According to Wikipedia, “Mentoring” is a process that always involves communication and is relationship based, but its precise definition is elusive. One definition of the many that have been proposed is…
Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the mentee)”
Another related concept is Mentoring Circles. It is one where a group meets on a regular basis for an agreed upon length of time, where a collection of mentoring relationships happen. The ultimate goal of the Mentoring Circles is to (a) set important and relevant development goals, and (b) build confidence and teach skills to reach the goals (Abbot: A Guide to Mentoring Circles. October 2008).
A new concept which I call ‘’Mentors Circle’ is even more powerful. A Mentors Circle or ‘mC’ is one where one mentee work with multiple mentors. Tapping into the collective expertise of mentors, the mentee can stay ahead of the learning curve with unprecedented pace. An mC has elements of ‘Mentoring Circle’ and that of ‘Living Library’. What makes an mC interesting is that it works as a ‘Book Shelf’ – call it ‘Mentor Shelf’. Mentors are at the mentee’s disposal helping the mentee to learn and develop. Since mentee is interacting with several mentors on a regular basis, it gives different perspective to same issue and this widens the mentee’s thinking process.
An mC is definitely the priority of the mentee. A mentee who is keen to learn more at faster pace is only eligible to carry out an mC; otherwise, it merely becomes a ‘networking’ exercise.
An mC is making reality the metaphor “standing on the shoulders of the giants”, which means ‘one who develops future intellectual pursuits by understanding the research and works created by notable thinkers of the past’. In the case of an mC, it is not about past, but is about ‘present’ – interactions with the giants on a regular basis.
Let’s take this to another level. On a basic level, the mC should be the initiative of the mentee. What happens is that, the mentee would find out experts he or she want to interact with, then communicate the intention to be mentored – if the expert is willing, both would come in terms for an mC relationship. What if there are individuals, who have the appetite to continuous learning and development, however are not aware of such opportunities to connect and learn. In this case, the community leaders should take initiative to assign mentors for these individuals – this can be achieved through several grassroots leadership initiatives.
It is as if the books available on leadership are incommensurate that we started writing the-journey-of-a-leader. The-journey-of-a-leader is in fact a reflection of thoughts of a leader in making. Instead of writing after becoming a leader, it seemed interesting to scribble down thoughts of a to-be-leader. Year 2012 seems to be a really interesting one – why? – because of the actions taken on the path of self leadership.
Robin Sharma to Anthony Robbins to several others have been insisting on the importance of physical exercise through their books and audio programs. However, never thought an action would follow after all those reading and listening. Even though ad hoc Yoga sessions would happen a day or two, it never had consistency all these years. 2012 January seems to break that pattern. First day at the gym was a great leap of faith. Standing in front of the gym, before joining, mind started to pull back reminding how easy life would be without the pain inside the gym. Yet, for some reason, I gathered all the courage and invested money and time in the gym. Bravo!
Confronting the fear and going for it gives great confidence, I should admit. Four years of a job where it needs mainly sitting in front of a computer and crunching data - to - deciding to completely go out for business development assuming the role of a sales executive is another great leap of faith.
The first sales meeting was an interesting one – all the way to the prospect’s office, I was listening to Jeffrey Gitomer’s The Sales Bible. Step by step process seemed to be really great. I was practicing the process of starting the conversation and slowly get into the core and then close the deal. I assumed that it would be a minimum 20 minute meeting, if not less. However, prospect seemed to be very straight forward and meeting lasted just 5 minutes, prospect had other appointments. I was not ready for a 5 minute meeting. That was a great learning-5-minute. As Jeffrey Gitomer says, “no salesperson on the planet makes every sale”. The point here is about confronting those 5 minutes. Confronting a situation where you are not prepared for. Sales profession seems to be great one – what a chance to learn about self and clients.
The New Year would have more surprises and milestones I believe. Let it come, I am ready as I know that “there are so many gifts, still unopened from my birthday”. This year is the time to open a lot of them.
The story of Golden Buddha has been part of leadership folklore; it seems that when enemies invaded the Buddhist temple, the keepers of the temple gave thick clay covering to the Buddha’s statue (actually made out of pure gold) so as to deceive the enemies. It happened so that after decades, the clay statue of Buddha was found during an excavation project where the Golden Buddha was ‘discovered’ inside the clay statue.
The first step towards leadership development is discovery of who we are in terms of our strengths and weaknesses. As bestseller author Marcus Buckingham rightly puts, we should discover our strengths (the gold) first then align the activities (profession) surrounding those strengths. The discovery-alignment is critical; otherwise, leaders would waste a lot of time in activities that are not in their best interest and passion resulting in depressed individuals. Getting the right people in the right place in the right time is a known fact in the Human Resources Management circle.
