How to Improve Someone’s Life (Today)

how to mentorTaking an informal mentoring role in support of someone else is easy, and you can start in minutes. Plus you get the chance to help shape the direction of someone else’s path, and that is an exciting prospect. Today I’m going to talk about how you can do this in your own life to bring inspiration and guidance to someone else.

The Scale

The first reason I always hear from others as to why they don’t think they can mentor anyone is that they aren’t “good enough” to be credible. Here’s the truth–based on your experiences, education, interests, and values, you have something to offer someone.

When I started out, I thought the same thing. Then I learned that we’re all working on a scale. Let’s use running for example (hey, I love it enough to write a book on it, I might as well use it here).

I have been running for years. While I am not an Olympic-level athlete, I have picked up a significant amount of practical experience and understand the do’s/don’ts.

Recently a friend asked if I would run with his nephew, a talented high school sophomore runner with little training experience under his belt. I knew it would be a fun experience, so I immediately accepted. In the past few weeks I’ve been running with him and teaching him some of the basics of training.

If we want to think of a 10-point scale, I might be a 7 in terms of experience. He falls more around a 2. While I am not at the pinnacle of the running world, I might as well be in his view.

In a similar vein, if a new runner joins the team this year, this young man is in a position to mentor that person based on what knowledge and experience he is accumulating daily. Someone starting out as a 1 would look at someone higher up (even at a level 2 on the scale) as someone with experience to offer.

I’ve also applied this approach in leading a Bible study for some friends. I’m not a scholar, but I have enough basic knowledge to pull insights from the material and share them with others by adding some context. On that scale I feel like a 3 or 4, but for anyone below that, they are hungry to hear what I can share. Likewise, I’m always listening to those that I feel are more knowledgeable so that I can improve my own understanding on a regular basis.

Your Turn

Think about any area of your life–spiritual, career, financial, physical, marital… Someone around you can use some support from you. Even if you’re “only” a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1 through 10, you have something to offer.

The final piece of advice is important: people have to be open to receiving your input. If you are trying to dump advice on people who are not interested in listening, then you’re wasting your time and theirs, and you’re harming any future relationship with that person. If you offer something, wait to see how they respond. If they’re welcoming of the input and seem open to more, then keep it coming.

We can all make the world a better place through small actions like these. It doesn’t take a huge revolutionary shift–many small ones will do the trick just the same.

Who are you going to influence today? 

A difficult mentoring question

Okay, people, I have a short post today. Why? Because I’m stumped. Recently I read this mentoring post by Alison at Ask a Manager. An excerpt is below.

Do we seek out those with star potential because they’ll benefit the most from our help — or is it possible that it’s actually less about that and more because we like to see ourselves in them, or that it’s so gratifying to watch them blossom and feel we played a role in their success? Maybe we’d actually have a more significant impact if we made that kind of time investment with someone who doesn’t have obvious star potential, someone who doesn’t appear to be a natural candidate for grooming.

Basically, should you spend your limited time mentoring someone who is a high performer or someone who is a low performer?

I can make an argument for each side, and I have talked with half a dozen HR pros while seeking an answer. There have been mixed results, to say the least, and I’m stumped. Therefore, I shall turn the question over to my incredibly intelligent audience. What do you think? Should you spend your limited time mentoring someone who is a high performer or someone who is a low performer? The best responses will be published in an upcoming post that will feature comments by some HR bloggers you know and love.

Image by Pierre-Olivier