You are who you spend your time with.
This is a truth many entrepreneurs, myself included, consider when deciding who to surround themselves with. For most, this decision is rooted in finding the similarities with others in terms of their career, goals, passions, and what they enjoy doing outside of work.
But have you ever wondered, what if I spend my time with different people? What if I intentionally searched out someone who appeared to be nothing like me? When it comes to selecting mentors, coaches, and business partners, the decisions must be intentional, and I have found there are fantastic benefits from intentionally searching for diversity.
In order to be a more well-rounded, grounded, and effective leader who can navigate change and social unrest, your mentorship must be varied. Here's why.
1. It generates a level of balance.
Many people operate in life from an unbalanced place. For some individuals, their career swings their health out of balance. Others neglect their family and personal relationships to pursue a passion. This imbalance also lives within the people we have relationships with, including who our mentors are.
When I look at my mentors and coaches, the majority are women. I have found that while working with men has been immensely valuable, receiving a woman's perspective has not only broadened my understanding of half the world's population, it has helped me develop more emotional balance within myself. Seeing a female's perspective and insight into the operations of life and business has broadened my own ability to resolve conflict, make informed decisions, and be more empathetic.
Fight the urge to gravitate towards people like you and people you see yourself in. If not, your relationship balance swings so far to one side that you have no understanding of the other. This ultimately narrows your capacity for insight. Lean on your mentors, partners, and coaches to bring your ideas, viewpoints, and understanding into balance.
2. It exposes your blind spots.
There is a part of yourself that you can't see, but everyone else has a front-row seat to watch. The Johari Window, a communication model used to enhance an individual's self-perception, calls this the blind spot. If you don't seek out external eyes, these blind spots can be detrimental to your success. Simply put, you don't know what you don't know.
When it comes to understanding your blind spot, to see the things you can't understand, your best bet is to talk with someone who can see it the easiest. In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been an influx of white people seeing for the first time the "blind spot" to their white privilege. This would have been difficult to find had white people not heard the voices of the black community.
These blind spots may be a lack of knowledge in a key aspect of your industry, a communication tactic that isn't working for you, or a product consideration you simply can't see yourself. Instead of seeking confirmation bias by reading sources you know will give you the answer you want to hear or talking only with people who hold identical ideals and opinions, openly seek out someone with a different viewpoint or background. You will both be able to shed light on one another's blind spots, the areas where, frankly, the largest amount of growth occurs.
3. It makes you a more informed leader.
If you are not exposing yourself to a variety of cultures, people, and products, as well as educating yourself on the topics at large, there will come a time when this lack of awareness will cause you to fall short. It will only be a matter of time.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to be well informed, to see multiple sides to every story, and to be the bearer of powerful and inspiring words. When you surround yourself with communities, cultures, and, yes, mentors, from various backgrounds and walks of life, you increase your exposure to the realities of the world.
There have been a large number of CEOs and public figures taking backlash for potentially ill-informed or uneducated comments, such as Drew Brees's remarks about Colin Kaepernick or CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman's comments regarding George Floyd. As a result of Glassman's words, many sponsors and affiliate gyms left the organization, and that ultimately led to him leaving his position.
Be informed before you speak. When your mentor is a different gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, you have a more intimate connection to a different demographic's viewpoints. You are more informed on how they view the world and how your actions, known or unknown, will impact them.
While your mentors may completely vary on paper, you will be surprised to find the similarities that still live within us. After all, regardless of color, age, or gender...we are all human.
Stop looking for mentors that look you, start looking for mentors that you want to be like.