Most of us have had someone in our lives who was a mentor. It may have been an older friend who gave great advice and passed on wisdom to you.
I had lunch today with an old, valued Marine friend. Halfway through the meal, he asked me what he could do to support me in some personal goals. After lunch, I reflected upon the exchange and realized that he and I had mentored each other for the past 28 years.
Earlier this week, I wrote a post called Developing Talent, which told a story of one of my Marine mentors. This afternoon, after reflecting on that and my lunch discussion, I revisited the following roles* a mentor may undertake:
- Teacher – imparts skills and knowledge required to accomplish a job.
- Counselor – establishes trust, listens to challenges and provides guidance as necessary.
- Guide – helps to navigate and understand an organization.
- Motivator – helps to keep focused on the performance and pushing through tough times, while developing, self respect and a sense of self-worth.
- Sponsor – helps create challenging and instructive opportunities that may not be available.
- Coach – takes an active role in observation, assessing capabilities and providing feedback and instruction.
- Advisor – helps cultivate professional interests and set SMART career goals.
- Introducer – refers and makes introductions to persons or opportunities that will enhance the mentee’s career.
- Role Model – sets an example for the mentee to follow.
- Door Opener – helps the mentee network and stay in touch for professional purposes.
Mentoring is an intentional process, with both parties sharing responsibility. Done correctly, there are few better ways to leave a legacy.
What legacy will you leave?
*Adapted from User’s Guide to Marine Corps Values.
After my first week of work as a Marine, following boot camp and computer science school, I met my team leader Sgt Jim Condello. He had been away during my first week, attending the Staff Non Commissioned Officers Academy and preparing for his upcoming promotion to staff sergeant.
I met him as we checked in at the shop. Once we met, the team was given the morning off while the techs performed weekly maintenance on the mainframe. As I was leaving with the rest of the group, just as I had the week earlier, Condello asked me where I was going. He shook his head and told me to follow him.
For the next two hours, he had me doing any dirty job he could find. Every now and then, he would shout out my name and ask how it felt to be a private first class (PFC) in the Marines. I would keep working and say fine sergeant. The whole time, I was getting frustrated, but was not going to let him bother me to the point I did something stupid. After two hours, he yelled again and I had finally taken all I could without responding. I stood at attention and yelled “I like it a lot better than being a private, sergeant.” He threw his head back, laughed hard and then told me to take the morning off.
I later realized that he was testing me. Condello had re-enlisted from the artillery and was used to a disciplined group. Many of the new guys in the shop had bad attitudes and he wanted to check mine. Once he discovered that I was a motivated young marine, I still had to do the duties of the lowest ranking guy on the team, but was treated with respect. He also went out of his way to teach me and prepare me to be an NCO.
Two years into my enlistment, I was meritoriously promoted to sergeant while on embassy duty. A few months later, I had a chance to speak to Condello and he asked me how I liked being a sergeant in the Marines. I laughed and said it was better than being a PFC. We both laughed. That was when I realized that he was as proud of my promotion as I was.
That was also a great lesson I learned from him. Condello was trying to prepare me to be a sergeant and replace him as he moved up. He was a good leader.
I find myself looking more these days for opportunities to help others advance their careers. I think it’s the ultimate legacy that anyone could leave. If I do it correctly, then those that I help will turn around and do the same. It’s the gift that keeps giving.
Who was there to help mentor you? Who do you know, that has the talent and desire that you could mentor?
Earlier I wrote a post Aligning SMART Goals with Core Values that talked about the importance of aligning goals with core values. I used the Acronym ALIGN to describe the process of aligning the goals. I defined ALIGN using the words Assess, List, Internalize, Grade and Number.
That post included information from Shirley Fine Lee’s post Setting Smart Goals for New Year. Shirley defines SMART using the words Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based.
In my experience, those two acronyms define two out of three components in the goal setting process. The goals must be:
- Well rounded
It does little good to focus totally on one key life area, or business area, and neglect the others. Imagine a body builder that focused only on upper body and neglected building the legs. That would be ridiculous.
When developing the SMART goals and going through the ALIGN process, ensure that you include all relevant areas of your life or business. You may not be able to work on all areas at once, but diversify your efforts and work on a couple at a time. That will help avoid burnout, alleviate boredom and improve chances of success.
Shirley Fine Lee wrote Setting Smart Goals for New Year at the beginning of the New Year. The post describes an effective way of designing goals, utilizing the acronym SMART. She defines SMART using the words Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based.
