One of the most basic beliefs we carry about ourselves, has to do with how we view and inhabit what we consider to be our personality. A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness. The consequences of believing that intelligence and personality can be developed rather than being immutably engrained traits, are remarkable. At the heart of what makes the “growth mindset” so winsome, Dweck found, is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. Its hallmark is the conviction that human qualities like intelligence and creativity, and even relational capacities like love and friendship, can be cultivated through effort and deliberate practice. Not only are people with this mindset not discouraged by failure, but they don’t actually see themselves as failing in those situations — they see themselves as learning.
Aspiring leaders need more and better mentoring than they’re getting today. According to a recent study, the supply-demand imbalance is severe: while more than 75% of professional men and women want to have a mentor, only 37% have one (Harvard Business Review, 2019). What’s more, most of the people currently acting as mentors aren’t having as dramatic an impact as they could because they’re too narrowly focused on career advancement.
Mentoring the whole person takes more effort, more time, and more thought. Here are some practices for doing it well:
Share your stories. This simple exercise can transform the trajectory of a mentoring relationship because it shows that you’re truly interested in understanding your mentee and his or her journey, not just in dispensing professional advice. It gives you knowledge of the person’s past which enables you to make more probing inquiries over time.
Ask great questions. Effective mentors develop a storehouse of probing questions on any number of subjects.
Start with the end in mind. Perhaps the most important question you can ask a mentee is: How do you personally define long term success?
Unpack your mentee’s “toolkit.” A valuable area to explore is your mentee’s innate gifts, aptitudes, personality characteristics, and passions.
Of all the ways you can spend your time, mentoring has one of the highest returns on investment. It enables you to take everything you have learned and “pay it forward,” shaping the next generation of leaders. By mentoring the whole person and not limiting your conversations to career matters, you will have even greater impact and will be felt by your mentees — and everyone they influence — for years to come.
Source: Woolworth, Rick. “Great Mentors Focus on the Whole Person, Not Just Their Career.” Harvard Business Review, 9 Aug. 2019, https://hbr.org/2019/08/great-mentors-focus-on-the-whole-person-not-just-their-career.