I am CEO

Founder Creates Leadership Development Through Engage Mentoring

Full Episode from I AM CEO Podcast - IAM1983

In this episode, Alison Martin, the founder and managing director of Engage Mentoring discussed the importance of mentoring, leadership development programs, and the impact of technology in creating workplace cultures.

In today's fast-paced business world, building strong workplace cultures and fostering professional development are paramount. However, many smaller and midsize companies often lack the resources to implement effective leadership pipelines and mentorship programs. That's where Engage Mentoring steps in, an innovative technology firm that is revolutionizing workplace culture by leveraging software to create impactful mentorship relationships. In this blog post, we will explore the mission of Engage Mentoring and how they are making a difference with their unique approach.

Technology plays a crucial role in our personal and professional lives, and Engage Mentoring understands its potential in transforming workplace culture. With their cutting-edge software, Engage Mentoring provides access to skill-based mentorship relationships for companies of all sizes. This enables employees at every level to benefit from mentorship, a powerful tool for learning and development.

Engage Mentoring is making a substantial impact on workplace culture by leveraging technology and mentorship relationships. Through their unique programs and expertise, they empower companies of all sizes to build strong leadership pipelines and foster professional growth. By combining the power of technology with personal connection, Engage Mentoring is transforming the way companies approach talent development and creating inclusive workplace cultures where everyone can thrive.

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Full Interview:


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Alison Martin Teaser 00:00

But what I appreciate most about our programs and our products is often in smaller companies or midsize companies, they don't have access to resources like these or wouldn't have the resources to be able to support themselves.

So the ability for us to be able to impact workplace cultures of all sizes, work with clients of all sizes is something that's really key to the work that we do.

Intro 00:21

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO Podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:50

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast, and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Alison Martin.

Alison, excited to have you on the show.

Alison Martin 00:57

I'm so excited to be here Gresh. Thanks for having me.

Gresham Harkless 00:59

Yes, absolutely. Super excited to have you on and talk about all the awesome things that you're doing. Of course, before we do that, I want to read a little bit more about Alison so you hear about some of those awesome things.

Alison is the founder and managing director of Engage Mentoring, an innovative technology firm that works with clients of all sizes to create leadership pipelines by leveraging software that provides access to skill-based mentoring relationships. With an impressive background work nearly two decades of experience in nonprofits, beginning with four years working in higher education and onto executive director at two different health-related nonprofit organizations.

Alison's passion for developing talent led her to start a consulting firm in 2011. Her work consulting with larger organizations, nonprofits and companies to construct mentoring programs led to the development of Engage Mentoring in 2019. And let me just say, by talking with Alison a little bit before we recorded this, some of the research she's doing, so many different things and awesome things to be able to impact the world.

I absolutely love how she's able to marry the two, technology and relationships, which I think sometimes we can have them in their silos. She's also the author of the book, Learning to Lead Through Mentoring. And I was just bragging on her about her telling her story and how it just really resonated with me and all the awesome things that she does.Of course, she has numerous accomplishments. Founder, executive director, Forbes Business Council member, Jeff award member. So many different things, but I love that she said her proudest accomplishment is raising two incredible humans.

So Alison, excited to have you on the show. Are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community.

Alison Martin 02:31

Absolutely. Gresh, thanks so much for having me. It was a very kind introduction.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:35

Yeah, absolutely. It's easy for me to read it and you're doing all the hard work and awesome things. So I guess before we jumped into all the awesome things you're doing, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit, hear a little bit more on how you got started, what I call your CEO story.

Alison Martin 02:47

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Sure. So as you mentioned, I started way back in higher ed but had a long career in nonprofit. And so I led a couple of different health-related organizations before starting a nonprofit that really was focused on at the time, helping to support women at all stages of their career. Early on, it was just an exercise in trying to bring great people together to share and to learn. Over the course of that, that ultimately ended up being a nonprofit desire to construct a mentoring program. At the time didn't find what was available on the marketplace.

We looked at different software curriculum, didn't find exactly what we needed, so I ended up contracting a developer to create our platform back in 2012 and then realized it had a lot of other implications. So, beyond the nonprofit, which is still in existence and doing great things, we were able to take the product if you will, and start working with companies to ensure that access to relationships as a part of their talent strategies and really transform workplace and workplace culture as a result for something that seems so simple yet we take for granted that people are pouring into others in a mentoring capacity.

But we believe that by formalizing that, you can ensure that your leaders are really engaging and developing their people and that your employees feel supported and developed and have access to critical relationships. They're gonna make their careers happen. So, for me, I'm super passionate about mentoring. As I shared in my book, my early background was very challenged and I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for really incredible mentors who saw my leadership potential important to me.

So that's where I get my passion to do the work that we get to do every day.

Gresham Harkless 04:29

Yeah, I absolutely love that.

