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Peddy has devoted more than twenty years to successfully mentoring people at every level and in all types of organizations. In the tradition of Mandino, Blanchard, and Goldratt, she weaves this knowledge into an educating and captivating story. Although it cakes place in a corporate setting, the principles revealed apply to every mentoring situation.
She stepped inside, and I saw the beginnings of tears pooling in her eyes. "Look, I blew it today and I know it."
"Sit down and let's talk about it," I said coming around my desk and sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs. She sat in the other and for a few moments said nothing. I did not break the silence because I hoped Katy was thinking about the impact of her actions today, and I wanted to do nothing to reduce the value of her insights.
Usually so articulate, she was struggling for the right words. "I made a fool of myself. Everyone was talking at once, and I wanted, I wanted to…" She reached into her pocket for a tissue.
I resisted responding, but I leaned forward in my chair to show her I was listening.
She dabbed at her eyes. "I wanted them to listen, but it came out all wrong. I sounded like a junior high school teaching shushing a bunch of misbehaving kids….What am I going to do?"
I waited for a moment because I wanted her to say everything she needed to say. This was a very important moment for Katy….
"I'm not going to give you a bunch of platitudes," I said, finally, "but I want to help. This isn't the end of the world or of your reputation either. You're good, Katy. You've got all the makings of a superstar…."
"I guess I should apologize to everyone, is that it?"
"I don't think it would hurt. At the same time, you've learned something about the skills you need to acquire in order to deal with conflict more effectively. The important question is, how can you acquire or strengthen these skills."
"I guess I could use some training, don't you think?"
"It seems to me, it would be helpful….You'd have the opportunity to practice, do some role plays, and get some feedback."
"But right now, what do you think are the most important things for me to learn?"
I've tried to learn from my own experience, Katy. I used to fly off the handle when I was faced with a conflict situation. In fact, in the early part of my career, I spent a good bit of time apologizing for things I wish I hadn't said….One day, like you, I decided there must be an easier way to handle things. My insight came as a result of a meeting where I argued my way to success, or so I thought, until Elroy opened my eyes. He said the next time people would be on their guard with me. But when I changed my style, I learned that mistakes are not fatal. They're just wake-up calls. So here are a few ideas that have helped me both in business and in my personal life. Some I've learned from experience, mine and that of others. Some I've learned through training."
"Before I get involved in any conflict situation, I ask myself three questions.[They are: does it really matter? Is it worthy of me? Will this achieve the best outcome?]
[At the end of every key chapter is a summary, a discussion with the reader called, "Notes to the Mentoring File." This excerpt summarizes advice Rachel receives from a colleague about qualities she needs to look for in a mentor for her college-dropout son.]
The Mentoring Spirit: Charlie's list
1. Has credibility both with the young adult and the parent. That means he/she needs to understand the young person's struggles, having experienced and overcome similar challenges; be accepted as someone who has helped others or has the capacity to be supportive in some significant way, and be respected for high moral/ethical standards.
2. Communicates high expectations. If you want to help someone, encourage her to set high expectations for herself. There is nothing so de-motivating for someone as having those who know her best believe she will not succeed no matter how hard she tries. On the other hand, a large amount of evidence shows the reverse is true, as long as expectations are realistic.
3. Is a good listener. Probably the biggest complaint young people have is that most adults are more than willing to talk to them but not nearly as open to listening. In particular, this means coming across as understanding but not judgmental.
4. Has empathy. Sympathy can make a person feel like a victim because it implies tacitly that he lacks the will or power to act on his own. Empathy can be uplifting. It says we understand another's struggles and at the same time acknowledge the person is capable of solving his own problems.
5. Offers encouragement without assuming responsibility for the results-a simple premise, but fundamental for someone's personal growth. One who takes on accountability for another is not acting as a mentor but rather a doting parent. This deprives the individual of the opportunity to learn from her own mistakes.
With the exclusion of parent's approval in Item 1, the same qualities apply to mentoring anyone at work.