Getting the Most from a Mentor

Mentor

Last week I posted the first in a 4-week series on Mentors, Coaches, and Sponsors. You can review week 1: Mentors, Coaches, and Sponsors – OH MY! by clicking here. The purpose of this series is to not only cover the important role that all of these can play in the advancement of your career, but also to cover how to find and work with each to get the most of your relationship.

This week, I’m going to focus on Mentors.

As a reminder, a mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. They are someone in your field you admire or they have achieved a level of success you aspire to. I’m not sure who said it but there’s a great quote: “Mentors are angel investors in our souls”.

The primary purpose of a mentor is to guide you to success by allowing you to learn from their triumphs and failures. It’s a perfect scenario, right? You can emulate the things they’ve done right without having to duplicate the things they’ve done wrong.

Attributes & Benefits

A good mentor will give you a reality check. They’ve been in your shoes before and have faced similar challenges. Because of this they can call a spade a spade and can throw a flag when you slip into your fantasy world of how the work place ideally should be instead of how it is.

A good mentor will ask you the hard questions. This will force you to dig deep inside yourself to discover your true motives for your actions and adjust your course accordingly.

When to Seek a Mentor

A mentor is appropriate in just about every stage of your career. Students can seek guidance from professors and others that they admire in their desired field of work on everything from the right courses to take, to the right types of internships to seek out, to which jobs to apply for.

Entry level employees can seek guidance from more seasoned employees within their companies regarding their career path, projects to get involved with, and open opportunities.

It’s always a great idea to seek guidance from successful business owners when you are a business owner yourself.

It’s also a good idea to seek guidance from those who have recently retired when you approach retirement age for their wisdom and lessons learned during the transition.

How to Find a Mentor

Because a mentor is someone you admire or aspire to be like, a mentor can be anyone inside or outside of your field depending upon what you want to be mentored on.

While most of us first consider senior executives as the best mentors, seasoned colleagues should not be overlooked. They can provide a lot of knowledge as long as they aren’t threatened by your ambition. In my experience, I find that colleagues are a lot more likely to be flattered that you would like to be mentored by them then be threatened by your drive. 

Not only do people inside your company make good mentors, so do people at other companies within your industry. There are also local mentoring programs that can suggest mentor/mentee matches.

Regardless of where you look, make sure you select a mentor that is specifically well versed in the area you are looking for assistance.

How to Work with a Mentor

When you make a selection, ask that person for their assistance but be very specific about what you are seeking – don’t make them guess. Tell them what you need assistance with, why you think they are the best fit for you, and what they will get from the relationship. Make sure you set expectations up front about how you will interact and how often you will interact. It is very important to be mindful and respectful of their time.

Typically, a mentor provides support from the kindness of their hearts – which means free. It’s important to note here that it can be really easy to get lopsided in a mentor relationship. What I mean is that it’s really easy for the mentor to do all the giving and the mentee to do all of the taking. You must not allow that to happen.

Never take your mentor for granted. You should constantly thank them for the time and effort they’ve committed to you. A token of gratitude can be verbal thanks yous and heartfelt, handwritten notes. You can take them to lunch or give them a gift certificate to their favorite place. Just make sure it is always clear how much you appreciate their assistance and how much you recognize that they don’t have to do this for you.

Summary

In summary, a mentor is appropriate at any time in your career when you are looking to gain critical skills, navigate challenges at work, or need a sounding board. Mentors are great for talking with you and listening to your needs, giving you perspective, and helping you skill up. The amazing thing about mentor/mentee relationships is that if they are done correctly, they are incredibly valuable and rewarding to both parties and can last for years.

Advertisements

Mentors, Sponsors, and Coaches – OH MY!

Mentors, Sponsors, and Coaches

I had the pleasure of being asked to present this topic to a wonderful group of women last week so I thought I would share it with all of you as well.

With the ongoing conversations regarding the gender pay gap and what it takes to really break through the proverbial glass ceiling, more and more focus has been placed on the importance of mentors, sponsors, and coaches in the business world. In this post, I’m going to briefly cover the definition of each.

The number one reason people say they got ahead in their career was because someone – a mentor, friend, colleague, or associate – helped them out. One of the biggest myths in the work place is that if you just work hard people will recognize your worth and give you that promotion, pay raise, or important career opportunity that you deserve. The truth is that promotions, pay raises, or opportunities rarely happen without you initiating the conversation. No one is going to put your career on their radar unless you ask them to.

