considered for a management role. Nor had he ever sought out advice on how to move up at the company. The moral to that story is that you need to let people know what you want. 

If you want to be promoted and plan to work toward that goal, tell your manager or some other senior person who can help you achieve that goal. At the very least, these individuals can let you know when a new opportunity opens up. At most, they can provide advice and guidance on how to get that management role. It is your responsibility to know the company’s openings, to ask questions about the role, and to apply your knowledge. If you find out about roles only after they are filled and closed, it signals you need to improve your network. All of this assumes that you continually acquire new content, expand your network, and hone your approach so that you are ready and well positioned for promotion. If you are not taking those steps, this lack of preparation and development can be a key reason why you have not been promoted. If you do not have what is required to be a manager, someone else will get the job. Of course, the lack of a promotion may not just be due to one of the above reasons; it may be due to a combination of two—or even all three! 

The Bottom Line:

Work hard and position yourself to be in the right place at the right time—but if your current company keeps overlooking you for promotion, you must decide whether to stay or move on.

First reported in Money For Lunch


The 21st Century Executive: How to become one

Like most middle and senior managers, I travel a lot. Bad weather on one trip left me stuck at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. To kill time, I browsed the airport bookshop looking for an interesting business book. What I found, however, were a lot of books about “being at the top.” In the world of business books, everyone apparently wants to be a CEO of a company. 

To make things worse, few if any, of these books had been written by people who are trying to build a career today. In fact, most of them had been leaders in the last century, before most of today’s Millennials even got their first job. Back in the 1980s there really was no Internet, never mind Facebook. Nowadays, why do you need to trust someone who says they have knowledge when you can Google the answer to every question instantly? Given the massive changes to how we currently work, it is easy to see why there are few good resources for today’s leaders, climbing through middle management, and hoping, if not get to the top, be somewhere close.

To bridge this gap, I created an on-line series of mentoring videos known as “The 3 Minute Mentor.” Designed for the digital age, these give simple and practical advice on how to build your career and manage more effectively. While turning 36 of these episodes into the book “Become a 21st Century Executive,” it became clear that there are four common cornerstones to building a 21st Century career.

These four cornerstones - Narrative, Experience, Ownership and Ethics – are not only what matters to the next generation, but what it takes to manage them. According to PWC over 50% of the workforce will be Millennials by 2020. That means you too may need to understand them if you are to manage and succeed in the 21st Century. 

A 21st Century Career has a NARRATIVE

Unlike previous generations, the Millennial career is based on PURPOSE. While their parents and grandparents were focused on getting a job, and that might mean any job, today’s new workers want to know how it drives their ‘life-story’ forward. When choosing between employers they often ask about their Corporate Social Responsibility programs and how they are part of their community. For most, when starting out, money is not the only consideration. 

According to Gallup Research, 55% of the U.S. workers are not engaged at work, 16% are actively disengaged. We need to be sensitive to this when it comes to Millennials. They will look to commit to something they have a PASSION for. In fact, they may prefer to have no job than to take one they have no passion for, which is fine if they can still live at home. Managing these Millennials will require you to not only understand their passions but to engage them.  

Having identified their passions, Millennials are likely to align their GOALS toward their purpose. They won’t want to do something that does not drive them to their purpose. Finding ways to link goals to purpose becomes an essential step for them and you.

Maybe hardest for the Millennials is understanding that they must make CHOICES and live with them. For the rest of us, this seems to be an obvious life lesson. This next generation may not have learned this yet. Those that do will succeed more fully and more quickly than those who do not.

A 21st Century Executive has the right EXPERIENCE

To be truly successful you need be offered good opportunities and know how to take advantage of those opportunities when they present themselves. There’s not much you can do about the luck side of this, but there is a lot you can do to prepare to take advantage of the luck when it comes your way.  

In the book, Become a 21st Century Executive, it is suggested that you focus on four different skill areas: CONTEXT, APPROACH, NETWORK and PRESENCE. To put it another way: Your career growth and development are based on what you know, how you use what you know, who knows it and how you are able to communicate all of this. If you work on these four elements as you move through your career and use these elements to evaluate different career opportunities, your chances of success will be much greater. The book covers more details on each of these skill areas.

