Being the best you can be means surrounding yourself with the right people!

Behind every great person is quality support. In most cases, that means a cohesive team. Peer-to-peer learning is at its centre. Like rocks on a riverbed, stone polishes stone and you end up with a gem. There are a multitude of management books that discuss this at length, but it is a really simple message. Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time sums it up. A dual Olympic Gold medalist, he also won six NBA championships and was the Most Valuable Player five times. Despite his individual brilliance Jordan says “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships”. You might say that’s obvious in a team sport, but even with individual sports, the best only get to be the best with the right training and guidance.

Even though this is a business blog, sport has a lot to tell us about being successful. We often get sports personalities to tell motivational stories about their journeys to our teams to help lift morale, uncover passion and set goals. We love the narrative.

While Jordan did have a good team, he was also blessed with some great mentoring. His father was a key part of his life, as was the guidance from Phil Jackson, who was his coach.

Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”.

Without the right, supportive environment, it’s hard to see Jordan keeping on taking those shots. So how do we build the right support base upon which we can thrive?

Find some old heads that don’t mind a yarn – Believe me, there’s lot of them around that love being confided in. You need people who will give you the odd bit of advice, that have ridden out different markets in good and bad times. That’s one of the reasons companies have Boards. But you don’t have to be CEO to bounce your ideas off people. It matters at all levels of a business. And with social media allowing you to choose a mentor from anywhere in the world, from any profession, there’s never been a better time. The key is getting the right balance between varied perspective, deep knowledge and regular check ins. Often it means, having more than one mentor.

Remember the value of community – Being a mentor is an attitude, not a job title. Trust is the new world currency and it forms more readily in a community because there is more accountability. You need to know that you can feel safe to talk through challenges with people because innovation is key to success and most ideas evolve out of community. Leveraging community is a matter of keeping the conversation going!

Connect with people who back themselves – As with Jordan’s example, success is made up in equal parts of courage and skill. Failure then is akin to success, because you need to back yourself to be in with a shot. No-one is immune to disappointment. In fact it’s essential in a competitive world. Where there are winners, there are losers. You want people who have had skin in the game, been burned and then done it over again. If there’s no risk, there’s no reward, so you must have courageous people around you to spur you on. You need this because you will hit roadblocks. You need courage to dust yourself off and get back on with it. You need people with an entrepreneurial spirit. It helps you to see how others have navigated tricky patches and it makes you calmer with your own decision making. It’s only then you can see it’s often not as dramatic or as dire as you first imagined.

Recognise you don’t need grey hair to have a great mind – Mentors are generally older than you, but the idea is that they have more experience than you in specific areas. You don’t need to be older to have that. Don’t be ageist. Get a good blend of counsel – youth and age. And to complete the circle, be a mentor yourself. It’s only when you put yourself in that position that you see what different ways you can leverage your mentor and the different insights you can graft.

In my next Blog post, I’ll tell you about how my mentors have made a difference to me personally and professionally.

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

8 thoughts on “Why mentors matter

  1. Pingback: My mentors, my story |

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