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Lesson 9 from: Create a Culture of Excellence

Jason W Womack

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9. Mentors

Next Lesson: Milestones

Lesson Info


We use the term extremely loosely, mentors. A mentor is anyone in my life that I have access to, anyone in my life who has left me information, anyone in my life who I can turn to who is willing to share of the abundance and overflow. Years ago I realized that I was learning from people who'd already past away. I was reading their biographies, I was watching their videos, I was interviewing people who worked with those people. And then every now and then I got to meet people who are still alive who had seen a heck of a lot. For a moment I wanna tell a short story of our mentor, Frances Hesselbein. Thank you so much, Frances, for everything that you've done for us. Frances was the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA from 1978 to 1990. For 12 years she ran a turnaround of the Girl Scouts of the USA. One of her stories, I'll share too, one of her stories that she loves is she brought her marketing team in month one as a CEO. She pulled out the brochure of the Girl Scouts of the USA, 1977 ve...

rsion, she said, redo the brochure, I want every girl from Alaska to Miami and everywhere in between to recognize herself in the pictures. Because let's just say in the Girl Scouts was not a diverse organization by brochure. The other thing that Frances will tell us the story of is that she was photographed by a business magazine, actually a business magazine that was really popular. They came to her office, they took her picture, they wrote a story. The board of that business magazine held on putting her on the cover, because they had never put a woman on the cover of this business magazine. She was actually the first woman on that business magazine. Over the course of her life she's been invited to the White House four times, she's sat knee to knee with four sitting presidents. Ronald Reagan invited her to come down, he wanted her to help out with education while he was president. She said, thank you for the offer, I've gotta go back to New York and help my girls. Three years ago, I'm date-stamping this, Frances Hesselbein, she started taking Fridays off. So now she goes to the office Monday through, I'm sorry, three years ago she turned 100, I forgot that part. Three years ago she turned and so she started taking Fridays off. So when you get to New York City she will be the second to invite you, 'cause I'm the first. At 51st and Park Avenue on the third floor is the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum. And if you make it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday I can tell you she would love to chat with you. By the way, I've never seen her without the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which she wears every day to the office. That was an award given to her, it's the highest civilian award and she earned that for her work in building diversity in our country. Mentors. Whom can you learn from? Who is it that when you sit down and ask a question they will give from the heart, from the mind, from the experience? Recently Jodi and I were in New York and I invited Frances out to dinner, we sat down to dinner, and she'll always say, Jason, how can I help you this evening? I asked Frances a question and I'm gonna look at Jodi, I wanna say about 10 seconds, in 10 seconds she gave me an answer that basically changed the way that I was looking at the problem. And I think it was because she's got a few decades of experience of hearing about problems. So she's seen our country from 1915 until today. Who already knows what I need to know next? Mentors. I always break mentors down into three different kinds. They're the mentors that I know. I can send you a text and you'll reply. I can call you on the phone, you'll answer. I can email you and you'll respond. There's the mentors I haven't met yet. To me Oprah Winfrey is a mentor, I've learned a lot from her, I used to watch her TV shows, we still get her magazines. I learned a lot from Oprah Winfrey, but I have not met her yet. I figure if I keep saying this publicly someone will introduce me. (audience laughs) And then there's the mentors that I'll never meet. But you know, when you think about that and the influence that someone that you'll never meet can have on you. I think back to a great story from sports. And if I have anyone who follows sports history or sports psychology this is one that crosses both. And if anyone in this room has heard of a runner named Roger Bannister. And if you've not yet heard of this runner named Roger Bannister, back in 1954 Roger Bannister was actually documented, measured as the first human being to be measured running a less than four minute mile. Now I always qualify that, because I know somewhere in history someone outran a tiger somewhere in less than four minutes a mile. But Roger Bannister was the first one that was measured. Now the story goes and it unfolds. It was a cold day, there was a little bit of wind, it had rained the night before, he didn't know if he was gonna do it. There were four people on the planet in the mid 1950s who were going for this magical four minute mile. One in the States, one in London, a couple in Australia. It turned out that Roger Bannister did it, he was the first one. Ran around a track four times, he had four different people pacing him along the way. On the fourth