Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy New Year & Taking A Break

Image by Alan Saporta

Dear Readers, Subscribers and Viewers:

Mentoring is my passion and has been an activity I've pursued in one form or another for over 15 years. I've been regularly blogging about the topic for 3 1/2 years and YouTube-ing every week for the last 6 months. As the New Year approaches it reminds us all that it is a time for reflection, rest, healing and renewal. In that spirit I'm going to be taking a break. Please continue to review, share and like the articles and videos! I hope you find them of continued use. If you haven't yet been mentored or become a mentor I strongly encourage you to consider doing so in the new year. And as always I enthusiastically welcome questions and insights on any aspect of mentoring you may have. Feel free to email/message me.

Thanks again for your readership/viewership. Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

- Alan Saporta / OnMentoring

Friday, December 20, 2013

The 5 Elements of Luck and the Analogy of the Spider [VIDEO]





The concept of "luck" is a favorite of mine especially because it is used by so many people to explain so many things. The luck concept is often misused as an excuse for inaction, procrastination and self-defeat. In these episodes we look to the spider to help us get a deeper understanding of 'luck' and understand how a spider's 'luck' maps to our own career and lives.

If we follow the wisdom of the spider we may find ourselves 'luckier'!

Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." - Seneca

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Looking Backwards to Look Forwards [VIDEO]




"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

You can not move forward optimally without occasionally looking to the past. Those who only ever "live in the moment" may be missing wonderful learning and growth opportunities. In this episode I make the case you need to look backwards in order to better look forwards.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A "New" Communication Tool [VIDEO]



In this episode we delve into one of the most powerful yet difficult and overlooked communication tools a person can have in their repertoire.

You can view the episode by clicking here!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

On Giving Thanks to Mentors

Image from: http://tobiasmastgrave.files.wordpress.com/

A really great question made its way to this blog around how to give thanks to a mentor. With the American holiday of Thanksgiving just around the corner it felt like an appropriate time for me to post on this topic. Mentors have such an outsized impact on someone's life is there really a good way to show gratitude?

I think there are 3 good ways you can thank your mentor:
  1. The usual way. We show gratitude in many ways to many people for many things by giving a gift, sending a card or flowers, etc. I'm sure your mentor will appreciate the thought and effort of just such a gesture.
  2. By offering to help. I've always advocated that mentoring is a 2-way relationship and that the mentee should offer to help the prospective mentor in the very first conversation they have about starting the relationship. If you as the mentee haven't been taken up on that offer or even if it's been awhile since you've given something back then reminding the mentor that you are ready to help will be very much appreciated.
  3. Taking their advice and having it come to fruition. I believe this is the best way to show gratitude. Using your mentor's advice and have that result in a fantastic outcome. And then recognize that outcome was in part due to your mentor. Most mentors I know wouldn't ask for anything more than seeing their mentee succeed in some way that is tied to their conversations. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
In this spirit of gratitude I would like to take this opportunity to thank you my subscribers and readers for your visits, your viewership, your great questions and shares!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

3 Tips On How to Make Decisions With Limited Information [VIDEO]



Have you ever had to make an important decision but didn't have all the information you'd like at your disposal in order to make that choice? That happens often in life. Here I present 3 tips that will help you move forward and reduce decision-making stress at the same time.

You can view the video by clicking here!

"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." - Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, November 8, 2013

Curiosity: The Ultimate Attribute [VIDEO]



What would you say is the most important attribute to have to lead a successful life? I was asked a similar question once and had what I believe was a sensible answer. But after some thought decided there was an even better answer.

To view the episode you can click here!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Power of Reframing [VIDEO]



Reframing is a powerful tool you have at your disposal for problem solving. In today's episode I describe this technique that I often share with my mentees to help them figure out challenging situations.

