I handed him a copy of an old Nashville Business Journal article that outlined the difference between a mentor and a sponsor. “This is what I am talking about,” I said. Sitting across the table was my boss, the recipient of a heavily marked-up newspaper and my request for a mentor.
We were talking about the amount of change I had experienced over the two years leading to our conversation. I was pregnant with my second child, settling into life as a working mom with increased responsibility at work; all exciting stuff! Yet I recognized we were navigating uncharted territory. My position was new to the company, life at home was changing once again, and I was learning important leadership lessons while building our marketing team. I needed help.
Up until that point my professional development had been the result of schooling, exposure, reading, and a few thought provoking conversations with really smart people. I wanted more. I knew my boss was committed to my growth so all I had to do was ask for what I needed. Reading the NBJ article helped me realize I had a great sponsor in my boss and what I needed was a mentor; someone to help me navigate through the good, the bad and the ugly of so much change.
What happened next? Within the week I was connected with a mentor who played an important role in my process of adapting and managing change.
Why am I telling you this story? Over the years I have encountered many people waiting on the sidelines for someone else to develop them; waiting for someone to take ownership of their growth and their destiny.
My advice? Grab the bull by the horns and take ownership of your development. Sure, your boss can be a facilitator, a guide, a coach, a sponsor, a sounding board, and in some cases even a mentor. No matter how supportive he or she is, you need to be actively involved in your journey.
A mentor can show you the way, but she can’t walk the walk for you. The people who have played an important role in my growth have shown me the way by asking tough questions or sharing thought provoking ideas. Some of those conversations made me feel uncomfortable; that discomfort led to reflection, exploration, discovery and development.
You will get so much more out of the people and the environment around you if you are willing to ask for help. Take ownership of the journey that will lead to unlocking your potential. Take the pearls of wisdom others are willing to share with you and turn them into actionable plans to get to the next level.
Be selective of the voices you listen to, not everyone is equipped to provide the guidance you need. Be curious. Ask clarifying questions. Seek encouragement when needed. Take a break from time to time … then get up and keep on keeping on.
It’s your growth: own it!