Alison Martin 04:31

And the irony is that mentoring, we often think of relationship first, learning second, right? But when our programs are structured to be learning first relationship second, and what I mean by that is mentoring is actually a powerfully efficient way for people to learn and an often overlooked strategy.

So we match people based on topics they want to learn more about without those other identifiers that typically forge relationships and give people the opportunity to uncover the core humanity that exists within all of us and to really create cultures where everyone feels supported and has access to those relationships that might not have otherwise occurred naturally, right?

Gresham Harkless 05:08

Yeah, that makes so much sense. Can you take us to a little bit more on how it works, how you're making an impact or anything additional that we didn't touch on?

Alison Martin 05:14

Yeah. So our primary product, like I said earlier, is the engaged leadership program because we believe it starts with leaders. So regardless of the size of the company, that's where we would start in that program. It is an end-to-end leadership development program that is unique. So leadership development programs are not new, but a lot of times we're teaching people concepts and ideas And certainly again, those programs are fantastic. But this is a way to tactically engage leaders in not only being a mentee, but also being a mentor in a program that requires 1 to 2 hours per month at times that they're choosing.

So that's our premier program. Again, it's an end-to-end solutions. When we work with a company, they simply identify their people leaders. There are high potential individual contributors and send out a communication that invites them to apply to a program that's 1 to 2 hours per month. Then our team takes it from there. So, it is a tech-enabled leadership development program, that we fully implement. So we're not a software that we just hand over to people. We're also not just a leadership development program that teaches concepts. We're one that really engages leaders.

Then we do have the program or the ability to work with companies on a broader scale at an enterprise-wide level to build customized programs that are internally focused only. So right now our products because of the global clients that we work with are deployed in 30 countries. So we're really proud of that. We have a scalable technology that really does make mentoring accessible regardless of the scale of the company. But what I appreciate most about our programs and our products is often in smaller companies or midsize companies, they don't have access to resources like this or wouldn't have the resources to be able to support them themselves, like a Google or Microsoft or a big company that has a widely recognizable name.

So the ability for us to be able to impact workplace cultures of all sizes, work with clients of all sizes is something that's really key to the work that we do. It excites us to be able to have that impact as well for the companies that are growing.

Gresham Harkless 07:11

Yeah, so do you feel like that's part of what I would like to call your secret sauce? This could be for yourself individually, the organization or a combination of both.

But is it that ability to understand the technology piece, but also have a lot of experience and expertise and that relationship building the community piece? Do you feel like being able to marry those two is really what sets you all apart and makes you unique?

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Alison Martin 07:33

It is. So as I said earlier, we rolled out our product in 2012 and in the beginning we were operating more traditionally, going after really large companies, nonprofits and universities. We learned so much as you can imagine in the implementation of those programs about how do you market? How do you on board? How do you train? Make sure people have context around how to approach the program and the relationships and the outcomes that we're tracking and being able to track metrics with our clients.

So we're able to take all of that and distill that into a software product that now is a turnkey solutions that addresses all of those things that we've now become an end-to-end solution for companies, regardless of the size. So often companies think that all well, if we need a mentoring program, all we need is an Excel document or we can use this free mentoring tool that we have in one of our LMS tools or whatever.

Software is such a small piece of that, right? And so it's ensuring that we've got context, that we're mindful about how the matching is occurring, that there's a plan in place for the customer service aspect. There are all kinds of things, but our team takes care of all those details, regardless of the scale of the client. That's what I'm really most proud of because we've taken what we know works and are able to apply it. Various sizes from a company perspective, and we can start small if we need to which is usually, more digestible than going enterprise-wide right off the bat.

Gresham Harkless 08:54

Yeah, that makes so much sense. I feel like that speaks so much to like my overall kind of philosophy around technology, which is that when you have that expertise, that knowledge, you have that experience, case study, all those things. When you're able to again, marry the hat with the technology, that's when you're able to really make a huge impact because you're not just saying, Hey, let's just use the software.

I don't have any experience. You're actually marrying those two. You have the experience, you've rolled up your sleeves, so to speak, and now this software is just supporting and amplifying it for lack of a better term so that it can make a bigger and better impact.

Alison Martin 09:24

That's exactly right. You hit it on the head. That's what I think we're most proud of is that we're mentoring experts in our own right, and we know how to do this. People don't wake up and say, Oh, my gosh, I need a mentoring program yesterday.

But it's incredible in terms of what we are able to impact, which are huge key drivers in an organization from a talent strategy perspective, whether that's succession planning or knowledge transfer, just building leadership capacity at all levels.

Gresham Harkless 09:49

Yeah, I absolutely love that. And it just speaks so much to I think some of the best leaders are people that are quote and quote coaches and able to meet people where they are and understand all those things. So I love how that ties into what I think is it sounds like you do as well to the future of leadership.

