Adam Scholtes: 00:00 So on this podcast we're going to talk about mentoring and how it pertains to workforce development. We're going to talk to Dave about mentorship and why he made a career move into this space.
Kofi Darku: 00:10 Also, we're going to talk about the role mentorship plays in the work setting.
Adam Scholtes: 00:14 Yeah, absolutely. Then how, if you're a company, how do you build a mentoring program in your workspace, uh what are some of the first steps, steps that you need to take and get this, get this program going?
Kofi Darku: 00:26 Well as your host, Kofi Darku,
Adam Scholtes: 00:27 Adam Scholtes,
Kofi Darku: 00:27 We're happy to take you on this deeper dive into workforce development and mentoring.
Adam Scholtes: 00:58 Dave, thanks a lot for being here. Really appreciate it.
Dave Neff: 01:00 Excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Adam Scholtes: 01:02 Awesome. Hey, let's go ahead and just jump right in. Why don't you go out and give us a background of yourself?
Dave Neff: 01:06 Yeah. So I am a native of Indianapolis, grew up here, went to Heritage Christian and then Ball State University. Adam, I know that's where you went. Harvard of the Midwest as we like to call it. But uh, so yeah, so sports administration degree, um, and really the last 11 years professionally I've, I've kind of had a unique path but uh, worked for the Indiana Pacers, Pacer Sports and Entertainment first four years out of school and then I worked for ExactTarget which uh, Salesforce acquired for nearly three years. And then I've been leading Edge Mentoring, which we'll get into here in a little bit for the last four years. And then I'm married wife Joelle, two little kids, Lincoln and Nora and we live in the Butler Tarkington neighborhood here in Indy.
Adam Scholtes: 01:57 Great. Yeah. So sport management degree, uh, favorite sports team grown up?
Dave Neff: 02:03 Fave, well Butler basketball, my parents met at Butler now I now I now I live a stone's throw from hinkle and I think I was in hinkle 1984 when I was like 10 days old. So we, we were there when and my parents had season tickets when like a thousand people we're going to basketball games and so to see kind of run the last 15, 20 years has been, it's been fun. And then, you know, Pacers where my livelihood for four years, so I got to root for the home team. Love what, uh, Victor Oladipo, how that team over achieved last year. And um, but yeah, I'd say I'd say between Butler and the Pacers, those are probably my two teams. Yeah.
Kofi Darku: 02:40 So it's good if we bring you things that are dark blue because, well there's black or blue.
Dave Neff: 02:46 They wear some black in their uniform too.
Adam Scholtes: 02:46 And nowadays with the uniforms, everybody...
Kofi Darku: 02:52 I maybe off on the colors, but no dark blue still works for both those two.
Adam Scholtes: 02:55 Uh, so two little kids, wife, what do you guys during the summer, what's your favorite summer activity as a family?
Dave Neff: 03:02 I'd say Saturday mornings were at the Broad Ripple farmer's market, you know, most.. Saturday mornings you just got to get out of the house with two little kids. And so the farmer's market, you can get out, walk around. It's, you know, it's already a little chaotic. So that's good. And then we'll go to the pool, the Jordan Y which is a staple and kind of get the kids in the splash pad. And so it's an interesting season. You know, my kids are young, but um, it's a, it's a lot of fun too. I think my wife, she likes taking them to the Children's Museum and um, we don't live too far from there. But yeah.
Adam Scholtes: 03:32 That's great.
Kofi Darku: 03:33 These are all activities if I may that usually end with a nap.
Dave Neff: 03:39 And my son right now, you know, he's, he's two, so, you know, I love him but see slices of the terrible twos where he doesn't, if he doesn't want to leave something, you know, he, he'll hold you hostage and kind of, you know, trying to get out of there, so, but um, but yeah, we're loving it. It's a, you know, the next few years is changing diapers and just powering through. So, but.
Adam Scholtes: 03:59 I hear ya.
Kofi Darku: 03:59 You can make it.
Adam Scholtes: 04:00 I hear Ya. Yeah. So last, last fun question here. The kids aren't with you, favorite dinner spot with the wife?
Dave Neff: 04:07 Well pre kids, it was a Twenty Tap down in south Broad Ripple. So Bro, we love going there and we'd go there with some, some other couples that didn't have kids at the time. And now man, it's like you gotta, you gotta plan weeks out to get a, to get a date night on the calendar. Um, if I'm going top of the line, this is like maybe once a year. Vida, downtown Indy and Lockerbie. It's, it's probably my favorite restaurant. I've only been there a couple times, but just the ambiance and the food and it's uh, yeah, it's nice, so.
