Mentorship

Leadership

Many people go years without having a mentor. What’s the point of having a mentor? To tell you what to do? To tell you what you are doing wrong? In a subtle way, yes. They are there also there to help you progress and grow professionally and personally.

It is important that you look at a mentor as a guide. A person to help you navigate through foreign terrain and help you reach destinations you would never otherwise reach on your own. In other words, mentors are there to help you reach your goals and your potential. Along the way you’ll gain knowledge, perspective and learn things about yourself that you, yourself haven’t realized. I like to think of mentors as navigators on the roadmap to success that you can’t find on Google. Everyone’s experiences variable change in their career, thus, a strong navigator is essential.

Do you have a mentor? Are you looking for a mentor? I highly recommend utilizing experienced personnel that may have had a similar path that you are currently on. You will need someone that can understand your aspirations and career path. Someone that has been there and done that.

Finding a mentor can take time. I have had a few mentors in my career and still have a few mentors I go to. As I reflect on the mentors I have and had, I believe mentors are meant to do three things. They listen, provide feedback and provide advice. I will break them down.

First, the mentee/mentor relationship, just like any relationship, begins with communication. A mentor will not able to help if they do not listen first. Listening is the basis of all communication. Mentors listen. The mentor will not be able to help you if they do not get to know who you are, what you have done and where you wish to go. The only way to get to know that information is for them to listen. Listening is key to building a relationship. For the mentee/mentor relationship to build, grow and thrive, listening is the most important factor. As communication is a two way street, you must also listen. You must listen to what your mentor has to say because mentors provide feedback.

Feedback is mentorship. It is critical that you know and understand things about areas you are doing well in and what areas need improvement. Feedback will provide you with this information.

Feedback plots you on the map of where you are going and how much fuel (development) you will need to get there. Through feedback we learn about our self. We become aware of what we’re good at and what we need help with. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to show us what we really know or don’t know, but more importantly what we need to do. This cannot be done without feedback and mentors are great at providing the feedback necessary for your advancement.

If feedback plots you on the map, then advice is what provides you with a direction to move in. To understand where you are is one thing, to understand where you are going is another. This is why receiving advice from a mentor is important. Feedback is data from the past and present. Advice is for future use. We must have a clear path for reaching the next checkpoint on the journey in our career and in our personal development.

When mentors provide you with advice, they provide you with the best possible path when you are uncertain of what to do or where to go on your map of growth. Mentors can assist with a new direction when circumstances change, when the road all of a sudden becomes blocked, or when you are experiencing rough terrain. Advice is a course of action.

As advice provides you the direction, your action to that advice moves you along the road. All of the words mean nothing without action. Mentors will provide the necessary feedback and advice, but it is up to you to take it and put it into action.

In closing, here are a few questions to challenge you to think about how a mentor could help you reach destinations you want to reach.

Without a mentor where are you now?
Without a mentor where will you be in the future?
With a mentor where could you be?
With a mentor where will you be?

Resiliency Time

Leadership

We’ve all heard people we work with say, “I’m going to PT.” That’s when they pause from work and use their allotted time to do a workout of some sort.  There are many squadrons that allow PT during the duty day, but some members are able to workout individually.  After all, it is part of the mission, we must include it in our mission time, right? Unfortunately, there are some that aren’t allowed time during the duty day. (sorry folks)

I typically have physical fitness time three days a week if I’m able to finish up and head out of the office. Lately, I haven’t done it as much as I’d like to, but that’s okay.  Some days are busier than others and the work has to be done. This has been the normal for the last 7 years of my career. Although, I’ve done it as a squadron during the duty day, as an individual during my lunch break, and sometimes at the end of the duty day when I’m finished with my work. 

Many other people take PT time during the duty day as an individual or with their office or squadron. It’s great! We need to be fit, right? It’s a part of our mission! It’s necessary that we are able to invest in our fitness wellness. 

Today, I finished up what I needed to and since it was my ‘PT’ day, I left the office to get a run in. That’s my go to workout. I love running! I got home to change into my gear and thought to myself, “I ran Monday, what I really need is mental time.”  I felt I needed time to gather my thoughts and emotions.  Have you ever felt that you just needed time to think?  It was one of those moments. 

This sparked another thought. “What if I needed spiritual time? What if I needed social time?”  Why is it always PT time and not other parts of resiliency? Perhaps we can, but we just need to be deliberate about it.  And I’m not talking about whatever classes your base offers that require you to sit and watch a powerpoint.  That’s extremely formal and almost seems superficial. 