lap, came across the tape, broke the line, the stopwatches stopped, they look at the stopwatches, 3.59 and change. Now that's where the story could end if you're a historian. It's where the story begins if you're a psychologist. Within 10 weeks around the world 10 other runners had beaten the four minute mile. Three of them had beaten Bannister's time. Today we have high school runners beating the four minute mile by a lot. Where here's my question to the audience, from May of 1954 until August of what happened to the human body so that more people ran a less than four minute mile? What happened to the human body? Nothing changed. The only thing that changed was people looked out and they learned that tenent of neuro-linguistic programming, which is if he can do it I can do it. And that's why very quickly I hold on and I find people who are already doing what it is that I wanna step into doing. In another course I teach when I talk about resilience, I talk about the fact that we need to see ourselves in the goal before we step into it. And I remember for that particular section one of the things I did back in when I published the book Your Best Just Got Better, the publisher sent me a postcard of the book cover, and I took that book cover postcard and I glued it to my notebook and I carried it everywhere I went. When I was on an airplane I had a book in front of me, when I sat down in a coffee shop I had the book next to me, when I was at the bookstore I put it up on the shelf. Okay, I took it back down, but I just wanted to see what it would look like. Interesting, when Jodi and I sold the book to Wiley that we co-wrote I made a list through the bookstore and Amazon of 100 books that were written by couples. I went to the internet and I looked up every single one of those couples who'd write a book. Jack and Suzy Welch, Bill and Melinda Gates, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Gay and Katie Hendricks, all of these people who as couples put their words into a book. And I wrote 100 letters, handwritten letters, sent them in the mail. Now I'll be very honest, I'm still waiting for some replies. Bill Gates, you wanna write? I'm here for you. I am still waiting for some replies, but I did have some people reply. John Sculley, the former CEO of Pepsi and Apple, wrote me back, included his phone number. I called him on a Saturday morning. Hey, John. Hey, Jason. Hi. What? I'm talking to the former CEO of Apple. And I said, what's it like working, living, and doing this with your spouse and creating content? Jack Welch, he never got back to me, but I've watched a lot of interviews. And then Bill and Melinda Gates we saw at the TED Conference and we got to learn from them from afar. So when it comes to mentors I'm expanding that definition, not to just include the people who was a teacher, was a coach, it's anybody who left something behind that I could use. I'm gonna ask you there out in the world and in this room, let me ask you to go to a blank page in your notebook, let me ask you to write the name of one or two mentors and underneath that one or two mentors names that you write what is one or two things you now realize they gave you that you can use in the known for you're chasing? I'll repeat all that, 'cause that was a lot of instruction. Let me ask you to take a moment and write down one or two mentors that come to your mind when you think of that word, one or two things that they gave you that you can use as you step more fully into. Nicole in Seattle, yes, awesome. Do you suggest having mentors within your own organization or business? Yes. Which camera do you want me on? Yes, I absolutely think that it's fine, sorry. (laughs) Yes, I would absolutely recommend that you find mentors. And by the way, that's small M mentors. A mentor by my definition is anyone in my world who's willing to lend their hand back and help me along the way in what I wanna be known for. So I would say, and again, this is my symbol for filter, this is hashtag, this is filter. I would filter through looking around the organization. Great question, because a lot of companies that I've been around, maybe some of you I've worked for, they tried a formal mentoring program. And companies are still doing this to this day where they'll bring in new employees and they'll pair them or match them with an older, wiser, more experienced employee. I'm not necessarily down on those. What I am a proponent of it adding is Nicole, if you will play around with, if you'll codify, put on a three by five note card, five by eight if you need a little bit more, if you'll put on a three by five note card what you want to be known for in your role within your organization. And then I might soft socialize that. I might go to one or two people that I really trust that I work with and go hey, this is what I wanna be known for, do you know anybody in the organization at the next one or two levels up that might meet me for a coffee or lunch or dinner? It just gets more expensive through the day. But that question of who do you know who? It needs context. So who do you know who has submitted a third book proposal to a publisher that I could sit down and buy a coffee for? Who do you know who knows Oprah Winfrey, so she would interview me for her Sunday thingy? You catch how I just did that? So once the world knows at least now I have the opportunity to step into that. Thank you, Nicole. Awesome question, 'cause I saw a couple of people nodding in the room as well. So many questions I could