Where is your mentor ?

We all need mentors.  It’s a question of good balance, better performance and…happiness ! Look at great sports(wo)men or great show performers. They may be at the top in in their field, they may master all professional skills, they may excell in using the newest techniques but they nevertheless work day by day with a personal coach.

In business as in life, mentoring brings the serenity needed to face new challenges. You can’t make wise decisions if you don’t sit back and reflect in a non-stressful atmosphere, with no interference from outside pressures or hierarchy. You need to share and reflect. You have to voice your doubts in full confidentiality. Then you’re ready to go back to the field.

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Most of my younger friends agree with me on the idea to be mentored but they often ask me : « Where can I find my mentor ? And by the way, what is a good mentor ? ». Actually, answering the second question first might help answer the first…

Mentoring is sharing experience for a better performance and a better being. So you need to be mentored by someone who is a good listener. Someone who will not judge any of your thoughts or behaviors. Not judging but understanding. Someone who will not make decisions in your place but clarify the options, suggest new alternatives and illuminate your mind.

Experience is another thing you will look for in a mentor. If you need to solve strategic business problems, look for someone who already experienced strategic problem solving. If you need to share human relationships issues, search for someone who faced a number of relationship situations in the past. A mentor is not a friend. Rather a benevolent person who will reassure and push you to go over your own limits.

Mentoring is a one to one interaction, based on trust and understanding. It’s the process of providing personal advice on how to approach business problems and life. Trust is something you can’t formally define. You need to feel it. And it works both ways. As a mentor myself, I met some mentorees who were not sincere about their intentions. They had a hidden agenda linked to internal politics or a need to gain power instead of improving themselves. In that case, I could not trust them and declined mentoring them.

So, where can you find a suitable mentor ?

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Some big groups offer that opportunty to young managers. They assign an internal mentor, a senior executive not working in the same team or the same country. But it’s not frequent. So, you need to be smart. Go networking with people older than you. Locate « good people », those who listen and talk rarely but wisely. Let your feelings play. Ask for a lunch or dinner and share some problems unformally, just to see. If you feel comfortable, you might ask for more.

If you want to have a more professional approach, go for a professional mentor. It may look expensive sometimes but actually, the time you need to spend with him or her is quite limited, so overall, it’s great value.

Be inspired.

 

 

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Why you should be lazy to find your inspiration

I’m sitting in front of the open fire in my countryside home, I just finished reading a comic book and I’m listening to Ella Fitzgerald. These last few days between Christmas and new year I felt laziness coming to me. Here in northern Europe, when sunlight is getting shorter and shorter and mist is invading the sky, our bodies and minds are slowing down. It’s time for regeneration. It’s time to reflect on the past and think of the future. For what I’m concerned, I know this period will inspire me more than anyhing else…

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There are many ways to get inspired. It can be through reading or listening to a great speaker. It can also be when you meet someone exceptional. Last week, for example, I met a man with whom I worked on a project more than 10 years ago. An ex P&Ger. Like all of us he’s not perfect. But he’s straight and to the point. I know he was already quite old but I was stunned when he told me his age: 80 year-old. Couldn’t believe it. Impeccable. Smart. Quick to think. Whatever he does or will do, I had an immediate feeling of sympathy for him and a good dose of optimism about my own future. Same as when I see the Rolling Stones playing rock and roll on stage at more than 70 year-old. But it’s another story !

My point is how you get inspiration. My experience showed me that you can’t reasonably be inspired when you’re overstressed, when you’re hyperactive, when you’re in the action ! Famous Secretery of State Henry Kissinger had a long career as professor and writer before entering politics. He once said that “great leaders should spend as much time as possible reflecting and theorizing before they come to power because once they’re in responsibility they have no more time to think about fundamentals“. He was very right. But in our hectic times, how could we do that ? After a few years studying, we go right in action and never stop. Some of us go for more training at selected points in time but executive training is generally quick and intense, leaving no time to reflect.

You cannot regenerate if you don’t stop your incredible life rythm. It’s just impossible. You cannot resource your mind if you don’t find yourself back. You need calm, you need solitude, you need to structure your ideas and liberate your creativity. Most executive education programs don’t promote that. They all promise: “here you’ll work 15 hours per day, you’ll spend your evenings prepare cases, if possible in teams, you’ll get as much knowledge as possible in the least possible time, bla bla bla” . It’s just bullshit ! At the end you see groups of ambitious executives, leaders and managers swallowing some quick lectures and discussing pseudo-cases that they don’t even analyze seriously before class. This while at the same time checking their smartphones constantly, replying emails during breaks and trying to solve operational problems left at their office. It’s a joke ! And corporations are paying millions for that kind of “fast (food) learning” !

Look at some great leaders, artists and top level sportpeople. Sophie Dutordoir is the first woman at the helm of Belgian Rail http://deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws.english/News/1.2846022

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After a brilliant career as CEO in Suez group, she stopped everything during three years to open a grocery store in a small city. The business establishment thought she had just become crazy. But she was smart. She could regenerate and now will be, I’m sure, a greater CEO than ever ! Same in other professions. All singers and musicians, as most creators, spent years without shows between 2 albums. They look for inspiration in a stressless milieu.

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It’s time to invest some time in yourself ! Your first reaction will be to say “no”. “No I can’t. No I cannot leave my job for a week. No, i need to care for my house, my family, my friends. No, it’s definitely impossible” ! So, it’s time to reflect: are you a slave or a free person ? What is your life about ? You care of everyone, everything, but who is taking care of you ? What is your true added value? Are you a true leader or just a good soldier ? Etc.

Never let restlessness guide your life !

Life is not about being exhausted, then rest a bit, then return to being some kind of human machine. It may reassure you but it will destroy your effectiveness and your clear-sightedness. This is not what you’re looking for, right ? Neither burn out, right ? Think of it !

Be inspired !