A mentor is someone willing to help guide someone else towards the achievement of a specific goal, someone with experience in a certain area, able to provide guidance, direction, and constructive criticism based on experience and knowledge gained.
Many think a mentor is someone who will cheer in your corner and tell you that you are making great decisions. It makes you feel invincible and that all of your decisions are correct. You feel like you can do nothing wrong. Then… it happens. Your mentor challenges you to take a larger step forward, maybe even a leap!
Mentors are more than a cheerleader applauding when things go right, or encouraging when things go wrong. A mentor seeks to help find the most beneficial path for your journey and will provide a directional change if a correction is needed. Sometimes, perhaps more often than you might think, your mentor will challenge you to make those uncomfortable decisions, taking you outside of your comfort zone, helping you grow in the process. The intention is not to simply make you uncomfortable (although that is likely going to happen), but to help you become stronger and more knowledgeable in some area.
What is the difference between a mentor and a coach?
They are quite similar, depending on who you ask. I take a different approach with mentoring than with coaching, which drives my definition. Mentors and coaches will help with some challenge or concern in your professional and/or personal (yes, personal) life. The key difference is outcome and time.
The mentor/mentee relationship is more of a partnership that may last a long time (years or even decades). It is less formal in nature and follows a more holistic approach, looking at the whole person and situation to help them grow personally and professionally. There may be a specific set of concerns to address or it may just be someone looking to grow in general.
The coach/coachee relationship follows a more structured approach, designed to resolve a specific issue or concern within a specified period of time (30 days to a year, sometimes more). The structure to resolve the issue or concern is driven by the coach. The emphasis is resolution of a specific issue such as leading unmotivated people, career transition, becoming more organized… If you can think it, there is probably a coach that specializes in it.
I tend to coach my mentee through specific situations to accomplish the task at hand, while mentoring them through the process. For those looking for a coach only (to get through a situation), the focus becomes issue resolution, resulting in some degree of mentoring. Ultimately, call it what you want. The point is to help others through guidance and direction.
How do I find a mentor?
Well, it really depends on why you are looking for a mentor. The starting point is to determine what your end goal is. Do you have a challenging individual at work you are struggling with? Are you looking to transition from one career to another? Do you feel your life is at a stand-still? Perhaps you just have no clue! It is ok, the first step is realizing you need help.
Finding a mentor may be easier to do than you think. Identify what it is you are looking to achieve such as becoming a better leader, transitioning to a new career, thrive in life, and so on.
Then, look for someone who:
If you don't know what you need just yet, look for a life coach. They will be able to help identify where and how to kick-start your journey. Start by finding someone you trust who has used a life coach. If you don’t know anyone who has, then do a simple internet search. You may need to try a few before you find the perfect fit, but there will be one, just keep looking.
Another thing to remember is you may have a mentor or coach sitting right next to you. Do you have a good manager at work you admire? How about a parent or relative? Neighbor? Look around, the person you need may be closer than you think.
Until next week…
Jared W. Snow
Shameless plug – we offer coaching and mentor services if you are interested. Just reach out and let us know how we can help.
This past weekend, Dr. William Snow, another author here at The Leadership Center (full disclosure, he is also my father!), received the 2016 Outstanding Mentor Award from WACES (www.waces.org). If you ask him, he will tell you he is humbled and honored to receive the nomination and award, being recognized for his contributions to the betterment and success of his peers, students, and others around him.
So, what does it take to become an award winning mentor?
In the 18 page nomination you will find phrases like, “Dr. Snow has sparked a light inside of me”, “Seeing the passion that Dr. Snow has”, “endless mental and emotional support.”, “I am always able to reach out to him…thank you for believing in me”, “He went out of his way”, “Dr. Snow made me feel at ease and alleviated my anxiety”, “Dr. Snow consistently and continuously makes himself available”, “he remembered my name”, “It’s hard to describe (interaction with Dr. Snow), but it’s the feeling you get when you experience a role model without knowing it.”, and “Time after time, he astounds me with his wisdom in finding creative solutions to the problems I brought to him.”
