Your Best Mentor?

For this week’s #LeadershipChat on Twitter (8 pm ET, Tuesday night), we’re going to talk about Mentoring.

If you are going to be an effective leader, you will serve as an adviser, a coach, a teacher to those “under” you. This assumes, of course, that you’re setting some kind of example to follow.

But let’s do something different this week. Instead of me jotting down my thoughts and feelings about the topic, let’s have YOU write the blog post. Who have been the best examples you’ve followed?

Go into the comments, and describe the best mentor/leader you’ve had. What made them inspiring to follow? How did they bring out the best in you? What lessons have you carried forward?

It would be most helpful to have YOUR perspectives about this, which will serve as a basis for our Tuesday night discussion.

Ready? Go to the comments and write up your thoughts for us! And while you’re add it, read co-moderator Lisa Petrilli’s thoughts on successful mentoring!

(by the way, does the word “mentee” somehow give you the shivers? Never have gotten acclimated to that term…!)

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

14 Responses to Your Best Mentor?

  1. I was fortunate to have encountered multiple mentors during a very successful career at ADP. One of these mentors really grounded me (and others) in the value of being a can-do, roll up sleeve manager. Even as this young man (he was younger than me – and still is) rose through the ranks, he continued to demonstrate leadership by example. I recall once when my team was handling a difficult programming problem, Mike watched as we worked through some ideas; and only chimed in to help us move in the right direction. At one point, he asked if he could take the controls and he began to come up with the programming solution. YET, at no time did he make my team or I feel as if we failed. Contrary, he showed us what he thought might be the problem and how he solved it. We were able to meet the deadline and yet he left us all feeling a sense of accomplishment. And this is how I have tried to be at all stages of my career; especially as I managed more people and higher level projects. You are never too big to be in the swamp with your team.

  2. Steve – I prefer Protege to Mentee – but Protege also sounds kinda off-putting for some reason.

    I’ve had more than a few really great mentors over the years.

    Generally, I’ve gotten more out of mentors when I initiated the relationship than I did out of structured, corporate sponsored mentor programs. I think there’s a couple reasons for this:

    1. I think the best mentorships are completed driven by the protege. Anything forced by an outside entity will be less effective. If the protege feels they need to change something and are genuinely inquisitive about how to do so, they will be more receptive to genuine feedback and open to tryint new approaches.

    2. I think in order to be an effective mentor, there needs to either be a pre-existing relationship OR someone selected outside the protege’s existing enterprise. To select a mentor a few levels up within the existing corporate structure is bound to be intimidating and lead to a lack of openness by the protege – leading to a less effective engagement.

    By the way, I know many people view working with people directly under you as a mentoring relationship – I disagree. Developing your direct reports is a core function of a leader. Mentoring is something extra. Developing a direct can be training or coaching, but I reserve the mentor title for an extra relationship outside working with my direct through line (in either direction). My two cents.

    Hope to see you tomorrow night.

    Sean

  3. Network Sommelier says:

    Great comments by Sean(agree with many things you have said).

    My first mentor was at age 12. Second one was at age 16. No mentor qualified for what I was seeking till Chicago in 2008(Yeap thats not a typo). Mentors in my definition should have a resume of great success. When they solve a problem its because they have solved it many times before. They can suggest many ways of going about a particular problem. They can spot the problem a mile away.

    Corporate mentors should be outsiders and not your direct boss.
    Steve nailed this in his second point. The wrong mentor can also have devastating results.

    There should be a whole process written out to select a good mentor :)

    My 2 cents amongst others.

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  5. Steve G says:

    Good Topic Steve – one that is very hot right now in the leadership community.