This episode is inspired by and borrows a story, an idea and a quote from this excellent article: http://www.successmeasures.com/reframing.htm

To view the episode you can click here!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Transforming into a Manager [VIDEO]


If you or someone you know is about to move (or has recently moved) into management then this series is for you. I found over my years of mentoring that 3 key pieces of advice kept coming up in my conversations with new managers. I share these hard won nuggets with you in these episodes. Join me!

Playlist here.

Or you can watch each of the episodes embedded below:


Transforming into a Manager Part 1 - Letting Go



Transforming into a Manager Part 2 - A Magical Tip



Transforming into a Manager Part 3 - Workplace Politics

Monday, September 30, 2013

Study Lists Mentoring Most Effective Leadership Development Technique




A recently published survey of CIOs pointed to mentoring as the most effective talent development technique currently in use.

Two articles, "Mentoring or Coaching/Consulting Found to Be the Best Leadership Development Tactic" and "CIOs Say Mentoring Works, Classes Don’t" refer to the same study. To quote the first article "In fact, mentoring or coaching was the only leadership development technique that was rated highly successful or successful by half of the surveys of respondents."

While I'm personally pleased to read that mentoring is the top tool it's interesting to speculate why that is the case?

I believe mentoring is more impactful than other talent development techniques such as taking courses because:

  1. Mentoring is a 1:1 activity. A mentee gets a lot of personal attention - usually much more so than in a class.
  2. Mentoring does not have a set "lesson plan". This encourages broadness of learning as the mentoring relationship can cover a multitude of topics.
  3. Mentoring is a confidential activity which creates an atmosphere for deeper connection and learning.
  4. Mentoring allows for networking which is key to growing one's sphere of influence. Influence being a critical skill in leadership.
  5. In a mentor the mentee will (usually) find a champion for their advancement. Not that the mentor is necessarily public in their support. But having that type of champion, in other words someone that believes in you, can give someone the necessary confidence boost they need to advance towards their goals.
This is another great data point to support having a formal or even informal mentoring program at your company and to participate in that program if you aren't doing so already.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Transforming into a Manager





The shift from individual contributor to a manager is usually a challenging one. There are entire books and courses dedicated to helping people navigate that transformation. This post is going to focus on only two aspects of that shift. But these two aspects are critical to making that leap successfully.

Letting Go

After building a successful career by "doing" a new manager has to learn the tough lesson of letting go of the work and stepping into the more abstract "coaching" role. This is incredibly difficult because up until that time most people feel that their value to the company was completely based on what they produced with their own hands. Most new managers have a tendency to micromanage their team because of they don't let go of this paradigm.

Learning to be a leader means not using your own hands but instead seeing the team you lead as being a multitude of hands working towards success for the company. It means seeing the team you lead as making you exponentially more valuable and more productive.

So how does one learn to let go?

It's not easy. It takes several ingredients:

  1. Self-control: To that brand new leader it's clear that they know the best way to work otherwise they wouldn't have received a promotion - right? Not necessarily. There are many "right" paths to a desired result. This new manager must stop themselves from jumping into details and giving direction to people on their team who clearly know what they are doing. A new manager is desperate to make sure their team is delivering but micromanagement usually leads to team disengagement and folly.
  2. Confidence: Letting go requires two kinds of confidence. The first is confidence in the team's ability to do the work. If the team cannot do the work this leads to the second kind of confidence required - the confidence that the new manager can coach individuals to superior performance and take appropriate corrective action when necessary. Building this confidence requires ingredient #3...
  3. Time: There is no substitute for experience. Once a new manager sees the team successfully execute and deliver over a period of time their confidence will build. It will also build after they see that they can successfully recover from team deficiencies and issues.


Think of the Person

This is one of the most important lessons I learned from my own first mentor as I became a new manager. I had already been leading teams but not from a personnel standpoint. I understood leadership only from a task assignment perspective. A few weeks into my new managerial role my mentor pulled me aside and said that I would not be successful if I continued to view leadership as just assigning tasks. He told me I was not thinking about the team member as a person. I was thinking of them as just something that could accomplish work.

