When friends, family or colleagues come to us for advice we are faced with some important decisions. Decisions that we need to be conscious about and really force ourselves to consider what it is we’re being asked and the role we play in this important and valuable interaction.
You see there’s what they are wanting to hear and then there’s what you are saying.
Back in Brisbane, I used to lecture at Bond University in advertising and digital marketing and it was my job to teach students about what I knew and make the information applicable, relevant and weighted enough that they would remember it and apply it thoughtfully. At first the gig seemed easy. Go there, say some stuff, smile for the crowd and get paid.
When I had staff, it was a similar prospect. Whether it was a new policy, a change in direction or just the need to change some bad habits, it was about making some changes, putting up a notice and enforcing the rules.
The problem with both of these practices was that they weren’t aligned with how people are really motivated to change, learn and engage. It’s one thing to lecture the importance of some information and it’s an entirely different ball game to inspire and mentor the value of knowledge.
Many times I’ve asked for advice in my life and have had a clear idea in my head of what I was wanting to know. Most of the time it was for validation (which is quite a funny proposition considering that I had already made up my mind) but I just wanted others to agree with me! Many other times though it was for a genuine alternative perspective.
Asking for this advice meant that I had usually made up my mind to do/try something so I was requesting insight into the pros and cons of doing something so I could weigh it up in my own analytical process – not to be coerced into whether I should/shouldn’t do it.
I’ve been guilty of mistaking the role of the mentor for a lecturer and it brings a dangerous yet typical outcome. By lecturing you are effectively trying to use the importance of ‘information’ to protect others from failing rather than inspiring the power of knowledge to lead them to success. Sure you might sound important to yourself but the reality is that you don’t impact or inspire them one iota. In fact you often bore and potentially offend them.
So mentors and lecturers – what’s the difference?
A mentor is someone who is typically approached for their experience and knowledge but are masters in understanding that their methodology and journey isn’t always applicable (or even possibly relevant) to everyone. Therefore rather than forcing their ‘way’ down the throats of others, they act more as guides to helping the individual achieve their decisions through powerful questions, inspiration and challenging thinking patterns through techniques such as hypotheticals.
A lecturer is someone who literally gives lectures. It’s an employed job to address a crowd of people and communicate some information. Granted this information could still be their experience and knowledge but they don’t have a real vested interest in ensuring their information is stylised and used for personal growth. In fact in most colleges/universities, it’s designed to be point form, systematic and digestible enough so that students can memorise it for an exam.
What’s the difference? Well it’s massive. It’s like having two friends who tell you a story.
The first friend is expressive, passionate, descriptive and really works hard to captivate you and have you feel what they felt. In the end you can’t help but feel changed for hearing the story and you put it in your repertoire of life experiences and knowledge. In fact you even want others to hear their story!
The second friend is someone who gives you the bullet points of what happened. It’s factual, to the point and sure it gets the job done but it lacks the magic and charisma. You kinda remember bits of it but it doesn’t hold any lasting value for you. In fact it almost sounds like they made it up because it’s so sterile but you laugh because you think it’s appropriate then you check your watch.
I remember all the mentors in my life. From my 6th grade teacher to my music teacher and rowing coach. They inspired, enabled and captivated me to try harder, to want more, to be more and as a result I can even vividly remember specific conversations with all of them about aspects of my work.
That said, I do also remember my high school modern history teacher – I remember most of us ignored her because she was boring as bat-shit so I wrote love letters to my girlfriend. Sure she spoke for forty minutes a week and we did some tests but I can’t remember what I was learning or why.
Want to make a difference right now in your life and everyone you come into contact with? Be a mentor, not a lecturer.