One of my favorite themes in the MWA coaching curriculum is something we refer to as the ‘selfish mentoring of ‘imi ola.’
‘Imi ola is the Hawaiian value of personal vision; it literally translates to ‘seek life’ and as a business value, we use it to coach managers on how to seek their best possible lives in business.
Don’t get stuck on the normally negative connotation of the word; selfishness in this context is a very good thing.
When you have the goal of ‘imi ola, and creating the best possible life for yourself, Selfish Mentoring is training and coaching one’s apparent successor or team of direct reports to do everything you can do in your present sphere of influence. They rise to higher expectations while enjoying the fruits of those efforts, thereby releasing you – freeing you – to create higher, or simply different expectations for yourself. Selfish Mentoring is a win-win concept in which everyone benefits; you, those you mentor, and whatever you are managing as a whole.
Win: You—You achieve a freedom from those things you may now have to do, because you’re the only one capable of doing them, or the only one fully trusted to do them. You claim your time as your own again, for your own planning, and your own choices.
Win-Win: Those you mentor—Once they enjoy a higher level of trust from you and from others in the organization, their self-confidence soars, and they start to set higher goals for themselves. When they take the next step and duplicate the behavior you’re now modeling, they begin to mentor others so they too can be more productive, on their own terms.
Win-Win-Win: Whatever you, and they, manage—No one is indispensable, and nothing is sacred. Everyone sees they can learn ‘what the boss knows’ and seize opportunity when they accept coaching. Process and systemic options and contingencies increase. Shared decision-making increases. With more alternatives to choose from, and more people trusted to make the necessary decisions, operations rarely stall and they become more nimble.
Another way to think of this, is that all birds fly, not just leader birds. You are teaching your baby birds to fly from your nest without you, and when they do, you’re able to take some solo flights of your own imagining because your babysitting days are over. In fact, their new flights create fresh wind under your wings; you could fly the coop completely, leaving it for them to redecorate as they wish to when they get back.
In starting our coaching on Selfish Mentoring, we take a look at the babysitting our managers do.
- Print out your calendar from the last 7-10 days, including a capture of the weekend. Do an honest assessment of what you did in someone else’s plan because you felt you had little choice. Big candidates for this are meetings and events you had to attend because it was felt that no one else could satisfactorily represent you; YOU didn’t feel it was that great a use of your time, however others felt you had to be there, and so you were. If you’re honest, the most you got out of it was a very short term boost to the ‘ol ego, and that glow is now long gone.
- Now write down some names. Who could have taken your place because learning to would be a win for them? Why do you feel they are great candidates for this? (This is mentoring, not dumping.)
- Next write down what they need to know (you may simply need to open access to more information) or need to learn (skills and/or knowledge) so that next time the same situation comes up, they can take your place. Empathize; think of ‘imi ola, and determine how this jump into your sphere of influence will be of benefit to them. You are drafting their coaching plan.
- Set up a time to meet with them, tell them what you have in mind, and secure their agreement. (Mentoring is something people want, not something imposed on them.) Coach them in goal-setting: Seek to raise the bar, not just pass the torch.
- Commence training and coaching.
Once they learn what they need to, get out of their way and let them fly. Soon you can figure out where to book your next flight.
Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business. She fervently believes that work can inspire, and that great managers and leaders can change our lives for the better. You can also visit her on www.managingwithaloha.com. Rosa writes for Lifehack.org to freely offer her coaching to those of us who aspire to be greater than we are, for she also believes in us. Writing on What Great Managers Do is one of her favorite topics.
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