The Magnificence of Mentoring (Pages 214-215) Suspicious of this mentor business? Feeling a wee bit too proud to seek advice from others? In days of yore, practically every trade was firmly grounded in the master-apprentice tradition, the skilled teaching the unskilled.
But something tragic happened on the way to modern civilization—we've become a society that values formal schooling and knowledge-based enterprises over craftsmanship. In the process, the master-apprentice relationship has largely fallen by the wayside. Why not revive mentorship and match those who know with those who want to know?
...Professionally speaking, the mentoring shortage is more pronounced among women. Boomer businesswomen, many longtime members of the vanguard, are veeps and owners in unprecedented numbers.
Yet, while their numbers are dwarfed by those of Gen-X women in the workforce, they're much less likely than men to either formally or informally share their valuable experiences with the generations to whom they'll cede power—all the more need to heed this call.
Lessons from Our Youngsters
Common wisdom holds that each succeeding generation is influenced by those that have gone before it. The elder affects the younger.
True enough, but reverse generational influence can be no less profound. Young people adapt to technological and cultural change faster than their elders. Their habits aren't as deeply rooted, making them open to change.
Whether it's computers, VCRs, or the Earth-friendly green movement, most teens and twentysomethings catch on quicker than boomers. Yet more often than not, the influence of the younger on the older is lost on people once they approach middle age.
Watch, listen and learn...from kids? Sure enough, it's the exact opposite of the traditional image of wise-old-owl mentoring, which offers up the experience of elders walking the path before us. What they tell us is based on their reaction to sights, sounds and circumstances that you've yet to face.
Our children (indeed, anyone younger than us) can provide the inverse. They've just set out, fresh of eye, nimble of foot, at the beginning of the path you're treading. They're quicker to assimilate change, their ideas are less likely to be burdened by rules that no longer hold.
In sum, they're more likely to be unconventional. ``Out of the box'' is the buzzword for the way their new brains react to old states of affair. ``Shoulda,'' ``coulda'' and ``oughta'' less often enter their decisions or their vocabulary.
Clarity Conquers Calamity
Everyone gets burned now and then by wrong assumptions. To avoid the scorch, I spend as much time as I need on insurance against misunderstanding—clarifying, rephrasing, confirming, double-checking. This keeps my active-listening skills nimble and helps clear up misunderstandings....
A double-checking technique is asking the other person to repeat what they understood you to have said. You might preface the request by telling them that it's less a challenge to whether they're listening than it is communication quality control.
Once in a while, I'll ask, ``What is it you heard me say?'' If they get it exactly right, we've established a clear line. If they didn't get it right, or have understood only part of it, I repeat myself more clearly, and ask often, ``Just to make sure I'm making sense, tell me, briefly, what I just said.''
By then it's generally clear, but if it's not, I repeat the process until it is. Sounds like a lot of trouble, but it's great insurance against mistakes that can cause pain and cost multiples of time and energy.
Another way to ensure clarity is to keep people in the information loop. People's minds go strange places when we don't communicate adequately. They may feel discounted, believing that their concerns aren't being heard.
Running late for an appointment? Call ahead and let them know. Concerned that someone may be thinking something that isn't true? Let them know what's really going on so they don't sit and stew. If plans have been changed, inform everyone involved.
Most people love surprise, but not the kind that makes them feel you've been keeping them in the dark.