Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” To grow as a leader, find someone who knows what you want to learn, and to teach it to others. We all have so much we can learn, but we often need someone to mentor us, and to mentor someone else. Having these types of relationships will help us to raise that average of the five people we are surrounded with.
Find a mentor
Management consultant Peter Drucker told us, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.” Finding a mentor is not some big formal process, it is as simple as identifying what you want to learn. Most people want to help others, they don’t know how to get started. Having a mentor is as simple as asking someone to coffee, or asking someone if you can ask them a few questions, and then keeping it going. The real challenge is keeping the relationship valuable for both sides. Bring something that the mentor is interested in, find a value, a way to connect.
When I am at an event, I often ask speakers for their reading list. I always try to read as many of the books as I can, and be prepared in case I meet them again. I look to keep the conversation going by suggesting a similar book or a new perspective. Sometimes I just bring them perspective from a new industry, or a different area. Looking for a broader perspective, looking for mentors outside my career field helps me to grow beyond my comfort zone.
Be a Mentor
There is an old saying, the best way to learn something is to teach it. We all have experiences that we can share with others, and there is always someone who can benefit from our experiences. Being available to mentor others, always listening, always being a sounding board makes others begin to see you as a mentor. As you begin to develop these relationships, teaching and growing others, you find that you force yourself to get better, to keep on top of things, to push yourself harder.
I belong to a LinkedIn group for mentoring Veterans, and I am working with my employer to help start a diversity program focused on mentoring veterans. I don’t focus on the big things, how to be a huge success, I just give simple advice, and mostly just encourage people. You would be surprised how far a positive word, an encouraging statement can go for someone who is junior in their field. Even when I can’t address their specific issue, often they just need someone to encourage them.
The world is big, and I am so full of questions. Oftentimes what we really need is someone to walk next to us, someone who shares our struggles, someone who has the same struggles, and who can understand where we are today. Asking for help is a difficult thing, especially when we are new to an industry, or when we don’t want others to know how much we are struggling. Managers are not always the best place to get help, sometimes we need someone close by.
A friend and I in my current position were challenged during our on-boarding training to peer mentor each other. It started out as a chance to make stupid jokes, and have a weekly phone call. It has turned into a program we still use to bring new team members in. There is still lots of joking, and far more personal stuff than work, but it has kept us focused and growing. As new people have come in they add new perspectives and enrich our group. We have grown so much that we now are splitting into multiple groups to keep the concept going. For something we had intended to be a short term peer support, we have been amazed to find the power of community, especially a peer community.
To grow as a leader, find someone who knows what you want to learn, and to teach it to others. “Stay hungry stay foolish”, Steve Jobs quoted this from the final issue of The Whole Earth Catalog in his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University. Always look for opportunities to learn and grow, ask questions, find people who want to keep the conversation going, be that person for others, and help others at your level. No matter who you are you have much to learn and much to contribute, it is as simple as starting a conversation.