I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business.
"Your budget for the testing lab just got approved," my boss said, smiling at my office door and giving me the thumbs up. "Now the hard work starts, because you need to convince everyone in the department to use it.
My boss at the time had a consultant's vibe. Nothing fazed him, everything was super chill. He had several enviable leadership qualities, but the one I remember the most is how much he was able to encourage me to try new things, to reach for more.
This was back when I worked in the corporate world, and the lab was meant for testing new software and hardware. His vocal support and mentoring helped me find a ton of success in my management role.
Do you have anyone helping you see beyond your current circumstances? According to author, speaker, and pastor Mark Batterson, a mentor has a dual purpose. We need someone who can point out our flaws and our potential. Without that voice of encouragement and that hand of direction keeping us from making mistakes, we lead without a clear vision.
"We all have blind spots that hinder our growth as leaders," says Batterson, who recently published his latest book, called Chase the Lion. "If you want to grow, you need people in your life who have permission to speak the truth in love," he says. "We need to invite feedback. We need people in our lives who won't tell us what we want to hear, but rather what we need to hear."
Batterson says leadership is going to bring quite a bit of discomfort to your life. It won't be a smooth ride, but he says that's all part of the learning process.
"We all want success without the sacrifice," he says. "But success doesn't happen at the speed of light it happens at the speed of a seed that you plant in the ground. Sometimes I want to tell a young leader, come back to me in 20 years and talk to me then."
Success means hard work, even pain. If you are not uncomfortable, Batterson says, you are not learning and growing. He says a mentor is really there to help you through these periods of growth, mostly because the methods you used to reach your current position in life are likely not the same techniques you need to use to move forward again.
"I think the greatest leaders are those who leverage others who help them fulfill their dreams and use their gifts and I think that's a good starting point," he says.
Part of the mentoring process also involves asking the right questions. In my own role as a leader back in my corporate days, my boss at the time was extremely cognizant of what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. He pushed me to meet with every department head. When the technique worked, he told me I was doing a good job. When it didn't work, he suggested different strategies. It was a healthy mentoring relationship because it never seemed like he was criticizing.
For anyone who leads a company, it's important to think about where you've been and how you will get to the next stage in business (and in life).
Only a mentor helps you get there.