As I explained in the preface to my blog post Burn Those Ships, I want to also use this space as a forum to share some of my thoughts on organizational leadership and management in addition to issues impacting the health care industry. And so, here is another post in the leadership series. I hope you enjoy and as always, I welcome your feedback.
One of the aspects of my life that I find the most rewarding is serving as a mentor - both formally and informally - to members of my team. I have been fortunate to have been mentored by some incredible people — all of whom have made a tremendous impact on both my personal and professional life. The best coaches have taught me lessons that I am lucky to be able to now pass on.
Being a mentor means providing support and guidance, but it is also about pushing and encouraging others to understand who they are now and where they want to go in the future. Sometimes, this means forcing them to ask tough questions and open themselves up to hearing criticism. It also requires you - as the mentor - to provide truly honest and constructive feedback.
Years ago, a trusted advisor led me in an exercise that I have come to call “what’s your brand?” It is one of the first things I now employ with folks I am mentoring. In this exercise, participants are asked to pick six words they would like colleagues to use to describe them if they were not in the room. The words they choose represent the personal qualities for which they wish to be known and regarded– their personal brand.
In the next step - and this is the hardest part - I ask my mentees to grade themselves on how accurately they believe the words reflect who they are at this moment. Together, we talk about what they need to do to push themselves to live up to those words – their own personal brand – to the best of their abilities.
Beyond an exercise in self reflection, this helps professionals figure out and map out who they want to be as a leader, a colleague and a person. When mentoring someone, I like to come back to that exercise time and again to check in on their progress.
This is a lesson that never gets old in my opinion. I pull out my own notes from my brand exercise from time to time and reflect on whether I am who and where I want to be. Over the years some of the words have changed but others have stayed the same. I continue to strive to embody the brand qualities I laid out. Now I encourage you to ask yourself: “what’s my brand?”