You will also find words like compassion, passion, genuine, engaged, grace (second chances), helpful, supportive, generous, wisdom, gentle, kind, encouraging, patient, understanding, respect, positive, responsive, role model, inspiration, and creative.
These characteristics are common to everyone. The key is to learn to employ them at the right time, in the right manner, in a way that inspires others. This, my friends, is the challenge, and when developed and cultivated successfully (to help others), may just result in your ability to truly mentor others. It is up to you, the leader, to find these qualities within you, or learn to embody them, to inspire, support, and motivate others in a passionate, gentle, and patient manner to achieve their goals.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I will touch on various aspects of mentoring. I look forward to this journey with you, as we dive deeper into the joys of mentoring.
Jared W. Snow
Situational leadership is my favorite leadership model. Why? Because it essentially embraces and leverages all leadership models! Realistically, Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey developed a model that considers the type of leadership style of the leader, the maturity level of the individual or group being led (more associated with skill and desire), and the development of people and self-motivation. Let’s break it down a bit.
There is a litany of leadership styles that leaders rely on. Many stick with one style that suites their own personality, but is not conducive to individual, team, or organizational success. Generally, there are four (4) methods of communicating the leaders’ intent or they style of – Blanchard and Hersey call these telling, selling, participating, and delegating. I like directing, convincing, partnering (although participating works well) and delegating. The leadership style is dependent upon the competency of the team, individual, and task. The leader must be able to identify which style is appropriate to the situation.
Directing occurs when the leader merely directs exactly what is to be done. This is a one-way conversation with little to no feedback from the follower. This is generally for the newly formed team or the individual that thrives best on clear task and purpose with close boundaries.
Convincing occurs when the leader opens up from the directing approach and allows for two-way conversation, intended to get the follower(s) on board with the plan. This will be found in a forming team or when the team needs more convincing to “buy into” the plan. Sometimes the leader just has to make the less popular decision and needs to get the rest of the team on board.
Partnering occurs when the leader works closely with the team and shares the decision making responsibility, placing more ownership with the team. Developing leaders is a key function of the leader. By partnering with the team, the leader is able to lead by example and share in the decision making process.
Delegating occurs when the leader gives the authority to the team or a subordinate follower to make certain decisions. This may not include the responsibility of the decision (sometimes responsibility just cannot or should not be delegated). When the individual or team is trusted to make the right decision, delegation should be leveraged. This enables the team to make quicker decisions and empowers the team, building confidence and self-motivation.
The maturity level focuses on the level of skill and/or responsibility of the follower. The maturity level ranges from unable to take responsibility but willing to work to fully proficient at the task and responsible. An individual or team may be “immature” – less experience – at a given task, but highly mature at another task. The maturity level is task, individual, and group dependent.
Development and Self-motivation
One of the leader’s key responsibilities is to develop and motivate others. Development involves motivating, educating, mentoring, and providing opportunities for the individual members and team to grow. This is generally a slow process, even for the highly competent member or team – so take the time to do it right – get to know each other, learn what motivates each other, find out what each other likes and dislikes – this helps to build team cohesion and an understanding of how each member “ticks”.
Developing others also involves helping others become self-sufficient. Becoming self-sufficient requires a certain level of competency – that level is, again, dependent on the situation, the individual and team, as well as the amount of risk the leader, team, and organization can tolerate. Along with becoming self-sufficient, is self-motivation, the innate desire to achieve more. Inspiring others to achieve more for themselves, their team, and the organization is essential to individual and team success. Most people are willing to work when someone is watching them, but about when they are left alone to accomplish a task? Inspire and motivate others to be or become self-sufficient and self-motivated, and you are on the right path to developing the next generation of leaders.
Applying Situational Leadership
With these three (3) aspects in mind, situational leadership is all about understanding the situation – including the task and members of the team, their skill, and motivation – and leading the individual members of the team in a way that motivates and inspires them to achieve, resulting in group and team success. Each situation is different, and requires the art and finesse of leadership to be applied in order to successfully leverage the skills and abilities of the team to achieve their desired result. An experienced team with great skill needs less directing and more delegation, whereas the newly formed team needs greater development and convincing or partnering to become cohesive and succeed.