Of course I wanted to correct this problem and begged him for a solution. His advice: "Just think of the person. That's all. Think of the person and not just the task when you talk to someone and you will magically improve."

I didn't believe it at first. How could I magically improve by holding just that thought?

I followed his advice assiduously but skeptically. After a few days of "keeping the person in mind" to my amazement I started noticing a whole new world I was blind to earlier. As I was assigning a task to one individual I realized that they were not in a good mood and that it probably wasn't the right time to assign them additional work. With someone else I noticed (via non-verbal cues) they were worried about accomplishing the task I was about to give to them so that led me to inquire how I could help them.

I became a far, far better manager (and frankly, a far better human) after just "thinking of the person".

It was a very simple yet extremely powerful piece of advice that I pass on to all my new manager mentees and also pass on to you.

If you (or your mentee) are about to embark or are already on this transformation to management I congratulate you. You are on a surprisingly hard, deeply influential and ultimately fulfilling journey. Best of luck!

Image from: http://www.opencrypt.com

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Silent Mentor




Shh!
Shh! (Photo credit: .Andi.)
This post was inspired by a great blog post by LaRae Quy entitled "The Many Faces of Mentorship". In that article she discusses several varied aspects of mentoring. One of her themes that I'd like to explore is that of a person who mentors you without an explicit or traditional mentoring relationship in place.

This is a bit unusual as I've always discussed mentoring in terms of meetings, conversations, questions and 2 way interactions. So I am stretching the term 'mentoring' here. However this approach can be absolutely invaluable in the right context.

Because this kind of mentoring is not centered around conversations with your targeted individual I call it silent mentoring. The silence doesn't mean that you don't speak with the person at all (although that's possible) but rather it refers to not having typical, ongoing mentoring conversations.

So what is a Silent Mentor?

A silent mentor is someone in your life you select to learn from without telling them or having a formal mentoring relationship with them. In LaRae's article she states "a mentor can be anyone you learn from". She tells the story that as a young FBI agent she learned from a seasoned co-worker who actually did not want to work with her. He even looked for ways to get her transferred to another team! Yet she gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about her field from that person.

Anyone one of us can have multiple silent mentors. You just need to quietly decide for yourself the set of people you choose to learn from and model. Then observe, analyze and learn from them. You can select "negative" silent mentors too! These are people from whom you learn what not to do and how not to act. Those kinds of people are powerful teachers in their own right if you frame it that way in your mind.

I've personally had and currently still have numerous silent mentors throughout my career. For example I have several silent mentors who teach me how to be a better public speaker. By analyzing how they present I've come to incorporate their methods into my own technique. I've learned from several past managers how to deftly navigate rough political waters without asking them a single question on that topic. My best friend continues to demonstrate how to connect with and be compassionate towards others. And for every "positive" silent mentor I have about 2 "negative" ones which I won't go into here.

So whether you have a formal mentor or not I'm pretty sure you can look around at people in your life who can be your silent mentors. There's a rich set of lessons those people are providing you and they don't even know it!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Question That Never Gets Asked

Over the many years of mentoring I can safely say that a good portion of my conversations are specifically about career advancement. A large subset of those conversations have to do with advancement into management. The question I invariably get asked in one form or another is "how do I become a manager?". The problem is that it's not the right question to ask. Certainly not at first.

The right question to ask, which I've rarely been asked, is "Should I become a manager?"

That is in fact the more important question.

I understand why this question doesn't get asked. In most companies the only path to career advancement is through management. There is no other path available so the question doesn't even come up. Unfortunately not everyone is cut out to lead people. And that's ok! Not everyone is cut out to be a brain surgeon or a teacher or an engineer or a fireman either.

When I'm being asked by a mentee about how to get into management my first response is a simple question back: "Why do you want to become a manager?"

