Don’t assume they know. Tell them!

SuppotDon’t you just love it when you can see the lightbulb come on in others?

Recently, I had a conversation with one of our senior leaders and they were talking extensively about servant leadership and the importance of it in our business.  As I then sat through several meetings after that, I was very keen in my observations of those leading and participating.   

What did I see?  That we need more servant leadership.  We need to lose the egos and practice some humility.  We need to stop working in silos.  We need to be inclusive of other perspectives.  We need to be respectful of people’s time and opinions.  We need to champion and challenge each other.  We need to get away from what’s most important to ME and put others and the good of the organization first.  We need people to realize that ‘how’ we get there is just as important as getting there (if not more so).

In listening to Walmart CEO, Mike Duke, over the last few years he has been very clear that servant leadership is an attribute and behavior expected from our leaders at all levels.  So why is it that this message isn’t always filtering down or demonstrated? 

Then I remembered one of Tim Yatsko’s (EVP @Walmart) favorite Don Soderquist (former COO @Walmart) quotes, “Don’t assume they know.  Tell them.”  While this is a paraphrase and Don was referring to Integrity – I think the theme of the message is equally relevant here.  Maybe their leaders, mentors, and peers aren’t telling them.  Or holding them accountable to it.

So, I am telling you.   Be a good servant leader. 🙂

If you become known for this throughout your organization, I guarantee you that your career will blossom and flourish.

Servant Leadership is one of those topics that should be a regular course of conversation, because it’s important!  And not just at work, but in life in general.  It’s not something that we turn on and off.  It’s something that permeates who you are and is reflected in your thoughts, words, and actions.   

I realize that we all have different aspirations, styles and ambitions in life, but my personal experiences have led me to the truth that I am most fulfilled and accomplish the most when I am able to help or serve others.

If servant leadership is a new concept to you or is something you don’t understand, feel free to reach out to me, your mentors, or your leaders and inquire.  This is one of those “journey” things.  We all have to start somewhere.  Once we start, we find that there is always more to learn.  And the people that care about your growth and development should be happy to help you on your journey.  🙂

Special note for leaders:  Teach.  Teach servant leadership.  In your words.  In your actions. Talk to your teams about it. Don’t assume they know.  Expect it from the leaders on your team, whether up-and-coming or seasoned.  Hold them accountable to it.  Teach them to teach it.  If you want to leave a mighty legacy – invest this in others.

 If you take anything away  – let it be this –>   Be a good servant leader. 

 How do you demonstrate good servant leadership?


Retweet: Three Words That Will Transform Your Career

Today we’re going to take a little different spin.  

Personally and professionally, I find a lot of value in LinkedIn.  I love seeing what kinds of articles people post.  Yesterday, I came across a quick read by Bruce Kasanoff (entrepreneur, writer, speaker) that really has a great message that we need to remember and act on (often).  As it’s short and to the point, I will post the entire article below or you can click on the link here to access it on LinkedIn.  Enjoy!


Three Words That Will Transform Your Career

Every time you encounter another person, think: help this person. It’s not altruistic. Nothing else can so quickly supercharge your career and improve the quality of your life.

When you walk into Starbucks for a coffee, think help this person about the barista who serves you. Instead of being frustrated that he isn’t moving fast enough, see if you can make him smile. Better yet, tell him to keep the change.

When the phone rings on a busy day, don’t get frustrated by the interruption. Think help this person while you answer the phone. Doing so will change your demeanor, your thought process, and the entire interaction.

If you have a subordinate who isn’t pulling her weight, instead of criticizing her, every time you see her think help this person. This doesn’t mean let her slide, or ignore her shortcomings. It means help her either improve her skills or find a position better suited to her strengths. But don’t just brush her aside; really help her.

But wait a minute – I know what some of you are thinking. What about the people who take credit for other people’s work? What about the rich and powerful who have gotten that way by crushing others? Doesn’t their success prove me wrong?

Not at all. Sure, there are some people who take the exact opposite strategy. But it takes real skill and focus to succeed by being evil, and most of us just don’t have the fortitude to pull it off. For those of us with a soul and a heart, the only real choice is to succeed by helping others.