Adam Scholtes: 04:37 Yeah, the kids, the kids are different game. I had my first, uh, first outing. Well not first outing with it with our kids, but my kids, our kid, we have one, we went to Bakersfield and it was one of those things like, yeah, let's just go to Bakersfield. Wait, can kids even go into like we had to rethink of the entire process. So I know what that's like.
Kofi Darku: 04:54 Yeah, I think it's good to go big, since your frequency is diminished. So go big.
Dave Neff: 05:00 Go big or go home.
Adam Scholtes: 05:01 So well let's dive into the topic of mentorship today. We wanted to talk about was um, kind of, kind of your path, kind of through mentorship, but talk to us a little bit about mentorship and why you made the career move into this space from the Pacers.
Dave Neff: 05:16 Well, I, you know, I've told people 11 years ago leaving Ball State, if you would have said, hey, can you see yourself leading a mentoring organization, I would have been like what, you know, I don't even know those exist because it really wasn't part of the plan or the career path. I think as I, as I reflect back and I shared this last week with some people, but I'm like, your career starts out about the what. And for me being a sports administration Grad, I just want to work in pro sports and uh, so to get in with the Pacers right out of school I was, I was thrilled. This was 2007. I mean at the team was struggling. This was three years post brawl. We were dead last in the league in attendance, but I was 22 and the recession had just started so I was just pumped to have a job, a and to be in pro sports. Didn't care about who my boss was going to be or my supervisor, any of that. And, and I had a great experience those first four years, but along the way, uh, just given the nature of my work was able to meet so many community leaders, business leaders, and really my last two moves have been about the WHO, not the WHAT and so it's been about the leader or the people that I want to work with versus maybe the actual nature of the work, if that makes sense.
Dave Neff: 06:27 So, um, you know, one of those was the CMO at ExactTarget. I'd sold a suite to ExactTarget and got to know Tim Kopp through that process and he's really who sold me on coming to work at, at ExactTarget. And I really wasn't the guy that had any tech background, but he was like, most people don't. They come work here, you know, we're growing and we just look for the right culture fits and then, and then if you've got the aptitude to learn we can, we can skill you up. And then um, yeah, Edge, coming to Edge, leading a mentoring organization. That was, that was through a relationship with Jeff Simmons who is the president of Elanco who I had also sold a suite to at the Pacers and both just leaders that I learned a lot from observing how they, how they conducted themselves, how they thought, how they made decisions and, and so that's kinda what's taken me to where I am today. So.
Kofi Darku: 07:15 Great. This is good stuff. I'm happy to have you on the show because sometimes Adam and I have discussions that need to be settled by an outside party.
Dave Neff: 07:27 Okay.
Kofi Darku: 07:28 And since you are focusing on mentoring, I'm curious about your thoughts on what role mentoring plays in the work setting. Before you respond. I just want to give you a little background that sometimes, Adam's stance on mentoring is very different than mine. I kind of feel like if you're doing it in the workplace, maybe leadership should assign the mentee to the mentor um, I'm probably a little bit more controlled and how I think that mentoring mentee relationships should be. So I would love to hear your opinion of what role mentorship plays in the work setting.
Dave Neff: 08:06 Yeah, that's a, that's a great question. And I think if you look at just companies in general, from small to major Fortune 500, most corporate mentoring programs have not been that successful. And I think a big reason for that is, um, while companies are well intentioned to, hey, we want to launch a mentoring program and we even have one at the Pacers when I got started is it's, it's a little one dimensional. It's like, hey, here's this young person that's new to the company. Would you go have three or six lunches or whatever, whatever with them. And um, it's what I've found by leading an organization, Edge that yes, covers career kind of mentoring. It's really more whole life. So it's your, it's your personal habits and disciplines. You know, we're a, we're a faith based organization, so there's some Christian principles that are involved, but it's really holistic and whole life design and I think a lot of companies, and I understand that you have to be careful about, um, we're just different faiths and different backgrounds, but if you make it too one dimensional, people don't feel like they're going to be able to bring their whole selves to that relationship.
