Why It Pays to Identify and Approach Mentors in the Professional ‘Cafeteria’


CEO at All Access Group

At times, the workplace “cafeteria” resembles a middle-school lunchroom, with heightened stakes and competitors striving for power in lieu of popularity. Who sits where, and why?

Related: How to Get the Most Out of Having a Mentor

It’s all rather intimidating. But engaging with the top of the food chain, or “managing up,” in your own company or industry is easier when someone trustworthy and approachable forges a trail first. For some professionals, this means engaging a mentor.

Before pursuing that relationship, however, confirm that your potential mentor is the master of his or her trade, with a great reputation, a proven record of success and a powerful, credible brand. The strongest mentors are fearless communicators with access to the power base of an organization. They’re visible to everyone, including the CEO. With connections to major influencers, a mentor can open doors to relationships and experiences that likely wouldn’t be possible otherwise — or would take years to develop.

Steve Jobs, a perfect example of this type of leader, was one of a handful of influential mentors for me. Although we didn’t seek each other out and came together by chance, Jobs, as a well-known innovator, greatly assisted me throughout my career.

Making the first move

An experienced mentor can help navigate political land mines by serving as a role model and sounding board to support a mentee’s success. Here are three tips for finding the right one:

  • Take advantage of an open door — or “open seat” — policy. When I worked at Apple, former CEO John Sculley made himself available at an open table in our cafeteria. Most people gave him a wide berth out of fear, but I wasn’t afraid to sit down and chat with him often. When Apple offered to cover the tuition for a two-and-a-half year MBA program, I was one of about 100 people chosen because my manager pulled out all the stops on my behalf. Sculley had the final say on who was chosen, which is one reason I sat down at his table — to thank him — and I still reach out to him today.
  • Be direct. Mentors sometimes choose protégés, but usually a person must be bold enough to approach an admired senior colleague and say, “I need a mentor, and I’d like it to be you.” High-level professionals don’t have time for beating around the bush. Be direct.
  • Seek out different — and seemingly contradictory — qualities in mentors. I’ve been fortunate to build mentoring bonds with not only Steve Jobs, but also consultant and speaker Alan Weiss and writer Alan Cohen. I consider Weiss and Cohen my bookend mentors; together, they deeply inform the way I work and live, and how I serve my clients.

Related: 5 Secrets to Finding and Working With a Mentor

Vetting a potential mentor involves listening to your gut reaction. After each interaction, note any emerging patterns and how the exchange felt. If your experience gives you a positive impression that this partnership could be mutually beneficial, chances are it will be a good fit.

Both Alans provide distinct kinds of support and help me tap into contrasting parts of my personality. While Cohen has taught me how to get in touch with my softer side and shown me how to help others see the best in themselves by identifying their strengths, Weiss has taught me how to reinforce my brand. With his guidance, I’ve sought to be a thought leader in my field, by creating a body of intellectual property with a unique voice.

These dynamic and complementary philosophies have helped me build a solid foundation for my work and define my career trajectory. Developing a positive mentor relationship that pushes you to grow outside your comfort zone can propel you forward, too, ensuring that you thrive — not merely survive — in the workplace cafeteria.

The weeding-out process in the workplace can unfold like an episode of Survivor. Hang out with the wrong crowd or miss critical unspoken cues and you risk getting voted off the company island. But the right mentor can offer a “path to immunity” and a faster track to success, to achieve the dreams that might otherwise dissipate amid self-doubt and cafeteria politics.

Related: What No One Tells You About Seeking A Mentor for Your Startup 

Never Stop Growing. Here Are 3 Ways to Maximize Your Potential.

Never Stop Growing. Here Are 3 Ways to Maximize Your Potential.

Speaker and Maximum Performance Strategist. CEO of Matt Mayberry Enterprises

A major factor that inhibits so many people from achieving the success that they desire in life and business is thinking that there is no more room for growth or improvement. This thinking alone can do more damage than economic downtimes and many other circumstances that none of us want to come face to face with.

Here are three ways to help you maximize your potential:

1. Do an audit from the neck up. Change your thinking.

I put this as number one because if your thinking doesn’t change, then nothing else will ever change. If you’re not happy with where you’re at in life right now, the first place that needs a checkup is the quality of your thoughts.

Related: The 7 Gifts of Adopting a Personal-Development Mindset

The men and women that never tap into their full potential during their time here on earth usually possess a major thinking deficiency. Not only do they lack the quality of thoughts that it takes to become all that they can be in life, but they also completely neglect the importance of mindset development and how vital it is to treat the mind like a gold mine.

