Talk About It
Mentors & Proteges and Self-Discovery
The June Emerging Leaders class was held at the Jacobs Office in Downtown Dallas. This month’s discussion, led by Pete, started with a recap of the main points from all of our previous sessions – The Model of Leadership Effectiveness, a triangular diagram of Ability, Awareness and Commitment; The Dynamics of Competency, where you want to be Smart AND Cute; The Johari Window, that highlights the four aspects of one’s self (Open, Hidden, Blind and Unknown); the Farm Gate and Situational Leadership, which illustrates the ever-moving target of mastery on the development level spectrum; and the Cognitive Climates and Innovation Profile, which organized people into the three categories of Innovators, Adaptors and Bridgers.
Then we turned to the topic of Mentors & Proteges, as Pete reviewed the Process of Guided Self-Discovery, an outline for your first couple of sessions with a mentor. To find the right mentor without losing time by trial and error, we reviewed a list of questions to set the stage. One suggestion was to corral a personal army of mentors and find at least three people – someone younger than you that you respect, someone older than you that you look up to in your profession, and someone completely opposite of you.
For our panel portion of the class, we invited four notable professionals with diverse backgrounds to engage in a conversation about Mentorship: Zaida Basora, FAIA – Architectural practice lead, Huitt-Zollars; Bob Borson, FAIA – Malone Maxwell Borson Architects; Brian Harper – Director of Operations 181st Airlift Squadron; and Frank Rascoe, AIA – Division VP & Regional Design Principal, Jacobs. The discussion led to some insightful conversations on different types of mentor programs (informal vs structured); how to ask someone to be a mentor; what kind of people you should seek out in both a mentee and a mentor role; and what kind of relationship would be expected between the mentor and mentee. Overall, we seemed to agree that structured mentorships are harder to make work, and that the successful ones, based on the experience of both the class and panelists, are ones that are casual relationships that develop naturally. It was even stated by the panelists that sometimes asking “Will you be my mentor?” could scare someone off by sounding too formal. Many people hear that and shy away, thinking they are not the right candidate for you because they don’t believe they have the time to give you the guidance you are looking for. However, most of the class agreed that if they were asked, “I’m really interested in _____ and would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Can we meet up over lunch and discuss ________ ?” that they would gladly accept the invitation. Overall it was a great session with key takeaways for everyone to apply when seeking candidates to build their board of mentors in both personal and professional settings.