Finding the Best Mentors for You in a Profoundly Changing World
Listen to Episode 170:
Episode 170 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio episode 170. Finding the Best Mentors For You in a Profoundly Changing World. This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of growth on the web at businessadvance.com and now here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated and sitting right across from me as always is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam. It’s always great to join you for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio. And as always, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves — and their companies — to their next level of game-changing innovation, growth and success.
Now, Pam, we’re entering our sixth year of podcasting, and our purpose hasn’t really changed, but the environment in which this podcast exists has been going through profound change. We’re faced with a large number of issues that have major unprecedented impacts and has implications that include things like government policies and relationships, global trade technology, demographics, and a lot more.
Pam Harper: Absolutely. And this requires every leader and leadership team to be able to frequently examine long-held assumptions and wisdom about what business we’re in, who we do business with, where we do business, how we lead and manage the business when we’re often faced with unprecedented issues. But of course, there are also opportunities.
Scott Harper: Yes, and this means of course that mentoring is more important than ever, especially to people who are senior and may think they’re past the whole mentoring thing. But the question is, what should executive mentoring even look like in a world where established approaches and paths don’t necessarily fit with what we’re facing today? And that’s what we’re going to talk about.
Pam Harper: And that’s why we’re especially glad to be speaking with our good friend mentor and returning guests Jim Blasingame. Jim has been a very important mentor to us over the years, especially when it comes to guiding us on what it takes to do a show like Growth Igniters Radio in a professional way.
Let’s talk a little bit about Jim for those who haven’t heard him speak with us before. He is a futurist and widely acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost experts on small business and entrepreneurship. He is the author of award-winning books including The Age of the Customer and his newest book, The 3rd Ingredient: The Journey of Analog Ethics Into the World of Digital Fear and Greed.
Scott Harper: Talk about changing issues.
Pam Harper: Yes. Jim has also been a syndicated columnist since 1999 contributing weekly to newspapers and online publications including Forbes.com, nasdaq.com American City Business Journals, and openforum.com. Now I first met Jim in his role as the creator and award-winning host of the syndicated radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show which is also available on podcasts which is why I turned to Jim. Jim conducts the over 1000 live interviews annually with his brain trust the world’s largest community of small business experts, policymakers and entrepreneurs and I am proud to be a member of Jim’s brain trust going on — I think it’s 14 years, 15 years, Jim will correct me. You can see Jim’s complete bio and listen to our previous conversations with him by going to Growthignitersradio.com episode 170 and scrolling down to resources. Jim, welcome back again to Growth Igniters Radio.
Jim Blasingame: Hey Pam. Hey Scott. 170 episodes! I remember when this thing was a gleam in your eye.
Scott Harper: That’s right.
Pam Harper: Yes. So now we’re entering our sixth season.
Jim Blasingame: I’m so proud of you two. Good job.
Pam Harper: Well, we really couldn’t have done it without your advice. You were so helpful in giving us not just the Hey, you can do it, but also are you nuts? I remember the tough love too.
Jim Blasingame: I probably said, “I know what you were feeling, but what are you thinking?”
Pam Harper: That’s right. And as far as mentoring goes this, of course, is not the first time we’ve talked about mentoring. In fact, I look back and we did this two years ago on The Small Business Advocate Show and that was only two years ago and yet there’s a lot more going on. It’s a so much more profoundly changing world and we believe that it’s important to get even more perspectives about things we never considered before and we need it even faster. And now you just don’t need one mentor you need multiple mentors. What do you think about that, Jim?
Jim Blasingame: Well, there’s no question about it and when you say that to people who may not understand how mentoring works it sounds daunting. I could see where the people in the younger generation would really be maybe even turned off by that. But I have a little bit of a different way, as you guys know I don’t think like everybody else I’m a little bit different maybe a lot different. And over the years most of my mentors didn’t even know they were being my mentors. And so my point is it’s wonderful if you’ve got somebody you can say would you be my mentor? Or you wouldn’t have to say it that way. You could just say look, you’re ahead of me on this topic, you’ve been around longer than I have you been to town more than I have, whatever will you help me with this?
