Do For One - In Coaching and Mentoring

Do For OneWe all have personal and professional goals. We have personal goals that revolve around family, church and community. We have professional goals that center on position, progress, skills, and impact. And as a leader, we have teams of individuals that have differing, distinct and many times unique, personal and professional goals. The reality is that there is only a finite amount of time in a day, week, month or year to provide in-depth coaching, mentoring and development to individuals. In addition to the "team," many high-flying leaders are asked by others in the organization and outside of the organization to be a mentor or coach. This is flattering and at the same time, can be stressful.  There is limited time to spend 1-on-1 with a large number of individuals - especially when balancing your own business and personal priorities. As one's career progresses, there is even less time to coach, mentor and guide others uniquely. What do you do? How do you continue to find the time to impact individuals while not losing focus on professional and personal priorities?

A few key principles to consider:

It's OK to Do For One As leaders, we are in the people business. It is very easy to get caught up in the next meeting, the next customer presentation, the next sales pitch, the next performance review, and the next top-to-top meeting. We must take time out to coach and mentor others. We must find time and in a finite way, invest in the careers of others. The way I do this is that at any point in time, I am always coaching or mentoring 3-4 individuals regularly - this is outside of my team at work. I find the time. Ensure that I stay connected. Offer a helping hand or listening ear as needed. It's not easy with travel, business priorities and family activities but it is my way of doing my best to lead others - providing my insights and advice that could impact an outcome for someone. It is never more than 3-4 individuals as I do not want to short-change my relationship with these individuals.

The reality is that it is just not possible to spend time with "everyone" or carve out time for everyone that is looking for a career mentor or coach. Instead of saying "no" to everyone, I find time to say "yes" to the one or few in a way that allows me to stay true to my personal and professional values, beliefs and responsibilities

Make It Tactical As a leader, it is just as important to be big-picture as tactical or day-to-day. Do you know what would be an ideal next step role for someone you are coaching or mentoring? I recently asked one of my team members this question and he outlined for me what he would absolutely "love" to be doing. As I listened, I immediately went into problem-solving or solutioning mode thinking about the possible next steps for this individual, contacts that could be made on his behalf, skill sets that he has today that would make him a valued resource to a new team, etc. We had only worked together for a few months but my natural instinct was to tactically think about what would be an ideal opportunity for him - even as he was performing in a positive, value-added way on my team.

I do the same for individuals I coach outside the organization. I help them define their strengths, passions, likes and dislikes - to outline what works for them and in a business environment and what does not. Understanding the tactical details help when matching people and capabilities to strategic projects and initiatives.

Fairness Is Not a Leadership Strategy "That's not fair!" Like you, I've heard this comment from many a child and even a few business colleagues. Life is not fair and yet, sometimes life IS in a significant way. There is no way that a leader can be fair to everyone that requests, desires or demands his or her time. Fairness is not a leadership strategy.

Some leaders bail out on doing anything for anyone because they fear that it is not "fair" to do for one or a few what they wish they could do for all. The reality is that from a symbolic leadership perspective, it is best to do what you can for the one or few - to demonstrate your passion or desire to making an impact - what you wish you could do for all. In my organization, some of our top leaders have Executive Assistants that walk hand-in-hand with them. They are at every meeting. A part of every discussion. This is an incredible opportunity for those that are asked to serve in this capacity. The reality is that there are many that would love to serve in this position yet the opportunities are limited. So, the leaders could choose not to have anyone in the EA roles. Or they could choose to rotate future organization leaders through these roles so that they have an opportunity to learn and grow and share the vision, mission, and key values of the organization with their peers.

If everyone would do for one or a few, can you imagine the impact it would have on the overall organization? What are you doing to characterize "symbolic" leadership?

Long-Term and In-Depth A true coach or mentor engages for the long-term and values in-depth knowledge and understanding of the individual. I know a number of individuals who say that they are coaching or mentoring others and yet, could not tell you anything about their coachees or mentees beyond their resume or what they are doing in their current role. They have not invested in the individual - and they have plenty of excuses.

If you are going to engage, you must engage for the long-term and focus on a narrow group. I have a personal advisory board - individuals I turn to for coaching and advice on my career. They are an amazing group of leaders spanning industries, knowledge and skills. I appreciate them because they have invested in me for the long-term - they are not looking for a short-term relationship. They also do not try to spend their time with too many individuals as it would spread them too thin - and they would not make a powerful impact.

Go deep. Go long-term, not short-term.