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If I only knew then what I know now... with Martha Bayer

I met Martha Bayer ten years ago and we quickly became friends and collaborators. Over the years we partnered on fascinating and fun projects. In her spirit of learning and giving, Martha joined our executive Orange County HR roundtable back in 2013. She held many senior business executive roles at CBRE and at that time, she was given responsibility for leading global talent strategy. Martha has worn many hats from General Manager, to President and Chief Operating Officer as well as Operational Integrator in both large and small entrepreneurial companies. Her passion is business consulting, guiding business through complex situations and growing leaders.


I value our friendship and always learn something from Martha when we get together. It just seemed ideal to ask her this question for our newsletter focus this month. It is a delight to share a bit about Martha and her career perspective.

Ask for a Mentor, NOW!


The concept of Mentors was not common when I started working in 1985 in Public Accounting. We put our heads down, worked long hard hours, traveled to fun places and learned a ton about business transactions! We were not mentored on how to ask for feedback, how to gain access to specialized training, how to benefit from someone’s network, how to get a stretch assignment, etc.


People love to help people! I wish I had asked for a mentor right out of college, mostly because I hated Auditing and had just passed the CPA exam and was working in a Public Accounting firm, yikes, what was I going to do? Luckily, I finished my audit work quickly and got reassigned to a consulting project and found that I LOVED business consulting. Having someone who can coach and guide your career and you can talk openly with about your experiences and desires can accelerate your natural career path.


Speak last… first listen and ask questions.


We are a product of our environment, and I grew up learning that giving the “right” answer quickly

earned positive outcomes in various forms. So right out of college I leaned in hard and spoke up quickly with “right” answers… so what!


I learned over time that when I listened to everyone else, I then had the benefit of their experience, knowledge, wisdom, and yes opinions to enhance and evaluate my own thoughts before I shared. I had many experiences where I wished I had waited so I could reflect on others’ feedback and provide richer context and insights. When you are focused on jumping in early, you lose focus on the opportunity to listen and enhance your contribution.


The more fingerprints, the better!


Innovating, designing, implementing, and enjoying the benefits of new ideas is so satisfying. Even more satisfying is when the new ideas are embraced by the masses, take root quickly and achieve unexpected exceptional outcomes.


I love solving complex business problems and I would often jump in early with my ideas (do you see a theme?) and they were really good ideas, this would result in group think. And even worse, disengagement from those with better ideas. Their ideas did not become ingredients aka fingerprints on the innovative ideation and solution. As I matured professionally and began asking questions to pull out everyone’s ideas, we created exceptional outcomes. With so many team members’ fingerprints on the new solution, their excitement became a force multiplier to champion the communication, adoption and success of new initiatives.


Trust people, then check in early and often.


I’m one to trust someone implicitly until they do something to lose my trust. When an unexpected “bad” outcome happens my first thought is to assume positive intent of the person who delivered the bad outcome. I take the time to understand WHY they did WHAT they did and 100% of the time I find good intention lost in fatal execution. These experiences become opportunities to coach and give constructive feedback.


When you take on a new team member or a new boss, check in early and often to ensure you are on the same page. Asking for or giving feedback will contribute to successful outcomes.


Speaking of feedback, keep your feedback door wide open.


Proactively ask for feedback during your project, after a working session, presentation, any event where you can learn from others who have observed you. When you have an open feedback door, it is super easy for team members and bosses to give you great coaching. While I love getting feedback, I did not proactively ask for it until later in my career, it was a game changer. The best athletes have the best coaches and want relentless constructive feedback. When your feedback door is open, it makes it easy for those who care about your success to give you valuable feedback.


I learned this helpful feedback model. Please try it!

  1. “Can I give you some feedback?” Most people say “yes” and then you know they are ready to listen. If they say “no”, then don’t waste your time.

  2. “I observed you doing…..” The feedback must be firsthand and specific as to their actions. Example: “I observed you cutting off Tammy during her explanation of her project, she was not able to completely share her ideas and reasoning.”

  3. “It made me feel…” No one can argue with your personal feelings. “It made me feel that you did not respect Tammy and that you don’t want to hear what others have to contribute.”

  4. “In the future, I suggest….” Be specific with an action, it is their decision as to how they take and use the feedback. Don’t wimp out here, this is where growth happens. “In the future, I suggest you let team members complete their thoughts and then ask clarifying questions. Provide ground rules if you have time constraints on your session”.

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