Leveraging mentors, sponsors, and coaches is a great way to help you do just that.

Mentors

A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. They are someone in your field you admire or they have achieved a level of success you aspire to. I’m not sure who said it but there’s a great quote: “Mentors are angel investors in our souls”.

The primary purpose of a mentor is to guide you to success by allowing you to learn from their triumphs and failures. It’s a perfect scenario, right? You can emulate the things they’ve done right without having to duplicate the things they’ve done wrong.

A good mentor will give you a reality check. They’ve been in your shoes before and have faced similar challenges. Because of this they can call a spade a spade and can throw a flag when you slip into your fantasy world of how the work place ideally should be instead of how it is.

A good mentor will ask you the hard questions. This will force you to dig deep inside yourself to discover your true motives for your actions and adjust your course accordingly.

Because a mentor is someone you admire or aspire to be like, a mentor can be anyone inside or outside of your field depending upon what you want to be mentored on.

Coaches

A coach is also an experienced and trusted advisor but they are professionally trained to help you maximize your full potential. Coaching is more than just giving you advice. Coaches help you take on specific professional projects, personal goals, and transitions by analyzing your current situation, identifying challenges, and devising a plan of action designed to achieve specific outcomes.

Coaches can focus on different areas of your life. There are business coaches, life coaches, health and wellness coaches, divorce coaches, etc. So, they can help in many areas of your life. They can help you identify goals and define a vision for success. They can help you create personal and professional action plans. They can help you with starting a new business or growing an existing one. They can help you with business or career transitions. Some coaches can help with work/life balance, identifying and overcoming limiting beliefs, fostering stronger connections (both personally and professionally). Really anything that you can say you want to accomplish can be helped along by a coach.

You should select a coach based upon their background and areas of expertise as well as the fit or feeling you get from speaking with them. The best way to do this is through an interview or initial consultation.

Sponsors

A sponsor is an advocate for your business/career success. A sponsor is someone who will use his or her internal political and social capital to move your career forward within an organization. A sponsor will believe in your potential and is prepared to take a bet on you. They get satisfaction from discovering your talent and showcasing you to the world.

A sponsor must have power, clout, and the respect of others (or “a seat at the table”) in order to be an effective champion. It doesn’t matter how much someone believes in you, they can’t really be a sponsor unless they are in a position to make others listen.

The best way to know who the good sponsors are is to identify the leaders in your organization who have a track record of being talent developers and talent scouts. That’s who you want on your side. It’s also important to note that it is not uncommon for a sponsor to choose you instead of the other way around.

Sponsorship is not a gift but something that you earn. You have to get on their radar, you have to exceed expectations, and you have to make your stellar performance known. Nothing makes you easier to sponsor than outstanding results.

Knowing the difference between mentors, sponsors, and coaches and how to leverage each can make a huge difference in your career success. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll dive deeper into each one highlighting how to choose and work with all three.

Your Story (repost from Sept 2015)

Whats-Your-Story

I was listening to Tony Robbins the other day. For those unfamiliar with Tony, he has a 30 year career as a motivational speaker and high performance coach. His books and seminars are legendary and I highly recommend taking the time to listen to some of his work if you have never been exposed to him before.

 As I said, I was listening to one of Tony’s videos and he says, “There are two types of life stories – warnings and examples. We get to choose which one we want to live. Even if we have been living what we believe to be a life story of warning, we have the power to change it to a life story of example if we choose to.” 

I am a firm believer that we have the power to choose our path. But for some reason his statement gave me pause. Not because of the actual statement, but the accompanying thought that people tend to choose the story that best serves them. And sometimes, the story of warning serves us where we are and we want to hold on to that story. Maybe the story was necessary to bring us to a specific place in our life. Maybe the story was necessary to teach us something important. Or maybe, the story is necessary to justify why we feel insignificant, powerless, empty, or insecure. Maybe the story is necessary to justify why we can’t succeed and why we’ve stopped trying.  Simply, it has just become easier to believe or buy into the story than to do something about it. 

Personally, I want to live a story of example. But Tony’s statement made me realize that even though I desire to live a story of example, I keep slipping into a story of warning and then staying there to wallow. Then I have to fight my way back out of it, which is exhausting. Learning to understand why this happens and how the story of warning is serving me will help me learn to break that pattern. It’s up to me to change my story, permanently. 