Here are some of the answers I've received:

  • To get more responsibility
  • To earn more money
  • To get an office
  • To have a secretary
  • To get more visibility with upper management
  • To make people listen to me

None of these are the right reasons to get into management. In a mentee's response I need to hear some amount of energy and enthusiasm about working with people for me to think that this person is a candidate for management. Personally speaking I got into and stayed in management and leadership because I discovered during my career that while I love working in my industry the highlights of my day were the one on one meetings with team members. That is in fact a criteria I suggest to mentees seeking to become managers: are one-on-one meetings the highlight of their day?

Right now at companies all around the world individuals are promoted into management who don't have and are unlikely to attain that skill. If you've ever had a bad boss you know the havoc that person can wreak on a team and ultimately to the customer and to the business.

Mentoring is about helping people reach their full potential through self-awareness and self-realization. It's just as important to know what to step back from as it is to know what to move towards. By guiding certain people away from becoming managers we are helping them as well as future teams and companies.


Monday, July 8, 2013

The Difference Between Mentoring and Coaching

Image from: http://smartleadersnetwork.com/

A typical point of confusion I often come across is around the difference between mentoring and coaching. Indeed those terms are usually used interchangeably. There are many explanations already out there comparing the two activities but would like to share my perspective as well:


  1. The biggest difference is that coaching is usually targeted toward a specific skill. Just as in a sports you work with a coach to improve one area.  Mentoring's scope is much broader than that. With mentoring your aim is to improve someone's life and support their growth as a professional and as a person. You could consider coaching more tactical and mentoring more strategic.
  2. In other words, coaching is about skill development. Mentoring is about personal and career development.
  3. The time frame around coaching is shorter and dependent upon how long it takes for someone to improve a skill whereas mentoring can last years or even span decades because topics discussed are as broad as life itself.
  4. In mentoring the agenda is set by the mentee. The mentor generally has much more life and career experience than the mentee. With coaching the coach brings particular expertise and drives the discussions specifically to improve the targeted skill.
  5. Coaching can be done by a direct line manager in the hopes of improving an employee's aptitude whereas mentoring should be done by someone outside of the mentee's reporting structure. This will encourage a more open and confidential environment.
  6. Outside of the immediate manager's coaching role, coaching is done more often for pay by the coach as compared to mentoring which is done for free (or preferably in exchange for something a mentee could provide but not money).

While mentoring and coaching involve many of the same skills on the coach/mentor's part they are really two different activities with different focus, goals and time frames.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

OnMentoring on YouTube!





“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”
― Benjamin Disraeli

Do you feel stuck in your career? Are you looking to grow professionally and personally? A key factor in many successful careers is finding or becoming a mentor. My new YouTube channel, much like this blog, will cover everything from why participate in mentoring to how to find a mentor to how to be a great mentor. I'll share stories and advice on how to create and ensure a successful mentoring relationship. I also look forward to answering questions about mentoring and professional advancement just as I do here.

So if career development and mentoring is important to you then this your channel! Join me on a mentoring journey by subscribing to this channel and sharing it with friends who are also looking to move forward in their professional life.

Mentoring is all about revealing someone else's own riches to themselves and enriching oneself in the joy and satisfaction that results.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Millennials and Mentoring

Image from: http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20130620/FREE/130629990


A fellow mentor shared this article the other day entitled "Millennials want mentoring, expert says". (Millennials are people generally born somewhere from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.) That's great for them and probably very true. The article goes on to state three things I'd like to mention. Two things I agree with and one that I absolutely do not:

"The idea of mentoring has changed and does not only mean a face-to-face relationship with an older person, said Jeanne Meister author of "The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow's Employees Today (HarperBusiness 2010). Mentoring today often takes place over the phone or via Skype and occurs whenever the person being mentored needs some feedback or other help learning the ropes at a particular institution or industry..."
Absolutely agree here. The nature of mentoring has expanded to going beyond in person meetings. Just as all of business has evolved to finding cheaper ways to connect people with each other so too mentoring has evolved. I think this is a positive development because as a mentee you are no longer constrained by geography in your search for a great mentor.

