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Leadership Development Blog

It's Not Always About Giving Back - It's About Adding To

This is the story of leadership growth. It may sound familiar to you.

Tom is going to be a leader.  He wants to develop and grow his career so he did what anyone in his position would do; he sought out mentors and built on his skills.  

 One day he realised that he was continuously in a position of take, take, take and never seemed to be able to share any information, contacts or skills with others.

He worried about not having the competency or ability to give back to those who shared information, contacts, knowledge or skills with him. He felt that he was not in a position where he could make that offer.

 He began to feel awkward about always receiving from others...

What Tom didn't realise is that this is not necessarily a bad thing - personal and career growth is fundamental in an executive level career.  He was just looking at the situation from the wrong point of view.

Rather than see this in a negative light, he should have flipped it and focused on what he could add in terms of other areas of expertise, rather than what he can't. 

Rarely is a mentor-mentee relationship as one-sided as it might seem at first glance.  If nothing else, Tom had given his mentor a chance to give back what he had been given - passing on the skills and knowledge that he had gained from his own mentor. Never underestimate how important that opportunity is.

When Tom entered into a relationship with his mentor, he took with him skills, knowledge and experiences from a range of life and work events. He was not a blank slate.  The value he is able to add might not come from a purely business related space. He had opinions to share and questions to ask. He would have made his mentor think and reconsider his points of view.  He was ADDING to the relationship without realising it. 

If you are feeling like Tom, and looking for a way to give back, change your thinking.  Don't give back - look for a way to add value to the experience.  

If you are one of the many fortunate who have found an invaluable source of information via a mentor, then cherish it.  Their own personal reward is to see you succeed. One day you will be in their shoes, giving back by mentoring a protege of your own.

Posted by Ricky Nowak on 1st December, 2013 |

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