As you strive to identify where your team currently resides, consider the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the individual team members, the collective skills of the team, and the level of cohesion and motivation. Your leadership style should be driven by these traits. Lead with confidence in your skills and abilities and that of your team.
Jared W. Snow
Servant leaders emphasize others before themselves – to include the organization. The servant leader places the needs, motivations, aspirations, and desires of others before meeting their own needs. For example, say an organization is offering a bonus or training opportunity. The servant leader would have their employee (or peer) receive the bonus or training prior to receiving it themselves.
The leader to organization relationship occurs when the servant leader places the organization before their own personal agenda. The servant leader could demand a raise or leave, placing the organization in a position to lose revenue (assuming here that this would place the organization into a negative position) or lose an employee. The servant leader sacrifices personal gain for the betterment of the organization.
These examples seem simple and straightforward, yet they often lead to resentment on that of the leader attempting a posture of servanthood. Continuous self-sacrifice tends to make some resent their good intentions when left unaddressed over a long period of time. How does one correct this?
Well, it takes a leader that is aware of their surroundings and team, to be cognizant of their peer or subordinate leaders, and ensure that all team members (and the organization) have their needs met. Not only does the servant leader need to ensure the needs of others are met, they need to ensure their needs are met as well. If left unattended, it may take outside influence from other leaders to ensure all needs are met. Still, some thrive on a life of servanthood – Mother Theresa for instance. Most of us cannot sacrifice so much for too long, yet there are times where it is essential for the development and growth of others, including our organization.
Who do you serve first? Yourself, your organization, others?
Jared W. Snow
The transformational leader inspires, motivates, and encourages other members of the team to accomplish the mission of their organization. The transformational leader is able to cast a vision the team embraces and strives for each day. Working to accomplish a goal as a team, creates a cohesion and builds the team into a single entity, moving in unison.
Doesn’t this sound like the type of leader you would like to follow? Someone who provides inspiration and motivation to achieve, possibly more than you thought you could yourself? What does it take to be this type of leader?
Well, it starts by listening to others. Listening is probably one of the easiest things to do – literally, you do nothing but let someone else do the talking. In some cases, you “listen” to body language, facial gestures, changes in personality, and so on. Listening should be easy, right? The challenge is, so many of us are stuck in our own heads, planning our next action or comment, or thinking about a task that needs to be addressed or what to have for dinner. If you want to inspire others, start by listening to what they are telling you. Often, they are telling you everything you need to know.
Listening is not enough, you must respond to what is being said in order to meet their needs.
Motivating others requires understanding what motivates them – what is it that really gets them going, excited, and so on. What are they passionate about? Identify that one thing, and you will be well on your way. Too often, leaders think the key to motivating someone is throwing money towards the team. Well, what if your team makes enough money, but their work week consists of 10 hour days, 6 days a week, and their spouse works the night shift while they work the day? Money is not a motivator, but time just may be. Offer some time off, a flexible schedule, and so on. Actually, if your team is working excessive hours, perhaps the issue is a lack of efficiency and proper planning?
The point here is, find out what motivates your team and do that. It could be as simple as recognition in a meeting. You will not know until you ask and listen.
Inspiration is easier for the charismatic leader, the one that seems to know just what to say at the right time. Charisma is often associated with a tyrannical leader. This occurs when charisma is used by the tyrannical leader get others to accomplish something for them, whereas the transformational leader uses charisma to inspire others to achieve more for themselves, others, and the organization. Inspiring is less about motivating others such as providing a reward or recognition. Inspiration is helping others find the passion within themselves to strive for more – whatever that more is.
As you lead your team, focus on listening to what they are telling you. Remember, sometimes they are telling you exactly what you need to know through words and actions, you must learn to pay attention. Respond to what they are telling you in ways that motivate them. Motivation is different for everyone, so as you listen, pay attention for what motivates them. Inspire others to find their passion, and let them take it from there. There is more to successful leadership than just this, but do these 3 things and see where it takes you.
Jared W. Snow