Thanking a Mentor

This week, a significant leader/mentor in my life will turn 80 years old.  At the recent Global Leadership Summit, we were challenged by Bill Hybels to reach out to those who helped mold our leadership skills and tell them “thank you”.  This morning, I wrote a letter to this leader.  Here is an excerpt from that letter:

leadership legacy

I just wanted to say “thank you” once again for all that you’ve done for me in my life.  I am often asked who was a major influencer.  Your name tops the list (after my parents).  Here’s why:

  • You taught me that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
  • You taught me to be flexible. “There is always a way.”  I believed you, acted on it, and found your words to be true.
  • You taught me to think on my feet.
  • You taught me to be direct.
  • You taught me how to sell.
  • You taught me how to work a crowd.
  • You taught me how to produce.
  • You taught me how to get along with others who are vastly different than I am.
  • You allowed me to be me.
  • You pushed me to be excellent and then to become better.
  • You taught me how to speak in front of 10 and 10,000.
  • You allowed me to be creative and gave me room to do it.
  • You showed me that leaders can open up to confidants.
  • You taught me to set high standards and not to lower them.
  • You gave me the opportunity to be exposed to cultures all over the world.
  • You showed me how to celebrate the “wins” of your team. You always were delighted to hear our stories from the road.
  • You taught me that consistent discipline works.
  • You showed me that the leader’s dream can be infectious.
  • You taught me that I am capable of far more than I thought I was.
  • You introduced me to the world, and now I have friends all over the planet.
  • You believed in me. I can’t thank you enough for that.

So, who in your life could you “thank” for helping you? It really takes moments to craft a letter.  But you will encourage a mentor in ways you cannot imagine.

They invested in you.  Invest in them today.  Thank a Mentor.

What Great Mentors Do

I attended a meeting a week or so ago on mentoring.  At this meeting, several people shared about mentoring from different points of view.  One of the speakers was a young man, Brad Thomas.  He shared how being mentoring has changed his perspective and life.  His presentation was outstanding.

He shared that he believed a great mentor does 4 things for their “mentee”.  Here is it:

Great Mentors

So, leaders, are you a mentor?  If not, find someone today!  Our company promotes this and many of us are actively mentoring.  When you get this privilege, don’t forget Brad’s words:

  • Expand – a great mentor will expand someone’s world-view.  They will expand knowledge and help point to resources.
  • Engage – a great mentor will cause the “mentee” to think and act.
  • Encourage – a great mentor will build up the “mentee” and help them build on their strengths.
  • Empower – a great mentor will reveal to the “mentee” that they have power to act and make an impact.

Make the investment to pour yourself into the life of another.  It is so worth it!

10 Leadership Lessons I Wish I Learned In My 20’s

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by Todd Wilms

All of us would do well with a second bite at the apple, another chance to go back and do it all over again. Our mistakes, as much as our successes, define us and can help steer us forward today. With this in mind, here are 10 lessons learned over the last 20 years of doing business that are now part of my thinking. Or put another way . . . during the interview question where they ask you “what is your management or leadership philosophy?” Well, here it is. [View the downloadable slideshow here]

1. Run With Blinders On
We spend a lot of time wondering what is happening over there in the organization. “What are they doing over there? What is that group doing? Wait, why did they get that project? ” At best this is wasted energy, and at worst a real distraction that keeps you from being fabulous you. It wasn’t until my mid 30s that someone close to me gave me this advice. Their message was surprisingly simple: run like no one else matters.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean be an isolationist and it doesn’t mean you don’t work with other people, but if you see yourself wondering what someone else is doing and it isn’t something you can directly incorporate into making you better, it is wasted energy – pure and simple. Put your blinders on and focus straight ahead – all of that other stuff wont matter.

2. It Is All Personal, Not Business
Contrary to Hollywood screenwriters and every movie Michael Douglass has ever been in, business is personal. Telling yourself anything different may be a necessary rationalization to help you sleep at night, but the sooner you admit it, the quicker you can learn to lead. Every decision you make to “buy” or “not buy” has another person on the other end of that sale that impacts them directly.

Knowing this is personal should not stop you from doing what is right for the business and the hardest decisions I have had to make have been about whether to hire or fire people. I have had the privilege of hiring someone (who had been out of work for awhile) on Christmas Eve and of making tough decisions to let folks go. The faster you can get used to personal, the quicker you can learn how to properly react to your business decisions and garner the respect of your ecosystem.

