You are a mentor

It is true. I know it may be hard to believe. “Mentorship” is one of those words that can be big and scary. One that can often bring up the self-questioning thoughts that often echo in our psyches:

“I really haven’t accomplished enough to be able to mentor someone else.”

“The skills/position/experience/(fill in the blank) really isn’t mentoring worthy.”

“I wouldn’t know where to begin with a mentoring process.”

It’s not true. Everyone has something that is completely unique, that they are experts in that no one else can claim. That is the story of their own experience. When you share your story a relationship is formed, and you put on the table examples, learnings and inspiration that only you can. It doesn’t matter if what you share is directly relatable in terms of topic or question to those listening. When you share your story connections will be made and new, usable perspectives will be uncovered that can help inform and guide the questions or struggles the audience may be experiencing.

I have experienced this personally. I had the opportunity recently to speak to the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership class at George Washington University. I, like most, spun for a while on what I could share or teach that would seem worthy for the class to spend their time on. In the end, I decided to simply tell my story. My background, my journey, my decisions and what I learned from them. Where I succeeded, and where I fell. The dialog, appreciation and feedback I received from the class was amazing and humbling. I had helped, and it was so easy.

We need more people to step up and mentor. It’s the most effective and meaningful way to learn. There is a secret though–It must be your story, and not a report on chronological events. Timelines and resumes do not equate to experiences, and the nuances of experience are where connections and learning occur. So share your stories. And ask for others to to share theirs. Learning is a two-way flow. You will be amazed by how easy it is, and how impactful it can be.

Add “mentor” to your list of accomplishments. It’s a worthy goal.

 

The Art of Deciding What Not to Decide

The world is filled with decision makers. The ability to make decisions is touted as a skill and requirement to move ahead, to get things done, to lead others into movement and action. And no, it’s not the ability to make any decision that is celebrated. It’s those that can quickly and smartly evaluate the options in front of them, layer in expertise and insights and take action; set the course. We are praised for forward thinking, understanding the cause and effect of our choices and basing decisions on immediate return and mitigation of long term rework. It’s smart.

But what happens when there are more decisions, more forks in the road than the road itself? The natural tendency is to move through the list of decision points and make them one at a time. The problem is, in situations where every touchpoint has direct influence on the next—which is especially the case in the digital and social world—it’s not that simple. And it is in these times when discussion spinning occurs, and movement is stalled. We’ve all been there, and (like it or not) contributed to these very scenarios. Our smart “what if” questioning, and “well if we do this, what happens then” discussions begin to turn into a vortex. How do we break out of that? It is these precise moments when we need to tap into the art of deciding what doesn’t need to be decided.

What?

Yep. Take a step back. Recognize what’s happening and shift gears. Put the laundry list of decisions aside and figure out what doesn’t need to get decided. It will provide focus, and give some breathing room for making smarter choices on the points that are most important. But it’s hard to do. It forces us out of the weeds of what we are working on and into a view of the process at a higher, more detached level. I call this approach to non-decision making “art” because it really is fluid, and dependent on the time and place and players. But if I had to wrap some guidelines around it, I think they would be these…

1. Grow antennae for spinning situations. – Learn to recognize the difference between really thoughtful discussion and decision paralysis. Sometimes it’s not that clear, but more often than not you can feel it. Thoughts of “what are we talking about?” or a rising sense of frustration and stalling fill the room. Rather than let those frustrations snowball, pay attention to the nature of the discussions and pinpoint the spinning.

2. Realign goals. – Bring the team back to the beginning. What are you trying to accomplish that all these decisions are working towards? Very often we get overloaded with details because we cloud our main objective with all the options we are considering. Restate the goal, and bring everyone else on board again.

3. Break it down and lay it all on the table. – Here’s the hardest part for those that employ the art of non-decisions. We have to call ourselves, and our team on the slippery slope we are on and disengage. It can feel and sound like derailing, like breaking focus, but it’s not.  Identify all the decisions that need to be made, sift through them again, and see which ones are critical to the step above. Many times you find your attention has been spent on the bright and shiny, the more interesting or the safer decision points rather than the critical. Find those critical points, and focus only on them. By this time, everything is on the table, and the important points are clear to you and your team.

4. Hug it out and promise to visit. – Very often it’s most uncomfortable for people to put things aside, especially in a time of needing to move things forward. The sentiment often is unless everything is considered, a mistake will be made. Reiterate that all those things that are being put aside will be talked about, and decided on, just not now. Have the discussion about what the next set of priorities are and empower the team to bring them to the table when the time is right. Most importantly, pat yourselves on the back for not only doing smart work, but having the wherewithal to do it smartly.

So, how about you? Have you run into situations where the best decision you made was to not make a decision? I’d love to hear of your experience!

Overcoming Creativity

Ever feel like this is what you need to overcome in your quest for creativity? Yeah. Me too.

Over the last several months I’ve been participating in a discussion group (IRL… can you believe that?) centered on the topic of removing roadblocks of our individual creativity. It’s been a fascinating journey to say the least. Not only is the subject of creativity wide open for interpretation, but openly facing how you might be sabotaging yourself in the manner can be a bit eye-opening. Nonetheless, I delved into the cerebral examination of what creativity actually is, and is not, and have landed on a few key descriptors:

  • Creativity is not the ability to produce a piece of art
  • Creativity is the ability to be comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • Creativity is not simply doing things differently
  • Creativity is an emotional endeavor

Much of the group discussion about what hinders creativity has centered on fear; of making a mistake, of being judged, of not delivering. And I agree. Creativity involves social risk, and we are social creatures. Try as we might, we are ingrained with avoidance of failing, of looking bad or making mistakes, even if we are the only ones watching. At the core though, there is a belief, a want, a drive that ultimately is based in personal emotion. It’s a delicate balance of acting on our internal drive, and delivering what others perceive as valuable.

Simon Sinek talks about the Golden Circle

To circumvent this emotional risk of creativity, defaults come into play. The safety of checklists and guidelines and the established tried and true. Simon Sinek, in his TED talk “How great leaders inspire action” so beautifully and simply lays out out the very biological push and pull of the old and new functioning brains of the human species, and how we are always caught between logic and emotion. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do. If we can’t rationalize it, we fight it. It’s uncomfortable. And clear cut solutions that have experience and rational support behind them are safe. But it’s that “gut” feeling of knowing there may be something more, a different way to see or do things that is the essence of creativity. True creativity is not the ability to think differently, it is the ability to push past the uncomfortableness and fear of doing so.

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” - Scott Adams

I’m determined to continue digging into the subject of creativity, and thinking about it’s implications, especially in the digital space. There’s been a lot written about it, and many opinions on the subject. I’ve been reading, observing and absorbing as much as I can, and I’m sure you will read more from me on the matter. In fact, I’ll be sharing some of my perspective and experience in this space at the UnGeeked Elite event coming up this week, when we discuss being creative in how we think about and approach our digital and social endeavors.

But honestly the best way to learn is to discuss, so I’m interested in your experience with creativity: Specifically in your digital planning and designing, what has pushed you into creative thinking? Let’s chat. I’ll make the coffee.