Who Are You a Mentor To?

Who Are You a Mentor To?

I hope that question brings to mind a list of people in your life. If not, don’t sweat it. You’re probably already mentoring someone and just don’t think of it that way. You should! Being a mentor is one of the best ways you can “give something back” by sharing your insight, experience and perspective with someone who is facing challenges similar to those you have faced. It’s something I find to be truly rewarding in life.

In the past I’ve seen people make mentoring out to be far more formal than it needs to be. At its best, mentoring is simply guiding and advising another to help them be successful. Mentoring doesn’t need to occur solely in a supervisor-employee relationship; in fact, my personal experience is that it is often most effective if the mentor is outside of the direct supervisory chain of the individual being mentored. No matter what your business or skill set is, there’s someone out there who can benefit from your experience.

There are a number of ways you can mentor others. Relating a similar problem you faced, offering an alternate perspective, sharing best practices or “pro-tips” are all ways you can share your experience with someone else. Mentoring also provides an opportunity to pass down and encourage organizational culture and values in an informal way. It could even give you a chance to start grooming your replacement for the day when an exciting, new opportunity comes along. Mentoring isn’t one-sided either. When you mentor someone, you get a valuable opportunity to get another perspective on something you may be struggling with as well.

So now you’re fired up about finding someone to mentor! But who? I recommend you actively seek people to mentor who you wouldn’t normally interact with on a daily basis. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to guide the people you work with everyday. There is probably someone out there who can really benefit from your experience and knowledge that you haven’t even met!

As you get started, think about who your mentors have been. There have been people who believed in you and guided you along your journey. What valuable lessons did you learn from them and what style did they use to present it to you?

Chances are you are already mentoring someone and don’t even know it.  Make a conscious decision to develop that relationship and share your experience and insight with that person. Don’t limit yourself to mentoring just one person, especially if you are in a formal supervisory role. It’s important that as you mentor you provide the same opportunities for everyone to avoid the appearance of favoritism.

When you see an opportunity to mentor, jump right in and do it.  Most likely it will be appreciated. If not, you made an honest attempt to try to help someone and there will be other opportunities.

Don’t forget to maintain your own mentors as well! Your own development as a leader is still important while you help others along their path.

Get out there and mentor someone today!

Willpower: It’s Not Just About Getting to the Gym!

By Tomwsulcer (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tomwsulcer (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Recently I was able to attend a speech given by former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich. He made a statement at the beginning of his remarks about “limiting strategic goals to our resources and willpower.” This is not a new idea in the world of foreign policy, but I think it is worth exploring on a more everyday scale as we look at setting our own goals and objectives and leading our teams through achieving them.

I’m certainly not going to get into a discussion about foreign policy or politics here today! I’m mostly interested in discussing the idea of our “willpower” as leaders. I’m not advocating limiting our goals (and I don’t think Mr. Gingrich was either), but I do believe that there’s a certain amount of follow-through required to keep from being pulled away onto efforts that detract from our overall vision. Just like sticking to a diet or getting to the gym every day, it takes willpower to follow through on our vision and keep ourselves and our teams focused on achieving it. If we don’t have the willpower, we’ll fall short of achieving the goal.

No matter what our vision is, we need to ask ourselves, “Are my actions and decisions today aligned with my overall vision?” It can be extremely easy to gloss over this question when faced with all the problems that crop up. Some mental preparation can help us build that willpower before we need to make those daily decisions. A few specific questions that you can ask yourself to align your willpower with your goals:

1) Do you have a strategy to achieve your overall vision? It is a rare and gifted leader who can bring all his people and resources together to achieve a large goal without thinking about what smaller steps need to be achieved to get there.

2) Are all of your short-term objectives in line with achieving the larger goal? If they’re not, consider if they should still be objectives. If external forces are setting these objectives, consider how much priority they deserve if they don’t help your overall vision.

3) Are those short-term goals aligned in a united effort or are they working at cross-purposes? This is more common than you might think. A goal that sounds like a good idea today can actually take resources away from other initiatives and hinder your effort to achieve the big picture. Periodic re-evaluation of the impact short-term goals have on the overall vision is a must.

Finally, it’s important that you don’t set your sights too low as you create your vision. All too often, we limit our goals to what is “realistic” as opposed to what we really would like to accomplish. My message for you today is not to limit your vision, but to focus your willpower on following through to achieve that vision and reap the rewards that come with it!