Friday, March 10, 2006

George Mindling Column 03-10-2006 - Pushing Against A Brick

Pushing Against A Brick Building

While cleaning out old files, I can across an article given to me by my first business mentor. I had saved the tattered, well-worn pages of the old typewritten essay on staff work for many years. I found the advice invaluable, not just in its simplicity, but because of the insight into how executives look at staff work.

I once had a manager give me an “Average” performance review even though he said I was an extremely hard and conscientious worker. If he told me to push against a brick building with my bare hands, he commented, I would push and push with all my might, but at the end of the job, the building would not have moved a single inch, therefore I was not really accomplishing my job. I have often been criticized of being intolerant of poor management, but most managers aren’t concerned about the professional growth of the employees, only in the bottom line of any business: numbers! It was quite a surprise to work for someone who thought with a little professional guidance, I might actually be more of an asset to the company other than just a body to push against a brick building.

What then is a mentor? A mentor is someone who actually cares about your business or professional development. A mentor must like you personally and may actually become a good friend. The key word is trust. Mentors within a workplace most often act as silent partners. Often a mentor may have several people serving in similar positions and helping one without helping others would surely create a legal situation that would not be beneficial to either party. That is not truly mentoring, that is group training. Often, attention from a boss or manager that showcases or favors one employee in front of other employees is detrimental not just to the unit, but to the very person the manager favors. Favoritism is not mentoring. The two may be based on personal views of a person in a supervisory or management position, but the end result of the two is diametrically opposed. One is a short-term reward or favor; the other is an education that will affect how a person grows professionally and personally over a lifetime.

A mentor sees the hidden or undeveloped talent or skill that may not exist in others. It is also a personal interest that rises above the workplace. A mentor’s opinion is considered as an honest and educated, often invaluable experience. A mentor is a true advisor. They won’t make your decisions for you, but they want you to understand what your decisions are. The mentor’s interest is genuine, not based on ego or money. They want to see you succeed. They invest time and attention and do not expect rewarded with accolades or awards.

How about you, do you have a mentor? Or, more importantly, have you ever been one?

George Mindling

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