Potential: Are YOU Reaching For It?

February 10, 2011 — 1 Comment

This post is about you – as an organizational leader. Lifelong learning is a critical component of our personal and professional growth that we often seem to forget as we rise through the ranks. Unfortunately, as most of us become more senior within the organization, there is an undeniable challenge we face – facilitating our own ongoing growth and development. It becomes more and more difficult to identify growth opportunities, training, relevant readings, etc. and to deny the pull to remain stagnant – focusing on what we already know vs. the potential we have to know more. Perhaps most importantly, there is often a stealth sense of false complacency that emerges as a result of past success. However, the reality is that with the frequency and scale of change in global organizations, the leader that is not continually growing and changing with the environment may very well find that  s/he has been left behind at the last jumping off point.

Ultimately, you are responsible for your own personal development…and reaching your potential.  Many leaders let the business take priority over reaching their potential, or wait for the company to assume ownership of their development. Is this really what is most beneficial for you, and by default, the organizaion?  As leaders, it is easy to forget that it is far more effective to stretch ourselves, and thereby our organizations, than it is to settle for the status quo.  But how do you continually push yourself to think harder and go further? You can employ any number of self-help philosophies, but the reality is that you will probably not follow through – and if you do, they will typically not generate the results you hoped they would.

Finding and engaging a good mentor may be a critical success factor you are missing. Mentoring is a process about enabling and supporting your personal and professional growth. Organizational life can sometimes feel like climbing up the side of a mountain – as we struggle up the steep parts we are breathless, challenged, single-minded, and in need of support and sustenance. There may even be some moves we can not make without being tied to a partner. Mentoring can help with your changes in altitude, and enable you to get to higher ground – where you just may be able to see things from a different perspective. You will be able to see the mountains in the distance and new ways forward that were just not visible from your position below. Your mentor should facilitate a process that leads you to consider different perspectives, new ways of thinking, and deeper self-knowledge.

A good mentor is:

  1. Someone who has experience in your field (they have been there before)
  2. Someone whose integrity transcends the message, be it positive or negative
  3. Someone who tells you things you may not want to hear, while letting you know you have been heard
  4. Someone who makes you want to better and to take calculated risks
  5. Someone who presents opportunities and highlights challenges you might not have seen on your own

A mentor may help you, as a senior leader, to discover or master:

  • How to continue to learn when most of the knowledge you need to acquire is intuitively based
  • How you can constructively challenge your peers and your employees
  • How to more effectively cope with the stress of your responsibilities
  • How to better develop other people, with limited time and resource
  • How to better leverage influence, rather than command
  • How/where to continue to grow toward mastery of your role or organization
  • How to manage your personal credibility across the organization
  • If your strategic thinking is broad enough to contribute effectively to creating and/or interpreting the organizations vision
  • If you have strong contextual understanding of disciplines you have little hands-on experience in, but are responsible for

While mentoring can be successful in helping you to address your specific needs, you are also contributing to a critical part of your organizations ability to:

Develop organizational intelligence: By finding and engaging a mentor you will more successfully bridge skill, leadership, and knowledge gaps while demonstrating a climate where collaboration leads to innovation for your organization.

Connect across people:  Your mentor will enhance your network, providing an expanded opportunity to contribute your support, development, and expertise across various employee, partner, and/or client segments.

Create and sustain business impact: By engaging a mentor openly, you are demonstrating value in the process and  creating an environment that supports collaboration and open information sharing across boundaries and borders. Ultimately, you can play an important role in making mentoring a critical part of your organizations culture – perhaps eventually providing the impetus to integrate mentoring within the overall strategic goals and objectives of your organization.

Jim Collins sums it up well when he said, “Good is the enemy of great… it is one of the main reasons we have so few that become great … most people never become great because they settle for being good…” You have the potential to be great – engage a good mentor and do the hard work to get there.

Potential – Are YOU reaching for it?

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you view mentoring for senior leaders. Feel free to contact me at  Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next week for the next post on Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.


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Sheri is The Global Coach, founder of Luminosity Global Consulting Group, Global Executive Coach, Speaker, Writer and Global Business and Cultural Expert.

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