Dave Neff: 09:15 And I think, um, you know, I think mentees who are jammed up at home, whether that's relationally with a spouse or boyfriend, girlfriend, or just major health, like if they don't feel comfortable to express that to their mentor inside their, inside their workplace supervisor or otherwise, um, because out of fear that, hey, this may damage my opportunity, you know, professionally, then that's just a real limiter. And so I think the, so there's a little bit of that, just how transparent do they feel they can be in some, some cultures, some organizations I think do a good job of promoting that. Um, some, um, just the nature of it might be a little bit more difficult. I think the other thing too, from a, from a mentoring program, we like to say mentoring doesn't happen by default. It happens by design. Now certainly there's people that seek out mentorship, you know, I feel like I've always been, whether it was through a coach or a teacher, I mean I think of Gina Pauline at Ball State who was our, our sports advisor for sports administration, just like she had such great energy and really got me excited and passionate about pursuing a career in sports. But um, I think if you don't get the chemistry right in a mentoring relationship, like where both parties are leaning in a little bit, then it's not gonna work and it's going to be very transactional and cold. And I tell people the mentor's job, in my opinion, is to be available and accessible. That's about it. I mean, yeah, you need to be intentional and leaning in a little bit, but your intentional by being available and making time for the mentee. I think 80 percent of a healthy mentoring relationship really rests on the mentee's shoulders and being thoughtful and engaged and coming prepared with questions that are, that are really. It's not like they're just showing up shooting from the hip on, hey, it's like, no, you gotta, you're 25 or whatever, like be respectful of this leader's time and, and what do you want to not only gain but what can you bring?
Dave Neff: 11:15 And I think mentors I've talked to, the reason they mentor is just the energy of being around younger people and yes, the ideas and yes, that generation tends to be a little bit more tech savvy and can so they can teach the older generation a thing or two, but I think I think those things are big, you know, just the ability to be transparent as well as um, just the chemistry. And I think sometimes organizations or companies don't do those two things very well.
Adam Scholtes: 11:43 That's great. Go ahead.
Kofi Darku: 11:45 Well yeah, it's true. That response was really telling and I appreciate the in depth nature of that. One thing that I do want to touch on, and I know you have some questions, Adam, is that what's really becoming evident to me is that some of the modern approaches to mentoring is more mentee driven than mentor driven. I like how you say mentor really just needs to be accessible and available. Uh, and pretty much the onus is on the mentee, which I think that in itself really helps our business industry think differently about, okay, if you want to be successful in having some type of mentorship program, don't think that onus is on the mentor. It's not a matter of them pouring a lot of information into the mentee. They, let's trust that the mentor has that information and the mentee has to seek it. If there's no leaning in, it's probably not going to be successful. So I find that really, really helpful.
Dave Neff: 12:45 It's almost a thing about an economics supply and demand. It's, it should be demand driven. Sometimes I think people think let's just get a bunch of mentors. Well if there's no mentees asking for it, then great, you got a bunch of mentors together, but so, so we, we, and we faced that tension and what we do at Edge, you know, we're, we're, um, which we can talk about a little bit later, but.
Adam Scholtes: 13:04 So you just said something interesting if there's no mentees to drive, you have all the mentors, we have no mentees, like how do you, what, what happens then, if you have an organization, we have all these mentors, but there are, there are no mentees wanting to step up and be mentored.
Dave Neff: 13:20 Yeah.
Adam Scholtes: 13:21 Or vice versa, there's nobody for us to mentor.
Dave Neff: 13:23 Yeah.
Adam Scholtes: 13:23 Talk to us a little...
Dave Neff: 13:26 You may want to read. I don't know, it could come down to a couple of things. If there's no mentees, um, it could just be depending on what type of work environment this is. Just educating these people the value of mentorship, right? And why it's important. I think, um, I think if you've got a pretty smart and engaged workforce, they, they'll be seeking it out. They want, they want to grow, they want to learn. There's a curiosity that I think comes with and a humility to be like I'm 25, I don't have it all figured out, like there's some wisdom here that I can tap into, so I am a little bit concerned. I mean, I'm old, I'm 33, I'm a millennial, you know, on the, on the later end, but even the difference between some eighties kids and nineties kids is a little bit of a stereotype, but the, the lack of EQ, emotional intelligence because they've been so glued to their screens and just basic like how to talk to an adult, they just don't even go out of their way to try to engage, it, it's concerning to me. Now that's a broad statement. I don't think every 90's kid is that way, but I do think, um, even as a father raising two kids born in, you know, 2016 and 18, it's like how do I, how do I kind of even watch how I use my smartphone around them so that they don't just. And I'm already teaching my son who's two, how to shake an adult's hand, you know, he's, he doesn't really fully get it, but he'll put his hand out and shake his hand, look them in the eye, you know, just basic stuff. So, so yeah, Adam, I think, um, I think, uh, a lack of mentees would be concerning if there's no people that really are hungry to grow in your organization, you may want to, might want to look at, do you have the right people on the bus?
