Where is your cell phone? Close by? Some of you may even be reading this on your phone right now. Most professionals will have easy access to the internet, and so many of us will jump straight to Google when looking to answer the simplest of questions.
Google can’t always answer your questions, though. Articles and message boards can only get you so far. Occasionally you will have a question or concern in your business so specific that you would really benefit from a direct answer to your situation. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reasons why every successful businessperson could benefit from a mentor. So why should you have a mentor? Here are three reasons why a mentor could be invaluable to your business.
Hone your craft
Your mentor will likely be someone who has years of experience on you in your field. They know how to accomplish tasks that you might not, and as a person who has a genuine interest in you and your success, they will teach you how to communicate more effectively, succeed at a networking event, or set worthy and empowering goals. Whatever your hurdle is, your mentor can help you overcome it.
Access to relationships
So often we forget the power of the network those in our network have. As you are networking and working to grow your business, your mentor once upon a time did the same for their business. Their network is a powerful resource to you, and they would likely be more than happy to get you in contact with members of their network as need arises.
Building your confidence
Having a mentor can help build your confidence in numerous ways. For one, having an individual that you trust and respect backing you, perhaps someone with a reputation in your industry, can help you feel as if you have made the right decisions. Additionally, hearing their stories from when they were at the same juncture in their career can help you see your situation with a different clarity, and help you feel empowered.
Do you have a mentor? How have they helped you the most? Leave your comments in the field below!
30 years ago this past Thursday, I put together about 20 people in a small coffee shop in Arcadia, California for the very first meeting of BNI® (Business Network International). The organization was run from a small bedroom which was converted into an office inside my house in La Verne, California.
The House Where BNI® Began
I am humbled by the fact that today the organization has over 7,000 chapters in 60 countries with over 170,000 members world-wide. In addition, we have over 30 BNI staff at HQ and more than 3,000 BNI Directors and Director Consultants working for the organization!
I don’t believe any of the two dozen or so people who were present at that first meeting fully realized that this was the beginning of something amazing.
That realization came to me almost a year later between Christmas and New Years as I looked back in amazement at having opened up 20 groups during the year. At this point I recognized I had struck a chord within the business community. We don’t teach networking in colleges and universities anywhere in the world, and business people are hungry for referrals. They simply had no viable way to generate them regularly back in 1985. It was during that week that I sat down and put together the outline for a plan that has evolved into what BNI is today.
I was recently asked by a BNI Director what the secret to this growth was. I’ve taken some time to write down some of the key factors I think contributed to our success as my answer to his question. These are factors you won’t find in most business books, and they weren’t taught to me in graduate school. But I think they were critical to our success in this organization and they may be relevant factors to you, too.
BNI’s Current Headquarters Building in Southern California
Lessons I Learned in Developing BNI:
Set Goals. I know – everyone says “set goals,” but let me give you a slight variation to this concept. I recommend you set three levels of goals. By setting goals in this manner, you give yourself some flexibility in where you want to go over the next year (or years).
High – set a goal that is a stretch. This is one that will be very difficult to reach, but it is definitely possible.
Target – set a goal that you are confident you can reach. It won’t be easy, but it is definitely possible.
Low – set a goal that if everything goes wrong, you are still confident you can reach this.
Reverse engineer your goals. At each level above – where do you want to be at the end of twelve months from now? That number would be 100% of your annual goal. Now reverse that. At nine months you should be at 75% of that goal. At six months, you should be at 50% of that goal. At three months, you should be at 25% of that goal. Check your progress every month. Stay on track.
Do six things a thousand times, not a thousand things six times! I think one of the big mistakes businesses make is that they jump from one bright shiny object to another. For me, success has come by being like a “dog with a bone!” I have taken techniques that I’ve seen work, and then I’ve done them over and over and over and over. Six things, a thousand times.