"'A lot of companies' structured mentoring programs have failed as they have tried to put structure to something that is basically a relationship,”'

I disagree. Yes, a lot of companies' mentoring programs have failed but not because of the structure of the programs necessarily. In my opinion formal mentoring programs tend to fail when:

  1. the executive champion of said program leaves the division or company
  2. the company realizes that while mentoring is an inexpensive employee development and retention tool it still requires someone's time to launch, organize and maintain
  3. the company is unable to keep up with the demand - usually having many more mentees than mentors. 

While there isn't much that can be done with issue #1 there are however good solutions to #2 and #3 depending on the company.
"Millennials may ask some surprising questions on interviews, such as, “How long will it take to become the next CEO?” or “Do I have to wear shoes at the office?” Ms. Meister said. She recommends that firms try to look past this type of questioning."
Back to agreeing here when applied to your own mentoring conversations. This is good advice for any mentor whether your mentee is a millennial or not. Our job is not to judge every question asked necessarily but to help the mentee understand their own motivation for asking those particular questions in the first place.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Being a Memorable Boss

Image from: http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/8-ways-to-be-memorable-boss.html

The saying rightfully goes: "People don't leave companies. They leave managers." That's true. Finding a great boss/manager/leader is like discovering a 10 carat diamond. Few people leave behind a 10 carat diamond even if the surrounding conditions are downright atrocious.

Many of my mentees manage other people and so are "bosses" themselves. They often consult me on a variety of people management situations. I'm always happy to help and guide them based on a set of leadership principles.

I recently came across a fantastic article entitled "8 Ways to Be a Truly Memorable Boss" by Jeff Haden. As a leader myself I found the article to cover the same principles I share, strive to achieve and hope to impart. It is well written and succinct. The principles he describes are listed below but you should go ahead and read the entire article especially if you manage others:

  1. They believe the unbelievable.
  2. They see opportunity in instability and uncertainty.
  3. They wear their emotions on their sleeves.
  4. They protect others from the bus.
  5. They’ve been there, done that, and still do that.
  6. They lead by permission, not authority.
  7. They embrace a larger purpose.
  8. They take real risks, not fake risks.
The areas that most resonate with me and that have been discussed in this blog are #2, #4, #6 (go see  "Manage as if you have no authority" ) and #8.

A final thought - there's another popular saying about the difference between a leader and a manager which goes: "Managers get things done right. Leaders get the right things done." 

I say that a "memorable boss" does both!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Real Image

Image from: http://www.ft.com

The "Dove Real Beauty Sketches" video has now been seen more than 54 million times. I was lucky enough to see it before it passed the half million mark and have been thinking about it ever since. A former FBI forensic artist was hired to draw seven women twice - both times unseen. Once based on the woman's own description of herself and then again based on the description of someone else that had just met them. The difference in each of the two portraits is stark with the ones done based on the person's own description of themselves appearing colder and 'uglier'. If you haven't seen the video yet it's worth taking a look now. The video is below and it's only 3 minutes:

Self-image is a fascinating topic. A straightforward definition of it from wikipedia states:

A person's self-image is the mental picture, generally of a kind that is quite resistant to change, that depicts not only details that are potentially available to objective investigation by others (height, weight, hair color, gender, I.Q. score, etc.), but also items that have been learned by that person about himself or herself, either from personal experiences or by internalizing the judgments of others. A simple definition of a person's self-image is their answer to the question "What do you believe people think about you?".
While the video is targeted towards women and physical appearance someone makes the following statement that rings true: "[Self image] impacts the choices in the friends we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children. It impacts everything." 

