When I first entered the business world – as a millennial (Barely? Labels are a bit hazy when you apply one that you didn’t create. It is better to just create your own labels.) – I learned a great deal from my Gen-X mentors. I learned that sales is about solutions. I learned that business is driven by numbers, which are created by people. I was reminded that showing up is 20% of the battle (maybe 50%, I know it’s important though). I learned a lot, I should have learned more.
As millennials, we often seek out social networks rather than one-on-one mentorships. Luckily, I have had some incredible mentors. (Soon I will publish a detailed article on how to find a good mentor) Mentorship is not about about someone doing the heavy-lifting for you, rather it is about showing you where to lift to get the best results. As millennials, we need good mentors. We also need to become better mentors for others.
Earlier in my career I was traveling for a work related trip overseas and I received a call from my mentor. (Awesome, he called me! That is one sign of a great mentor!)
Mentor: “You know Mareo, we all have stuff we think about that limits our ability to perform, what is limiting you?”
Me: “I want to make more money.”
Mentor: “What is stopping you?”
Me: “I don’t know how. How do I make more money?”
Mentor: “Become a better leader.”
Me: “How do I become a better leader?”
Mentor: “Help more people. Learn from the best leaders and follow what they do.”
Then he hung up the call as he was boarding a flight.
So after he gave me his great advice (partial advice?), I began to deeply ponder what he said. I started reading more. I thought about previous experiences and analyzed various situations. I worked hard to answer the question: What makes a good leader? After lots of study I found that it is really simple actually:
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell
I learned that the best leaders have vision. The best leaders know how to influence others. But what do the best leaders actually do? How do they get there? Here it is, this is what they do:
1. Tie Everything to Their WHY. (Driving Purpose)
When you have a defined purpose you do not let minor interruptions stop you from achieving your goal. While on the road to success the steps you take may change, your ultimate purpose never does.
“Discovering your purpose doesn’t have to be complicated. Look at what you do and why you do it. Is it to support your family? That’s your purpose. Is it to make a difference in your customer’s life? That’s your purpose.” – Anne F. Beiler
2. Are Adaptable (Consistent Perseverance Leads to Innovation)
Successful people never quit, they just keep pushing forward until they succeed. There is no failure until you give up. The path to overcoming all obstacles is the ability to adapt to whatever your current situation is. In the book, Mindset, by Carol Dweck, the author says that people who persevere have a growth mindset. A fixed mindset values smarts and talent the most, a growth mindset focuses on progress and learning. By adopting a growth mindset, you can let go of preconceived notions regarding innate ability and allow yourself to keep learning until you outlast the obstacles.
“Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win.” –Max McKeown
4. Know Their Craft is King (Skills Drive Confidence and Trust)
Do good stuff. Get better stuff done. Become a master craftsman at whatever you choose to do. Learn as much as possible, learn how to do what you do better than anyone you know. As you take pride in your work, your ability to influence others will grow. Find a mentor, learn from the best then apply your personality to every situation. The more your can perform, the more your confidence will increase. The more confidence you have the more likely you are to try new things and keep trying when the setbacks come.
“Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.” – Cal Newport
4. Are Mindful (Aware & Focused)
Mindfulness is the art of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it. Mindfulness is a key component that leads to true happiness. When you are mindful you have a more satisfied life. Being mindful makes it easier to enjoy the simple aspects of life as they occur. Being mindful helps you become more engaged in all your social and personal pursuits. Being mindful helps you overcome adversity. When you overcome adversity you can help others do the same.
“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.” – Robin S. Sharma
5. Show Empathy
Humans need connection. Humans need support. We need each other. Showing empathy is the root of human connection. Leaders know how to connect. This connection raises their ability to influence. Empathy is one driving aspect of emotional intelligence. The higher the EQ we possess and develop, the more success we will create.
“At the end of the day, humans are social animals and we are at our best when we get to do things with others who appreciate and enjoy what we enjoy. It’s what keeps us human.” – Simon Sinek
We millennials have a lot to learn. We also have a lot to teach and share. Everyone can learn management skills. More importantly we can also learn to be better leaders by learning from our mentors. We also learn through mentoring others. By thoughtful practice we can improve our influence. James Altucher teaches that we should work hard to get 1% better each day. If we do that for 100 days… Find little adjustments you can make right now, and then another adjustment tomorrow and soon and you’ll be building practices that create more learning more progress; and you will be happier.
We all have had different experiences with leadership and growing into our potential. The trick is to keep learning as we help others in the journey.