I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Alison Martin 10:15

An app, a book or a habit that I have? It's interesting that you ask that question. I would number one say meditation. So just having that pause on a daily basis has transformed my life. So just having that space to remove all the thoughts from your mind to the extent that you can and having that space has really been significant for me.

But I think I just make quiet time every morning to reflect, to read and to get organized for the day. That has really again helped me get grounded. First thing I get real clear on what my priorities are for the day and to allow me to be less reactive to things as they come up. And so that quiet space in the morning with both reading and meditation. Then you mentioned an app, I also use the strides app to help track daily habits that I want to instill as well. Those have evolved and changes as things become a habit. You can adopt more habits. It's called the habit stacking. So I use that app as well.

Gresham Harkless 11:18

Nice. I absolutely love those hacks. I want to ask you now for what I call more of a CEO nugget.

So this little bit more word of wisdom or piece of advice is something that might be from your book, or if you were to hop into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Alison Martin 11:33

I think it's don't be afraid to make mistakes. We talk about falling forward, but often, growth happens because you found nine things that didn't work and then you find the one that does. So often we get discouraged when we're all afraid of failure rate. Also the fear drives a lot of decisions and keeps us small a lot of times. What I've learned is that when things don't go the way you anticipate that they'll go, it's one step closer to figuring out what does versus being viewed as, oh, my gosh, this is a horrible catastrophe.

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So we've gotten really accustomed with being a inspired work in progress about all things and recognizing that anytime something doesn't go the way we intended, it's an opportunity to pivot. It's an opportunity to learn and it's opportunity to apply. I think that's gotten us to where we are today, although it can be exhausting to continually do that. But if you approach everything as learning, it becomes less traumatic when things don't go the way that you hoped that they would.

The key is to really learn from that experience and apply it differently. So my advice would be to just release fear and take the next best step every day and do your very best.

Gresham Harkless 12:51

Yeah, I absolutely love that. Not to be afraid to make those mistakes. Now I wanna ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote, CEOs on this show.

So, Alison, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Alison Martin 13:04

I have the privilege to work with incredible people who are way smarter than me in so many different areas to really build the ship together. I think being a CEO means seeing the best in others and really bringing out that potential and also having the vision, tenacity to steer the ship a little bit. It's an honor and a privilege to be able to sit in that space, and then many times, having to roll up their sleeves and come alongside people to again, how I think it really is it comes down to people.

It comes down to how we're ensuring that everyone is in the right positions, in the right seats and that we're painting a picture that is steering the ship in the right direction. Ultimately, we're the ones responsible for the success or failure of any endeavor that we go into. So it's a huge privilege. Huge responsibility too.

Gresham Harkless 14:00

But I absolutely love that definition, especially to seeing the best in others. I feel like that's right along the lines of a really great mentor. I love how that kind of supports everything that you do, because I think anytime you think of a mentor, sometimes they see so many great people, things in you and they want to bring that out.

I think any great CEO is going to do the same thing there, they see the potential, they see the opportunity and trying to help you to reach that. I think any great leader has a really great team around them. I think that allows, things to really go to a different level so that you can reach that vision.

You can't exceed it and you can do all the awesome things that ultimately you're capable of.

Alison Martin 14:35

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It's a great question. Thank you so much for asking.

Gresham Harkless 14:39

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for embodying that even more. So what I wanted to do now was pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you can let our readers and listeners know. And of course, how best people can get a whole view on about all the awesome things you want to work on.

Alison Martin 14:53

Sure. Certainly, if you're thinking about developing your people and really the strategies and tactics for really developing your leaders, we would love to help so you can reach us on the web at engagementoring.com and certainly on Linked In. We have a presence there. You can find me on Linked In as well, Allison Martin with one L. I always have to remind people of that, but I'd be happy to connect.

Again, our goal is to really learn what organizations are doing and how we can come alongside and make that lift a lot lighter and have more impact and reach more people at scale because so many HR departments are so strapped to and so many other things. And so in ensuring that learning and development is happening at all levels, which also is ultimately feeds into retention and attraction of top talents.

If those are things that resonate with you, we'd love to talk to you.

Gresham Harkless 15:47

Absolutely. And of course, to make it even easier, we'll have the links and information in the show notes too so that everybody can follow up with you and make sure we get the Alison with one L on LinkedIn as well.

Truly appreciate you again, Allison, you're doing so many phenomenal things. I appreciate you for sharing that with us today, of course, for doing it even more. I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Alison Martin 16:05

Oh, thank you Gresh, it's been a pleasure. Absolute pleasure to have this conversation. So thank you so much for having me.

Outro 16:10

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Check out the latest and greatest apps, books, and habits to level up your business at ceohacks.co. This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harless, Jr.

Thank you for listening.


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