“What does the mentor get out of a mentoring relationship?” This question came up during a workshop I delivered once to a group of leaders. One of the leaders in the room said simply, “I get to give something back.” I encounter a lot of leaders who, at some point in their career, focus not on what they can accomplish for themselves, but what they are able to help others accomplish. That sentiment is at the heart of what makes a leader great — but the sentiment alone doesn’t accomplish much. In order to really have a significant impact on others, like any other worthwhile endeavor, you need a plan, a process, and a support system to make it happen.
Keep these points in mind as you work to influence and lead others:
If it’s not on your calendar, it probably will not happen.
Leading others shows up as a set of events, conversations, and tasks, which means they can be scheduled. Take a look at your calendar and see what time you have allotted to developing, supporting, and coaching others. Unless you set specific time aside to focus on leadership, you will likely allow it to fall by the wayside as other urgent tasks crowd it out of your day. Choose to impact others; choose who you will impact; decide how you will impact them; and then schedule those opportunities. You may need to adjust the dates and times, and that’s expected. Just remember that the likelihood that you make something important happen for someone else increases dramatically if it’s on your calendar.
Have a coaching or developmental process.
I have lost track of the times I’ve encountered silence after I asked managers or executives the question, “What’s your process for developing others?” Many think about development as something you naturally do or how you respond to others when they ask for advice. What is often missing is the process for asking great questions, understanding someone’s goals, aligning discussions with those goals, facilitating consistent progress, and having a structure for how you help people think differently about their future or their capabilities.
Stop thinking of leadership as something you can’t measure because it’s not a clear number like profit or growth. There are many ways to track skill development, behavioral change, career growth, job performance, and other individual development metrics. Assessments like employee engagement scores or 360-degree feedback can provide valuable insight on the effectiveness of leaders. In addition, you can use outcomes like team success, successful promotions, or collective performance ratings. You can also use these metrics to measure individual growth, development, or performance. You might have to get a bit more creative, but don’t dismiss leadership as a non-measurable thing.
If you want to lead others and help them accomplish more than they could without you, then you have to approach leadership like any other worthwhile endeavor. Put a plan together; create a process and a system for making it happen; and track your results to ensure visible progress. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that leaders are born with something special or that it just comes naturally.
The ability to lead, coach, or mentor someone is a skill set, and it needs to be developed like other skills. Great leaders devote time and effort to leading. They work intentionally at improving their skills, and they make leadership a priority. The more you think of leadership activities as “soft skills,” the more you will allow yourself to be ineffective or inconsistent at doing them. And that affects your success, your impact, and your legacy as a leader.