Create a larger vision. It’s never too early or too late to create a larger vision. Create something that is a unifying concept for you, your employees, and possibly even your clients – something that resonates with people and creates a long-term vision for the company. For BNI this began with our philosophy of “Givers Gain.” It has been inculcated throughout the organization and has been the guiding force of our referral-marketing program. It led to our vision statement of “Changing the Way the World Does Business” which is all about businesses collaborating and cooperating through our philosophy.
Maintain personal engagement. As a company grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to be personally engaged in every aspect of the business. That means you must make choices. However, you must continue to be personally engaged as much as possible. Technology has enabled me to stay engaged with members and directors (through my visitations, video messages, this newsletter, my blog, the BNI Podcast, our social media, and BNI Connect, to name a few). Nothing replaces personal engagement. The more you remain engaged, the more your vision can thrive.
Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice. One thing I’ve learned over the last 30 years is that I can teach people “how” to do something (including network). I can’t teach them to have a good attitude, and I don’t have time to send them back to Mom to get retrained. The only thing better than “ignorance on fire” is “knowledge on fire.” If I can take someone who is on fire and teach that person how to succeed, our organization becomes unstoppable.
Do what you love, and you’ll love what you do. As a business person, you are either working in your flame or working in your wax. When you are in your flame, you are on fire. You are excited and energized. When you are working in your wax, you are drained and fatigued. As a company grows, it is easy to get caught up doing more and more in your wax. Find out what your flame is, and then do your best to work more in that flame. Find people whose flame is your wax and put them in the roles you no longer love doing. This will free you up to work in your flame.
I’d love to hear any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or observations that you might have about the BNI organization whether you’re a member of the organization or not and I’d also really like to hear any key lessons or tips for success which you’ve learned through your own experience in the world of business. Please share your thoughts, etc. in the comment forum below–thanks!
Host Leadership is all about the art of hosting–bringing people together, getting things moving, inviting the right people, and creating the space for things to happen. As Mark puts it, anyone who is in a leadership position working with a team, working with customers, working with suppliers, working with outward facing people, etc. can think of themselves as a host and can take on the six roles of engagement for a host leader.
Mark also talks about the difference between servant leadership and host leadership and the forward-and-backward dance at which master host leaders excel. I highly recommend Mark’s new book because I think it gives networkers an incredible advantage when they approach networking with a host mentality. Furthermore, it’s a mentality that will transfer over into every area of business and life, allowing you to fully participate in the process of creating positive change.
Mark also has a new online Host Leadership course starting Wednesday November 5th which runs for seven weeks. You can find out more about that by clicking here.
So, what do you think of the concept of host leadership? Have you personally acted as a host in aspects of your life, in business, or in a networking environment? What has your experience been? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment forum below. Thanks!
In this video, I talk to Dave Buck, the owner of Coachville, about the importance of coaching skills for entrepreneurs.
Any successful entrepreneur can tell you that success depends on the quality of the results produced by the people on your team; and the best way to get better results from the people on your team is to coach them.
Watch the video now to find out what Dave thinks is one of the key skills for entrepreneurs to have when coaching their team and, also, how you can participate in an entire program to become a really powerful and effective coach.
Do you have any coaching tactics or strategies that you’ve found to be particularly effective in coaching your team/employees? If so, I’d really love to hear them. Please share your thoughts in the comment forum below. Thanks so much!
Last week, Warren Bennis, an icon and mentor, passed away from natural causes at the age of 89. I studied under Dr. Bennis at USC in the late 80’s. I hadn’t seen him for many years until 2008 where we reconnected at the story telling event held by movie executive, Peter Guber.
We were sitting at a small round table with about five other people having lunch. Warren looked at me curiously and said, “we’ve met before haven’t we?” I told Dr. Bennis that it had been close to 20 years, but he sat on my doctoral committee for the qualifying exams of my program. That’s when he looked at me and said, “I wasn’t very nice to you was I?” I was flabbergasted that he would ask me that question. Now the truth was that he was very, very tough on me. His critiscims were always professional and insightful, but I always remembered him as just plain tough!
