Ask Me Anything

How technology leaders can be better mentors (and mentees), with Jay Cayabyab

Leadership

August 3, 2021
·
5
min read
An image of Jay Cayabyab, VP of Strategy and Partnerships at QuantumRhino

Jay Cayabyab of QuantumRhino on leadership development and the true value of mentoring

This AMA was edited for brevity.

Jay Cayabyab is the Vice President of Strategy & Partnerships at QuantumRhino, a consulting company providing business technology solutions and software integrations. He sat down for an ask-me-anything with Pulse Product Manager, Lisa Peng.


As an executive, how do you find time to get to know your team members’ strengths, interests and potential?


You’ve got to make it the priority, build the time into your calendar and protect that time. A leader’s most important role is to build other leaders around them. When we get busy this becomes easier said than done, that’s the reason having a strong “why” is critical. 


When I plan my week, leadership development is one of the first things I allocate time to. It’s so important because making the investment in your team members today will pay dividends tomorrow. It’s kind of like saving. When you get your paycheck, pay yourself first; that is, put away your savings/investments first, then deal with your expenses according to your budget. That’s oversimplifying it but you get the gist. 


Leadership development doesn’t have to be formal. It can be a weekly meeting or a more casual engagement, whatever works for the both of you, as long as you are conscious of making that effort and are consistent.

How do you make time to connect with your team members? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.


“A leader’s most important role is to build other leaders around them [...] because making the investment in your team members today will pay dividends tomorrow."


How do you keep track of the personal and professional details you learn about your mentee[s]?


I make a mental note of personal information they share which might be important to them or would help us bond, like "This person is married, lives in this city, has 2 kids,” and so on. But I don't keep a running spreadsheet. If we talked about their wish to progress their career in a different function, for example, I'll make a note of that, but more importantly I make a note of why they want to do that—what's motivating them? 


I also note what kind of personality they have, their beliefs, values and what’s important to them. I pay attention to their circumstances, what and how they think, the feelings they associate with their thoughts, their actions and ultimately, the results they’ve produced. I’d use a framework to record important information. The way I approach this, as I build my client services team, is I start by understanding how individuals see their needs (certainty, uncertainty, significance, connection, growth, contribution) and explore those with them. The goal is to get a vivid idea of an empowering “why.” We dovetail into exploring what they’re passionate about and figure out what that first step is to realizing their goal. We’ll then make a decision to commit an action plan to produce the results we must achieve.

Do you have tips for remembering details about your mentees? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.


“I start by understanding how individuals see their needs (certainty, uncertainty, significance, connection, growth, contribution) and explore those with them [...] to get a vivid idea of an empowering ‘why.’

How do you spot someone who has the potential to be a good mentee?


I don't think there's a science to it. Everyone has some sort of potential. Generally, people who have a desire to become better to begin with and want to be coached might be good. Some of the people who I've mentored have come to me time and again with questions or ask for help, and that's usually a good indicator. But not everybody is going to have that spark. 


To me, a “good” mentee is someone who will be open and honest about their passion, values and beliefs, as well as their commitment to making a change and producing the desired results. One of my mentors said to me, "It's a two-way relationship." All the mentoring and weekly calls are pointless if you're not implementing the guidance, or not ready to do the homework. A lot of the homework and the execution of an action plan is on the mentee. That said, I’m keenly aware of the “illusion of control” and ultimately, mentees are individuals with their own free will.

What makes a good mentee in your opinion? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.


“A ‘good’ mentee is someone who will be open and honest about their passion, values and beliefs, as well as their commitment to making a change and producing the desired results.”

What mentorship tactics/strategies do you find most effective?


One of the first things I ask a mentee is, "How are you going to measure your life at the beginning of it?" It's a self-reflection exercise and one of the most difficult things to figure out. This was influenced by a great article written by Clayton Christensen, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” It’s not a one-time thing. I do it periodically and encourage others to do so to keep them aligned with their purpose. Ask yourself, "Am I doing the right things to get me where I want to be? Is everything I do aligning with that vision?" When you ask your mentee these questions some of them will say, "No, I don't want to do this," and they fall off. But some will actually grab hold and run with it.

Which mentorship tactics have been most successful for you? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.


Where do you find value in mentoring others?


When I was doing my executive MBA there were people who had been in industry for anywhere between 10-30 years. It was a mature set of executives, some of whom have amazing life stories and professional achievements. I was informally mentoring one of my classmates and said, "Have you done the reflection from this article?" 2 weeks later he had thought about how he wants to be remembered after his death and wrote down his goals, and to this day he sticks to it. That's a dream mentee. I'm not wholly responsible for how successful he is—he's now in the C-suite—I'm only a small part of it. But the joy I get from seeing somebody who's hungry to improve themselves and acts on it, then produces outstanding results is awesome. Being a mentor has to be a completely selfless act because you're giving up your time essentially for nothing. You're not being compensated in any way, it's about finding personal fulfillment.

What do you think is the most valuable part of mentoring others? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.


Is there a line between professional coaching and life advice? 


It's a virtual line that gets more blurred as time goes on, because work and life impact each other so much. It's more about helping people grow and living a fulfilling life. Someone once said to me, “success without fulfillment is failure.” And so it’s important to regularly evaluate where we are in life in terms of our purpose, our goals, what and who is important to us and so on. 


There used to be this notion of work-life balance. But in my opinion, you have to view it more holistically. If you're looking after yourself emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, you will be more successful professionally. I don't think you can silo off those two things, your performance at work is impacted by what’s happening in your personal life and vice-versa. For example, I was informally coaching a highly intelligent professional with a stressful, high-risk job. After about 3 months and a lot of conversations we made some adjustments that made both work less stressful, and home life more enjoyable. It’s always a work in progress: as we progress in our professional lives and take on more responsibility, the need for a good coach becomes even more important.

Where do you draw the line between professional coaching and life advice? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.


“As we progress in our professional lives and take on more responsibility, the need for a good coach becomes even more important.”

Are certain personality types easier to communicate with than others? 


It’s not that some personality types are easier to communicate with, they’re just different. When I first started in IT, I would talk to the sales guys and I would get along with them. We'd talk about what the customer wants to achieve: What are their metrics? What are their goals? Where do they want to take their business? And then I would talk to the engineers and they’d dive into the details, but I could still get along with them. People told me before that these 2 teams, even if they worked together, sometimes butted heads and couldn’t communicate, but I never found that. 


I think it's because I've always been curious. When I was in a sales role, I would talk 10% of the time and 90% of the time it would be the client talking. I've always found that as long as you ask the right questions and are genuinely interested in understanding their point of view and helping them out, people will share and sometimes more than you want them to. Getting to know people is about asking the right questions, letting them talk, and showing interest whether you agree with what they have to say or not.

Is it easier for you to communicate with certain personality types? Comment on this post in the Pulse community.


“Getting to know people is about asking the right questions, letting them talk, and showing interest whether you agree with what they have to say or not.”

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