Income Inequality. A Difficult Subject.

Equal

During the President’s State of the Union address he spoke to the country about income inequality. The difference between what one person makes versus another, for the same work, based upon gender, race, etc. Taken at face value I believe most people are in support of income equality. If two human beings are doing the same work, regardless of gender or race, they should be paid equal…of course that also requires all other things beyond those two criteria also being equal. And that’s where the challenge comes in.

Most successful people make significant sacrifices on their career journey to success. Long hours, missed events with their children, wedding anniversaries when they were out-of-town, an occasional birthday missed, or worse yet a birth of a child missed because of work. Many families make a very conscious and deliberate decision to focus on career advancement. This does not mean that they’ve chosen to throw everything to the wind. Perhaps their goal is to be able to send their child to Harvard, or vacation to destinations that provide both educational and personal awareness for their children to actually see what they have relative to others. And what about those that have made big sacrifices only to give back in a big way to their community with their time, skills, or money?

Every human being has free will. Of course ones ability to exercise their free will, or choice, depends in large part on where they live. American’s have the ultimate ability to choose. We can do what we want, when we want, without any interference from the government. Now to be clear, of course there are laws we need to abide by but even those are broken by people who have chosen to break them. The fact is that America was born around the concept of equal opportunity. We are the country (land) of opportunity. The land where hopes and dreams have a real possibility of becoming a reality. But even at our founding there were those that sacrificed much while others did not. That’s just human nature.

So the challenge is not in the concept of equal pay for equal work. The challenge sits with how to assess two different workers’ desires, passions, and commitments. No place is this executed better than in the world of professional sports.

Peyton Manning possesses many of the skills other quarterbacks have. Strong arm, deep understanding of defensive schemes, and the ability to change plays based upon what presents itself during the game. But Peyton Manning is different. His drive, his desire, his intense focus on watching game film over and over again. His personality presents additional leadership skills that make him even more valuable. Anyone remember Ryan Leaf? The point is that it is quite difficult to make things equal when most times the facts prove they are not equal. No two quarterbacks are the same, no two snowflakes are the same, no two CEOs are the same.

It’s a difficult if not emotional topic. It demands thought, conversation, debate, and action. We just need to be sure we’ve explored it as best we can before making things equal based solely on an altruistic perspective.  Being an American means  you have the right to explore, find, and secure opportunities.  It does not guarantee any specific outcome.  Just as we’re warned when we enter the Stock Market, no investment is guaranteed, it is simply an opportunity to invest and the possibility of your investment growing.  Think of each of us as investments.  We all have the opportunity to grow, and we all have the opportunity to fall.  Between luck, chance, skill, desire, commitment and ability the outcome – like a true investment – is never guaranteed.

Great Mentors. The Difference Maker.

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In my previous blog, 5 Important Differences Between a Coach and a Mentor, I provided clear differentiation between these two advisers. Both play a valuable role in your development but go about it in entirely different ways. Understanding your current circumstances and having semi-clear objectives – goals – is critical in knowing which, a coach or mentor, would provide the greatest value.

While most coaches tend to have very specific areas of expertise, mentors are completely opposite. Mentors bring a broad set of skills, perspectives, insights and opinions to your developmental party. If you are fortunate enough to have a real mentor in your life consider yourself blessed…and lucky…for they’re not all that common. Remember, you select a coach, a mentor selects you. Great mentors can come from a variety of areas in your life. A relative, a friend, co-worker, boss, or business associate can all be potential mentors. What are the ingredients that make a great mentor?

  1. Deep life experiences. These experiences do not need to be in the area of your specific profession. The mentor has been in and around many different situations that have provided them with incredible insight and perspective.
  2. Demonstrates a personal interest in you. The mentor takes a proactive role in wanting to help you by providing valuable feedback, and guidance. Often times they proactively reach out to check in with you rather than waiting for your call.
  3. Excited and passionate about your development. The mentor never makes you feel like you’re on the clock. Instead they make you feel like they exist specifically to help you. Their energy and authenticity is tangible and easily recognized.
  4. Honest in a positive and constructive way. The mentor provides hard-hitting, honest feedback and observations, but does so in a way that doesn’t put you on the defense, or belittles you.
  5. Teacher, Coach, Counselor, Motivator all rolled into one. The mentor has a natural ability to weave in and out of these roles effortlessly with a near “cloak of invisibility” as they do so. Their deep understanding of you allows them to take the role most effective for the situation at hand, with the genuine intent to aid in your development, while never lecturing or criticizing.
  6. Trust. The single most important ingredient for any great mentoring relationship is trust. A strong, trusting relationship with a mentor creates the bond that is necessary for free-flowing, honest, personal, and sometimes difficult feedback without the fear of embarrassment or intimidation.

Great mentors do all these things and more. Having the benefit of a mentor gives you the ability to make better decisions, broadens your perspectives, and often times provides the clarity you need to move forward. These unique and wonderful people grace us with their active presence in our lives, teach us in ways others can’t, and provide us with the strength we need during life’s most crucial moments. Great mentors are in fact the difference makers in a life full of success and personal fulfillment.

5 Important Differences Between a Coach and a Mentor

Helping-Mentor

Throughout your career, you will encounter moments that will present great challenges and/or opportunities.  Knowing what to do at those specific times depends on several things including experience, attitude, skills and capabilities, and the strength of your personal support network.    As you grow personally and professionally, the complexity of these circumstances increases and may create anxiety as you determine your next steps.  And while this is perfectly normal from a developmental standpoint, having a coach or a mentor by your side can make a huge difference in the quality of outcomes.  Understanding the difference between the two is the first step to making the right selection.

Many people believe mentors and coaches are the same…interchangeable terms.  But they’re not.  Mentors are quite different from coaches.  The key differences between the two are listed below:

  1. You select a coach, a mentor selects you.  As such, mentor relationships tend to last for years, if not a lifetime.  By the mentor selecting you, he or she is demonstrating their personal commitment and genuine desire to help with your personal development.
  2. Coaches focus on improving specific performance, usually on the job, while a mentor focuses on your overall development with a much greater focus on you, the person.
  3. Coaches interact through a formal structure, usually the same day and time each week – office hours.  The session follows a certain flow or formula for the review and update on the items discussed in your last meeting.  A mentor interacts as needed.  They’re “on-call” and happy to be so.  Less formal in nature, free-flowing, and very personal.
  4. Coaches tend to be “career-point-in-time” resources.  Meaning, few coaches can provide value in all stages of someones career.  A great high school football coach does not automatically equate to a great NFL coach simply because he understands the game of football.  As the stakes grow higher in your career, you will need to find a coach whose skills are equally equipped for the circumstances you are encountering.  The coach you had when you were 35, and in your first senior manager role, most likely will not be as effective for you when you are 45 in an executive role.  In contrast, a mentor is always focused on the “broad YOU”, gathering deep and intimate knowledge of the real you, thereby allowing them to provide valuable insights and guidance in nearly any circumstance.
  5. Finally, and perhaps the biggest difference between a coach and mentor is how they are paid.  Coaches, at least professional coaches, charge a fee for their service.  These fees range anywhere from a few hundred dollars per session into the thousands depending upon the circumstances, and length and frequency of the engagement.  A mentor has no fee.  They’ve taken you under their wing.  They have a personal connection with you and are committed to your development and success.

It’s important to understand that while different, there is a need to have both a coach and mentor in your life.  Both play very different, yet important roles in your personal and professional development.  Having a general understanding of your circumstance, time frame, and objectives will help guide your decision on selecting the right coach or mentor.  I will visit specific benefits of coaches and mentors in upcoming blogs.