What he said next completely changed my opinion of him.
He said, “I’m sorry. I really don’t like sitting on doctoral committees because they are a little like boot camp. You have to put people through these difficult situations to make sure they have what it takes to justify the degree we are about to confer upon them. It’s necessary, but it’s not really the kind of person I am.” I acknowledged that he had been tough, but I also told him he was right in his criticisms and redirection.
What I didn’t tell him, and wish I had, was how much I respected him for telling me this now. As we sat at this event somewhat closer to peers, he could have easily continued with the professor/student relationship. Instead, he shared with me his inner feelings about the doctoral process we went through and humanized his actions in a way that only increased my respect for him.
We stayed in touch from time to time over the last six years. He gave me advice when I was on the selection committee for a new President at the University of La Verne, and we met for dinner a couple years ago when he was speaking at the university. Each time he shared nuggets with me that I will remember throughout my life.
He wrote many books on leadership. He will always be known for his expertise in that field; however, some of us know him as a truly fine man who made a difference in many people’s lives.
My wife Beth and I had the opportunity to experience a dog-sled excursion while visiting the Ice Hotel in Sweden last year. While waiting to get onto the sleds and take off across the frozen river, we observed a very interesting behavior being exhibited by the lead dogs in each dog team.
Virtually all of the dogs in the pack were leaping and straining against their harnesses, barking, yipping, howling and generally making quite a ruckus. However, Beth and I noticed that the lead pair in front of each of the sled teams was quietly sitting very still, keeping a close eye on the mushers. There may have been the occasional woof from one of the lead dogs, but they were mainly on full alert, silent, and attentive, waiting for the signal that it was time to move.
Non-Lead Pack Dogs
I sat there for many minutes watching and marveling at this dynamic (click on the video above to view it for yourself). It struck me that this was a great metaphor for leadership in general. The lead dogs were observing and mostly silent despite the fact that all around them the rest of the pack was constantly barking, pulling, and straining on the lines. The lead pair in each team had a single-minded focus: wait for the signal so that they could lead the pack out onto the trail.
Great leaders often do something similar. In business sometimes people get excited about something or other and begin to strain and pull, noisily expressing their desire to move in a certain direction or take a specific action, NOW. Sometimes they do it very aggressively. However, a good leader remains alert and attentive, not overreacting to the chaos all around them. They wait for the right time and the right cue to move forward. They are ready to lead the team in the right direction for optimum success. Good leaders respect the process and provide trustworthy leadership in the work environment. They know the right time to move ahead and the right time to sit tight. They know the difference, because they, or someone they trust, have been over these trails many times before. The team may get excited, anxious or even demanding, and still these strong leaders remain steady and calm.
We noticed another thing on that sled ride. When the lead dogs stood up and prepared to respond to the musher’s cue to run, the rest of the pack got quiet and settled down. They knew it was time to get to business. They were ready to pull in the same direction. When a team is pulling in the same direction, following a strong and calm leader who is observing the cues from others or following cues from his/her own experience, the path of the team will be true and sound.
I had the realization that this metaphor really is perfect for business. Although any leader may “bark” from time to time, it is the strong, calm, and confident leader that is best at getting a team to follow. The quality of the leader often determines the performance of the team.
Are there other characteristics and traits that you feel make a great leader or that you have witnessed in a highly effective leader? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please share your feedback in the comment forum below. Thanks!
Sometime ago, one of my blog readers asked me this question:
I was wondering what do you do when your motivation level is lacking as well as your self esteem? What do you do to regain the motivation needed to move on with your plans and pursue your endeavors?
This is a great question and here’s my answer:
First of all, let me say that I am as certain of what I’m about to say as anything in my life – motivation comes from within you not from outside you. No one can motivate you but yourself. I’m speaking long-term motivation. Many years ago, Frederick Herzberg wrote about motivation and he said that others can motivate you but only in the short term. He called that KITA (Kick in the… Anatomy – that’s really what he called it).