ask about mentors. Let me look around the room. Who wrote something they like? Tell me, mentors, what happened? Well, I've got two mentors, but it is the high school teacher, but it's bigger than that. She played kind of a mother role in my life and she just spent her life dedicating to the schools and giving back and really helping us as youth and it made such a profound difference. And I did put as one of my things known for giving back and I even said it earlier. I do have more dimensions than that, but I feel very grateful for that and I see it, because she still gives back. So she just retired and we developed a scholarship in her name for our high school, for my old high school in Kentucky. So I think that was really important, just someone that I'm still connected with. And then I have another mentor who's very opposite of me, who's very calm and reasonable. And I've been depending on her for at least a decade, because when I have anything on my mind I wanna talk about she's the person I think about, like I wanna know, but it's because she approaches everything completely opposite of me. Gosh, I've learned a lot from her, so. And I found that opposites attract sometimes to the point where they attract bypass right each other. When you can recognize that there's so much power in it. You saw my smile as you were talking, of course, teacher, because that's got a special place, but, Kim, this is the big one for me, we recognize the power that others had for us because it's us. I don't have a long time to go into this on a deep psychological level, but it didn't surprise me at all that you ended the piece with because I'm that way. We see in others who helped us what we are in them. And the personal story, we were at our wedding, of course we were together, but we were at our wedding on July 4th of and there was my best teacher ever, Doctor Solberg, and it was an emotional day, so I blame it on that, but he came over, he said congratulations, Mister Womack. He always called me Mister Womack for some weird reason. I looked up, I just started bawling and I said, Doctor Solberg, you were so important in my life, you helped me through everything. He put his hand on my shoulder, he says, Jason, whatever you think that I did for you to help, you are that person to other people. At which point I really started crying. So that little piece, I'm reminded we recognize in others how they helped us, what is waiting to be released, unleashed inside of us. So thank you for sharing that little one. Hi, mentors. Mentors. I am in the retail industry and a little over maybe 10 years ago I had a district manager who took a risk on me in promoting me at a very young age. And we got a lot of flack and a lot of pushback from it. But it made me that way, it made me be a fearless risk-taker. And when you find those gems, the young ones who you want to push further. And even though we left each other every maybe few years she would visit me in whichever brand I was in and made it a point to see me face-to-face. It wasn't just a phone call. It was to check in and it wasn't 'cause she wanted to work again with me, which we did end up doing again, but she just wanted to know how I was, if I loved it, if I felt like I made the right choice and what I learned. And I've been able to do that for people that I've met just the same. And I've been trying to recreate that every single time. And kind of similar to what you said with your mentor, she said something very similar of I didn't really think I was doing anything different, Deanne, and no one's really called me a mentor. And it blew my mind, 'cause I always think, like I talk about you all the time. I use as a frame of reference, I think about what would you have done in this situation. And she didn't even realize it. So half the time we don't even know we're somebody's mentor when we're doing these things. So it is important and I love the 300 seconds, five minutes, and the thank you card. I'm sending a thank you card, of course, after we wrap this up, so. I've got one that I'll donate to the cause. (audience laughs) So if that's at any hurdle that we can get rid of right away. And thank you for ending that one. I believe that America, I don't know about the world, 'cause I spent most of my time growing up here and I work and live here now, I believe America's an acknowledgement starved society. I think it's really easy to end the day not knowing what good we did during the day. And I don't write my thank you cards to get them, that's why I don't put a business card in and I rarely put a return address, I rarely sign my last name. I just figure that there might be someone somewhere on the planet that got a little note from somebody else on the planet that they get to read and smile for a moment. The real reason that I write my thank you cards is that I get to pause and reflect on how awesome the planet is, because left to my own devices or another social media feed that I thumb through it could be really easy to think that we're going somewhere bad. What can I do to monitor and we'll get there in just a moment. Mentors. If your mentor's alive, if your mentor's alive write them a letter tonight, put that in the mail tomorrow. If your mentor's not alive write them a letter, they'll get it somehow.

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Sylvie Leroy

Worthwhile and interesting. Lots of great ideas to implement. No waste of time during all the course. Thank you!

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