Jim Blasingame: And to do that to more than one person. They don’t have to take you to raise but they can mentor you in one area or another. In other words, you might have an entrepreneurial mentor, you might have a financial mentor, you might have a human mentor, somebody who helps you. You might have a coach who just helps you get out of your own way. There could be a lot of different kinds of mentors.
Scott Harper: Right. Now Jim in today’s age especially, a lot of disruption comes from small entrepreneurial businesses and you’re an expert in this area and as a futurist, what’s the most profound emerging change that every executive of any size company needs to be responding to and needs mentoring on now before it’s too late?
Jim Blasingame: Well as you guys know again, I look at these things a little bit differently than a lot of people. I think the overarching challenge that we have right now is recognizing that humanity has never been at the intersection where we are right now. The intersection of thousands of years of analog with only a generation or two of digital. We took 10,000 years to develop our analog world and in society and we’re being asked to convert that to a digital world in a manner of a couple of generations. You can almost say it would be a primordial train wreck for those two collisions to come together.
Jim Blasingame: That’s why I think in the history of mankind, we are in the most unique period right now of ever before because we’re switching from analog leverage to digital leverage. And that’s having an impact on our performance is having an impact on our capital resources and it’s having an impact on human beings. So I think that’s the biggest thing that we’re all dealing with right now and I’m concerned that not enough people are focusing on that. They’re not realizing that it’s okay if you’re unsettled about things right now because none of your predecessors, most of your parents, your grandparents, your great grandparents never had to deal with it. Henry Ford never had to deal with what we’re dealing with right now.
Pam Harper: So Jim, can you give a really quick example of how that difference between analog and digital? Just a concrete example.
Jim Blasingame: Well I keep quoting John Nesbitt, his book Megatrends where he talked about the more high tech we have, the more high touch we will want. We always have to remember that even though our customers are expecting us to reach them with technology, they still are analog humans. And there’s a level of humanity that while they’re demanding technology from you, they’re still going to expect to be treated like human beings.
Pam Harper: So what types of wisdom would you say that executives need to start developing now in order to stay current and competitive?
Jim Blasingame: Well, I would just say be sure that as you’re developing artificial intelligence, and I encourage you to do that as you’re becoming more analytical, as you’re doing that don’t throw the humanity baby so to speak out with the bathwater. Remember that the person on the other side of that algorithm is a person who has feelings and the thing is, remember that’s not going to change. Your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren are going to be the same analog beings. We’re still going to require trust, we’re still going to buy on emotion, we’re still going to want to do business with people we know, like, and trust. I don’t think that digital leverage is going to change that.
Pam Harper: Some things are timeless, but other things change. Well, we’re going to go into this more, but first, we’re going to take a quick break and when we come back, we’re going to talk more with Jim Blasingame game about how mentoring is evolving and what it takes to get the executive mentoring we all need in a profoundly changing world. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: This is Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper — brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to ignite, sustain, and boost the momentum it takes to get game-changing results in a changing world. We’re on the web at businessadvance.com.
Pam Harper: To everyone listening welcome, we’re glad you joined us. Whether it’s because you’re a subscriber or you’ve just found us wherever you pick up your podcasts, but there’s a special reason to visit Growthignitersradio.com. This is the only way you can access all of the previous podcast episodes from the past five years.
Scott Harper: It’s also the only place you can find unique show notes, bios and resource links specifically related to each of our podcast episodes. We feature award-winning CEOs, thought leaders, and bestselling authors and you can explore more by going to Growthignitersradio.com today.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper that’s me and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking today with business futurist Jim Blasingame host of The Small Business Advocate Show about how the needs for executive mentoring are evolving and yet in some ways they’re timeless. Jim, how can people find out more about you and of course The Small Business Advocate Show and your books.