On the other hand, long term motivation comes from within. So, that begs the question – how do you motivate yourself when your motivation is low? First, you should understand that everyone has to deal with this throughout their lives. I’ve never met anyone that was immune to this (I certainly am not). So, what do I do when I feel down?
Here are some of the things that have helped me:
Minimize contact with negative people!That’s not always completely possible but do it as much as you can. At least do this for for a short while. I really believe that some people complain as though it were an Olympic event! Keep clear of them while you are trying to get your mojo back.
Maximize time with people that refuel your energy!You become the five or six people you hang out the most with. Hang out with people that make you want to “do” and “be” better.
Read/listen/watch positive things. If you are feeling down, read a positive book. Listen to a CD with a positive message. Watch something that makes you laugh! Surround yourself with some things you love to be influenced by. Let that in to your life as much as possible.
Prioritize the things you want to do and must do. Make a list. I live by lists. The more I can get a handle on the things I need and want to do – the easier it is to tackle them.
Eat the elephant one bite at a time.Take that list you’ve created and tackle some of that list EVERY DAY. If you really do this – you will be amazed at how much you get accomplished. The more you accomplish – the better you will feel. They feed each other.
There’s plenty more we can do to generate motivation but I believe the list above is a good start. Is there something specific you have had success with that you could add to this list? If so, please share it in the comment forum below and tell us how it has helped you motivate yourself? This is an important topic and I’d love to hear your ideas about it, as I’m sure other readers would as well, because we can all use a little good advice to motivate ourselves every now and then. Thanks in advance for your input.
There are little ways and big ways of making a difference in someone’s life. More likely than not, there’s someone you can immediately call to mind who has impacted you and really made a difference in your life, whether it happened recently or even back during your formative years.
There are definitely certain individuals in my life who have made a big difference for me and in this five-minute video, I tell the story of how one of these people in specific really made a positive impact on my life back in high school and helped shape me into who I am today simply by believing in me and giving me a chance when it seemed that no one else would.
After watching the video, please share a story of your own in the comment forum below about a person you are grateful to for the way they positively influenced your life and made a difference for you.
On Friday, April 5th I will review all the comments and I’ll pick the top three standout stories. If your story is one of the top three, I’ll send you an autographed copy of Masters of Success and, additionally, if you have a current mailing address for the person who made a difference in your life, I’ll send an autographed copy of the book along with a personal note of recognition to them as well. A little bit of recognition can mean a lot and, who knows . . . simply bringing to light that you are grateful to them may even find you making a difference in their life.
Stewart Emery (Success Built to Last) was over my house a few months ago. At breakfast one morning he told me about an interview he did with a well-known billionaire in the computer industry. The billionaire shared an intriguing story with Stewart about an experience he’d had when the senior executives of a company interested in purchasing his company visited his office to discuss the possible purchase.
At lunch, the billionaire told the senior executives of the company he was negotiating with that he was going to take them to the Executive Dining Room. They followed him to the dining room which was very nice but not extravagant. But that wasn’t the big surprise. The surprise was that the dining room had a buffet line. Moreover, the billionaire walked up to the buffet line, picked up a tray, and stood in line behind everyone else. The executives looked around the room as it filled up and they realized that this room was not an “executive dining room” but was the company dining room. The boss stood there in line with all the employees. He spoke to everyone. No one was afraid to talk to him. In my opinion, he didn’t lead by being above them; he led by being among them. Stewart told me that the billionaire said the management team was surprised by the fact that he and all the executives ate with all the employees. One of them commented that this would have to change. For the boss, it was a test. This was not the kind of company that he wanted to sell his business to. The negotiation ended that day.
Companies have a choice. They can move toward exclusivity in their organizational culture or they can strive, commit, honor, and embrace inclusivity in their organizational culture.
