You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. – Jim Rohn
I’ve heard Jim Rohn’s incredibly insightful quote on a number of occasions.
Every time I hear it I pause — as the message is simply that powerful. Those we surround ourselves with could easily be viewed as a critical life choice, as we absorb the moods, problems and the passions of those around us.
Instinctively, we might first apply this concept to our personal lives — quickly completing a review of our inner circle of friends and family. But really we should also applying this mantra to our work lives. The same standard holds there. Those we surround ourselves with can affect our work lives tremendously, for the better or for the worse.
I began to apply the “Fab 5” to specific work goals. (For example, finding the right guide to become a better speaker). However, this seemed far too limiting.
These 5 individuals should have robust relevance to all aspects of our work lives — a group of key people to serve as a “catalyst”, encouraging both exploration and excellence.
As such, the lineup should afford a broader application of the principle.
Here are my recommendations for the “Fab 5”:
A mentor. An individual with whom you feel entirely comfortable. They should have a working knowledge of your “dream” career direction or path. Trust is paramount and being candid is required.
A sponsor. This individual knows how to help you position yourself to facilitate needed career progress. They’ll help you consider options such as a “stretch assignment” or a strategically placed team role. They are masters at “career marketing” and will push your career boundaries.
A collaborator. We all need a “co-conspirator” who allows you to free-associate and helps you explore ideas. They are likely to be quite creative and open, and not overly critical.
A devils’ advocate. This role should be filled by someone who can “cut to the chase” and expose any weaknesses in your career logic. They help you to reveal obstacles and keep things “real.”
An entrepreneur. Somehow you just can’t replicate the mindset of an entrepreneur. They are the whole package. Quick. Creative. Above all, gutsy. They won’t let you sit on the sidelines of your work life for very long.
Don’t limit your “Fab 5” to those you can physically spend time with — connecting online works as well. Look to channels such as LinkedIn or Twitter as potential sources to fill these roles. (Those we connect with virtually can still have the power to change our perspective and drive us forward).
Would you benefit from a “Fab 5” in your work life? Who would you include?
Much has been said about mentoring, since an early discussion of the construct in the Harvard Business Review. Since that time — volumes have been written — and the topic has been examined and reexamined, from various vantage points. This has included the functions of mentoring (career-related vs. psycho-social support), intended outcomes (skill attainment, compensation, promotions) and its impact upon work life, in general (job satisfaction, retention).
Mentoring is by no means a new concept — although it remains one of the most powerful workplace constructs. If you consider the term for a moment (think of Socrates), you’ll discover that mentoring has existed for ages. Because of the sheer power of the mentoring relationship, mentoring will continue to evolve with changes in both organizational culture and technology. Of course, the basic concept of mentoring is simple and brilliant — you spend time with someone who possessed great knowledge or experience about a specific subject — you observe, reflect and absorb information that enhances your work life.
There has been evidence that the process may work a bit better for men than women. But whether we are discussing men or women, problems with mentoring may arise because some basic tenets are not followed. Other problems can arise because we are not utilizing newer, more creative applications of the process.
Here are some guidelines to help power the process:
Are you seeking a mentor, a sponsor (a form of mentorship) or both? Where a mentor may help with a skill set or knowledge base — a sponsor might focus on moving you through the organization, helping you to secure challenging assignments or enhance your visibility.
Mentoring relationships must be mutual, not assigned. The matching process should be left to ultimately to choice — where the mentor and mentee agree to work together. If possible, consider more than one potential mentor to ensure there is potential for a real bond. In an ideal world, formal programs would allow mentees the opportunity to meet a number of possible matches before a choice is made.
Define the goals of the relationship. If you feel it is imperative to enter into a mentoring relationship, you should outline a clear picture as to what you really require and where you’d like to go. Set specific long and short-term goals with your mentor or sponsor. Do you want to master a specific skill or knowledge base? Are you seeking increased visibility? Have the “goals” discussion early and often.
Think outside of the box when choosing a mentor. There has been an interesting suggestion to convene a “Board of Directors” for your career — a group that would not be entirely left behind if you should change organizations. So, you would not only seek an internal mentor or sponsor, but a group of external experts to help guide you as well. Moreover, don’t rule out less established or younger employees as potential mentors. If an individual is an expert in an area, actively consider them a mentor candidate.
Be open. Don’t subscribe to the notion that “dissenting opinions are not allowed”. Strive to embrace constructive criticism (some tips for that here). This can be a challenge, but remember you are in the relationship to learn. What you don’t know can hurt your career — so be open to whatever honest feedback comes your way.
Be respectful. However, don’t trade things running smoothly at the cost of a productive relationship. Ask for what you need and “rock the boat” just a bit if necessary. Be diplomatic, and voice your concerns if you find that the relationship has reached an impasse.
All in all, mentoring should be a positive process, however things can go wrong. If you have a concern that the dynamic is less than stellar — you may need to explore moving on.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She serves as an adviser at MentorCloud. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.