I used to try and go it alone, thinking I had all the answers and that no-one could do it like me. And if any of my team at the time didn’t deliver, then of course I’d take on the task myself - albeit with a little mini internal tanty of frustration thrown in for good measure.
Actually, if I’m really honest, I tried to do everything myself. And, wow, what a learning that was!
Projects failed. I felt I had no support at work - funny that right! I lost friends - well, I wasn't that interesting really, given I was so busy working! And I got mentally and physically burnt out. Quite frankly I was terrible, rubbish, downright useless at asking for help, advice or support.
Something had to change.
I began to question what it was that successful leaders and entrepreneurs did differently? Whilst I'd assumed that they operated alone, overcoming all challenges and bringing their ideas to market out of sheer individual drive and personality, I realised very quickly this could not be further from the truth. To quote my boss at the time “It's simple Janine. You need to surround yourself with the right mentors and ask for their help and guidance.”
You need to choose your heroes - and choose them wisely.
The surest route to achieving success and improving the quality of your life personally and professionally is to surround yourself with people who have been there and done that, who have achieved the same or similar goals.
Most of the world’s most successful and memorable people attribute some of their success to the help of their heroes, their mentors.
Record producer Quincy Jones credits Ray Charles as his mentor. The empire that is Oprah Winfrey cites the late Maya Angelou as her mentor. ‘She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. Mentors are important and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship,’ Oprah once said.
And don’t just take my word for it. A survey of 45 CEOs with formal mentoring agreements (HBR, April 2015) found that 71 per cent said they were certain that company performance had improved as a result. In 2014 a survey of 187 businesses found that 70 per cent of small businesses that engaged a mentor survived for five years or more. For those who worked without mentors, the success rate was half of that.
Finding a mentor who raises your game, who provides advice and guidance is critical for personal growth. They guide and inspire your career choices, providing wisdom to keep you on track and inspired. They will warn you of potential pitfalls and provide a level of protection to keep you out of trouble. They enable you to grow.
Last week I grabbed myself a copy of Tim Ferris's latest book, Tribe of Mentors. Whilst this is a brick of a book it is jam packed with perfect coffee shot hits of mentoring advice from a wide ranging collaboration of smarts and success. As Tim explains in his why behind this book, ‘As often happens at forks in the path, questions started to bubble to the surface”. He then goes on to list a series of questions:
John Wooden wrote in Success (September 2008), ‘An individual needs to be open to being mentored. It is our responsibility to be willing to allow our lives and our minds to be touched, moulded and strengthened by the people who surround us.’
Mentors are empowering and enabling, pure and simple.
Who are the heroes riding shotgun with you this year? Choose your heroes wisely and you will absolutely have an edge.