Mentors and Values
The small business entrepreneur is a special creature. Not only must he or she learn about strategy, sales, and numbers, they must also have a great deal of self-belief, energy, and be a source of inspiration and leadership. A lot to ask for!
That is why when people ask me what they should know about being in business, I say that first, they need to know themselves, then they need to know how not to be themselves!
Let me explain.
It takes a special psychology to be an entrepreneur. It takes a psychology that contains determination and self-belief within a shell of self-awareness. You need to know what you want to do; you need to believe you can do it; and at the same time you need to see your faults and weaknesses without believing in your self-hype. In this way, knowing yourself, you can identify the traits that are not “helpful” and work on them to become something you are not without being a hypocrite. In my journey, I found the works of people like Stephen Covey, Jack Canfield and Anthony Robbins immensely helpful.
Among the things they teach, Tony Robbins in particular, is the concept of finding a mentor. As he says, “success leaves clues”, so why reinvent the wheel? Find someone who possesses what you want, find out what steps they took to get it, and use their methods. Successful people are not “lucky”, they have a process that they repeat over and over again to get the consistency of results.
I totally agree with that and I have used that principle myself by finding people who set goals for themselves and pointedly achieved those goals year in and year out, people who achieved financial success by applying set principles, people who enjoyed life while working to a purpose – and I asked them what they did, I observed them carefully, and I followed them. I have also used this principle in my coaching – I don’t just advise “on the fly”, I have set processes and procedures whether you want to plan strategy, market effectively, develop products, or become a better leader.
Yet, what happens when one of the mentors you choose, despite their success at achieving what you want to achieve, display personal values that are not congruent with your own?
This happened to me in the midst of my career.
I had emerged from a highly successful career and got myself involved in a partnership that nearly crushed me, financially and in spirit. Let’s just say my partners were not the “contributing type” although they did emerge as the “taking type”!
Realising that I pulled myself away, created a plan to free myself from the partnership financially, created a new business, and have thrived ever since.
In doing so I listened to the likes of Tony Robbins and I worked on my psychology of success. Part of that process was to look at the clues that people who had achieved what I wanted to achieve left behind. I found a mentor in a person who had pulled himself from bankruptcy to wealth and a life of international travelling in retirement. I took from him his process of identifying three attainable goals every year, in writing, and then focusing on those goals daily. I found another mentor who led a small team in such a way that they would have followed him to hell and back. I found out from him his procedures in ensuring they understood his vision and the benefits to all that would come from it.
Then I also found a mentor who ran a mid-sized professional practice and had attained the level of wealth and investments I aspired to.
When he shared his “clues” with me, they were all about single focus, relationships with the right people, determination and clever numbers. This all sounded really good until I examined his processes in practice, and I found them…disturbing.
In a literal sense he did everything he said.
He had a single focus – to make money. However, this meant that in practice he drove his people hard, never tolerated mistakes (what learning experience?), drove the hardest bargain that suited him and not anyone else. He did make relationships with “the right people” – however these were only people who could help him make money, often people who were a little shady. He was determined – he always won his arguments about money by never backing down.
As I provided him with an accounting service and he provided me with his professional service, I once had a conversation with him when I was starting out that went something like this:
Me: “I’m wondering if you, as a friend, could give me a discount for early payment of your invoice, it would help my cash-flow in this startup period a lot.”
Him: “Well Teik, we’ve always had a professional relationship so I don’t think it’s appropriate we mix our friendship with business – I wouldn’t give a discount to another client so we have to live by that principle.”
Me: “OK, I can respect that”.
Him: “Now I’m glad you raised the matter of fees because I did want to talk to you about this year’s accounting bill….can’t we…..”
So, what happens when you find a mentor who has achieved what you want to achieve, whose process principles seem to make sense – but whose values are seriously in conflict with yours?
There is nothing in this world more important than believing in a set of values. Values, in business as well as in life, are not just those things you’d “like” to uphold but which you might close one eye to if they are troublesome. Values are the beliefs you will die in the ditch for.
When I help people put together their business’ Purpose, Vision, Values Statement, and in discussing Values they say things like “Honesty” I ask if they expect any business to have a value of “Dishonesty”? Values are not something that is a given. When they raise a Value like “Service” I ask them if they would close down their business rather than provide poor service. Sometimes they say “yes” and I applaud. Sometimes they say “well, it depends on how bad…” and I say forget that value if you won’t die in the ditch for it, be truthful with yourself. Your real Values are those that, if you betrayed them, you would close down your business for rather than continue in dishonesty.
So if you find yourself in the position I found myself in, get another mentor.
The desire to achieve wealth is the end result. How you get to it, the means, depends on your values and if your chosen mentor shows you how to get to the end without caring about the values employed in the means – say goodbye and find someone else who achieved the desired result with Values you can agree with. Find the person with the right values first, then find out how they achieved what you want.
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