I think we can all have about 10% more success in the places we lead simply by keeping the ideals and ends in front of us with some frequency. Here’s what reminded me of the importance of focus and repetition. I just had an anniversary mentoring a Lansing boy, and so Big Brother Big Sister sent me evaluation forms. And it’s great that more and more not-for-profits are measuring what’s important. What gets measured, gets done! However . . .
I wanted to hide a little as I filled out the scale-of-1-to-5 scores on my mentee’s improvement, because there were a bunch of areas where I couldn’t say I had helped generate any progress. Some of these questions pointed to areas where I didn’t see progress, but I had been genuinely focused, but some questions caught me totally off guard. Under questions that had to do with my mentee’s Confidence, I was asked about progress in “personal hygiene and appearance” and whether he was “able to express feelings.” I read these and thought: “Shoot, I wasn’t even thinking about that. I was supposed to do that?” I think I probably could have had some positive impact if I had just been focused. So, I wrote my wonderful case manager Kelly and suggested that maybe the agency could find ways to email us to keep us focused on where we can make a difference, and perhaps how we can do so.
It’s so easy to forget just why we are here, just what our purpose is. Measurables are tremendously helpful, but doing them once a year, twice a year, even quarterly is just not enough. We’re all suffering from what someone called “permanent attention deficit disorder,” so we need to be refocused from time to time. If, as everyday leaders we want to move people to important action, we’ve got to find ways to do it: emails, quick monthly check-ins, flipcharts, etc! Or here’s some great low-tech that’s a blast. In my old office we had an entire wall painted with black chalkboard paint, so we could keep the big measurables up, as well as do spur of the moment, erasable brainstorming. There’s now a very cool whiteboard paint that allows you to turn a whole wall erasable for key objectives, or for short-term updates and brainstorms. Be creative. Just keep it present.
And here’s an ideal that I remind you of once a year: This is Michigan (and National) Mentoring Month. There are so many great kids who just need a friend in their corner, a listener, an encourager. They don’t need your wallet; don’t need a psychologist, just someone who will open his or her ears, mind, and heart. I’ve been enriched as much by Delvin, as he has by me, but in his case, he has so precious few people pulling for him. Be somebody great for somebody this year. Make life fine in ’09!
Lead with your best self!