Sometimes when people meet me, they say that they are surprised that I am approachable. I find that interesting. I think they feel this way because sometimes we, as leaders, act in a way that people perceive as unapproachable. We act “better than” to other people. I believe people should be surprised when a leader is unapproachable, not when they are approachable. The problem is that we live in a world where success sometimes creates a sense of separation (with both the organizational leaders and others). One of the key things to embrace in a successful company is the sense that the boss, the owner, the senior executive(s) are, in fact, approachable.
What are your thoughts on this matter? Please feel free to share any relevant stories and experiences you may have.
People often ask me how they can get someone in their networking group to take action and participate at a higher level in the group. I love this question and I have the perfect answer for this . . .
Have someone in a leadership position within the networking group go to the person and ask them: “How can we help you do XYZ more effectively?” Then – listen to their answer. Their answer will almost always be either a “can’t do” answer or a “won’t do” answer. The person will either explain why they are having difficulty with the situation because they “don’t know how to” address it effectively, or they will give an answer that illustrates that they “don’t really want to” do this for some reason or another.
The “can’t do” people – you should help. We have all been a “can’t do” at one time or another. I didn’t know how to network before I started in this field. I had to learn how to network. It’s our job in a networking organization to teach people who want to learn but don’t know how.
It’s the “won’t do” people that are the real problem. They understand that they are not performing – they just have excuses about why they aren’t willing to do what needs to be done. Frankly, these are the people that need to be removed from a networking group.
Have you seen “can’t do” and/or “won’t do” people in networking groups before? How did you handle them? Leave a comment and note that protecting yourself by changing the names of the guilty is always a good idea. 😉
Last week I had an opportunity to go out to dinner with Dr. Warren Bennis after his presentation at the University of La Verne. It was a true pleasure to spend time with him in a small group. Dr. Bennis sat on my doctoral committee at the University of Southern California and I had a chance to study under him for a brief period while I was there.
For those few people who may not know who Warren Bennis is, let me suggest that you pick up almost any major book on the subject of “leadership” and I can almost guarantee that Bennis either wrote it or will be quoted in it.
His latest book is called:Still Surprised, A Memoir of a Life in Leadership. I highly recommend this book to you. Bennis is a master story teller who teaches by telling interesting and relevant stories interwoven with tangible and applicable advice.
His presentation last week took me back to my graduate school days. I sat in the audience at the foot of an icon in the field of leadership and I took copious notes as he spoke to the group. Here are some of the things he shared in his presentation and at dinner later that evening which impressed me:
He started his presentation by stating that “an organization is not about the buildings, it’s about the values that are passed on.” He shared four key values relating to leadership:
Showing respect is very important. In fact, it is critical for great leadership. We forget how sensitive people can be. Simple things like saying hello or thank you. Making other people feel important. These are small gestures that can yield great results.
Admitting mistakes. If you make a mistake, say “’boy’ I screwed up, but I’ll make this right.” Telling the truth about mistakes makes us stronger.
Adaptive capacity. (This was my biggest takeaway of the night!) He said that it is important for us to develop the contextual intelligence to deal with challenges. NO, we can never conceive of all the potential problems in any given situation. This means that one’s ability to adapt is truly an important key to being a great leader.
You have to want it! Being in the role of leader is something you must truly want. If it’s not something you are passionate about – you’re in the wrong place. Also, it is important to abdicate your ego to the needs of the organization.
During the evening, he quoted a couple of characters from Shakespeare, the first being Glendower who said, “I can call the spirits from the vast deep.” To which the second character, Hotspur, replies, “Why so can I, so can any man. But, will they come when you call for them?”
Bennis concluded by saying that a defining characteristic of great leaders is that they have inspired followers–people who are inspired to come when called upon by a leader.
Dr. Bennis, it was an honor to spend some time with you last week. I sincerely hope our paths cross again.
For my readers – which idea above resonates most with you? Oh…. and pick up this book. It’s really that good!