There is also a fifth element, but it’s the hardest to explain or encourage people to explore. That element is ‘HUNGER.’ Are you the one who is willing to ‘take the bat’ when someone is needed or do you hold back? Are you willing to take the tough assignments or do you back away fearing the risk? If you have the hunger and the right skills, when opportunity comes knocking you will be ready and able to answer.

A 21st Century Executive takes OWNERSHIP

Despite the model that is set for us by politicians, it is my experience that in business, the people who achieve the most are those who hold themselves ACCOUNTABLE for what they do. They understand when they take an assignment or role that it is their responsibility to complete it. To be successful at work and in life, being personally accountable for what you do will always mean more than what others believe or hold you accountable for. This is one of the key elements of integrity. 

While a 21st Century Executive or leader will always hold themselves accountable, they should also know that they cannot do everything on their own. To succeed they need to learn to DELEGATE to people below them and escalate to those above when they need help. Delegation, as any good manager knows is not the same as abdication. Abdication is the delegation without the accountability.

Once you learn to delegate and escalate, you quickly work out that there are people around you who can help and whom you can help. I have never met a successful person who did not have a MENTOR of some sort and often more than one. A modern leader will have a stable of mentors they seek advice from and will offer the same support to those around them.

More than mentoring, we also need COACHES and must be willing to coach others. Unlike the mentor, who has a more abstract view across a wide period of time, the coach is willing to help you in real-time. Learning to lead is about learning to coach.

A 21st Century Executive lives their ETHICS

On Michael Hyatt’s website, he advises people to “Commit to total transparency. Because of technology, you don’t really have a choice. You might as well embrace it now; it’s a much easier way to live. You will never have to worry that someone is going to discover something about you that you don’t first reveal.” 

When I grew up in IBM, being transparent was all about hiding behind someone else when you had to deliver bad news. An example; telling an employee that they were not getting a raise because “our boss doesn’t think you are doing a good job” was being transparent or ‘see through’. While it might be the truth, and the boss doesn’t think the person is performing, rather than saying “I don’t think you are doing a good job”, it was easier to blame the boss.  

Today, TRANSPARENCY is more about open communication and HONESTY. Giving people the bad news whether they want it or not. A way of saying ‘you know what I know.’ But clearly that is not always a useful or helpful approach, sometimes things are just secret. Even if it’s not secret, productivity can be damaged by the team fussing over things that may never happen or that they cannot influence. 

The 21st Century Executive expects, drives and uses TRANSPARENCY as a key tool. Additionally they will expect it in others. Without transparency there is no TRUST and without trust there is disengagement. 

Tom Peters, the Business Guru, summed up the whole area of ethics well. He said, “There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity.” A 21st Century Executive demonstrates INTEGRITY to those around them and expects it of others.

Becoming a 21st Century Executive

When I worked for Sun Microsystems, I remember our then CEO Scott McNealy saying, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” For the 21st Century employee, with Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Instagram, privacy may have well been replaced by transparency. The next generation of workers are going to live life in the open. Managing and leading this generation is going to require not only understanding them but demonstrating that you too are a 21st Century Executive with these same qualities.

In the end it does not matter what it was like for us or how our first bosses did it. Millennials do not care, and why should they? The world has moved on and what it takes to succeed today is different.

Orginally posted at



Any company looking to eliminate bias at work can now log onto Facebook for a bias tutorial. The social media giant, which recently released startling numbers about its lack of workforce diversity, is releasing a series of anti-bias training videos for all businesses looking to address the issue. So, why does it matter?

There are many reasons why diversity is important. In our At Work survey, nearly half of the people we surveyed did not understand or know how to value diversity at work, and only one-third thought diversity helps them get promoted at work. The implication is that while diversity is important, we all have a responsibility to articulate its value. When you have a diverse workforce, it changes the way people in the company think and work. In a diverse workplace, you are more likely to be around different types of people who can introduce new approaches at work. People from different cultures and backgrounds often bring unexpected and fresh perspectives to problem solving, design, and product development.