Dave Neff: 15:02 But I think it's also just bringing people along to say, hey, look, here's why this is important and here's how it just can make you better at not only your job but in terms of well rounded in your life. That's good. So for staying on that topic, so, so if you're a company looking to build a mentorship, a mentorship program, if you will, what are some of the first steps that they would need to take and kind of getting that up and going? Yeah, that's a great question. So we actually, um, um, yeah, we could, we could talk about Edge, but I think we've got a new program that we're testing this year. It's called Edge At Work and we're not trying to reinvent the wheel here or anything like that, but we've kind of built out a year, years' worth of curriculum that um, a leader at a company, let's use Morales Group as an example that could, they could kind of take this playbook with four or five younger people and actually go through it together and it's kind of, it's purpose driven. So, you know, we try to weave in a tool like the Enneagram, which is a kind of like a Myers Briggs, sort of personality assessment. So maybe you start there because I think in any, any sort of um, mentoring kind of relationship, it's important to understand who you are first, right? And understand yourself. And so I think trying to have a little bit of a playbook before you just launch in to having a corporate mentoring program, and so that's what we've tried to create what we've got this 20, 24 week curriculum. So you'd do it twice a month, roughly over the course of a year and it allows them, the employer to weave in, like if they want to weave in some of their company's core values to the process, it's kind of a way to remind people of here's what our company's about as well as leverage some of the curriculum and resources that we've curated.
Dave Neff: 16:41 But I think it's, I think you've got to A: have some, have some curriculum or some organization before you just go purely organic and make it all relational. I think secondly, identifying people that would be open to whether it's serving as a mentor or a mentee and, and what are the, what are the expectations, you know, and so clearly laying some of that out. And then I think there has to be somebody that's owning it that's um, that's kind of waking up and knows the personalities involved like at Edge, when we form an Edge group, so that's one mentor with five or six mentees, everyone's filled out an application, like we have some context on who is this person. It's not just names on a paper and say, okay, these four names with this name, it's like, no, I can, I could see it's more of an art than it is a science when you go to, to form maybe a one, whether it's one on one or one to five. Um, I think you just really have to be mindful of the personalities and probably don't want six hard charging type a's in a, in a group, but to have maybe some more introverted or people from different departments for that, diverse, I think diversity is key when you're, if you're going to do a, a group sort of mentoring versus a one to one.
Adam Scholtes: 17:50 That's good. That's good. So, so talk to us a little bit off a little bit about Edge.
Dave Neff: 17:54 Yeah. So, so, uh, real quick, I think the last four and a half years is really when I entered the scene to work with Edge full-time and prior to that it really had been an informal thing that as I mentioned earlier, Jeff Simmons had invited me into back in and this was like summer of 2009, so about nine years ago, I was 24, still single, working for the Pacers, had met him, uh, through, through business, through Pacers and Elanco, and he said, hey, I've started this mentoring group and uh, the model is twice a month, we do an hour long conference call or video conference. And um, he's like, it would be you and some other guys. He'd already been doing it for about three months, but, um, it's, it's whole life in nature. So we'll talk career professional development. But we're also talk personal habits and disciplines and it's kind of wrapped in a with a faith lands. Wasn't a Bible study. But as, as a, as a man of a man of God, his faith was important to him. He's married, six kids, you know, and I was just kind of, when he invited me in, I was meeting, like I said earlier, a lot of people through that role at the pacers, but to find somebody that was at the top of their field professionally and also seem to be thriving personally, had a, had a healthy marriage, had kids that, you know, love them, and, and, and we're just engaged in some, some good things in the community. I mean, it's sometimes harder to find that than not. And now as I get older you realize, man, it's tough to juggle, right? Even those three areas of, you know, family work, faith and to do it, to do it well. Um, and so he just was a super credible guy in my eyes that, okay, you're offering to mentor me.
Dave Neff: 19:30 And, and um, it's this group of guys, I think I can carve out a couple of hours a month and over the course of 2009 to end of '13, it just became a couple of hours a month I really looked forward to, I'd always leave the calls energized, feeling like I'd learned from not only Jeff but also the other mentees in the group. And we were spread out. Some of us were here in Indy, but we had a guy in Chicago, guy in Michigan, two out in California. I mean, we were in different industries, but I think with the commonality we had is we were all in our twenties when you make a lot of decisions that set your life on a trajectory for good or for good or for bad. Um, and you know, I think learning to that, it's not just about how much money you can make or how, how quickly you can climb the corporate ladder, but how do you, uh, kind of harness and channel some of that ambition and drive and, and, and do it the right way. So that was, um, '09 to '13 as we were kind of doing our Edge group, which really the name comes from proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Um, there was more, there were other young guys that I was friends with and other guys in the group of friends with.