Aligning the profession according to the strengths doesn’t mean that the person should not try other trades. However, if a person is put into a profession where his passion doesn’t lie, then the learning other trades would take longer time. Thus, discover the strengths in you – the things that you are good at, the things that you give your 100% every time – and align it with your profession.
Once you discover your strengths, it is important to shape the character. The origin of the word character comes from a Greek word meaning ‘chisel’ or a ‘mark left by chisel’. Chisel is a sharp steel tool to make a sculpture out of hard material like granite or marble; a tool to carve away things to get to the things that really matters – the sculpture in this case.
Character doesn’t refer to other people, it doesn’t relate to make people follow you. Character is all about you. It is something that you have and that you are. You might be in a desert island without anybody around you, character is still important. Character is the person you are after you chisel and chisel all the unnecessary material. Developing character is part of self-leadership. An attitude of character is important for you to be a real leader. Character is strength and it attracts people towards you. It attracts love, loyalty, devotion and passionate followers.
Align the activities that you do according to your strengths and passion along with building a strong character.
A leader-in-progress’ musings…
"How is it to think Positive every second of every minute of every day! Beautiful. All these days my mind was laminated by self-doubt and sloth. A breakthrough happened while browsing the pages of some inspirational books. The sudden bolt of thunder from the lines of the books read, urged to shed the cocoon of (self-imposed) limitations that had enveloped my life and prevented from self-mastery and life excellence.
“Seek out all the available knowledge and then apply it thoroughly” – a simple quote but very powerful. When reading between those lines realization hovered around my mind that with perfect practice like muscles of a body you can build a great mind – a winning self.
When more and more the books were read, astounding thoughts sprung from mind. What a valuable thing time is! What an astonishing capacity every human brain has! We are really born to win – wherever we were born, wherever or whatever we are now, we have the Freedom of Choice. Whenever beautiful obstacles come to our life, meet it with a beautiful smile. This is the Age of Wisdom. Be prepared.”
Some of the leadership lessons are learnt best from children. Observe how children learn new things and it can be found out that they normally follow a pattern of imitation to start with. They imitate the actions, language, emotions, etc of the people they come across on a daily basis; let it be in the real world or through some kind of media. Whatever children learn; positive or negative, they tend to ‘follow’ others in action, speech or even thoughts. The initial level of following others’ actions, etc would continue till a point where they start discovering their own thought process, character and behaviour.
Budding or potential leaders can use the learning pattern of children to start their leadership journey. They need to first follow the action manuals of other recognized leaders about whom much is written and discussed. In other words, potential leaders need to commit to learn lifelong from other leaders before taking up the leadership mantle themselves.
It is urged to the potential leaders to use the decades of experience of the world leaders available in the form of books, Internet, seminars, etc. This would help to avoid wastage of time and effort in experimenting. Thus, to lead, fist we need to follow the footsteps of other leaders and eventually discover our unique style of leadership in the journey.
Some of the interesting books on leadership include ‘21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership’ by John C Maxwell, Decide to Lead; 9 Decisions That Can Make You a True Leader by Sangeeth Varghese, The Leadership Code by Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman, Leadership Wisdom from the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma. Reading and following them can be a good starting point for potential leaders.
Leaders are not made; they become. History boasts of several charismatic leaders who changed the course of the world. Thankfully, they left legacies by teaching us how they achieved the state of a leader. There is no reason why you, too, cannot achieve that state, if you are willing to take the time and effort to learn how to attain it. One of the things that those leaders have done is to take the road less traveled. They observed their surrounding – the state of their society, their country, and sometimes the world as a whole and thought what can they do to make it better? They realized that to bring a different result than what existed, they should think, do and be different.
Mohammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank from Bangladesh did exactly the same. The country was in the middle of a famine and what he could see was skeletons all around him, people waiting to die. In his own words, he “felt terrible” about the situation, hence “I started trying to find out how people lived in the village next door to find out whether there was anything I could do as a human being to delay or stop the death, even for a single person.”. This is where Muhammad Yunus started observing his surrounding and started thinking differently. He explains his approach to the situation, he continues; “I abandoned the bird’s-eye view that lets you see everything from above, from the sky. I assumed a worm’s-eye view, trying to find whatever comes in front of you – smell it, touch it, see if you can do something about it”.
Grameen Bank became a formal bank in the year 1983 and from there on it has helped the villages across the world to live a better life. Muhammad Yunus was a just another teacher in an university in Bangladesh at that time. He took the road less traveled and result is a revolution. Study the stories of other leaders; we can see a pattern similar to the story of Grameen Bank. As in the case of Grameen Bank and other initiatives in the world, make a humble start, then grow it brick by brick and people by people.