Mentoring: Avoiding Task List Target Practice. Part 2 of 2

This is part two of a two-part article.  The first installation was published on June 6, 2010.

This post  is for leaders — from students to mid-level managers like me — dealing with workaday problems.  It is about the importance of seeking mentoring to inspire you to in times of frustration.  It is for people who have been frustrated for so long, they may have forgotten how to reset the Attitude button and release themselves from suffocating frustration at work.

My favorite gems from AL, with my own perspective woven in, included:

  1. A manager, even a great leader, has only a small role in an employee’s career success.  Ultimately, the employee is responsible for using the opportunities given her or him.  And it is that individual’s responsibility for having the “fire” in her or his belly.
  2. You can never motivate a person whose goals are only related to salary.  Invest in people who want to excel and produce amazing results, set the bar high, give them all the training and coaching they can stand, and give them space to shine.  If helping them grow professionally is not an incentive and encouragement for them to help achieve your business’s goals, help them find a better-fitted job.
  3. Take risks that grow people. Business goals are necessary.  Accountability is critical.   But focus as much as possible on growing people’s skill sets, ambitions, responsibilities and investment in goal achievement.  Invest most in helping prepare your people to lead your organization.  Who can make key decisions when you are away?  Have you provided enough continuing education opportunities?  Have you spent enough time inviting them to chew on the big issues your unit faces?  Have you sought their advice and created a sense of inner-circle for those who work the hardest?
  4. To get honest feedback about how effectively you lead or what your staff need from you, don’t ask for 360 evaluations.  Ask them what processes are most valuable and which need improvement.  Fix the problems.  Good job, leader!
  5. Your greatest chance of making sure your team will be effective is hiring extremely carefully, and making the expectations clear at that point.
  6. The single most important skill a person brings to an organization is communication skills.  Great ideas and great inspiration mean nothing if you cannot expertly bring other people to share your views.
  7. And I will close with my longtime favorite, one which AL and I shared a good old clubby, “yes, I know your pain”  laugh over: require your staff to prepare solutions to their challenges — not just the problems — when they seek your counsel.  That is the difference between training them to excel and lead, versus babysitting and feeling overly-important because your team “needs” you so much.  The goal is for them to function exceptionally well even when you’re absent.  If they can’t put their top three priorities in order without your help, you are failing them and your self.

And here’s my closing salvo, and this one is all mine!  If you think you are a leader, you are.  Because being a leader is not about your title, but your attitude, problem-solving skills and communication abilities.  You will perform at a high level, get more opportunity, and grow faster no matter your place in the organizational chart.  If you do not think you are a leader, everyone around you will recognize it and treat you accordingly.

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