3. Think Marathon, Not Sprint
Your world will get smaller and smaller as you grow in it. You encounter the same situations and people over and over. After awhile, you wont even bother saying “deja vu” anymore. With this in mind, sometimes the best decisions are made with a long-term goal in mind, even at the cost of sacrificing short-term gains. But, thinking of this as a long-term race, instead of your short-term goal this week, will help you make smarter decisions. Great leaders are keenly aware of the long term repercussions and what tomorrow will bring as they weigh their decisions today, or put into my favorite quote “We said ‘let’s worry about it tomorrow’ yesterday.”

4. Find A Mentor
Always have someone as your coach, your confidant, and your advisor. This can be formal or informal, but you need a “go-to” person at every stage of your life. This person may change and you may add mentors over time. I have been fortunate enough to have one mentor for 16 years, plus 3 others that have been added to my stable of advisors. I know who to call and when to call them – and they always take my call. But there is always someone better at something than you are. Find them. In case you were asking, “why would they help me?” it is because they get the better end of the deal. I see that now that I am fortunate enough to be a mentor several times over.

5. There Are Incredibly Smart People Who Will Help You If You Ask
One of my mentors told me how he would reach out to people he admired and ask them a few questions – their expert advice. Always done in a respectful way and mindful of their time, he was significantly more successful than not in getting some great counsel and often a new friendship or relationship with this person. And damn if he wasn’t right – it totally works.

I have had a great interaction with a former US President, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, several noted authors, a few CEOs, and multiple significant business luminaries – all because I asked. Not everyone will respond, but that’s OK. In the future, I just wont sign my memoir for them when they ask.

6. Leadership Doesn’t Need A Title
Don’t wait for the title to lead. Leadership is about helping the business succeed and helping those around you make that happen. Leadership is also about trust and those around you knowing you have their back. Too many young employees and managers feel like “When I get that title, I can really guide this place.” You should be thinking about how you can show leadership on your first day. If you know nothing else about what is going on, start to get to know people and what they are doing or working on, their background, and what makes them tick. Your influence starts with orientation. Good leaders don’t wait for titles.

7. Learn to Eat S**t
Everybody has someone who has power over him or her – no one is immune. For you proud, independent sorts – this one will be a challenge. Get used to doing things you don’t want to, don’t like doing, or aren’t in your comfort zone. Yes, you can quit or complain or stage a sit-in or whatever. But there is another big plate of it waiting at your next job.

Oh, by the way, starting your own company and being your own boss doesn’t get you out of this – you have investors, partners, and customers who own you. So, get used to it, accept it, and grow your career so these times are fewer and farther in between. Or plan on winning the lottery and living alone on your own island, but then you are going to want satellite TV and now you are dealing with DirectTV and now you are right back to having to eat s**t – never mind.

8. Your Business Network Should Grow Inversely Proportional To Your Personal Relationships
In your 20′s, you will have access to some of the greatest people who will eventually become life long friends. You cannot predict who these folks will be – some that I was sure would be with me for life have dropped out of sight, only to be replaced by some fantastic friends who I did not see coming. You will have a bigger network of friends and personal acquaintances at this age as you aren’t saddled with bigger responsibilities of life (kids and their schedules, aging parents, etc.). Meanwhile, your business network is in its infancy.

Over time, your business network should grow, as you see your personal relationships grow smaller in numbers (fewer, but – hopefully – deeper relationship). Knowing this is coming can help you select your core friends and help you effectively grow your business network.

9. What Is More Important Is How You Handle The Big Screw-Up
Over time, you are going to make some colossal blunders. Epic screw-ups. Personally, I had a history of making all the right moves – uncannily so. Then 1-2 big missteps sent me rocketing backward. When failure eventually happens, how you handle it will define you. Do rise to the occasion and accept responsibility or do you fall in a pit, never to be heard from again? Do you blame everyone else, or do you face it head-on, smile, and say, “what’s next?” How you handle it sends a clear signal of your mettle to both friends and your business network. Leadership is as much about defeat as it is about success. (See the next lesson)

10. Get Knocked Down 6, Get Up 7
This one didn’t make sense to me earlier in life. “Of course you get up,” was what my head said an age ago. ”Why wouldn’t you?” Over time, I have seen folks make a few mistakes, but find it harder to get back up the 4th or 5th time. Remember, this is a marathon so think long term. Keep getting up and stick it out, even when you want to just lie down on the mat for the 10- count. Those that keep getting up when life knocks them down will soon find that there are great leadership opportunities for those that are weathered by experience and keep showing up.

Bonus: Wait It Out
Change is inevitable. New org structure, new boss, mergers, a constant terminal of folks coming in and out of your work life. Similar to “Run With Blinders On,” when you see some big new thing that you think is going to cause some disruption in your life, there is a tendency to want to react immediately to the situation. Don’t. Most of these are minor inconveniences – nuisances at worst. Take a breadth.

