Thanking My First Mentor
I’ve recently begun following the #thankyourmentor series on LinkedIn where various bloggers, some famous and some not, are sharing a letter of thanks to those who have had a key influence on their career success. After reading the excellent and inspiring tales of the impact of mentors on the personal and professional success of the writers, I thought I’d share what I learned from one of the many wonderful mentors who’ve helped shape my career.
My grandfather married my grandmother in his late 40’s, taking on her family of eight children and 15 grandchildren as his own. For most of his life, he was a long haul truck driver punctuating long periods on the road with a few days at home before heading back out on the road. The comfortable cadence of home and away made driving a truck the perfect job for him – he was, above all things, a creature of habit. My earliest (and best) memories of him were joining in on his daily routine when he was home from the road. His days always started with a full breakfast, where, at five years old he introduced me to the joys of coffee. Over breakfast he read the local and national news catching up on what he’d missed while on the road. With breakfast done, the day moved on to wrenching on his old Dodge or the tractor-trailer. With the maintenance work done, it was time to visit the neighbors and see how he might help them out with whatever they needed around the house. Evenings were spent catching up with friends and family, investing in the relationships he’d built over time. And through it all, he took time to share the experiences with me. Throughout the years he was alive, I watched this pattern repeat itself countless times. We spent hours covered in oil and grease underneath his truck or helping others and as I look back, I learned a lot about life, but about leading:
- Invest in building your knowledge and skills every day – Unfortunately, leadership in today’s organizations is often ruled by the tyranny of the urgent and it can be easy to neglect building and maintaining your skills. Set aside even 10 minutes each day to stay current on key trends in your industry or explore new leadership techniques.
- Make time for maintenance – An organization’s culture has tremendous impact on the success or failure of the organization. Strong culture doesn’t happen by accident, and once the ideal culture is created it has to be regularly maintained. Leaders are in a unique position to maintain the culture by consistently demonstrating desired behaviors. Be conscious each day about visibly doing the things that will maintain your desired culture.
- Relationships matter most – In Relationship Momentum, Brian Church writes, “At the center of every success you will find a pivotal relationship. Conversely, you can trace the cause of most failures to a relationship vacuum or breakdown.” As leaders, the relationships you build throughout the organization will be a key determinant of your success. Living in the culture of busyness we’ve created in the world of work, relationships can often fall by the wayside. It is essential that leaders are intentional about building relationships at multiple levels of the organization.
- Never be too busy to bring someone else along for the ride – I’d be remiss in writing something to thank my mentor without encouraging leaders to build space into their schedules for mentoring someone else. My grandfather had no obligation to invite me into his daily world, and would have probably accomplished a lot more without me slowing him down. But, the times I spent with my grandfather were priceless memories and invaluable learning experiences. Undoubtedly, if you are a leader today, someone has taken time to invest in you, so pay it forward and make time to invest in the future leaders in your organization.
And, while you have some time, #thankyourmentor!