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Make It Happen Tipsheet
Career Management and Life Balance

What would my mentor do?

Mentors and coaches hold a special place in most successful managers' careers. They provide advice on difficult decisions, give valuable career perspective, and smooth the political way when problems occur.

But what should you do if your mentor is not available, and you need their advice? Stalling or deferring your decision isn't a preferred alternative, and neither is interrupting your mentor's vacation with your question.

One obvious approach would be to ask someone else; in other words, trading one mentor for another. Or perhaps you might collect more facts, in order to reduce the risk of making the wrong decision. (If you use this approach, however, make sure that you are not conveniently doing so to procrastinate making the decision itself.)

The problem with these approaches is that they both do not take advantage of the experience you've gained through your mentor. Instead, what if you were to ask yourself a simple question: What would my mentor do in this situation? Asking this question shifts your perspective, and allows you to see the situation with a new light: your mentor's. In fact, the closer your mentoring relationship, the better your answer will be.

Ironically, perspective shifting is useful even if you don't have a mentor. Before making any decision, just imagine how a specific senior person would approach the issue: what would they do?

And while you're at it, why not consider the situation from several perspectives - not just your mentors. For example, on a pricing decision: what analysis would Jennifer the Marketing Director do? What factors would Pat the Finance VP review? And of course, how would your mentor look at it?

The mentor's gift is their perspective, but we often forget it's there even when they aren't; we just have to ask!

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Make It Happen
Copyright 2006 Knowledge to Action Press and Randall Craig. All rights reserved. Publication date: April 25, 2006