A huge part of mentoring is about working with what's going on inside a person. Understanding a mentee's  mental map and having it understood by them will go a long way to achieving their goals.  To get to that understanding I use certain questions such as:

  1. If I spoke to your manager what would they say is your best quality? Your biggest gap?
  2. If I interviewed your colleagues (or your direct reports) what would they say are your strengths? Your weaknesses?
  3. Tell me about a time in your career when you felt most proud. Tell me why.
  4. Tell me about a time in your career when you felt like a huge failure. Tell me why.
Working through these questions will allow the person to talk through their perceptions which will reveal a lot about their self-image.

The tough thing about self-image is that it's notoriously difficult to change. The great thing about self-image is that even a very small shift can make a tremendous difference.

As an example I worked with several mentees whose self-image generated feelings of low self-confidence. They were afraid to make presentations or ask for choice projects. We started by understanding the (sometimes completely unfounded) causes of this lack of confidence and addressed many of those issues/perceptions head on. In some cases I had to help someone get comfortable with the possibility of trying something new and failing. But in other cases where the mentee was already talented in a particular area but lacked confidence all I did was encourage them to take a class or simply asked them to start acting as if they deserved the best assignments and start believing they could make stunning presentations.  In all those cases over time we were able to surpass their own expectations of themselves. Their self-image had changed and along with that their reality had shifted positively.

Even for folks that are very aware of the impact that self-image has on someone's success and happiness in the world it's striking to see that impact in a video like the one above. I hope it resonates with you.



Monday, April 15, 2013

Looking backwards to look forwards

Image from: http://safetybootsandcrochet.wordpress.com

"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
There are many people who proudly state that they "never look back" or "live always in the present". I've had some mentees of mine make these bold declarations. And that's great. It's also a fine approach to consider for those folks that can't let go of past events in their lives and allow those events to determine (read: limit) their success today.

But if you're someone that has a generally healthy relationship with their past I suggest a different perspective. (You don't have to be proud or comfortable with every single second of your entire life to fit in this category. Just don't be stuck in the past. You'll know if this statement applies to you). I would argue that only looking forwards can be just as unhelpful as only living in the past.

I've realized over the years in my conversations that many people who "never look back" are ones who are tremendously uncomfortable with stuff back there. They are unwilling or unable to deal with certain events. The problem with that is having never dealt with those events in their past they are ill-prepared to deal with similar situations as they pop up in the future.

Our past isn't there just for nostalgia. Nor is it to be used as some sort of imaginary shield from the present.

Our own history is sitting there available to us to be used to:
  1. learn from and continually improve
  2. ensure we don't repeat mistakes
  3. build on past success as a foundation for future success
  4. shape who we are
Just as in driving a car while moving forwards we're regularly checking our rear and side view mirrors for safety's sake.

When I discover one of my mentees to be a "never look back" person I do two things:
  1. Gently probe their relationship with their own past. Is it one of comfort or avoidance? If avoidance then we have plenty to talk about!
  2. Describe the richness that the past holds and encourage them to glance back once in awhile.

"I regret nothing in my life. Even if my past was full of hurt I still look back and smile because it made me who I am today." - Anonymous

Thursday, April 4, 2013

On Roger Ebert's Passing

Roger Ebert. Image from: http://www.cnn.com

Just a quick post on movie critic Roger Ebert's passing. I never considered myself a 'fan' of his per se. But I did admire his tenacity at following his passion despite a host of intimidating challenges not the least of which was his illness.

I will simply re-print a fantastic quote from him below that comes from the end of his memoir "Life Itself":

"‘Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out." - Roger Ebert

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Better has no finish line

Image from: http://socialinfairfax.com/better-has-no-finish-line/ 

I saw this billboard the other day from the bottlers of Arrowhead water. And I quite like what it says:

"Better has no finish line."

The concept of continuous improvement is a core part of mentoring. It's also been a stated trait of many of the most successful people in the world. Never being fully satisfied with what one has achieved has been one of the keys to success for people like Bill Gates to Tiger Woods. It's a part of their DNA. It's a never ending quest they're on and it's a quest any one of us can undertake. The thirst for continuous improvement pushes us to work harder or work smarter (or both) and innovate.