I have learned – over time and “the hard way” – that if something is standing between my goals and me, I can wait them out. They move on, flame out, and sometimes become my advocate. Usually they just implode and you are in a greater place for sticking it out. Wait them out (or see “win the lottery, move to island” strategy above).

There is an accompanying slideshow that is available for download here. Enjoy!

http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2013/04/08/10-leadership-lessons-i-wish-i-learned-in-my-20s/

13 Habits of Extraordinary Bosses

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by Geoffrey James Feb. 19, 2013

Extraordinary bosses use these habits to bring out the extraordinary in those around them.

The most popular post I’ve ever written is The Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses. However, while that post clearly struck a chord, it lacked something important: a code of behavior that puts those beliefs into action.

Probably my favorite business book is Sylvia Lafair’s Don’t Bring It To Work: Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success. In that book, Sylvia describes how people can transcend the limitations of their family background to become better workers.

In the process of describing that transformation, Lafair describes a set of habits that define how ideal leaders behave when they’ve got their beliefs aligned the right way. Here they are:

1. They collaborate rather than grandstand.

Extraordinary bosses realize that success doesn’t have to entail only individual accomplishment. They redefine that emotionally-packed word “success” so that wealth, position, and fame are no longer what really matters. They realize that group success is entirely consistent with individual accomplishment.

2. They build communities rather than platoons.

Extraordinary bosses focus on the basic wants and needs of the community and the desire to move from what exists now to what is possible. This creates a groundswell of activity as more and more people feel included and want to help. This allows them to tackle problems at the core, in order to make change happen.

3. They create new realities.

Extraordinary bosses create a sense that all things are possible. Everyone who’s ever faced a daunting challenge knows how important it is to be around somebody who can communicate what seems impossible and see the essence of hope in a haystack of adversity, allowing a business to break through into new markets.

4. They laugh at problems (and themselves).

Extraordinary bosses use humor put worries into perspective, so that we can laugh at ourselves and the situation before tackling hard work. The ability to tell the right joke at the right time reduces office stress and builds camaraderie, which is a real advantage in today’s intense, fast-paced work environments.

5. They help others visualize a better future.

Extraordinary bosses don’t just have a vision of the future. They also have a rare ability to understand and channel the desires and needs of other people. They listen as much as they talk and thus create a shared vision that motivates everybody, not just the boss. They point to a place that we know is better and give us the courage to get there.

6. They avidly explore new ideas.

Extraordinary bosses are always willing to be part of the first test to make sure that a project will succeed. They guide people into new territory, without hogging the limelight. They have a great sense of timing and know when to wait until the kinks have been worked out… without waiting too long.

7. They mentor and coach.

Extraordinary bosses know how to listen and give good advice at just the right time. Because they haven’t sailed through life, they know what it’s like to overcome intense obstacles and challenges. Most importantly, they’re willing to let go when you’re competent to make your own decisions without them.

8. They use stories to inspire.

Extraordinary bosses know that a good story can move people to places where no PowerPoint can take them. They know that stories help people understand how problems can be, and should be, solved. They use stories to close the distance that voicemail, e-mails and texting create between us.

9. They integrate pieces into wholeness.

Extraordinary bosses have the ability to see all sides of a situation and allow conflicting parties to not only be heard but acknowledged. They can gather a group and find ways that individuals can work together. They have an uncanny way of “slicing the pie” so that while every piece may not be identical, everyone feels treated with fairness and respect.

10. They tell the truth, even when inconvenient.

Extraordinary bosses do not change their minds just to pacify someone, although they are not averse to adjusting their opinions if that will enable a conflict to push towards resolution. They do not “beat around the bush,” so you always know where you stand. They treat you as an adult who can handle the truth rather than a child who must be protected from it.

11. They act before they have ALL the answers.

Extraordinary bosses can tolerate and moderate the conflicts that inevitably show up before the creative process comes into full bloom. They enjoy being involved in the thick of arguments, thus allowing problems and dissent to be resolved more quickly so that the creative process can move forward.

12. They create a climate of trust.

Extraordinary bosses know that trust is the glue that holds an organization together. Their commitment to build trust creates a counter force to the deception and political game-playing that makes so many offices difficult places to work. They know that trusting, and being trusted, is the best way to ensure that everyone in the organizations wins.

13. They make peace between factions.

Extraordinary bosses cannot be swayed to side with one group or individual against another but instead work to preserve the integrity of the whole system. Peacemakers teach us that peace is a state of mind and that it’s still possible to be happy even in the midst of turmoil and chaos.

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Geoffrey James writes the Sales Source column on Inc.com, the world’s most visited sales-oriented blog. His newly published book is Business to Business Selling: Power Words and Strategies From the World’s Top Sales Experts. @Sales_Source