Jim Blasingame: Hey Pam, thank you so much. It’s just awesome to be with you and Scott on your outstanding podcast. I’m so proud of you guys. If you go to smallbusinessadvocate.com you’ll find all the things that I do, that are on my blog, my articles the last 15 years of interviews you and I have done a right there it’s still ready to go. You can find out more about my books and things like that, but mostly as you know Pam what we do is all about small business owners and we use our brain trust members to reach them. You and the thousands of other brain trust members over the last 22 years who joined me on the show. Your books are there, your articles are there that you’ve allowed us to republish. It’s a great resource and of course, if they hang out with you on my site they very easily come right back to you.
Pam Harper: Yes and we’ve had some great conversations I feel always so honored to be on your show. For those of you listening right now, you can also access information and Jim’s bio by visiting Growthignitersradio.com and scrolling down over to resources on episode 170. So Jim, let’s get back to our conversation. Before we go further we want to dig deeper into mentoring, but mentoring is one of those words like spaghetti; we all eat it, but maybe we all mean something different. So let’s agree on a definition of “mentor.” I have to tell you, I decided to take a look at the definition of “mentor” in the dictionaries. I looked at like four of them and they all had different definitions. So not even dictionaries can agree.
Jim Blasingame: Right. Now I’m not even going to say anything about you dating yourself by using a dictionary.
Pam Harper: Well it’s called dictionary.com hey, dictionary.com online. But I make a distinction between the different forms of mentoring and Scott, you can join in too.
Scott Harper: Sure. There is advising, there’s teaching, there is coaching, but when we’re talking about mentoring I think we are talking about an ongoing mutual relationship, a relationship that matters to both parties.
Pam Harper: With people?
Scott Harper: With people.
Pam Harper: Okay. So Jim, now what do you think about that?
Jim Blasingame: Well, again as you know part of my brand is how different I am. I do believe that having a mentor-mentee relationship is very powerful and important. I’ve been around long enough to remember when there really wasn’t that much of that going on in terms of official mentoring. Even corporations didn’t have official mentors. Sometimes you took people under your wing. When I was in corporate America people took me under their wing, I took somebody up under my wing but it wasn’t really as maybe as much of a principle or a practice. It was more of a behavior in those days; now it’s more of a discipline, and so I do think it’s a good idea. I think you should have more than one mentor but I really think that you should acquire mentors where you find them.
Jim Blasingame: If you’re just passing through, if you’re two ships passing in the night, that person’s not going to be a mentor but you can always learn something from them. But if you’re around someone on a regular basis I would encourage people just to observe them. If they’re ahead of you, if you’re not their peer, they’re obviously your superior in terms of the time on the planet, time on the job experience, education, whatever that may be. They’re a little bit above you in that way, I would just say watch them, listen to them, pay attention to them, don’t even mention mentoring part. And then if the relationship develops and you have the opportunity, you could say to them would you be my mentor? And develop a relationship that way on whatever topic it might be and you can certainly have more than one mentor.
Jim Blasingame: When I think back on my mentors in the old days I had a lot of mentors and Pam, you probably heard me mention them on the show before just lessons I learned from them. They might be surprised that I would remember that they said those things to me because I just heard them, I watched them, I saw them make mistakes, I saw them be successful. Sometimes they gave me specific lessons Jim do this, do that, don’t be a dummy do this or whatever they might’ve said. But sometimes it was just observing them and I just think it’s not either-or it’s both and. I think it’s both the official mentor-mentee relationship but there’s also the sort of organic type. Does that make sense?
Pam Harper: So yes, different types of mentoring situations for different types of knowledge and wisdom. Sometimes you need the feedback that just observation won’t give you, other times observing is exactly the kind of modeling that you need. It really depends on what you need to gain new wisdom about or challenge your perceptions.