Some people are more analytical while others are more creative. People from varying religious, political, and socioeconomic backgrounds possess different perspectives on the world and specific issues. Bring all of these types of people together and you are likely to see more creativity, new and better ideas, and more innovation.

One of the most famous examples occurred when a group of Hispanics at Frito-Lay in the U.S. (part of PepsiCo) suggested the company develop a Guacamole Chip. That chip generated $100 million in sales in its first year. I do not believe that a company can truly understand its markets without a diverse workforce. Those who analyze these markets need to empathize with the markets and customers in order to make good decisions on how to approach and interact with them.

A company moving into new global markets in predominantly Muslim countries or Asian countries needs to rethink its marketing approaches, communications, and overall imagery. If the company’s marketing graphics and images continue to feature white, middle-aged men and women wearing crosses around their necks, the company’s appeal in those markets will be limited. Similarly, an equipment company that manufactures machinery for golf course construction and maintenance not only needs people with the technical knowledge necessary to sell that equipment, but also people who play golf themselves and understand the importance of, and what is required for, a well-maintained course.

Don’t overlook the importance of age diversity in the workplaceWhile it is important to employ people who look like your market, it is also important to employ people who are right for the job. Making judgments based on someone’s age rather than on facts, even refusing to meet with people over a certain age, is prejudice pure and simple. That is no way to form a team.

The Bottom Line: Diversity may be “the right thing to do”—but it is also the right thing to do for the business.

From Alister & Paine


So You Want to Be a Leader? You Better Find a Mentor

I have never met anyone who was successful in life who did not have at least one mentor. Having good mentors indicates that you have a great network—something every 21st century executive and leader should have. However, finding the right mentor can be a challenge. 

A few years ago, I worked for a company that was acquired by Sun Microsystems. I was undecided about whether to stay with Sun after the acquisition, so I consulted with one of my mentors. 

My mentor was very supportive of the move to Sun. He noted correctly that, as a Silicon Valley company, Sun offered a very different organization compared to the companies I had worked for. He emphasized Sun’s speed and innovation and the fact that having Sun Microsystems on my resume would be a very good thing.

Ultimately, I considered his input and the overall impact of taking on the role on my own personal portfolio. I accepted the job at Sun. Today, I believe that the skills and experience the job provided were instrumental in rounding out my character and helping my career growth. My experience with Sun helped significantly in my getting my next job.

Do you need a(nother) mentor?

While searching for the right mentor, you need to consider why you want to develop that relationship. What do you hope to get out of it? Your answers will help you identify potential mentors who can meet your needs.
Most people seek a mentor because they know they need help in certain areas of their work or personal lives. If you want someone to help you improve in your current role, then you need to look for someone who has a background similar to yours, but with more depth and experience. Sometimes, you want someone to be your mentor simply because you respect her as an individual, considering what she has accomplished and what you think you can learn from her.

What to Look for in a Mentor

Finding the right mentor is similar to dating. You need to meet a lot of people and not everyone will be the right fit. Before starting a mentor relationship, talk a few times about both parties’ expectations for the relationship. 
In these conversations you determine if you both can find the common ground that is the foundation of any good mentoring relationship. In other words, don’t get married until you have dated for a while. 
When deciding to ask someone to be your mentor, you should consider three questions:


  1. Is this someone I can relate to and does this person have what I need? Sometimes, we expect a mentor to be a parental figure. At other times, the mentor serves as confessor. There are a variety of mentor relationships. The core of any positive mentor relationship should be some commonality of experience and viewpoint. 
  2. Does this mentor have a background that is different enough from mine? Although relating to your mentor is important, an effective mentor cannot be your mirror image. You need someone whose experience is not exactly the same as yours. Look for someone who has worked in a different function, role, department, country, company or some combination of these. 
  3. Will this person push me? There is no point to having a mentor who agrees with everything you say and reinforces your own perceptions. Intentionally find someone who will push you and take you to the next level in your career and development.


