I could have used a conversation with one of them recently. Ironically it was because I was asked to participate in a mentoring event for young professionals a few months back. Mentoring continues to be a hot topic — and for good reason. Mentees seek ideas, tips and secrets to success. Mentors seek to share words of wisdom and add value.
As for me, I had to come up with a gem or two that I could share with emerging leaders. What should I say? I thought hard. That’s a lie. I agonized. I spent far too much time coming up with the required text.
This prompted me to think about my own and other people’s mentoring experiences. What could we all learn as we seek to enhance our communication skills? I canvassed colleagues of each generation (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y) on their mentoring experiences and counsel.
Here are some of my favorite sentiments:
From Mentors’ and Mentees’ Mouths: Five Lessons Worth Sharing
1. Ask the Provocative Question
Former CEO Scott Suckow, received a cosmic 2 by 4 on channeling ego by a mentor who posed an excellent question about what Scott really wanted. As the CEO of a non-profit that had a great deal of success and growth, he was dealing with a board leadership transition that was not going well. He was sure all he needed to do was to help the other person understand just how wrong they were. He was asked the question, “Do you want to be right or keep your job?”and told that he might have to choose.
Scott continues, “That simple question really pulled out the complexities of ego, and whether as CEO I would be able to put mine aside for the greater good. It was explained that if each of us give 50% and meet in the middle, that puts half the responsibility on the other person. That’s half that we have no control over. Rather, if I was committed to success, why not do everything I could to ensure it, even giving 100%? This seems like such a simple observation, but I was rooted in my belief of being right, my ego didn’t allow me to see how much power I actually had. To this day, when I find my ego keeping me from exploring new ways of doing things, I nudge myself along by asking this question “Do I want to be right or………..?”