I would argue that great mentors are few and far between. Sir John Whitmore (pioneer of coaching in the workplace and co-creator of the most widely used coaching model GROW) taught me an exercise some years ago. He asked the audience to recall a person, perhaps a grandparent or a teacher who had had a positive impact on them. I know when I did the exercise there were surprisingly few names that sprang to mind. I know we are all different, and for me, there were lots of influences but only a few very impactful people that I was able to bring to mind and yet it is, without doubt, those people who help us to become the people that we are today.
We are Five People Rolled into One
I think it was Jim Rohn (Author of 7 Strategies for Wealth and Happiness) who said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. The inference being that if we want to become better the most sure-fire way of doing that is to hang around with better people. I will let you decide what better means for you in this context, but it is an interesting and proven concept.
In my career I consider myself to have been very fortunate to have worked with and for many great individuals and also to have worked with and for some pretty poor examples. I hope I was able to learn from both.
I was reading something recently about a business leader and the article pointed out that the subject had been mentored by another individual. The article attributed much of his success to the mentoring he had received. It turned out that the mentor was a very good friend of mine. He has now passed but I trusted him, heeded his advice and learned from him every time we met. Our relationship was primarily as friends but I do class him as a mentor. How fortunate to have that level of wisdom and experience to draw on as we develop ourselves. It is no surprise to read of the success of someone who has learned at the side of one so wise and so generous with his wisdom.
It is time for a health warning. Mentors come in all guises and not all mentors are positive mentors. Some people are extremely influential but don’t use that influence with positive intent. Choose your closest relationships carefully. Heed the words of Mahatma Gandhi who said “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
Surround yourself with people whose opinions you trust but who are also prepared to challenge you and to call you on your own propaganda. As Elbert Hubbard once said, “The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.” Think back to the original question. I will wager that whoever you were thinking of that had a positive influence on you would have challenged you, stretched you and developed you to help you become the person you became. Who is doing that for you now? Who is challenging your thinking? Who are you learning from? It is never too late to become the person we were meant to be.
I have a favour to ask you. In preparation for an upcoming series of seminars and webinars, I would like to know what would be the one question you would like me to answer? It can be about anything at all. Please email Hazel at firstname.lastname@example.org with your question.