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Selfish Mentoring

Selfish Mentoring

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.

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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.

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

For more on ‘Imi ola, take the links in this index on Managing with Aloha.

Post Author:
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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Last year at this time, Rosa had written: Let’s talk LOVE at work: 9 Views.

More by this author

Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes effectively.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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1. Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

2. Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

3. Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

4. Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

5. Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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6. Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

7. Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

8. Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More Note-Taking Tips

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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