Each of us has genius within, but whether that genius is cultivated comes down to what takes place on a daily basis from the neck up. The first step towards building a bigger future and maximizing your potential is to never limit what’s possible. People’s thinking and mindset get in the way of greatness more than anything else. If you want to change your life, first change your thinking.

2. Be a fanatic about becoming a lifelong learner.

Don’t be like most people. Most people stop learning the second they are finished with a formal education. Most people don’t have a personal-growth plan to how and when they are going to grow each month. Most people get stuck in their old ways and will continue to get the same results over and over again until their time is over.

If you’re serious about maximizing your potential and becoming all that you can be, devote yourself to becoming a lifelong learner.

Read great books in your field, listen to audiobooks while in the car, enroll in online classes and constantly search for ways to expand who you are as a person. Becoming a lifelong learner is one of the best decisions that you can ever make. Thinking you know it all or that there isn’t any room for growth is a major barrier that will forever trap you in the current space that you are operating out of.

Related: Keep the Rookie’s Zeal No Matter How Far You Go

Those who truly believe they have reached their capacity in life and as a person never take the time to invest back in themselves and become lifelong learners. Don’t let that be you.

3. Build a winning team around you.

Great organizations and the leaders within those organizations understand that people matter. A great CEO knows that his or her organization can only become great if the employees of that organization are striving, growing and looking for ways to become great as well.

The same thing applies to your life as well. We as people can only become as great as the people around us. A surefire way to maximize your potential is to associate and be around winners — the men and women who are doing it at a level that you aspire to operate out of.

I encourage you to create a list of the men and women who are on your personal team. Next to each name, write down whether that person is really helping you to grow and get to where you ultimately want to go.

A lot of us, including myself, get so caught up in our hectic schedules without ever analyzing our inner circles. If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’ll be able to find one or a few people who no longer serve your greater good. Building a winning team around you is an absolute must if you are going to maximize your potential and become an uncommon achiever.

When we stop looking and searching for ways to grow, that’s when our potential and achievement levels become stagnant.

Related: Do You Have Toxic People in Your Life That Are Limiting Your Potential?

Want to Motivate Your Successors? Play ‘Follow the Leader,’ Not ‘Simon Says.’

Executive Director and Co-Founder Forte Strong,

October 02, 2015

Childhood games are so ingrained in our memories as fun experiences that we forget why we played them in the first place. For example, “Simon Says” seeks to teach children self-control, teach the importance of following directions and establish respect for an authority figure.

Related: The 10 Biggest Motivation Killers and How to Fix Them (Infographic)

Unfortunately, “Simon Says” falls woefully short in advancing children’s development, because it fails to harness their inner motivation. The essence of this game is to mindlessly follow Simon’s orders — no questions asked — because Simon said so. But “Simon Says” is a game better suited for molding unmotivated (but obedient) drones, not the leaders of tomorrow.

It’s certainly not the way you want to train your successors — at work or at home.

As a leader, if you find that your task-delegation style is limited to “the boss says,” you owe it to those following in your footsteps to work on boosting your motivational strategies. Ideally, your role as leader is to not only ensure that your followers are performing well, but to understand why they need to perform well and to have the desire to up their game.

The takeaway: You shouldn’t be playing an endless workflow game of “Simon Says”; you should be motivating your successors with “Follow the Leader.”

Lead by example to set the tone.

The best way to utilize your leadership skills, to motivate your employees, your children or anyone else who looks up to you is to set the right tone in everything you do. You have to understand that their roles depend on their assumption that you know what you’re doing. You have to exude confidence and moxie in everything you do.

A great example of a leader who was a master of motivation was the famous Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller. Puller is famously quoted as saying, “They’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us . . . they can’t get away this time.” His poise and brash confidence gave his troops peace and purpose in even the most psychologically demanding environments.

Though it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to lead your successors into battle, here are two more more tips for motivating your “troops.”

Related: 5 Ways to Remain Motivated and Focused on Kicking Ass

Show vulnerability.

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni explained that the first dysfunction that prevents effective team building is the breakdown of trust. Trust must exist to strengthen any relationship; and to build trust, we must be vulnerable.

Being vulnerable is a way of exposing our proverbial underbellies, which encourages others to connect with us on a deeper level. It ensures that they understand how mistakes help us correct our direction and lead us to learn, grow and retain information.

Although most leaders want to be perfect in the eyes of those they lead, they’re not. Pretending to be a shining paragon of perfection would be a lie. You have to embrace your flaws.

