We are fortunate that, from time to time, we come across a person who can boil down the pertinent lessons about leadership and mentoring to the least common denominator. Shellye Archambeau, CEO of MetricStream, a business that helps companies to meet compliance standards, is just such a person.
The following points have been excerpted from “How to Adopt Mentors without Really Trying”, Corner Office by Adam Bryant, the New York Times, April 30, 2012.
What important leadership lessons have you learned?
“My mother had a definite influence on my leadership style. She would say that whenever you run into challenges or you’re trying to make things happen you’ve got to understand what makes people tick, what motivates them. .. I learned that you have to figures out how to make people want to do something, and then make them believe they can.
Throughout my career, I had a lot of mentors, and I just adopted them. What I found is that, especially if you’re young, when you go up to people and say, ‘Would you mind being my mentor?.’ Their eyes widen. They literally step back. What they’re thinking about is the commitment and time involved if they say yes. And time is something they don’t have. So I would not ask them to be my mentor, but I would just start treating them like it. And that worked very well for me.”
How did you do it?
“It differs with the person. Let’s say you interact with a person, and at the end of the conversation you just say: ‘I’ve got just a quick question for you. Any thoughts on how . . .?’ It has to be quick, and it can’t be something big. And usually people will throw out an idea.
And I would do what they suggested and then follow up with them and say: “Hey, thanks so much. Here’s what I did. It worked out great.” Now what happens: They feel pretty good about giving you the advice because they had a positive impact. So when I reach out to them again, they’re more than likely to actually respond to my email or my call. And then they might be more willing to have coffee with me.”
What career advice do you give people?
“I think people in general don’t take enough risks. Some people feel that before they can take on the next challenge, they need to be 100% ready. It’s just not true. Even people experienced in their jobs aren’t perfect at their jobs.
So my biggest advice to people is to step out there. Take the risk and deal with it… It’s about thriving on risk instead of shrinking from it.”
- Don’t be a helicopter mentor (smartbrief.com)
- 5 Tips For Emerging Women Leaders (women2.org)
- 5 Tips to Find and Work with a Mentor for Your Small Business (blogs.constantcontact.com)