I believe mentors can help in three critical ways.
First, mentors can help in casting light on your goals and consistent behaviors moving you towards a goal. Think of a personal trainer. If you have ever worked with a personal trainer, you know they first ask what your goals are. Perhaps you are trying to lose 10 pounds or simply want to improve your health. A personal trainer helps pinpoint exactly what those goals are and then helps you develop the consistent behaviors that will push you toward those goals. For instance, how many calories you will consume each day, how often you will exercise, or what type of exercise you will do. It’s this idea that you can change any behavior or accomplish any goal with the right support – however, it isn’t as easy to do it alone!
Similarly, a mentor can help you do the same thing professionally. They can help you establish your goals and develop the consistent habits that will push you toward your goals. A mentor who really helped me with this was a man named Paul. Paul was a supervisor of mine and one of the organization’s top performers. Paul had one of those magnetic personalities and could sell anything to anybody. He always inspired me to think bigger and, working with him, I was able to secure several national million-dollar partnerships. It was Paul who taught me to develop my business habits by committing to the five activities I will do each and every day. These activities will differ for each person, but this strategy has really helped me and I use it with my team. These habits have changed as my goals have changed over the years.
But today, my five habits are:
Every day I read
Every day I write
Every day I express gratitude
Every day I set at least two meetings
Every day I develop a plan for the next day
As a result of incorporating these habits into my daily life, so many great things have happened. I was able to publish my book last year and have also found by developing the next day’s plan each day, I am able to sleep more soundly because I am not fretting over things I forgot to do or need to remember to do. I would never have thought to develop these habits had it not been for Paul. He helped me take on the larger goals, which can sometimes seem daunting and think about what I need to do EACH AND EVERY DAY in order to achieve them. So, having a mentor who serves as a “personal trainer” of sorts, shining light on the daily behaviors you need to get you to your goals can be extremely helpful in moving you forward.
But inevitably, as you move forward, you will face moments when you are completely out of your comfort zone and feel as though the spotlight is on you! So it’s also critical to have a mentor who can boost your confidence when you don’t have the benefit of experience to draw from. My first true mentor who helped me do just that was a woman named Pat. Although she was tough, I learned so much from her. At 29 years old, serving in an executive role interacting with very influential leaders can certainly be intimidating. She taught me to look people in the eye, speak with confidence and yet maintain my authenticity. She did this through coaching and by regularly reminding me of my core skills and talents and why I was hired in the first place. Pat gave me the courage to look people in the eye and speak with confidence.
So, we need mentors like Paul to keep us on track with our immediate goals and behaviors and mentors like Pat who can boost our courage to step out of our comfort zone. Then there are also those times in our careers when we need to make major “career path” decisions. At those times we need mentors who can serve as guideposts on the path.
The decision to leave my executive role at a nonprofit organization that had been around for 114 years in favor of a brand new organization was a daunting one, and not one I took lightly. As I was weighing this decision, I called upon Sally, who currently serves as a mentor for Mentoring Women’s Network. Sally herself has an incredible story – she built a very successful advertising firm in Chicago before selling it in order to step down and adopt two young girls from China. She now spends her time as an executive coach to CEOs and facilitating mastermind groups. I remember our discussion when I reached out to her to share I was contemplating taking the leap in order to lead the organization full-time and facilitate the national expansion and development of our 1:1 mentoring program. She listened intently as I talked and I was sure she was going to tell me how hard this would be and what a tremendous risk I was taking. Instead, she just listened. When I finally stopped talking and waited for her to tell me this was crazy, she instead looked at me and simply said, “Why wouldn’t you?”
“WHY WOULDN’T I?” I could think of a million reasons why I wouldn’t or shouldn’t take that risk, yet that was her response, and as someone who knows full well what it takes to build a successful company, this was just what I needed to hear. The thought of me walking away from the comfort and security of a successful career would have seemed absolutely ludicrous. And yet, I knew it was something I was called to do and having Sally tell me to go for it was just the push I needed. So I consider Sally my guidepost, because she helped shine a light on my next big career move, and helped me see what my best move was, even though it was a scary one.
The Pauls, the Pats, and the Sallys each shine different kinds of light on our paths, all of which are necessary to help us move through our careers with wisdom and intention, rather than by a series of accidents.
– Post By Alison Martin-Books –