Take the time to give attention.

Time is much more valuable than money. Money can be earned and duplicated, but time cannot. The more time you spend with your successors, the more they will remember your example.

In The 4-Hour Workweek, author Tim Ferriss discussed the concept that attention is what really gives time its value. You always have to be present when you’re taking the time to motivate and mentor. Putting down your smartphone isn’t enough — you have to ensure that your mind is focused on your companion, not the myriad things on your plate.

My own job revolves around motivating others and helping them discover their own purpose as they grow and put certain skills into practice. You’ll find — with your employees, your children or someone you mentor — that after every “aha!” moment they experience, life truly shows its meaning. It’s an unbelievably rewarding experience that leaves a lasting impact, which a life of “Simon Says” could never replicate.

Related: Lacking Motivation? Follow These Steps to Get Back on Track. 

Is native advertising the answer to publishers’ ad-blocking problems?

Liz Farquhar, Winmo
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Image Credit: Shutterstock

This sponsored post is produced by Winmo

The topic of “ad-blocking” has escalated to a Donald Trump level of exposure in the media trades — especially after Google Chrome disabled the Flash Player plugin and Apple released iOS 9 with ad-blocking capabilities.

Of course, publishers and advertisers are now convinced that the “war on advertisements” is the beginning of the end, not just for advertising, but maybe even the entire Internet of Things. Scary thought, right?

Well, before you hunker down in your survivalist bunker and wait for Armageddon (or even if you are already reading this from your wifi-enabled shelter), there may be a mutually beneficial way to work with this ad-blocking dilemma — and it’s called native advertising.

The current state of ad-blocking for publishers and advertisers

In the past 12 months, global usage of ad-blocking technology has increased 41 percent, costing publishers an estimated $22 billion this year alone.

More than 198 million people are using some kind of ad-blocking software. Not surprising, 41 percent are Millennials 18-29 years old.

As consumers gain more power through technology, disruptive advertising becomes less popular and less effective — especially with Millennials. Even before users had the ability to block digital ads, they stopped paying attention to them all together. Basically, if an advertisement doesn’t contribute value or add to their Internet experience, consumers want nothing to do with it.

Case in point: even when display ads aren’t blocked, the average click-through-rate (CTR) for display ads across all formats and placements is .06 percent. Better yet, 50 percent of clicks on mobile ads are reportedly accidental. So…there’s that for ya.

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At this point, even trying to make the case for display ads as a “brand awareness” tool is a tall order. According to one recent study, only 2.8 percent of users reported seeing ads that were relevant to their interests. So, the audience targeting is even lacking effectiveness.

Just based on that data alone, it doesn’t really seem like that type of ad-supported business model was going to hold up much longer any way.

What is the native advertising opportunity?

By all accounts, modern publishers like Buzzfeed and Vox are not in the same sinking boat as established media players that rely heavily on revenue generated from display inventory.

Why is that? Well, because they have been capitalizing on the native advertising opportunity from the very beginning. Instead of relying on revenue from display ad inventory, savvy publishers are investing in native advertising strategies —

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which, as it turns out, is a win-win-win situation for everyone involved.

When done well, native ads engage target audiences with relevant, useful content. And since the entire goal of digital advertising is to attract, engage, and convert audiences, this strategy pays off for advertisers and publishers in the long run.

Of course, Buzzfeed is one publisher that has gotten tremendous results from native advertising. To capitalize on its 200 million visitors each month and 18.5 billion social media impressions, national advertisers pay upwards of $100,000per ad campaign.

And brands are jumping at the chance to invest in native ads with Buzzfeed because the the ROI is there. For instance, Purina experienced significant lift in visibility and won back favor with a lot of consumers when its sponsored video “Dear Kitten” generated more than 23.6 million views. Additionally, as one of Buzzfeed’s top viewed videos — both in terms of paid promotion and organic reach — that native ad will continue to serve as a very profitable piece of evergreen content that the brand can leverage for marketing campaigns in the long term.

Even though this is just an example of one publisher’s success with a brand campaign, that investment in native advertising has paid off in droves, which begs the question: Why not give it a try in your own business model?

How publishers can begin to combat ad-blockers

There’s no denying that ad-blocking software does present a lot of frightening scenarios for publishers and advertisers.

Luckily, there are also still many creative and innovative ways to work around ad-blockers and continue to drive actionable results for advertisers.

A good place to start would be to ask why ad-blockers are popping up like gangbusters and look for ways to win back favor with users before losing money from advertisers.

Liz Farquhar is Content Strategist at Winmo.

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