So, what’s your story? Are you living a story of warning or example? 

If you aren’t satisfied or fulfilled with your current story and you are ready for it to change, I’d be happy to help. You can reach me at stacy@minerva.partners. Together we can rewrite your story, permanently.

Diagnosis: Shiny Object Syndrome

shiny object

Have you ever watched a cat chase one of those laser lights? We have cats and when they were younger we would spend countless hours watching them move from one laser dot to another. Their ability to completely forget one shiny object as soon as they see another is amazing.

You would think this susceptibility would be reserved for animals. Their little brains just not developed enough to allow them to focus on one thing for a period of time, regardless of distractions. You would think – but you would be wrong. Humans are even more prone to distraction by shiny objects than even cats. Especially entrepreneurs or those who consider themselves to be “creatives”.

Let me set the stage. You are an entrepreneur. You have no fewer than 1,000 brilliant ideas in your head at any point in time. As soon as you sit down to work on one idea, another pops into your head and you lose focus on Idea 1 to daydream about Idea 2. The next thing you know, you’ve “worked” on six projects this week but nothing was completed. Nothing ever seems to get completed because when you have too many projects at one time, nothing gets done.

You, my friend, have Shiny Object Syndrome. It’s one of the biggest enemies of entrepreneurs and creatives. And it’s a real thing.

Impossiblehq.com defines Shiny Object Syndrome as “the attraction to objects that exhibit a glossy, polished, gleaming, or otherwise shiny appearance. Something as simple as a reflection in your peripheral vision may easily distract your attention. Over time, you’ll find your attraction to said object is directly correlated to its shininess and your attention fades as the shininess wears off.”

So, how do you know if you suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome?

·       You have 10 new business ideas on paper but no new businesses

·       You have purchased 50 domain names but have no published websites

·       You have 15 product ideas but no workable prototypes

·       You have 6 great marketing strategies but none have been executed

·       You are always starting new things but never finish – books, diets, exercise programs, morning routines, etc.

If you relate to any of these, and this list is certainly not exhaustive, you have Shiny Object Syndrome. The good news is that you are not alone. And the really good news is that, while it is frustrating, it certainly is not fatal.

So, what can be done when you find yourself suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome? When I find myself or have a client stuck in Shiny Object land, I recommend taking the following three steps.

1.       Acknowledge the shiny object

If you are an entrepreneur or a creative it will be impossible to avoid new, brilliant ideas. It’s just who you are and its part of what makes you fantastic and unique. Trying to suppress new ideas and other shiny objects is just not going to work. The best way to deal with shiny objects is to acknowledge they are there but not allow yourself to become immediately distracted by them. Simply write them down and move on. I have a notebook dedicated to my shiny objects.

2.       Dedicate time to evaluate the shiny object

Set aside a block of time once per week, once per month, or whatever frequency makes the most sense for you to dedicate to reviewing and evaluating your list of shiny objects. If you are clear on your goals for your business then you know what direction you are headed. If you know what direction you are headed, you can easily evaluate each shiny object to determine if that idea or action gets you closer to the achievement of your desired goals. Keep in mind that an idea or action is not bad if it doesn’t move you closer, it just isn’t right for moving you forward. Therefore, it doesn’t warrant your time, energy, or focus.

3.       Refocus and complete

When I say that Shiny Object Syndrome is an enemy of entrepreneurs it is not because ideas are bad. Quite opposite, ideas are necessary and critical to your success. What I mean is that often times we fall in love with the idea of bright shiny objects simply because they are bright and shiny, not because they help our business. While mastering the fundamentals may not be very exciting, it’s that mastery that allows us to excel. So, in order to really crush your business, you need to resist the urge to fall in love with the idea of bright, shiny objects and instead fall in love with mastering those things that make the biggest impact.

Once you’ve evaluated your current list of shiny objects and have determined if they advance your business, you must prioritize. Those that make the cut need to be worked into your action plan. NOTE: The only way a new shiny object should postpone the completion of a current shiny object is if there is an immediate and impactful return on that investment. If it doesn’t trump your current activities in terms of ROI then assign it to your work plan to be started AFTER you complete what you are currently working on.