By first thinking help this person, you will change the ways that others perceive you. There is no faster or more effective way to change your interactions and relationships. You will be viewed as a positive, constructive, helpful and dependable person. People will think you are more perceptive, attentive and understanding.

That’s why this way of thinking is not altruistic; it is selfish, in the best sense of the word. The single best way to help yourself is to always be looking for ways to help other people. Sure, you’ll be making the world a better place, and in the course of your life you will help many thousands of people. But don’t do it because you ought to, or because it’s the “right” thing to do.

Think help this person because you’re selfish, and proud of it.

Mentoring Basics: Part 3(b)

In our last post on Mentoring Basics, we examined the first of three steps in ‘how to start a mentoring relationship’. Critical here, was gathering information that would help us as potential mentors make a decision to mentor or not to mentor someone.

Now, we’re going to take that information and dive in to the analysis and decision making step, which we’ve termed Honest Assessment.

If you’re joining us at this mid-point in the series, you can start at the beginning by clicking here.

Honesty is critical. Not only in the way that you approach the mentoring of another person, but also in your assessment of the whether or not you are the right person to mentor an individual. Just because someone asks you to be their mentor doesn’t mean that you are the right person for the job.

It is very important that you examine the information you have collected carefully and run it through your honest assessment filter to make a good determination.

Let me give you a work place example.

Sue asks Adam to be her mentor. Adam asks Sue, “what would you like to learn?” Sue tells Adam that she thinks Adam is really strong in merchandising skills and would like to learn that from him. Adam knows deep down that his merchandising skills really aren’t that strong.

Should Adam agree to the mentorship based on Sue’s expressed need? Or should he decline and refer Sue to someone else that may possess the knowledge, skill and experience that she is looking for? Personally, I would say that the latter would be more appropriate in this situation.

We all like it when people look up to us for some reason or another, but if that admiration is based upon misperception is it really us that they admire? Or is it some alternate universe version of us that only exists in their mind? Should you burst the perception bubble? Human nature may be telling you no. I say this is a bridge that you will have to cross personally.

You may be thinking if there is no harm is there a foul? Perhaps there isn’t, but I encourage you to “burst the bubble” if the situation involves someone asking you to teach them a skill that they will be basing future action upon and you clearly don’t have the expertise to lead them down the right path.

So, how do you conduct an Honest Assessment? Here are seven things to consider:

  • Do I have enough information? If not, go back and ask clarifying questions. Don’t be afraid to seek out information from others too (e.g., other former mentors, their supervisor, etc.).
  • Are the goals realistic? This is a tricky one. You have to make a judgment as to whether or not the needs and goals are attainable by this individual in the time frame that they expect to reach them. If they aren’t, then this doesn’t mean that the mentorship shouldn’t occur, it just means that you may need to reset the expectations of the goals and time lines (which we will cover some in the next post). However, if they are dead set on achieving that specific goal (and you don’t think it’s realistic), you may have to say no.
  • Does this person display a desire and capacity to learn? This is an important question, because if the mentee’s heart and mind isn’t in it then the mentorship may be a waste of time. The important thing here is attitude and aptitude.
  • Do I have the knowledge, skills, or experiences to help them achieve their goal? The above example of Sue and Adam fits right in to this question. Do you honestly have what it takes to develop someone in a given area?
  • Is this a mutually beneficial relationship? Mentoring is reciprocal and you should be getting as much from it as you are giving.
  • Am I compatible with this person? This is more important than you may think. While we don’t want a bunch of ‘mini-me’s’ running around and you should consider people that are different than you as mentees, there is the fact of whether or not you will get along, which speaks to how receptive they will be of your input. If you think the relationship is going to be abrasive or adversarial, then you may want to pass.
  • Do I have enough time and energy to devote to this person? Now that you have the information, you should be able to determine if you have the time to devote to this specific individual. This isn’t all about the mentee either, this is about you, your priorities, your workload, your energy level, etc. We’ve talked a lot about “time” as a factor, and that’s because this is one of the greatest fatal flaws of mentorships that often dooms them to failure. So make sure you are honest with yourself about what you can “give”.