I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m going to mental, spiritual or social time,” during the day and I believe it’s because our culture has bred the idea that it’s only about PT during this ‘free time.’ 

“Cultivate resilience.” – Brene Brown

I want to challenge you, as you use your ‘PT’ time and think about the other areas of resiliency that we typically don’t set time aside for like we do PT.  We all need to be at the top of our game and to be well rounded we need to build our strength in our physical, social, mental and spiritual areas. So if you are good in your PT area for that time, think about other areas you could spend time on in order to build up your resiliency.  After all, isn’t resiliency a part of the mission too?

Let’s not neglect the other areas of resiliency just because the standard has been taking that specific time for PT only.  If we want stronger team members, we need to change how we look at PT ‘time’ and make it ‘Resiliency Time’ so you can focus on whatever area you feel you need that day or that week.  Maybe you need to work on more than one area during that time.  Doing PT is great for PT, but let’s not forget the other areas that make us resilient too! The cultured approach has to be challenged and perhaps, this is how we build a culture of resilient team members: by changing how we think about that ‘free time’ we get in the week to ‘work out.’ 

Leaders are not dealers in hope

Leadership

One of my Twitter followers shared a quote the other day by Napoleon Bonaparte that says,  “Leaders are dealers in hope.” It even had a nice picture with it.  I thought quite a bit on that quote and I have to respectfully disagree.  Leaders are actually not dealers in hope at all. 

Hope can be defined as wishful thinking.  A feeling or an expectation of a desired outcome.  Though the idea sounds good, it can be quite dangerous to give someone hope when there is no data to back it up.  It can also be a hinderance when you hope someone gets something done and then they don’t do it. 

Hope involves too many what ifs.  You wouldn’t lead your team with what ifs, would you?  I wouldn’t. 

Risk is similar to hope.  It’s an uncertainty, but risk can typically be measured.  Hope is not measurable. 

As I was reading The Culture Engine by S. Chris Edmonds, I came across a few quotes that I felt are powerful. 

“Hope is not a sustainable strategy.” – S. Chris Edmonds, The Culture Engine

We can’t create a strategy with hope as our driving fuel.  We don’t have the time, resources, or manpower to take chances on such outcomes.  Putting your strategy on hope is foolish and a gamble.  Leaders do not gamble outcomes nor do they gamble their team’s future.  People are too valuable for wishful thinking or planning. 

“Make the goal expectations specific, measurable and trackable.” – S. Chris Edmonds, The Culture Engine

Leaders do, however deal with goal expectations that are specific, measurable and trackable for the positive growth of their team, organization and culture.  Don’t give your team a false sense of outcomes.  We need to give them clear visions(goals).  If you gave someone hope and that hope didn’t play out like you expected, what would that do to the trust they have in you?  Give people visions(goals) that are reachable and realistic in order to help them be better, do better and know better.  At least that way, if things fail, the path is trackable to know where things went wrong. 

The Risk of Leading

Leadership

Failing the mission.  Team disfunction.  Loss of resources, time, money, and people.  These are all outcomes when leading.  It’s scary to step into the role of a leader.  Once you have decided to care for others the people and the mission become your responsibility.  It’s terrifying knowing that the decisions you make could hinder the mission or the people around you.  And if everything does go south, all fingers could point to you.

There is risk in leading, but that’s what makes a leader a leader.  They understand things may not always work out and that the outcome is never guaranteed.  Leaders take on the risk in order to achieve success, but they make decisions using their knowledge and experienced combined with the team’s knowledge and experience to make wise decisions.  Leveraging the power of the team is necessary to reduce the risk.  Leaders do this constantly and consistently. 

Bottom line, it’s going to be scary.  It’s going to be challenging and it’s going to be tough.  There is no avoiding it.   The greatest part about risk is that when it works right everybody wins!  Innovation requires risk and without leaders pushing the boundaries of the line between failure and success innovation will not occur.  

There is purpose to why we spend so much time developing our leadership abilities.  The more prepared we are the higher chance we have at succeeding.  The approach to risk always has the same liabilities, but the action to challenge it gets easier every time you take risk.  It’ll never feel perfect or guaranteed, but the fear, the uncertainty goes away because you know it has to happen.  People need to grow and the mission needs to be accomplished.  We can’t halt everything just because we have to face a decision with risk.

Keep in mind risk will come in many forms, but don’t approach it alone.  Use your team, the mission and the values that guide the culture to overcome it.