It’s really hard not to get distracted by great ideas. Especially when you are the boss and you have no one to answer to but yourself. But while Shiny Object Syndrome is not fatal, it can cause you to go hungry. Confucius once said, “The man who chases two rabbits catches neither.”

What I Learned from Unplugging

two-pitons

I recently returned from my first real vacation in five years. And what I mean by real is that it wasn’t a “staycation” peppered with home improvement projects and trying to keep our teenager from getting too bored. And it wasn’t work related where we just added on a few days to make it feel like a vacation. This was a real vacation to a tropical location for an entire week. It was long over-due and well-deserved by each family member.

Before we left, all three of us took an oath to really make this count. We were going to do everything in our power to be as present as possible. To really appreciate and enjoy the opportunity presented to us through this break from reality. So, with a lot of discussion, hesitation, and a bit of anxiety, we agreed that this trip would be 100% tech-free. No phones, no computers for the entire week.

We spent time leading up to the trip setting expectations with others. We communicated with coworkers, clients, and family members that we would be unavailable via text, email, or phone for the duration. We distributed the phone number for the resort and instructed people to call the hotel should an emergency arise.

And guess what? Nothing bad happened. The world didn’t stop spinning. Work didn’t come crashing to a halt. There were no emergencies that couldn’t be handled by others. It was all fine. As a matter of fact, it was all better than fine.

The first 48 hours were a little challenging. I was a little anxious about not being available should someone need something. My husband felt like he had forgotten something (which he had because he was actually brave enough to leave his phone and computer at home). And our daughter had to learn to walk with her head and eyes up instead of staring down at her phone. We were a little off balance for a while.

But then we started to get the hang of it.

We read – a lot! We engaged in lively conversation. Not just among ourselves but (gasp) with other people around us. We met Billy from Hilton Head and a really fun group from Virginia Beach (one of which was originally from the neck of the woods where I grew up). We met a young couple from Charlotte and an older couple from Delaware. We met Archie from Australia and a lovely family from London.

We did yoga – and didn’t feel guilty about it. I almost took a nap one afternoon – and didn’t feel guilty about it!

I started to be more aware of my surroundings. I could hear waves crash, I could hear birds sing, I heard the highest-pitched grasshoppers I’ve ever heard before. I felt sun on my face and could taste the salt air. With more awareness came appreciation. And with more appreciation came less stress and guilt over not being accessible to anyone but my husband and daughter.

As the week came to a close, the typical grieving began. But then it stopped. I was sad to get back to reality, but I honestly felt refreshed and grateful and appreciative and happy. While I was sad it was over, it did not feel like the time flew by like it normally does. I fully enjoyed every minute of our time away and feel we reaped full benefits because of our intention to be present throughout.

So, what did a learn from unplugging?

I learned that no one will die on the table if I’m not there. People are capable of taking care of themselves if I’m not there to do it and problems will get solved even if I’m not there to solve them. I learned that quiet can be glorious. I learned that I can be okay with myself by myself. I learned that my family has a lot of conversation material. I learned that I can kick my daughter’s butt at ping pong and my husband can kick my butt at pool. I received a deeper appreciation of just how wonderful of a life and family I truly have. And I learned that unplugging is one of the best ways to recharge.

I challenge you to find time to cut out the noise. Whether you have a vacation coming up or just a few days at home. Make the intention to unplug so that you can recharge. The benefits are endless.

“Action Drives Out Thought” – Richard Koch

Action Drives Out Thought

I’ve recently started following Perry Marshall. Perry is a numbers and analysis geek, like I am, and has written a fascinating book on applying the Pareto Principle to sales and marketing called 80/20 Sales and Marketing. I’m already on my second read of the book and am sure I will read it 5 more times. I’m so excited about the information he shares, I can’t wait to start implementing the principles with my clients and their businesses.

While there are a million ideas that are floating around in my head from reading his book, one particular topic seemed critical to share this week. The month of June is typically an evaluation and potential reset opportunity for most businesses. We are now half way through the year and usually spend a little bit of time reflecting on how things have gone thus far.

If you are like most business owners, the first 6 months have flown by. Most will create a plan at the beginning of the year, put their heads down, and start working as fast as they possibly can toward their goals.

