Categories: Career Management, Followership, Leadership
Miguel and Carol, two executives who retired from MilanCo last year, are having coffee.
“Miguel, what have you been doing with your time since MilanCo?” Carol asked.
“Oh, get up, watch the news, play a little golf, run some errands. How ‘bout you?”
“Gosh it’s so much fun. Some travel, seeing the grandkids, and I’ve got five women execs at MilanCo that I’m mentoring.”
“Really.” Miguel said.
“Most certainly.” Carol took a sip of coffee. “I’ve learned so much in my career, had some successes, and certainly some failures. I didn’t want all those learning opportunities to stay only with me, so I took it upon myself to reach out to HR and volunteer my time mentoring.”
“You volunteer your time?” Miguel asked.
“Sure do. It’s such a wonderful feeling to hear someone say, ‘Thanks Carol, you really helped me.’ More fulfilling than a paycheck. Have you considered doing something like that?”
Miguel looked down at his coffee. “Nah, my working days are over, time to let the younger ones rise up.”
“That’s exactly why I’m mentoring these women, Miguel. I want the younger ones to rise up; I’m just helping them rise up faster and with a greater likelihood of success.”
After a few more minutes of chatting Miguel looked at his watch.
“Well, gotta run Carol; was great catching up with you.”
“You too, take care Miguel. I’m meeting up with one of my mentees in a few so I’m just going to hang out here.”
“OK, bye,” Miguel said as he got up and left.
“Same selfish Miguel,” Carol thought as she watched Miguel leave the coffee shop.
Carol’s view of Miguel’s selfishness was formed years earlier. They shared many similar leadership characteristics except for one; Carol intentionally sought to give back and grow younger leaders (who I will refer to as mentees) while Miguel did only what was required of him by his management. Half the time Miguel canceled mentee meetings last-minute because of some crisis; for those that he kept he appeared preoccupied. Word of how Miguel and Carol viewed their responsibility to scale leaders through giving back got around among the younger leaders, with many of Miguel’s mentees seeking out Carol as a mentor. While Carol wasn’t surprised with Miguel’s attitude during their coffee chat, she was disappointed that Miguel, with all his years of learning, still chose to keep things to himself versus helping others.
Want to be less of a Miguel and more of a Carol? Give this baker's dozen of tips a look:
- Wisdom sharing doesn’t stop at retirement – Just because you may have wrapped up your career doesn’t mean all of the great learnings you’ve had should die on the golf course. Be intentional about sharing your wisdom with those still in the workforce. You’ve still got something to contribute; so do it.
- Sharing wisdom is a responsibility and an honor – Being in a position to help grow future leaders is truly something that experienced leaders need to prioritize. The wisdom you can transfer to others can save time, money, and even a career. It’s your duty to share; joyfully embrace it.
- Courageously and candidly share your wisdom – A mentee shouldn’t just hear about your successes; he or she should also hear about your spectacular failures. That’s where some of the greatest learnings happen; don’t filter things to make yourself look good to the mentee.
- Allocate time in your calendar – Set realistic recurring time in your calendar to invest in your mentees and share your wisdom. Resist the temptation to chronically schedule other demands over your wisdom-sharing time.
- Know what your mentee needs and help him or her get it - Maybe your mentee needs better life balance; or perhaps he or she needs help with calendar management. Take the time to truly understand what your mentee needs to scale up and help him or her get there.
- Don’t mentor an unwilling mentee – A mentee must want to be mentored. Trying to mentor an unwilling mentee is just a waste of time. Take the time to assess whether the mentee is interested or just going through the motions, then decide if it’s worth your time to invest in the mentee.
- Call out boasters – A boaster is a mentee who tries to learn about your experiences to prove his or her own superiority. The boaster mentee will tell you why what you did was wrong and what he or she did was right.
- Don’t let pontificators pontificate – A pontificator will use any experience to prove relevance. A pontificator mentee isn’t interested in hearing what you have to say as a mentor; he only wants to talk about experiences to demonstrate wisdom.
- Watch the poser – A poser really has no practical experience but will try to impress you with things she might have read or heard about. A poser mentee might be genuinely interested in learning or may simply want to dazzle you with factoids and sound bites.
- Don’t project a leader caste system – Some may aspire to be great people leaders, others may find a niche as a thought leader, and some may not want to be a leader at all. Don’t project to a mentee that people leadership is somehow more important than other types. Explore with the mentee where his or her strengths and desires are and assist on the journey.
- Don’t be afraid to pull the plug – Sometimes a relationship either was never meant to be or the relationship has run its course. Evaluate the relationship with the mentee and agree when and if it’s time to part ways.
- Don’t embellish your experience – So maybe you have a lot of experience in a particular discipline; that doesn’t mean your wisdom automatically transcends to other areas. Stick to your expertise areas and don’t be afraid to admit when discussions drift outside of your subject matter expertise areas.
- Be mentally and physically present – Taking phone calls, checking email, or appearing preoccupied when in a discussion with a mentee projects that you’re really not interested in the relationship. Make the mentee feel as if he or she is the most important person you could be focusing on.
The Consequences: Hoarding all that wisdom and not giving back by growing future leaders could lead to the following:
- You can lose a sense of purpose – I’ve known many people who have graduated from their career only to find that they have lost a sense of professional purpose and are quite frankly bored.
- Someone who failed could have succeeded – A potential mentee who could have benefited from your wisdom had to experience a failure that could have been avoided had you taken the time to share your wisdom.
- You squandered the opportunity to advance your legacy – You won’t be remembered as someone who not only had tons of experience but willingly shared his or her wisdom with others.
The Next Steps:
- Review the 13 tips to use your wisdom to grow future leaders.
- Decide which ones you need to improve.
- For any tips you’ve identified as needing work, put an action plan together to address those areas on how to grow future leaders.
- Use a trusted advisor who can hold you accountable to be more effective at growing future leaders.