As I instinctively looked to fully understand the definition and boundaries of effective mentoring, I also reflected on when and how to recognize an effective “entry point” for mentoring conversations with the experienced and not so experienced members of a team, either as a group or during those extremely important one-on-one opportunities. It was at that very moment when the epiphany struck. I’ve been mentoring and coaching for the entirety of my 32+ years in the Navy as well as the 8 years I’ve served in the Energy and Construction industries. I’ve mentored the youngest members of a 5,000-person navy crew and to this day I enthusiastically mentor the youngest roughnecks on my current team in the Oil and Gas industry. I’ve mentored junior and senior officers alike and I’ve certainly been mentored by them. Likewise, I proudly recognize that I have eagerly availed myself to being mentored, whether I knew I was being mentored or not, because as I was told many years ago by a salt of the earth and crusty “old” mentor of mine, “Shipmate, when you stop learning, you start dying”.
Every ounce of arrogance and cockiness aside, I didn’t need leadership books, Google or any of my LinkedIn colleagues to explain to me what I believed I already knew. I’ve watched, often times from afar, as my protégés achieved the professional and personal milestones that they had once thought were unattainable. I’ve realized the awesome personal satisfaction of seeing people, young and old, reach a career milestone. Often times it’s a young officer understanding the great responsibility of leading men and women or something as simple as a roustabout coming out of his introverted shell and effectively speaking in front of his teammates. Family aside, there are fewer rewards richer in life in this old Master Chief’s eyes, than seeing a deserving soul win – period. Having a mentoring conversation with a deserving or needing person is also an excellent tool for getting yourself out of a possible rut, relieving stress, building teams, changing culture and problem solving within an entire organization.
“Shipmate, when you stop learning, you start dying”.
So the questions great leaders should ask themselves are; Who are you mentoring? Are you still learning or are you dying? Are you sharing your experiences and talents? Are you having the full impact that you’ve been charged with? Have you passed on possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity to push an individual or team in a direction that they never contemplated? Believe in yourself and pass on your experiences, good and bad, to others so that they can achieve personal and team successes.