Notice how all of these questions are “yes or no”? This should make it easy to assess. If you answer “no” to any of them, then you need to take a really close look at this potential relationship. If you dig further for answers and still get a “no” then you are probably leaning towards a “no” for the mentorship in general.

Now, the application for this rigorous of an examination may lend itself more towards the “official” or even “casual” style of mentoring relationships. Note that if you come up with a “no” for the relationship, that still may mean that you can contribute to this person’s development by answering questions from time to time, being an “ear” or allowing them to bounce an idea off of you.

You may be looking at all of this information and analysis and think, “Good grief, it’s just a mentorship. Do I have to go through all of these steps?” The answer is yes. Why? Because mentorships should be taken seriously. They are an investment in one of our most precious resources: time.

The time that it actually takes you to conduct the assessment may vary. Skilled mentors may have this process down pat and can go through all the steps within minutes. More complex situations may require further analysis. Regardless, take the time you need to make the right decision. It’s okay to tell them, “let me think about it” and give yourself the time you need think and assess. Just make sure you don’t leave them hanging too long.

Now that you have all the information you need and you’ve assessed the situation, you should be prepared to make an informed decision.

HOW you deliver that decision and the next step (setting parameters) will be covered in the next post! Stay tuned!



Mentoring Basics: Part 1

Mentoring is such a great topic. There is no greater personal legacy than that which you invest in others.

Mentors show the way.

Mentoring is universal and can be done just about anywhere; at work, at home, at school, at church, with a child, with a student, with a team, with a co-worker, and the list goes on.

There’s nothing like seeing people that you have invested time and effort in go on to do great things.

Personally, I don’t think I have always been a good mentor.

In fact, in hindsight, I can think of former mentees that I could have done so much more for, but quite honestly at that point in time I didn’t have a lot of experience in mentoring and/or didn’t have the tools in my locker to be a good mentor. Even today, I know that I have a long way to go to reach the level of some of the great leaders that inspire and mentor me, but I am better than I was yesterday and I learn every day.  Mentoring is just as much about the mentor learning how to grow others as it is about the mentee learning from the mentor.

For the purpose of this series of posts on Mentoring Basics, I am going to approach the topic from the “role of the mentor”, but I think the lessons have equal application for mentees as well. I am also going to approach it from a business standpoint, but again, I think the lessons have equal application in mentoring relationships outside of the workplace.

Throughout this series on, we are going to talk about mentoring basics, including:

  • How to put structure around your mentoring relationships
  • How to start a mentoring relationship
  • Key mentor Do’s and Don’ts
  • How to handle some of the tough conversations

A great place to start this conversation is around defining what mentoring is in the first place and how it differs from management.  In doing a little research, I found the following, which I thought was a good explanation from

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a relationship between an experienced person and a less experienced person for the primary purpose of helping the one with less experience develop and/or reach their goals.  The mentor provides wisdom, guidance, advice and counseling as a mentee advances in their life, career or education.

What is the difference between a manager and a mentor?

While many managers demonstrate mentoring behavior on an informal basis, it is very different from having a structured mentorship. There is a qualitative difference between a manager-associate relationship and a mentor-mentee relationship.

Managerial Role

The manager-associate relationship focuses on achieving the objectives of the department and the company. The manager assigns tasks, evaluates the outcome, conducts performance reviews, and recommends possible salary increases and promotions.

Because managers hold significant power over associates’ work lives, most associates demonstrate only their strengths and hide their weaknesses in the work environment.

Mentoring Role

The mentor-mentee relationship focuses on developing the mentee professionally and personally. As such, the mentor does not evaluate the mentee with respect to his or her current job, does not conduct performance reviews of the mentee, and does not provide input about salary increases and promotions.

This creates a safe learning environment, where the mentee feels free to discuss issues openly and honestly, without worrying about negative consequences on the job.

The roles of manager and mentor are fundamentally different. That’s why structured mentoring programs never pair mentors with their direct reports.

This is a basic contrast, but does provide some boundaries on the roles of managers and mentors.

In the next part of the series, we’ll look at how to put some structure around the mentoring relationship.



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