Can—and how—do we re-wire ourselves …?
Different people are built differently, and we need to make a rational and considered decision about what is best for us and what is within our reach. That is not to say we are genetically boxed in from birth, but its good to know where our strengths lie, and where the challenges lie. Self awareness is a good thing.
Some people are high achievers, and have a unique ability to pack things into a day that others simply do not have. (I was recently in a conference with a world renowned business thinker who promised to personally reply to every email … If he makes that promise every 3 days or so, and keeps it? Go figure. He has capacity with a capital C)
Some people are less likely to be able to do that. Some have a natural disposition to focus differently, less single-minded, maybe, and more global; less result, and more process, etc etc. Some are more people-focused than task-focused (this can be a big factor—we can’t “do” people well if we regard them as “tasks”—they quickly realize what’s really important to us – and it’s not them!)
It true that everyone—from Richard Branson to you and me, have the same 24 hour day to live in, and yet we each get very different things—and very different amounts of things—done. Unquestionably, the more we can get done well in a day, the more successful we will be. But not everyone has to be a world leader, or a billion dollar entrepreneur. If everyone was, who would teach our children? Who would take night shift in the ICU’s? Who would keep our suburbs safe?
Different, in this case, is not superior or inferior. It’s just different, and we need to have grace for ourselves and for those who are wired differently to us. What is best for you, and for me, with our own unique capacities and abilities, our heritage and upbringing, our strengths and weaknesses? What is our unique contribution, and are we bringing 100% of us to that challenge? That’s the key question. Not “Why can’t I be like him? or “Why can’t I earn that person’s salary?” etc etc.
It takes all types to make the world go round. And sometimes, it’s about realizing that different people—different thinking mechanisms—are needed for different situations. There is nothing wrong with that.
I recently had a discussion with a person who wanted desperately to be a more senior leader. There was a perception of importance that he had attached to the next rung of the ladder that he was pressing for. It was all about his perception of how he would be perceived.
He wasn’t ready, and will not be for some time. And only then, if he re-wires an aspect of his brain. The part that needs, and pushes, to be perceived in a certain way. The level he wants to get to , does not get its motivation or success from what people think. People at that level get it from personal drive, from vision, from personal mastery, from accomplishments achieved against all odds, and from people skills, not from being “liked” or “admired”. If he doesn’t re-wire himself, he is currently, now, at his peak. That’s just the way it is. He might get a more important job, but almost certainly he will fail at some point. Unless he re-wires.
He has blind spots. Blind spots are exactly that. We cannot see them and as a result we think they don’t exist… but they do, and everyone else can see them. Some people don’t get that promotion they were hoping for—it could be their blind spot was disqualifying them. Some think they have built a great rapport with a new acquaintance, but that person doesn’t return calls… it could be the blind spot again.
The best solution for this dilemma, and for the task of re-wiring our brain to take on new challenges well, is accountability, and/or mentorship. Walking with someone who can offer an external perspective and help us to see our blind spots. We can get this from a good friend, a partner or spouse, and from a business associate.
But while personal or spiritual mentors and accountability partners can be informal arrangements, business mentors are something different. It’s a formal arrangement and a person offering a business or career mentorship deserves an incredible amount of respect—for the gift of precious time, primarily, but also for the intellectual contribution that can accelerate a career or navigate a difficult personal challenge.
Some thoughts on a Mentor/Protégé relationship. (I’m sorry, this “Mentee” Americanism drives me nuts. It’s a Mentor and a Protégé… )
A good mentor will:
- Commit and keep his/her commitments
- Prepare; and use their network to expand their knowledge in the area of the protégé’s challenges
- Be about the Protégé, not about the experience of being a mentor.
- Not be afraid of hard conversations, but also know how to have them.
- Make you do the work.
Our responsibility as protégés is to make full use of a mentors time by doing a few things:
- Being on time and prepared for every commitment
- Honouring every commitment – a phone call, a meeting, an assignment, it doesn’t matter. Every. Single. One.
- Respecting the experience gradient and not being stubborn or difficult
- Being courageous so that we get over the learning curves quickly and well. Mentors like to see progress. In fact they insist on it.
- Approach problems with potential solutions already thought out. Use the mentor to test alternatives, not to be spoon-fed. Develop your own critical thinking capacity with a friendly, supportive and invested critic on hand – it’s a unique learning opportunity!
- Mentoring someone else in turn. We are links in a chain.
The only mistake a person can really make is refusing to learn new things.
This post originally appeared at Notes from the Road