As I look back on my adult life, I can see that my most successful times, personally and professionally, were usually times which were following SMART goals. My greatest accomplishments were always when my SMART goals were both aligned with my core values, and focused on all key life areas, prioritized by the same values.
Whether working on personal goals or goals as part of business planning, it is important that they are congruent with core values. Shirley says that the goals should mean something to the goal setter and help to motivate them to attain it. This falls in the Relevant step. I break this step down using the acronym ALIGN. Those steps are:
- Assess – Take an inventory of your status in each key life area for personal goals. As a business leader, you should apply the same process and assess the different areas of business in which you will be planning. Write down the current status of each area.
- List – Write everything, tangible and intangible, that you want to accomplish in each area.
- Internalize – Where does each key life area — or area of business — align with your core values. This is the step where the hard look at what is really important is taken.
- Grade – Once you have a good idea where you are in each area, assign a value of 1-10, with 10 being highest. Next decide the importance for each area. (For example, you may be a five in one area, but a 7 is acceptable.) List each area and the value of the difference of the “ideal” minus the value of your current status.
- Number – Prioritize the list with the most important areas first. These will be the areas that need the most work and have the most significance to your life or business.
Determine and apply these steps as you develop your SMART goals and you will ensure congruency with your core values.
Robert Fulghum wrote a popular book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The book is full of common sense rules to apply to life in order to make life better.
Sometimes in my professional interactions, I think that all I ever needed to know I learned in boot camp. As a young Marine recruit, many things were drilled into me, including leadership training. Much of that training revolved around learning, developing and acting on 14 leadership traits and 11 leadership principles. Nearly 30 years later, I can look back at successful relationships with clients, vendors and coworkers and know with absolute certainty that many of those traits and principles applied in each situation.
As business professionals, we often like to hold ourselves out as “trusted advisers.” Ian Brodie, in his Get Clients Blog, calls it the holy grail of professional services. Building on trust puts us into position to establish a long term working relationship. That can be accomplished by applying a few of the leadership traits, which are:
- Enthusiasm, especially important during stressful and busy times, is being cheerful and optimistic, which puts the client at ease.
- Bearing is conducting ourselves in a professional and competent manner.
- Tact is dealing with people in a firm and courteous manner.
- Unselfishness is making the other party okay. This is being considerate of their needs at all times.
- Integrity is being honest and ethical in all of your dealings.
- Knowledge is being technically proficient in order to deliver quality service.
- Dependability is getting the work done and delivered when promised.
- Loyalty is a devotion shown to your others. The payoff is usually the return of loyalty from others.
Develop and apply these traits in all business relationships and you will find success as a true trusted adviser.
Sixty five years ago today, one of the transcendent moments in American history occurred – the raising of the American flag over Mount Surabachi.” Every Marine who has served this country since that day has the image of the second flag raising, immortalized by Joe Rosenthal’s photograph, seared into his or her memory. It is the most famous photo of World War II and that depiction was used to create the largest bronze statue ever made, the Marine Corps War Memorial, better known as the “Iwo Jima Memorial.”
When I was in Boot Camp, there was very little time wasted during the entire eleven weeks of training. Even when we were waiting for the next training session, we were either doing more physical training, cleaning our weapons, or studying our essential subjects. In the U.S. Marine Corps, the history of the corps is an essential subject. No Boot graduates as a Marine without knowing the history of this famous battle. I, along with every Marine before me and every Marine since me are connected by defining moments as this. Through those connections, Admiral Nimitz is speaking to us the words “uncommon valor was a common virtue.”
It’s no accident that valor and virtue are mentioned together. Marines are drilled from the beginning in code of conduct, leadership traits, leadership principles and values. These bind us together and create our character.
Given the recent moral and ethical collapses in business, which had a “Shock and Awe” effect on our financial markets and economy, I think more business leaders and politicians could use the same character building. Enron, AIG, Merrill Lynch, and others are examples of what happens when morals and values are sacrificed for financial gain. Even after the bailout, excessive bonus payouts prove that some people still do not get it.
This country has never been perfect and never will be. That is an impossible outcome. It is a great country though and has the potential to be even better. This blog is dedicated to discussing the Corps Values that can make a difference in our business culture and effect positive change in our lives.
I look forward to this journey and hope my readers get as much out of this as I have. Semper Fi!