I was recently on a hiking tour of the Utah National Parks with my son. After the first big day of hiking, Seb (6) looks at me and says, “if we are going to do this again tomorrow, we will need some help…let’s each pick 3 Pokemon to take along…we can summon them up as needed… they’ve got some good skills that can help…”
Turns out he leverages Pokemon like I engage mentors.
I have wonderful “mentors” turned life-long friends who I can rely on (and they can rely on) as needed. At this stage, I can pretty much anticipate the reaction I will get depending on who I call.
- One keeps challenging me to take weird jobs
- Another encourages me to develop my interest and practice of spirituality in leadership (ironically, because it’s important to me, not because it’s particularly important to him)
- Another I call when I need to be humbled, or get ahead of myself
- And, another I call when I am down and need someone to tell me I am “wonderful”
- And others…
Why Mentoring Programs Don’t Work
Stop looking for formal programs and mentors. Such programs seldom work. The matches are artificial. The “rules” forced. I’ve built such programs over the years. I’ve mentored and been mentored in such scenes. The truth is, the best relationships develop organically.
Invest time, energy, and commitment into real relationships with great people you stumble on throughout your career. Like any other friendship, if you keep your eyes, heart and mind open, these folks will show up.
My advice to young leaders:
- find a mentor early
- keep adding them along the way
- invest time and energy
- care about them as much as they care about you
- be deliberate about keeping the magic alive
Hang on and Give Back
One of my favorite such mentors, Gary, died several years ago. I keep his help alive by thinking “what would Gary say…” Sometimes his advice just seems to surface when I am on a long run, or really stuck… I know he is still impacting my life and career.
The best part of having had great mentors, is the chance to give it back (same rules apply).
And when it’s real, I never let it go.
This is mentoring week on Let’s Grow Leaders. I will address a mentoring topic each day. I hope you will join in the conversation.