    My experience with Mentor Leadership has seen the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. There are those that want to be good mentors, yet lack the discipline and focus to follow through on their own direction and guidance that they provide, and I believe part of strong mentor leadership is leading by example. While their heart might be in the right place, leading by example is a vital part of mentor leadership. There are those that use the term “mentor” (and I say that loosely with this group!) who do it for selfish reasons – perhaps one wouldn’t even call this mentor leadership – who mentor individuals for their own personal gain (recognition and reward), instead of for the concern and well being of the individual(s) who are following their lead.

    What sticks out in my mind with one strong example of a Mentor was their ability to put aside their own personal agenda for my growth and well being. They often stated that… “one day, they would work for me…”

    They took the initiative not only to show me how what their responsibilities were in their capacity as a Senior Level Manager, but more importantly, what I needed to “get to the next level.” They continually challenged me not to be ordinary, but to strive for extraordinary (through tough love as well as nurturing) and consistently made time to discuss my thought process. They truly seemed interested not only in mentoring me, but learning from me. We had discussions not only on how I would handle my current responsibilities, but what I would do if I was in their position. They didn’t try to change my style, but more importantly, looked at my strengths and focused on them to improve my leadership and thought process. They had a deep understanding on how I looked at “things” and worked with me to develop those skills in facing problems. Candid, Direct, and Caring are the (3) things that come to mind.

    • What you said here sums it up rather well: “What sticks out in my mind with one strong example of a Mentor was their ability to put aside their own personal agenda for my growth and well being.”
      That’s what it’s all about, methinks!

  6. Steve G says:

    Sorry Steve, but this topic is important to me…

    A good book on Mentor Leadership is The Mentor Leader by NFL Coach, Tony Dungy. Keeping with the Super Bowl theme, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin, credits much of his success as a coach to the mentoring from Tony Dungy who Tomlin coached under. “I can give a really pointed answer because I am very conscious of Coach Dungy’s influence in terms of how I do my job,” Tomlin said, adding: “He tries to lead through service, and I do the same. I learned that from him in providing the men what they need to be great. Every day when I go to work, I don’t think about things I have to do, I think about the things I can do to make my men successful. So I have a servant’s mentality in terms of how I approach my job, and I get that from Coach Dungy.”

    Sorry Steve for the (2) Comments

    Thanks for the great topic.

    SPGonz

  7. Kenny Rose says:

    Steve.

    I never had a mentor. Ever. Different times. My mentors were hero’s I tried to emulate, Mohammed Ali, Bruce Lee, Kato, Pele, Johan Cruyff Martin Luther King. Nelson Mandela. I read widely tried to get the best education I could and tried to make sure I listened to my mother. My headteacher in primary school was probably the closest thing I had to a mentor. He was awesome.

    That said. Every child and employee should be assigned a mentor. It should be part of the school curriculum to assign mentors for each pupil. In my view that would be the most effective way of stopping a lot of the problems experienced in companies and society. Leadership skills are essential. I do believe some people are just natural leaders but I also believe Leadership skills can be taught effectively.

    Service has always been my objective. Leaders serve passionately. They fight for what they believe.. The whole point of living is to make this world better. To bring people together and to heal divisions and perceptions that drive us apart. Leaders look beyond themselves and say How can I make a difference.

  8. I agree – a mentor is not assigned. I think it is more about chemistry. In my one example (and I have had 2 others in my career), he didn’t mentor everyone; He was patient or helpful to everyone – of course not.

    An assigned corporate mentor is not a mentor in my book; it’s someone assigned to assist you, as a nurse would in a hospital.

    and lastly, I do not believe you can seek out a mentor. Again for me it just happened. I learned from Mike for nearly a year in that department. This example given was just one of many I was involved with or observed with him.

  9. Judy Martin says:

    Hi Steve,
    Just a note that #leadershipchat was so provocative Tuesday night. Really enjoyed it. The content of the chats are doing deeper and deeper. Critical thought -exploding as opposed to idle chatter. You and @Lisapetrilli are wonderful facilitators. C U in Chi-Town!

  10. Pingback: How to Find a True Mentor | The Firm Online

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