If you close your eyes and try to think of people that have had a positive influence in your character and professional skills, I'm sure a few faces will come to mind. The ones that pushed you out of your confort zone and coached you until that confort zone became larger, on so did your confidence. The ones that offered you a role model to follow and inspired you to try harder and work smarter to become the professional you wanted to be. Or the ones that simply showed you how to enjoy doing what you do for a living, because life's to short to be doing otherwise.
When I close my eyes and think of the best professional mentor I've had in my career, the following image comes to my mind
Admittedly, I could have asked for a professional mentor that would evoke less visually disturbing images (the above is the least disturbing I could find). But in terms of professional mentoring qualities, I couldn't have asked for more.
I'm sure you didn't come to this post just to see disturbing images, so here are the 5 main things I learned from fannybaws.
1. Let your team take responsibility and make their own mistakes. Let them grow.
One of the hardest parts of becoming a manager is that you need to give up control of how things are done and allow others do it their way. Many managers - especially those who know have been executing the work for a while- will fail at allowing their team do things their way, make mistakes, learn, grow. If you fail at doing this you might get what you are doing today done faster or better, but you will be jeopardising your team's future potential.
2. Treat your team member's work output as the byproduct of their development
One of my favourite Ted Talks is the one from Simon Sinek, called 'How great leaders inspire action' (I'm sure that if you are reading this post you have probably watched it by now. If you haven't, watch it. Now.)
One of the things I have realised recently is that every time I tried to make an important decisions and I would bounce off ideas with fannybaws he would ask me "why?" and let me answer, think, answer again. If it all made sense, we would stop there. If it didn't feel quite right, he would ask me why again. Always start with the why.
3. Get your priorities right. Put important things first, then the rest, then admin. If you do, it will all fit.
A meteorology professor stood before his Meteorology 101 class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty glass mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a jar of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open spaces between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar and of course the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous yes.
The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and then proceeded to pour the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the grains of sand. The students laughed.
"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things -- your family, your partner, your health, your children, your friends, your favorite passions -- things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
"The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else -- the small stuff.
"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. Play another 18.
"There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers."
4. Learn to have a healthy work/life balance . Make sure your team does too.
“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the Air.
You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four Balls – Family, Health, Friends and Spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these; they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it.”
Work efficiently during office hours and leave on time. Give the required time to your family, friends and have proper rest.
Value has a value only if its values is valued.
5. Sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission
This one might sound oversimplified but is important to keep in mind when the barriers of the corporate world are frustrating your efforts. If you know that what you are doing is right, sometimes the only way forward is if you bend some rules. That is if you want to make a difference.
Although this article is called "The best professional mentor I ever had" which technically implies I don't have you as a mentor any more, you are not going far away and I'm hoping I will still be able to learn from you. I don't think I have learned everything yet. In any case, I will miss having you around but everything you have taught us will live on and I trust it will transcend to generations of SEOs to come.
Farewell fella. You will be missed.