Dave Neff: 20:34 So that's a really cool model. If you ever find other business leaders like Jeff that would want to because you know, his group kinda capped at nine, he just couldn't keep adding guys said we'd love to be part of it. And so we, um, we essentially from there took a, uh, there's another organization in town, Truth At Work that um, kind of, uh, took Edge under its wing and had a couple of part time people working on it at first and then really wasn't making a ton of progress, and so I remember Jeff called me at the end of '13 and just said, Dave, this Edge thing, we either need to to put it back in the garage or hire somebody full time that's waking up trying to recruit mentors and mentees and actually building out a program. So I resigned from Salesforce and January of '14 and from February of '14 on have been, I've been building it out, so we've launched over the last four plus years, about 120 of these Edge groups. So one mentor with, you know, on average six mentees, men, men groups, women groups.
Dave Neff: 21:32 Um, we've got a conference coming up. EdgeX that we do, this will be our third year doing it. It's just a half day, four hours, 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, um, really leadership conference. So we've had folks like Mitch Daniels and Tamika Catchings and Bob Goff in years past this year, we're going to have Tony Dungy and Scott Dorsey from High Alpha and, Shauna Niequistt from Chicago who's an author, and a few others. Um, so really our core is, our product is a human capital product and that it's, it's, um, men and women, mentors and mentees from all industries, all sized companies that really just have the mentors have a passion for paying it forward and are humble enough to say I'm not done learning and I think I can learn from a younger generation. And the mentees are typically ages 22 to 32, kind of those first 10 years out where you're making a lot of decisions, um, that like, as I said earlier, kind of shape your trajectory. And so we, um, the, the Edge groups and then EdgeX as well as some other events throughout the year have been our main kind of product, if you will. And we're trying some new things like this Edge At Work and a guest mentoring option and things like that in, in 2018 and we're also in the process and I'll wrap here, um, last year we got a grant from the Lilly Endowment to fund a, a strategic plan. And so we're in the process of wrapping up what is the net plan look like for the next three to five years because really I haven't, I haven't seen anything like Edge.
Dave Neff: 22:59 I mean I've talked to people across the country about edge and yeah, there's like some similarities to is it a, is an adult version of Young Life or Young Life meets YPO, kind of this intergenerational cohort model, but there's nothing quite like it in other markets. And if you google, you know, millennial mentor and you get a lot of articles but not really like organizations that are trying to help facilitate and promote more of this culture of just mentoring, whole life mentoring, access, development, leadership, so...
Adam Scholtes: 23:27 That's great. That's awesome. Yeah. Well real, real quick, Dave, I know, you and me are personal friends and I know when, when I saw on Linkedin or Facebook or one of the social media sites back back in the day that you were leaving to go to this Edge group, I remember googling Edge. I can see myself sitting on my couch and going what, what is this like, what does Dave do? And he's leaving ExactTarget to go to Edge and it's been fun for me personally just to kind of watch what you've done with Edge. So kudos to you and your group, man. It's, it's, it's been awesome. If I could plug EdgeX, it's my favorite event for the entire year. I look forward to going every year. Um, you know, I'd love to get more people.
Dave Neff: 24:07 Well, we're thankful Morales Group is one of our, is one of our title sponsors, so Morales Group, Seth, Jackie, Tom, um, have been just tremendous supporters of our work and we're so grateful for that. And so you can go to www.edgexconference.org and learn more and you can also find more about Edge if you want to get involved as a mentor or mentee, so...
Adam Scholtes: 24:25 That's great. Awesome. Dave, thanks a lot. Really appreciate your time.
Dave Neff: 24:28 I loved it. Thanks guys for having me on.
Kofi Darku: 24:31 Wow, that's really great when we can bring an expert in to help us understand more about some of these tools that are improving workforce development. Dave's expertise not only gives insight to people who were in the room with us, but it helps all those following understand that I'm more right than you are when it comes to this mentoring in the workplace. You don't have to defend yourself.
Adam Scholtes: 24:53 I'll just let you have that one Kofi.
Kofi Darku: 24:54 The tape, the tape is going to tell the tale. Please stay engaged and follow us at #skillupbuildup where we're leading talent to thrive.