Jim Blasingame: And maybe when I think about my mentors, a lot of people might’ve just called them my bosses. Like one of my mentors was my boss and I went to him one time with a problem and I couldn’t make something happen and I didn’t know if I should push harder or not, whether I should stop. And he said, “Jim, sometimes you got a fighting chance and sometimes you just have a chance to fight.” My point is he was my boss and it was the right thing for him to say but I consider that to be a mentoring moment for me if you see what I mean.
Scott Harper: Sure. And I think as Pam said it’s really important for us to be self-aware enough especially in today’s changing world, to know when we need mentoring and what we need mentoring about and that might be meaning we have to overcome some biases. For instance, it’s easy to say “Well, I have to look to someone older and wiser and more experienced.” But especially in this world of technology sometimes you need a mentor who is younger, maybe not as experienced as you as in a leadership way, but more experienced than you perhaps in a technological way and we can all learn from that. What do you think about that?
Jim Blasingame: There’s no question about it. That’s an excellent point. And this bias thing — I did a show, I did an interview this morning on cognitive bias and two kinds of cognitive bias. One of them is if I’m biased against something that’s going on in the world around me and it makes me make a decision based on that bias, but we also uncovered the fact that there are internal biases. And for example, I might have a bias about me being a delegator. I might believe that I’m a better delegator than I am so I’m biased in that way toward myself. But you’re exactly right, I have employees who are ahead of me in certain technological areas and I get them to help me sometimes. However, it goes both ways though doesn’t it folks?
Jim Blasingame: Because sometimes I try to relate some of my lessons, my life lessons some of the experiences that I’ve had over a long career to younger people and sometimes I get a look from them like they’re saying, “okay boomer.” And so I really do believe that part of it goes both ways and I do worry about that. I do worry that the younger generations, and you know how much I love them, you know how regard I have in the younger generations because I employ them and they’re my family, my kids. But I do believe that if I could tell the younger generation something, I would say just because you’re a better coder than I am doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from me.
Pam Harper: So we have to be able to overcome our biases in all directions.
Jim Blasingame: That’s right.
Pam Harper: And since we focus especially on top leadership, it’s important for all of us out there in top leadership roles to recognize that some of our best mentors can actually be people who have maybe less leadership experience but have knowledge in other areas.
Jim Blasingame: This is the wisdom of crowds, right? Jim Surowiecki wrote the book Wisdom of Crowds and he proved in his research that five PhDs solving a problem won’t do as well as three PhDs and two high school graduates would do with the same problem.
Scott Harper: Absolutely.
Pam Harper: If we’re talking about mentoring in the form of a human that is relationships I want to talk a little bit about the importance of mutuality. Some of the best mentoring types of relationships I’ve ever had have been where there’s been mutual caring, mutual respect, mutual benefit, and some of the worst ones I’ve seen have been where somebody has been assigned and really did not want to do that mentoring. Tell us about your experiences with that.
Jim Blasingame: You mean like where an executive is told you’re supposed to mentor this person that we’re grooming for promotion?
Pam Harper: Exactly.
Jim Blasingame: Yeah. Well that’s one of the problems with the official mentoring thing, isn’t it?
Pam Harper: And it is and I believe in the idea of mentoring very much. I mean, we do it but what I am saying is it’s very important to have that mutuality. And of course, mutuality doesn’t exclude the need for tough love at times, does it?
Jim Blasingame: And I think we have to point out something that might be a little bit of an elephant in the living room here. Everyone probably isn’t a good mentor. There are people who have better mentoring skills than others because everyone doesn’t… In my opinion, if you’re going to be a world-class mentor you need to have world-class empathy skills. You have to care about other people and there are plenty of people out there who are really good at their job, but they’re not as interested in other people’s success as maybe somebody else is. That’s the reason I mentioned earlier about maybe spending some time with people before you ask them to be your mentor maybe see if there’s a fit. See if you’ve identified that they actually act like they care about you, they’re taking an interest in you.
