Saturday, October 24, 2009

Good Advice from a Smart Person

One of my mentors just retired. During his career, he had worked his way up from a line worker to a senior manager who supervised thousands of people over the years. Here is some advice he's given me over the years:

Hire People who are Smart, Work Hard and Get Along with Others

He always said it was really hard to find all three qualities in one person. You might get someone who worked hard, got along with others, but maybe was of average intelligence. Or, maybe you got someone who got along well with her co-workers, was smart, but kind of lazy.

People get into BIG Trouble for Lying, Not for What they Lied About

This is a good one and some people call this "falling on the sword." In other words, if you do something wrong it is better to simply admit you did made a bad decision. What gets most people in serious trouble is not the bad decision, but the "cover-up" and lying about it. Think Bill Clinton.

You Don't Know a Person Until You See Them Under Stress

Anyone can be nice at a party. You don't really know a person's character until you see them under stress, her back against the wall. Is she they type of person who'll throw everyone under the bus? Or, will she get out in front and take control? Will he become angry and nervous, or will he become focused and ready to deal with the problem?

Try Not to Say Bad Things about People

If you think something bad about another person, keep it to yourself, unless you have no other choice. You never know how this might come back to haunt you. For instance, if you think someone is less than honest, be careful around that person. If you have a say on where she works, try and put in her in a position in which she won't impact too many people. Truth will eventually out and people like this will eventually do themselves in.
Get All the Facts Before you Make a Decision
This sounds like a no-brainer. But it isn't. It is easy to go with emotion and make a decision before 1) gathering all the information and 2) weighing all the decisions. Gathering all the information means talking to all the parties who might be involved. The trick is not to let how you feel about someone get in the way. If you need to review documents, do that. The big thing is not to be too reactive. Take the time to gather all the puzzle pieces before trying to put it together. Weighing all the decisions means really thinking about the outcomes. The more political the decision, the more it needs to be considered. Some things really can't be undone.
Don't Let Your Ego Get in the Way
This is a really tough one for most of us (me included). It is easy to respond to a situation from a personal perspective - that really made me mad. But, the best thing is always to take a breath and look at the situation from a variety of angles, and to put yourself in someone else's shoes - to really try and understand how others see it.
I love my mentors and am extremely grateful for all their patience and guidance. I have had several of them in my life and I hope that I can provide mentorship to others as I gain more experience.

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