Ego-Free Tips on Leadership and Mentoring
By Tony Daniello, AVP, Support Services, CDI
How thought leaders offer guidance, inspire problem solving, and cultivate real change at your organization.
My next few entries in this blog discuss challenges and lessons learned as I personally progressed on my way to a leadership position, acquiring new skills, validating my ideas, and reviewing my values as a leader. In this article, I want to focus on mentoring and ego management.
The Leadership Journey
To be completely honest, leadership journeys are not known for being easy. You are going to encounter many challenges along the way. But the ultimate goals you will achieve are well worth your efforts. And I want to stress that you do not need to be in a position of absolute authority to be a leader.
If you haven’t read Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, I highly recommend it. Not just a collection of combat stories, this highly acclaimed bestseller weaves together fresh inspiring principles that span across military, family, and business environments. I feel it is a great book for anyone interested in becoming a better leader. (And, as an added bonus, who doesn’t mind learning a bit of military history along the way?) I truly appreciated reading this book and know you will too!
Mentoring and the Ego
- If it runs too high, can our ego prevent us from fulfilling our duties as mentors?
- How effective would we be if our ego reminded us that the person being mentored now possesses the potential to become better than us?
- Does the ego interfere with our ability to accept feedback from the person we are mentoring?
One simple fact that I urge you to accept is that in order to be an effective mentor, you must control your ego and focus on the results rather than on yourself. To clarify what I mean let’s take a look at some previous insights I have discovered when it comes to mentoring a person or team.
The person you are mentoring is a reflection of yourself.
This means that the success rate of the person being mentored (mentee) is in direct proportion to how well their mentoring process went. If a promising new protégé continues to fail, the mentor needs to take ownership of the failures and then make the necessary adjustments. If their ego is focused inward on itself, the mentor will not be able to accept criticism and may instead be likely to suggest, “It’s not my fault, this person is just not good enough.”
The person you are mentoring has their own ideas.
When you mentor a person or team, you are providing a landing platform for them. For example, you show them your style of doing things and the way the organization does things. However, you need to encourage the mentee to adopt their own style of doing things. If you exude an ego of “my way or the highway,” then everyone will fail. The mentored team members will feel as if there is no individuality and will not grow as expected. This can also hinder critical feedback that can potentially improve the overall process or goal in mind.
The person you are mentoring is directly impacted by your actions.
This last point applies mostly to less experienced employees and new hires. I remember when I started at CDI, one of my mentors volunteered to show up at a customer site as I was performing an upgrade to an HP-UX system. This gesture of support meant a lot to me. During my tenure at CDI as a mentor and leader, I continue to attend scheduled activities to see how I can assist and help provide guidance when I can. When all is said and done, the mentee will remember their mentor as their career advances and when the time comes for them to step up as mentors, they will reflect back and mirror how they were mentored.
In conclusion, when it comes to leadership and mentoring, it is best to contain the ego and redirect it from ourselves to the mentored person. Remember that you are mentoring tomorrow’s leaders. Be aware of how well the mentee speaks about you, how well they perform their assigned tasks, and how far they progress in the company or along their career path. As a mentor, you will often be rewarded years later by a great sense of accomplishment when you see the person that you mentored succeed.