Pam Harper: That’s a very important point. So, we’re going to take another quick break, and when we come back we’ll talk more with Jim Blasingame the small business advocate about immediately useful ideas for finding the best mentors for you and a profoundly changing world. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You are listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We’re on the web at businessadvance.com. Since you’re listening to our conversation with Jim Blasingame about finding the best executive mentors for you in this profoundly changing world we have suggestions for additional resources.
Pam Harper: For instance, you can get more specific ideas on taking a strategic approach to mentoring in our blog post, <em>Finding the Right Mentors to Help You Grow Your Business</em>.
Scott Harper: For a link to this post as well as links to some of our past conversations with Jim Blasingame, go to Growthignitersradio.com, select episode 170 and scroll down to resources.
Pam Harper: And to discuss specific questions related to leadership for accelerating momentum to your company’s next level of growth contact us today at businessadvance.com. Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I have been talking with Jim Blasingame the small business advocate about the changing face of mentoring in a changing world. Jim, remind us again how people can find out more about you and your books and The Small Business Advocate.
Jim Blasingame: Smallbusinessadvocate.com, they can go to Jimblasingame.com and find my books. Everything I do is all right there and thank you for that Pam and again, congratulations on the outstanding success of not only your business but your podcast. I’m so proud of you guys.
Pam Harper: Thanks so much, Jim. And it’s always a pleasure to have these conversations with you on The Small Business Advocate. And you can access Jim’s bio by visiting Growthignitersradio.com episode 170. So, Jim, you know the drill here — this is the part of our podcast where we talk about the practical ways to bring these big ideas to life. So let’s talk about something that somebody could immediately start doing to define their own mentoring needs as a top business leader in a profoundly changing world.
Jim Blasingame: Of course, by definition, if I need a mentor it’s because there’s some deficiency, right? I need help, I need technical help, I need practical help, I need some kind of maybe interpersonal help, I need help getting out of my own way. And so I’m going to use two examples. One is what Polonius said to Falstaff in the play Hamlet he said, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” And so if you do a SWOT analysis on yourself, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. If you do a SWOT analysis on yourself and you’re honest with yourself maybe you even have someone else, a loving mirror is my friend Noah Saint John calls them. I call him my SOBs they love me enough to tell me the truth.
Jim Blasingame: If you have people like that who maybe will help you do your SWOT analysis, maybe even a coach, then you identify where you’re deficient and you might find out you know what, I don’t have any peers in technology but I’m a little short on the interpersonal part or I’m not a good delegator or I need to be better at financial management or whatever. If you do that you sort of see where your holes are and then you start thinking about how do I align myself with somebody who can fill that for me and who will do it and in a way that works for both of us.
Pam Harper: And going with that, you could have the same need be addressed by multiple people, types of people. So you might say you might be working with a coach who was a mentor to you, but at the same time, you may find that that leadership need also gets addressed through other kinds of people who can give support. It’s sort of a 360 approach.
Jim Blasingame: That’s right. I don’t remember if you and I’ve ever talked about this but you know, CEO round tables I think are powerful for that.
Pam Harper: They definitely are.
Scott Harper: And the point that we’re making here is the more varied your input, the more varied sources of feedback you can get in mentoring. You can get the richer it’s going to be, the more you’re going to be able to find your blind spots. And so this brings us to the question of is there a practical way that you can increase your network so that you have more potential executive mentors at your fingertips when you need them?
Pam Harper: Yes, we keep going to the same people sometimes for the same things. It’s comfortable, but…
Scott Harper: …How do we branch out?
