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Monday, June 4, 2012

You are not Alone


It happens to all athletes, even long-distance runners. Each time a marathoner laces up, there is a point when he or she contemplates giving up. The daunting challenge of running 26.2 miles tests the very spirit of human nature - even for the most experienced and battle-tested athletes. 
The same applies to the start-up of a project or program of work. So much time goes into the planning and preparation that it sometimes feel as if it will never start, or get off the ground. 
Think of the energy and effort that goes into the last five percent of delivery. Easily, more than half the effort of a project can go into getting it over the line during these last weeks. It is also a time where you are easily very, very alone as project manager. Quitting becomes a very attractive option.
The difference between pressing on to the finish line and stopping dead in their tracks (or running from the project) rides on one word: leadership. After all, followers quit. Leaders don’t. 
Leaders have that one ability to clearly see the outcome. They are able to rally support to make this outcome real for their project team and for their client.
Conjuring up the power to press on comes from deep within our mental vault, but it isn’t unleashed by accident. Athletes, marathoners included, have coaches to help them reach their potential. So does successful Managers. 
There are those that has gone before us, who has paid their dues, and who is more than willing to help you succeed. These are the coaches and mentors you need on your journey to success.
Mentors and Mentoring

Our personal lives are no different. Whether it’s your career, financial situation or personal relationships, an effective coach and mentor can help you understand what it takes to empower you to achieve your leadership, business or personal goals.
Mentors ask the tough questions that you wouldn’t normally ask yourself. They also help you evaluate those questions from a more familiar context. They provide this context through their experience. Coaches and mentors hold a mirror up to challenge you in your convictions. They show you the example, and helps you to expand or clarify your perceptions. 
In our busy lives, it’s easy to lose track of where we want to go. We can easily miss a crucial step in the success of our career, organization or project. Our perceptions can easily direct us towards unwanted outcomes. However, an effective coaching or mentoring program provides the building blocks - training, focus and accountability - in order to accomplish the outcomes that make a difference in our careers, our projects, businesses, and lives at home.
Mentors and coaches are the giants on who’s shoulders we stand to take us further in our endeavors as individuals and Management Professionals.
Mentoring 101

Who is your coach and mentor, today?
Thanks to the Internet, books and professional association certifications, we have more than enough information at our disposal on how to do our jobs. However, this creates its own problems.
The simplification of our Management Trade is almost borders on the ridiculous with topics like: “Five easy steps to successful project risk management.” “Delight your staff in three easy ways.” or “Deliver your projects in ten easy steps.” 
It appears that wherever one turns, someone else is trying to make a buck from regurgitating, dumbing down the complex, and listing the obvious. 
The worst of this practice, is the so-called training programs to support these trivial approaches to complex subjects and practices. If you can list the ten steps, have paid your fee, and is willing to spread the “ten step gospel”, then you are welcome to join the “club” - you are now certified. 
There is a vast difference between knowing the map of a territory, than actually having travelled it. 
Being a successful and efficient management professional takes a lifetime of growth, that goes significantly beyond ten steps. As discussed before, being a management professional deals with one of the most complex subjects in this reality - the subject of people and their behavior.  
The same applies for that which we do in our professional lives. We need to be cautious that we don’t confuse having information about a subject, from truly knowing it. Knowledge only comes from the application of information. You have to travel the territory and read the map to find the truth. 
This is where your coach or mentor can help you distinguish your abilities as professional from the “ten step advocates”. He or she can help you internalize the information and turn it into knowledge. With their help, you will gain knowledge in how to navigate the obstacles in your way to becoming a successful I.T. management professional. 
What You Get

As a minimum your coach and mentor should help you along the following simple journey:
  • Vision: Everything starts here. Having a vision and a plan can help clarify your purpose and beliefs. It sets the scene for your project, and for your person. What you want is what you will get. Your focus creates your future. There are a number of techniques that can help you clarify your vision. Most importantly, when you use these techniques ensure that you focus on what you want, and not on what you don’t want. Consider keeping a journal so you can keep a record of what you really want to accomplish. This will also help you to keep score of the objectives you did accomplish. Your mentor should help you to frame these desires. He will show you that it is acceptable to desire. He or she can help you to clarify your wants - your vision. 
  • Action: Every journey starts with the first step. Take that important step and be on your way. Similarly, every journey towards your vision will contain some level of risk. Unless you’re willing to take these first steps despite the risks, your vision dies here. Taking action can help you learn to overcome the self-sabotaging obstacles that have limited your mobility in the past. It affirms your vision. Your mentor is the one that can help you take this all important first step - usually the hardest step of them all. He or she can also help to prepare you for the risks, and advise on how to navigate through the obstacles you may face on your journey. Go for it.
  • Results: The payoff comes here. Good, bad or otherwise, the results you get show progress and provides that all important feedback to your process of realizing your visions. Through conscious thought, decision and action you expand your knowledge and experience and reach your goals. Realize, that the results of your vision and subsequent action will create more vision and more action, a snowball effect that will escalate you to the next leadership level. Your mentor and coach should help you to identify what results your should monitor. Secondly, he or she must help you to adjust your approach to improve on the results. Lastly, your coach and mentor will share your delight in reaching your objectives, in return they also grow as individuals and professionals.
The above is a simple description of the natural learning process we as humans have programmed into your very being - focus, act, enjoy, focus, act, enjoy, focus, act, enjoy... Your mentor is there to help you refine the principles of this process, nurture you on your way, enjoy the results with you. Before long, you will find that you have sufficient knowledge to be a mentor and coach yourself. Then you will become the mentor for those like you.

The leaders among us create the future. Developing this leadership is not a trivial task. It can certainly not be done in ten steps. 
We all need to turn to mentors and coaches to help us on our journey as individuals and professionals. Growth requires focus, action, and the result is joy. 
Your coach can help you discover and refine this important and enjoyable experience of learning and growth. You may also find that you will have several mentors and coaches for different aspects of your life. 
Find your mentor and coach, or be one. We need more mentoring and coaches to grow the true Body of Knowledge of our I.T. Management profession. 
If you need coaching or mentoring in your career as Management Professional, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. I will gladly assist where I can.

Hendrik van Wyk

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