I often write about happiness on this blog given it's an oft-stated goal of most of my mentees. On the surface it sounds contradictory to strive for happiness while remaining unsatisfied with one's achievements. But I don't agree. Achievement is merely a marker, a rest stop if you will, while happiness is found in the journey itself. Achievement is the proof you're on that journey. It's an opportunity to evaluate and not much more.

If going on this quest sets you on a path to successfully honing your craft, no matter what that craft is, and you enjoy that path then you have found happiness.

"Better has no finish line" isn't an imposition or a judgement against you. It's instead a master's challenge. Some mentees approach me with this concept already understood and we work contently together on that path to improvement. Other mentees approach me without that understanding and see mentoring as a quick way to "get answers" to their career-related problems as they climb the corporate ladder. With the latter I strive to erase that finish line they have in their heads.

This leads me to a final thought and quote below: continuous improvement doesn't have to be only about big things you're trying to get better at such as "communication" or "networking" or reaching some level of competency at your job. Continuous improvement can and should be about the small things too. Even if all you do is something like decide to get to meetings on time or help one additional person out by answering a question or even start inviting someone to step into an elevator in front of you you will already be creating an environment and an internal conversation towards self-development and ultimately happiness.

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How do you know if you'll be a good mentor?

Symbol_thumbs_up
Symbol_thumbs_up (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was recently asked by a reader of this blog "How do I know if I'll be a good mentor?"

Excellent question! It's natural when deciding whether to commit time to an activity to want to know if we'll even be good at it.

Here are 3 simple things to consider:
  1. Do you have a strong interest in mentoring? Usually when we are passionate about something we'll be really good at it. If we're not good at first then we'll get much better at it with far less effort than someone who's not interested in that activity. You probably wouldn't be reading this blog if you weren't excited about mentoring and all the gifts it has to offer so you're already on the right track.
  2. Realize that there's a lot of chemistry involved. Not everyone will be a good mentor to everyone else. As highlighted in past posts such as "Tips for asking someone to be your Mentor" the Mentor and Mentee need to "click". A successful mentoring relationship needs to be built on trust and mutual respect. Also you need to ensure that the candidate mentee is looking for the kind of mentoring you have to offer. If not, it doesn't mean you're a bad mentor. It just means this wasn't the right pairing. So keep looking!
  3. Finally, just try it! You never know if you'll be good at something until you try it. There's very little downside and lots of upside to mentoring for everyone involved. Once you've had the experience you can decide if it's something you'd like to continue. Mentoring is the kind of activity that the more you do the better you get. It's as simple as that.
If at the end of any of your mentoring conversations your mentee says a sincere "thank you" then you've succeeded.

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” - Anon.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Inspire Your Brain

Image from: http://www.cnn.com

I came across this very short, straightforward article by Deepak Chopra the other day entitled "Secrets to a Better Brain". The key message in the article is:

The best way to relate to your brain is to inspire it; the worst way is to ignore it.

He goes on to list a set of activities to inspire your brain. I agree with the entire list. Go and take a quick read.

I would add two additional items.

The first is: "Be grateful". Practicing gratitude and focusing on what you have rather than what you lack will unlock a soothing flow of brain chemicals in the same spirit as Chopra's article. I have found in many a mentee as well as myself that gratitude somehow brings about more things to be grateful for. In a mechanism I cannot yet describe focusing on the abundance you already have inspires your brain to discover (and how to bring about) even more abundance.

Secondly: "Become a mentor for someone or become a mentee yourself". Mentoring is a golden opportunity to, as the article recommends, both 'bond with another' and 'give of yourself'. Mentoring inspires two brains! It is an activity almost all of us can participate in and, for many people I know, proves to be surprisingly rewarding.

As the new year begins this is my call to action for you.