Find your mentor

$6C5C365EB06A03D5When I talk to managers I get the feeling that they are important. When I talk to leaders I get the feeling that I am important. – Alexander Den Heijer

Where would any of us be without our mentors? The most famous and successful people in the world have individuals standing behind them who propped them up on their shoulders and said, “You can do it” while pointing the way.

I had an enlightening experience yesterday while speaking with one of my mentors. The type of mentor that I look for display attributes that align with my self- leadership/servant-leadership philosophy. That person is typically experienced in my field, empathetic, and willing to invest time in me; they see potential where other see limits.

Get away from these two types of people: the ones who think you can only go as far as the situation you were born into; and the ones who think you can only go as far as the current situation you are in. – Dee Dee M. Scott

I’ve had excellent mentors in the past. During my time as a military officer, I spent a lot of time ‘picking the brains’ of my commanders. It was not always a fruitful endeavor, but when I encountered a strong and willing mentor, I was hooked.

Through others we become ourselves. – Lev Vygotsky

Development of self, of the leader within, has been a passionate pursuit of mine since I was introduced to leadership theory in college. Recognizing, through reflection and feedback, the potential within us and the character traits we need to enhance is an essential aspect of self-leadership.

Seeking the advice of others is a step that many people neglect. Perhaps we are afraid of being rejected, maybe we are shy, or perhaps we don’t really know what we are looking for in a mentor. Whatever the reason, mentors provide that nudge we need, the guidance to become more.

I think it is important to have people in your life who will take an interest in you and your career and help guide you.former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

I’m grateful every day for those few people who have taken the time and invested the effort into mentoring me. I would not be the person, the leader that I am without their example and support. Becoming a mentor to others, either formally or informally, is a constant source of motivation for me.

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Mentor the ambitious; don’t accept mediocrity


07.01.2012 - His Hand

There are strategies to deal with all kinds of employees: the ambitious, the unmotivated, the motivated, the over-sharer, the timid…the list goes on an on. In this scenario, you have two main types of employees, the ambitious and the lazy. For the sake of argument, let’s define ambitious as the type of employee who exerts him/herself every day, taking on extra responsibilities, but will keep an eye out for something better. We will define the lazy employee as the person who does the bare minimum required. S/he may not ever blip on the radar, but don’t expect anything of them.

Your life may be easier with the flies-beneath-the-radar employee, but is that the type of organization you want to have? Mediocrity is the standard in that scenario.

Your life may be complicated by the ambitious employee because s/he will ask you questions, expect mentoring, and push you to make decisions that will make your business better.

I would suggest that a major failing of our larger and more stagnant businesses is that they do not have systems in place to reward high achievers. In point of fact, it has been my experience that it is more likely to have ‘award and recognition’ programs than it is to have effective processes in place to either 1. encourage better performance or 2. discourage mediocre performance.

It is relatively easy to discourage poor performance in most companies. Perhaps based on the difficulty in identifying mediocre performers, perhaps based on the difficulty in time management (spending 90% of your time on 10% of your employees), but the mediocre seem to slip through the cracks.

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

Regarding those ambitious, high-performers: MENTOR them. Speak to them honestly about their desires. Find meaningful projects for them to accomplish. Don’t just heap responsibilities on them that others could (and likely should) be doing. These are the value-added individuals that will make your organization thrive.

It is up to you, Leader. Decide what kind of organization you would choose to build, then hire, mentor, promote, fire, punish, as appropriate.