Within many of my circles (family, professional development, ministry, business), we talk about mentorship, coaching, accountability, as well as a whole list of other words that carry similar meanings.
I recently asked a person I consider as somewhere on this continuum about his thoughts on mentoring. As he began explaining how various people interact with him in different contexts, it became apparent to me that we often use a word (the choice differs depending on which circle you’re in) to indicate several options. The following four paths seek to describe basic functions a mentor-type person can take.
Peer / Accountability Partner. A peer mentor, or an accountability partner, will challenge and affirm you. They are your own age and often understand the struggles you’re going through, because they are going through the same ones. You meet as often as you like. You can trust each other.
Sage / Back-Patter. A sage is someone who has gone through it all and stands there simply to tell you that you’re doing well. If you play your cards right, they will give some age-old advice that you’ll benefit from greatly.
Coach / Plan Maker. Coaches ask great questions and help you to make insightful plans. These are the people who never tell you what to do, but always find a way to make you do what’s best.
Yoda / Discerner. Whenever Luke needed it, Yoda was always around to blow his mind with insightful thoughts posed in backwards grammar. Your Yoda comes with timely emails, texts or phone calls that always seem to be right on target. Yoda shouldn’t be afraid to nail you for something you’re not doing right. Yoda needs space to speak into any area of your life. And when he speaks, listen, you should.
One problem with our generation is that we shy away from some of these forms of mentorship. When we avoid allowing peers, sages, coaches, and yodas to speak into our lives, we miss the blessing that comes along with them.
It’s important that we have people around us who operate in all of these differing paths. Yet, we all tend to prefer a certain function. Did I miss any valuable paths? Which one of these fits you well? Which do you need more of? How can you pursue finding someone to fill this role. Do you have someone you are mentoring now? What does that look like? How does this add clarity to your relationship?
A long time ago, I read a book in which the author penned, “Great leaders can face the facts and keep hopeful expectation for the future” (Collins in Good to Great). I’ve been challenged to do that even more recently. The fact is, there’s a lot that I can improve on as a leader and manager. I recently got some fantastic feedback based off a book called 42 Rules For Your New Leadership Role.
I asked a key leader in each area of Aroma along with two people I knew would give honest feedback beyond their role to give ratings to each of the 42 rules. It was tough feedback, but filled with clear, actionable data to move forward on. Here are four things I suck at and a brief preview of how I plan to improve them in the next quarter:
Set your milestones. It’s hard to reach a goal if you’re not sure what the goal is. I often fail to be specific in setting goals. Another book offers a great way to outline clear goals: “From X to Y by Date.” If I can be clearer with a goal that is a “WIN” (What’s important now), people are going to know more clearly how to focus their work. This is highly related to Boundaries for Leaders. What’s important right now? If I don’t clearly say what’s most important, I have no right to be frustrated when people aren’t making forward progress on that a particular issue. It’s time for focus and clarity.
Tune up your team and Launch 1:1’s that actually drive performance (2 combined). I work with many amazing people. I’m excited to see them continue to grow. I put these two together, because they’re intimately connected. As one leader recently challenged me, “You have to be spending more time with your key people.” I often turn those times into sessions that are longer than they need to be. Again, being clear about expectations at the onset allows people to focus on what’s most important. Spending tim with each person on the team is highly valuable. It’s good for their health, mine, and their future growth both personally and for the organization.
Run unmissable meetings. Sometimes, I don’t even want to go to the meetings I call. That has to change. Meetings need to be compelling because they have unmissable information, healthy debate, decisiveness, and a small dose of engaging humor.
Model healthy paranoia. As a big-picture, idea guy, I sometimes get annoyed when people ask things like “How’s that actually going to happen.” Fortunately, these people haven’t given up just because I’ve been rebellious. I’m learning, through more than one source, that healthy paranoia is more than useful!
I actually got a rating a little higher than an F. The good news is I passed. The great news is I still have tons of room for growth. I’m looking forward to this next season.
I encourage you as a leader or manager to ferret out feedback (one of the 42 rules) from people that you work with. It’s one of the toughest, but most fruitful, ways to learn and grow personally and professionally. If you’d like to know more about the book, the test I created, or how you can grow as a leader and manager, please drop me a line. Here’s to your success!