November 13, 2008
Liz published this at 8:13 am
Not a Coach, Not a Mentor, a Network
I had an exciting conversation Sunday with Debbie Lawrence. She told me via Twitter that she had an idea in need of thoughts. A few minutes later we were on the phone exploring fresh perspectives. She reached out to get input she needed, and I got to know more about her, about her dream, and about how she’s putting into action. Not a bad trade.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I did something similar. I reached out to people in my network to hear their thoughts on what I’m doing.
Every day I touch base with people to tweak what I’m thinking to check on directions I might go. I’ve done this consistently with the most important challenges I’m pursuing. The people I ask are my Personal Developmental Network — a small group of intelligent, incredible people, who help me stay on track with my goals.
6 Ways to Build Your Own Personal Developmental Network
Many folks find a mentor by accident. Some never had one. Some turn to the closest person they meet at a new job or choose to go it alone it. Others work with a coach or a trainer. A few make a commitment to a mastermind team. They’re similar, but not the same as a Personal Developmental Network.
In their Wall Street Journal report Kathy E. Kram and Monica C. Higgins defined a personal developmental networks this way.
A better approach is to create and cultivate a developmental network — a small group of people to whom you can turn for regular mentoring support and who have a genuine interest in your learning and development. Think of it as your personal board of directors
Kram and Higgins’ approach to building a developmental network is career and business focused — pointing out how network composition might change based on where we are professional path: entry level, midcareer, or senior manager. Their suggestions focus on career goals.
Their key steps match my own, but their execution is more narrow.
I need a more holistic approach. I don’t want a professional life that’s divorced from my life as a human. When I face down my hugest goals and quests, I want my whole life — head and heart — focused on the same purpose. So I suggest that we start with their key steps to building a Personal Developmental Network and expand them to include more than what happens under the heading “business / professional.”
For me, the purpose of a Personal Developmental Network is to offer guidance in becoming the best I can be inside and outside the world of business. My approach to building my network is life focused — I want a network that helps me grow as a human meant to achieve something and I believe that a network that grows with me offers depth and insight that are priceless.
Here are the five solid, complete, and intuitive main ideas Kram and Higgins put forward and suggestions after each for building your own Personal Developmental Network.
1. Know Thyself — Start with a foundation of concrete not sand.
— Qualitative Observations: Ask people who know you to describe your strongest traits — those that serve you well and those that get in the way. You’ll recognize the people who know you best by the way that you think, feel, and act in their presence. When we’re with people who know us, we don’t think about our responses or edit our behaviors. Explain why you’re asking and offer them more than one way to give you feedback: directly to you in person, on paper, via an interview by a mutual friend.
— Quantitative Assessment: Go over every test, performance appraisal, and personality measure you’ve taken. Check out others for a fresh view and learn what you can from them. Look for friends who have worked with the tools or tests you choose. You might try a combination of Strengths Finder, the Enneagram, and the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory.
— Personal Reflection: Spend an hour / day for a week thinking about past successes in your life — in personal and business situations. Look for traits and strategies that served you through all of them.
Know what you know and know its value.
2. Know Your Context — Pick your path.
Look three years down the road and visualize where you want to do be. Draw that picture out in as much detail as you possibly can. If you can’t settle your mind on one single path, perhaps that the first task to work on with your network.
3. Enlist Developers — Choose unique and valuable guides.
Choose people you would bet your reputation on — people who share your standards and have similar goals. Take care to choose people who also offer different views. A strong network might include:
— a close friend who knows you and your history, both business and personal.
— someone from your business industry who knows you less well
— two or three someones who are from other industries
— two or three someones you respect and admire, but don’t know well
Decide how you’ll keep them in your life. Will you meet with them when you have questions or meet regularly?
4. Regularly Reassess — Seek opportunities to learn what you’re learning.
Go back to the assessment in Step 1 on a regular basis. Check in with those close friends by asking, “How’ve I changed that you can see?”
5. Develop Others — Return the favor and pay it forward.
Be of service to the people who are helping you. Always reach out for ways to give back more than you receive. When someone teaches you a skill, ask how you might use that skill to help that teacher. Ask questions, listen actively, and be first to offer a favor without strings. People remember sincere curiosity and true generosity.
The best way to seal what we’ve learned is by teaching. Offer to help someone who thinks you’ve already arrived. Take every opportunity to reach out to offer what you’ve learned.
6. AND THE ONE THAT WAS MISSING — Communicate. Let your network know when you need help, when you have questions, or even when you need to vent in a safe venue. A developmental network that doesn’t know where we are can’t help us move ahead.
A developmental network is not made from casual friending or confirming of followers. It’s the people who understand why we’re passionate about our calling. Like a personal board of directors, a true developmental network is people who know us, who value our trust and our reputation, and who are willing to offer their best thinking to move us forward. If we choose them well, we grow in all facets of our life.
Watch for and welcome every wise teacher you encounter. Wisdom and experience are a prize. True teachers show themselves by offering advice, expecting nothing in return. Mentors who come your way, offering experience and connections, see something in you. Let them help you discover what that is and what it could be if you let it grow.
Welcome all wise teachers into a Powerful Developmental Network.
Nobody likes to go it alone, and it’s not a good idea. We need each other for information, insight, and inspiration.
I bet you’ve got some sort of Personal Developmental Network already started. What sort of teacher is missing? How might you more fully engage those important teachers and supporters in the quest you’re on?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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