When meeting with groups to discuss leadership I always ask for participants to talk about a role model in their life who has had significant impact on the participant and how that role model helped mold who they are as a person.
In this list is rarely a Babe Ruth, Bruce Willis or Steve Jobs. It is usually a mother, father, grandmother, grandfather or close friend who invests significant time and love into the relationship.
The themes are consistent and the feedback sampling is usually expressed in these terms:
“She always believed in me, even when I was making mistakes.”
“He loved me no matter what.”
“She always told me I would be successful.”
“He always had time to listen to me and has faith in me.”
These are the relationships that REALLY matter. They are relationships most cherished on a death bed, the one thing you can take with you. And these relationships are free to give.
You and I may never be a visionary like Steve Jobs (read his biography, he didn’t leave many people feeling warm and fuzzy) or one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet. But you and I can be a rock star in someone’s life starting today with no capital investment or college degree or pedigree.
And all it requires is a time investment and a loving attitude.
I didn’t recognize the need for corporate or personal cheerleading until I hired a team member years ago. Looking at the resume, this person wasn’t a great fit for the position, but I liked the person’s energy and sensed they would bring a lot of positivity to the group and knew that I could always call on them to brighten the mood and inject enthusiasm to any task. As author and consultant Tom Peter’s teaches, hire for attitude, not skill. Skills are easily taught.
My wife Steph and I are struggling over a child who is extremely bright, determined and talented, but who is getting a “D” in history. Last night I picked up Steven Covey’s 7 Habits for Highly Effective People because I recalled he had a similar issue with his son.
Covey explains the reason for frustration by illustrating the story of the goose who lays golden eggs. While thankful for the wealth and prosperity of the eggs, eventually the fortunate owner tires of having to wait for each additional egg and kills the goose and opens it in hopes of finding the source of the gold.
Of course the unfortunate, yet predictable, turn of events is that there is no more goose and there are no more eggs.
The parable is simple – if Steph and I are too focused on the golden eggs – the straight As – and sacrifice the relationship – by nagging, yelling, punishing, etc., – we strangle the goose (our child) and the trade off simply isn’t worth a report card that will be long forgotten in 5-10 years but will leave a bitter taste that can last a lifetime.
It is a hard paradigm shift, but I always find when something is not working, just do the opposite. Instead of harping on our child daily as to why the grade is not an “A,” we have to work on the relationship, show we care no matter what, and then have faith that the confidence is instilled for the desired performance to eventually materialize. I’ll let you know how it goes.
When I think back to my many mentors and coaches, they have always made me feel great as a person. They have seen me as I can be, not as who I am at the moment. That has always inspired me to be a better person, try harder, and keep working towards a goal even when I couldn’t see the end result materializing anytime soon.
Who are your great mentors and why? As we enter the New Year give yourself the best gift, and commit to be one of those great mentors to those you work and live with.
Write down your most influential mentors who have had an impact in your life.
Take time to thank your mentors and commit to a relationship where you will be a better mentor.
Thank those around you who support you. If you are a people manager (i.e. parent) ask those around you who influences them and why and take note. Work to be someone who will be long remembered as caring and giving.