Building the relationship

A mentor relationship is a sharing relationship. If you want to avoid ‘Muddle Management,’ you also want to avoid ‘Muddle Mentoring.’ Your mentor is not your psychiatrist. He or she is more of a management consultant. Here are some steps to building a stronger mentor relationship:

  1. Think about this relationship not just in terms of what you can get out of it, but what you can and are willing to put into it. 
  2. Build a relationship based on trust and honesty. If you don’t think you can do that, you may have the wrong mentor.
  3. Think through how you will manage the mentor relationship. Too many people make the mistake of assuming their mentors will drive the whole experience forward. 
  4. Respect your mentor’s time and make sure you use it wisely. 
  5. If the mentor relationship is not working out, you need to consider your part in the problem and take whatever steps necessary to make things right or end the relationship
  6. Consider whether your expectations for the mentor relationship are reasonable. You cannot expect a mentor to do your job for you or to give you all the answers. 
  7. Don’t limit yourself to one mentor. Different people bring different perspectives to your life. Having multiple mentor relationships can provide you with a strong sounding board before you make decisions or take action on something.

In the end, each of us has different careers and different needs to mentors. Moreover, we all know people who could benefit from what we have learned from our mentors. As much as you will get from talking and spending time with your mentors, you will get more from mentoring yourself. It really is the best was to ‘pay it forward,’ which in itself, is the sign that you are a 21st Century Executive.

Guest post on Great Leadership blog


A Millennial’s Guide to Finding Workplace Success

Taken from an article in carrerco.

Millennials are inheriting a better job market than we’ve had in recent years, but they still have a challenging landscape to deal with. For starters, they are entering the workforce with record amounts of student loan debt, and therefore need to find good-paying work to sustain them. Beyond salary issues, they also have stereotypes to overcome — the idea that they are self-centered, overly reliant on technology, and have feelings of entitlement.

We connected with Nigel Dessau, author of Become a 21st Century Executive – Breaking away from the Pack, for his take on how millennials can overcome these unique challenges and make a name for themselves in the working world.

How can young job seekers set themselves apart and overcome some of the stereotypes that hiring managers might believe about millennials?

Hiring is an expensive and time-consuming approach. Employers look for many things but two questions they will ask themselves are: do they have the skills and can I retain them?

Having practical experience and common sense will be very important to the recruiter. If you come across ‘all college and no knowledge,’ they may look elsewhere.

A company who is about to hire you is also about to invest in you. That means retaining you is a huge issue when they hire. If you look like you will be high maintenance, then you may be difficult to retain, so don’t come in with too many demands. We all know they ‘would be lucky to have you’ but you don’t need to tell them.

Why should young workers seek out mentors to help guide them? And how can they find the right person to do so?

We all need mentors and multiples of them. You should think through what gaps you have in your capabilities and find mentors that fill them. Some of them should be inside your company and some outside. Inside, ask your manager or leader who they could connect you with who could mentor you. If the company doesn’t do that sort of thing, then see if you can start it. If they resist, then you may just have learned something about your employer. Make sure internal mentors are from different departments or areas – that should give you the broadest input.

Outside the company, look to build a network for yourself with groups and professional organizations. This is a great place to find people who can mentor you. Remember your college or even your parents may know people.

Mentors are often not for life. They fill different roles at different times of your life. I always think about it like personal relationships. You start dating before you get married. With mentors you should start slow and get to know each other. People who have good content are not always people you connect to. Take the time to find the right mentors.

What should millennials know about workplace communication, and how it might be different than what they are used to in our digital age?

Instant communication and email are the backbone of the digital age. They work very well when you know the people you are communicating with can understand the context. They work badly when you do not know the people well. It does not matter how many emojis you use, messages will always be misread and misinterpreted. If you have something important to say, it’s better to say it. Pick up the phone or walk down the corridor if you can, particularly, when you need to get feedback or understand something.

Any tips for finding success within a company that has different generations working side by side?

The key lesson of influencing people is about adapting your style to theirs, not expecting them to adapt to yours. Across generations the same is true. If you want to engage, persuade or influence someone, look at it through their eyes. Think about what is important to them and what they care about. A good rule-of-thumb is this: If someone doesn’t understand something you say, it’s your fault for not explaining it in a way they can understand, not theirs for not understanding you.


Taken from an article in carrerco.