Jim Blasingame: Well, of course, I remember when networking wasn’t called networking you just made contacts and now it’s official, it’s a real discipline. And one of the first things I started telling people when I started my show back in 97 was you’re going to have to get better at professional networking in the 21st century. You’re going to have to be a professional networker, you’re going to have to be disciplined at it and go about it in a way. And so the first thing to do is get up off your backside and go outside your four walls. Attend a networking event, attend a conference go to an industry trade group regional or national conference, meet other people you’ve got… Here’s the thing whatever’s inside of your head you already know it’s not helping you anymore.
Jim Blasingame: If you want to mine gold — which we all need to be doing, we all need to be mining gold in the marketplace — well, that gold is probably in the heads of other people. And you can’t get it out of them until you go meet them. You’ve got to get out there and get out of your comfort zone and get to know people but when you do that though you can’t go hunting. You’re not supposed to go networking with a hunting attitude you got to go networking with a giving attitude, givers gain. And so you got to go the attitude of I’m going to give something and then when I do, I believe that I will therefore ultimately get something.
Scott Harper: That’s a really good point, Jim. And, of course, we want to find people who don’t think like us because they’re the ones that we’re going to learn the most from us.
Jim Blasingame: That’s Right.
Pam Harper: And so sometimes for some people, it’s tempting to rely on the CEO peer group exclusively. And what we actually say is you have to go beyond that, beyond your comfort zone and I think one of the most valuable things that you did for us when we said we needed additional information was you generously referred us over to someone else who gave us the information we needed. And the cycle goes on.
Jim Blasingame: Well, also you mentioned 360 a minute ago; help is where you find it, knowledge is where you find it. One thing I think maybe there’s a word that we can use that will help us all become better mentors and mentees leverage your curiosity. Be curious, not only curious about what I can learn from you, but be curious about is there anything I can do to help you?
Pam Harper: That really leads over to that third idea, which is evaluating the success of a mentoring relationship. You have to define what success would look like in a case like this and what you just said feeds into that. What can we each do for each other?
Jim Blasingame: There’s no question about it but I’ll tell you again, this is where I’m a little bit different. When I think about somebody who could be a mentor to me I don’t really have any expectations unless I’ve got a specific need that I want to ask them a question about, that’s different. But in terms of just going through life with them, spending time in the marketplace with them I don’t really have that many expectations because if I’m paying attention and I’m curious, they’re going to say or do something that… And the reason I don’t have any expectations is that if you don’t have a specific ask you don’t what you’re about to learn and that’s kind of exciting to me.
Pam Harper: And in a profoundly changing world we have to stay that kind of curious…
Scott Harper: So we can discover things.
Pam Harper: That’s right.
Jim Blasingame: And the more curious you are, the more you will overcome your cognitive bias.
Pam Harper: I like that. So, Jim, can you give us a final thought on creating a strong mentoring relationship in a profoundly changing world?
Jim Blasingame: Well, regardless of whether you’re very technical and structured like corporate America often is or whether you’re more of mentoring is where you find it like I kind of have been in over my career when mentoring wasn’t all that structured. Regardless of what you do be curious, be authentic in wanting to help people, givers gain. I do believe in the law of reciprocity givers gain. The Ecclesiastes, there’s a passage in Ecclesiastes cast your bread upon the water and in time it will come back to you. I believe mentoring is a give-and-take thing, and I’ll tell you this — I know that I have mentored people that I consider to be my mentor because it turns out I knew something they didn’t know. So it’s where you find it and always be ready to find a mentoring opportunity.
Pam Harper: Words to live by. Jim, thanks again for being our guest on Growth Igniters Radio and thank you again for all the wonderful mentoring that we’ve had between us over all these years.
Jim Blasingame: It’s awesome to be part of your life and part of your work and keep up the good work and I’m looking forward to all your future success. I’m so proud of you guys.
Scott Harper: Thanks, Jim. And thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, read Jim’s bio and the episode transcript or open a conversation with us go to Growthignitersradio.com and select episode 170.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to consider:
Scott Harper: In this profoundly changing environment what are the top leadership issues that I would benefit from getting executive mentoring and how am I going to find them?