Be a Mentor, and Learn Something Yourself
I never connected the dots about how much I missed leading people until I stopped managing them. I was finding teachable moments from lessons I had learned that needed to be expressed, and found I was lacking the people to tell. I think I found therapy in sharing all of my mistakes with others. I often told people regularly, “Don’t step on any toes, don’t burn any bridges, and keep the lines of communications open…because you will cross paths again.” The purpose was to remind people that even if we part ways, we can still be there for each other.
Working for me was once described as swimming in the oceans of Maine. Initially, when you jump in, you are shocked and can barely move. After a while, you get used to it, are refreshed, and ultimately you learn to enjoy swimming in it. I had enough people tell me how much they learned under my management, but only after they had time to reflect on our time together (often many years later). Since at the time I held positions which involved more project management versus people management, I longed for the two-way dialogue of professional development conversations. Once I realized that I did, eventually, have a positive influence on people, I knew I wanted to at least be a mentor. As a mentor, I also came to the conclusion that the people I mentored—as opposed to those I managed—didn’t have to listen to me, so I had to work harder to exert the right influence. I wanted to be a teacher again without having people wait years for that “aha” moment that they had learned something from me. I wanted to do it without throwing people into the ocean first.
It is interesting how people would come to me to say how they wanted me to teach their newer leaders how to be better organized, or to teach managers how to be more direct. I underestimated the influence I was having on people who were eager to learn. By investing time with others with no strings attached, I began to naturally soften my directness because they had no vested interest in my teachings unless I could give them something impactful to walk away with. From an objective mentoring point of view, I could teach without forcing the issue. I could adapt my teachings based on what worked best for that person’s style or situation.
I found myself more effective influencing others as I was learning myself. I found success in building bridges, and actively sharing my past successes and failures. Most importantly, I was becoming a better listener. I was growing more patient, and was no longer just hearing the words but was truly listening. I improved my communication skills by understanding the impact I had on others when I tried to speak over them or ignore their comments while I tried to come up with the next thing to say.
I was becoming someone else’s sounding board. I could have put on my psychiatrist hat for some sessions. It depended on what the person I was mentoring at the time wanted or needed. I began to better adapt my advice and teachings based on the various situations. I became a stronger role model and a better mentor. Many people have invested their time and energy to share their knowledge with me as my mentors. I knew I wanted to do the same. Selfishly, I just couldn’t—and still can’t—get past the fact the every time I mentor someone, I walk away thanking them.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
Do you know about Avanoo.com? Two-to-three minute eLearning programs that can change your life.
MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby