We all have mentors at various times in our career.
David Pilbeam has been fortunate to have worked for, been influenced by, and loved, a few. His professional and private life would look very different without them, he believes.
Here are the most useful five messages these mentors have shared with him…
1) Be courageous.
Well, I thought I would start with the easiest! David Maister writes in his book True Professionalism “How often can you repeat the basic advice of “Listen to your clients, provide outstanding service, train your people, look for and eliminate inefficiencies, and act like team players?” The problem, clearly, is not in figuring out what to do. Rather, the problem is to find the strength and courage to do what we know to be right.” Many times I have ‘sat on’ something until the pain got so great that I just had to act. With a bit of courage, I just might have got going on that project sooner.
2) Be there!
Woody Allen once said: “Ninety percent of success is showing up.” On a professional level, this means be early for appointments and be prepared. On a personal level, give your full attention to each person. Great facilitators, for example, listen to what a person says, find the themes and enable the person to be more real, more themselves. They can only do that if they are fully present in the moment.
3) Be a talent spotter.
Sure, it’s cool to demonstrate mastery yourself. But learning to look for and expose others to the talent of friends and colleagues not only feels great but gets you results as well. Phil Jackson, winning coach of both Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers, once said to Michael Jordan early in his career; ‘The sign of a great player is not how much he scores, but how much he lifts his team-mate’s performance.’ Jordan and the ‘Bulls’ never looked back. Even the greatest performers revel in the talent of others.
4) Be real.
Listen, watch and learn but ultimately you have to be ‘YOU’ to be credible. Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan get to the heart of this in their book Execution: “Who you are is the same as what you do and say. Only authenticity builds trust, because sooner or later people spot the fakers.” Carl Rogers, the humanistic psychologist, explained the need to be ‘congruent’—while the existentialists talked about living in either ‘good faith’ or ‘bad faith’. Be true to yourself and help others to be authentic.
5) See things in perspective.
“Lighten-up”. I got this message (AGAIN!) loud and clear from a wise and trusted source just a few days ago. Most of us take our work seriously—and we must if we are to succeed. But it is vital to keep things in perspective. Compared to most people on the planet, some of us are very privileged. The decisions we take at work are important but, apart from those in the medical profession, do not necessarily involve life and death. The constant search for success can drain us and take-away the real essence of who we are and how we can serve other people. At the same time, we also need encouragement. By all means work hard, but be sure to play hard as well! Don’t take yourself too seriously.