While action is great at driving out fear and self-doubt, action can also drive out thought (as stated by Richard Koch, the author of The 80/20 Principle and The 80/20 Manager). See, if you spend all of your time doing and not enough time thinking then all you do is create more work for yourself. And creating more work leaves less time to think.

According to Perry Marshall, most of us think that if we work hard enough and fast enough and get all of our tasks completed, then we’ll have time left over to think and plan and create and generate ideas. But in fact, it doesn’t happen that way. If we don’t intentionally carve out time for these types of activities, it will NEVER happen.

So, before you get into the month of July, officially reserve some time on your calendar for thinking and planning and creating. Stop what you are doing right now and get it on your calendar and then protect that time with your life. Then, when you sit down to think, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are the biggest levers I can pull to catapult my business forward?

Maybe your biggest levers are to eliminate something that is a big time or energy sucker. Maybe it’s having a better understanding of how you are personally wired so that you can leverage those strengths instead of getting mired down in the areas you struggle. Maybe its understanding that you are spending your time trying to convince customers who aren’t ready instead of disqualifying them to focus on those who are ready.

Whatever they are, are there 2 – 3 things you can stop doing or start doing that will make a big difference in the growth of your company. And sometimes, stopping some activities have even more impact than adding activities – so be mindful of that.

  1. As I review what I’ve been doing, what are my biggest AHAs?

What are your biggest AHAs from the past 6 months? Again, this may have to do with gaining a better understanding of how you are wired which may change how you deliver your products or services. For instance, some people are editors, not creators – meaning they fix things not build things. For me, I understand that I am highly methodical, so I prefer a plan to doing things spontaneously or off the cuff. Therefore, my best client matches are with those who also like methodical approaches.

Another big AHA could be the understanding that there is more than one way to accomplish your business objectives. Sometimes we become so married to a single way of doing things that we miss opportunities that will ultimately get us there faster.

  1. What are the biggest results I can generate from these levers and AHAs?

Once you’ve identified your biggest levers and biggest AHAs, how can you translate those into big results? This is where you take what you’ve learned and adjust your plan moving forward with this new information.

When you stop letting action drive out thought, your movements and decisions become more intentional, ideas come to you more easily, and you stop wasting time on activities that don’t propel you forward. Ah, there’s another 80/20 in there…more on that later.

Do You Know What You Were Put On This Earth To Do?

Purpose

Each of us was born with a life purpose. One of the most important things that you can do to guarantee success is to understand, acknowledge, and honor your purpose.
Brian Tracy once said, “Decide upon your major definite purpose in life and then organize all of your activities around it.” Once you understand what you are here to do, you can inject passion and determination into every action that you take. When you have purpose, things just seem to fall into place. According to Jack Canfield, “When you are truly and passionately on purpose, the people, resources, and opportunities you need naturally gravitate toward you.”

So, if everything you do should be an expression of your purpose, what if you don’t know what your purpose is?

Start by asking yourself to identify a job you would love so much that you would do it for free. Think back on all of the things you have done in your life that bring you the most joy. See, the things that bring you the most joy are typically most aligned with your purpose. Joy almost becomes your inner compass because it will tell you when you are off course simply through your recognition of the amount of joy you are experiencing when doing something.

After looking at the times you’ve experienced joy, search for a common element among those experiences. Can you figure out how to make a living doing these things?
Some people find it helpful to construct a life’s purpose statement. You can follow a simple formula to create your own:

1. List two of your unique qualities.
2. List one or two ways you enjoy expressing those qualities when interacting with others.
3. What does a perfect world look like because of the way you express these qualities when interacting with others (written as a statement)?
4. Combine all three of these sections into one statement.

Once you write your life’s purpose statement, post it somewhere you can see it every day. This will keep your daily actions focused on your purpose.

Every couple of months, evaluate your life’s purpose statement and rate your typical actions on a 1 – 10 scale as to how closely they support your life’s purpose statement. If you are below a 5, consciously lean into your purpose a little more each day. It may take time before it becomes second nature. But don’t get frustrated if you aren’t a perfect 10 right out of the gate. Think of it as developing muscle memory or any other worthwhile habit/practice. Keep at it and it will become second nature over time.

Purpose allows for an organized life. One in which everything you do supports your purpose and the joy you want in your life. If an activity doesn’t align with your purpose you shouldn’t work on it. With purpose as your guide, your goals and plans will provide fulfillment. They can’t not!