I was recently invited to be a mentor at a speed mentoring event in the Silicon Valley. I was curious to experience this 7-minute random sharing. I wondered how it would work and I was a bit apprehensive since I like listening and understanding problems and needs before sharing ideas and suggestions to people I don’t know. But I decided to be adventurous and found myself sitting at a table with a big number sign 7 so people can identify the mentors they wanted to talk to. My profile shared that I am a futurist looking at the future of life and work and that I formerly was a senior executive working around the globe in technology. My passion for building communities and new ways of working was also showcased.
The bell rang and we were off to the races. One by one, each person sat down and wanted a quick fix solution to whatever problem they wanted to share. Many wanted to know how to leave their exhausting corporate jobs and get a life that could be financially supported. Some saw that I have been building communities my whole life and wanted to know how to find their tribe. Others I simply want to forget, as I think they thought we were in a therapy session; something I am not qualified to help with.
It was an interesting evening as each person sat down and I tried to prod and understand their issue so I could add value and be helpful. Each time, I felt we were just starting to make a dent, the bell rang and the next person sat down. And the cycle started all over. I wondered how many would follow up beyond the event and see this as an opportunity to build relationships by sparking conversations.
On my drive home, I had a lot of time to reflect about the evening. I was grateful I never went to a speed dating event as I felt that this was a quick fix event or maybe they needed more mentors who were tactical and can give quick fixes. I am not in the quick fix business as I don’t believe it is sustainable. This was simply an experiment and more research for my lifework.
Confessions of A Speed Mentor
We need to spend time understanding why we have an issue, what it means and only then, how can we approach it. We have been conditioned to a world of sameness and quite frankly, it is almost impossible to implement other people’s solutions without understanding our core issues and also knowing ourselves and our organizations. We run from conference to conference; from expert to expert; and we don’t spend enough time to go deep and build our own pathways. Our job is to first understand our purpose and ask for help in defining it. There is no generic right or wrong. There is what works for each of us and stories of others that we may learn from.
This is an amazing time to be alive as you don’t need to go to an event to meet people all over the world. Unfortunately, the social networks we have today are not as social as we need but the world is open and connected. You can find people easily based on interests and all that is needed is courage to connect to them. I recently received a LinkedIn invite from a woman I did not know in Ghana who wanted to talk to me about a conference her organization was putting together in the fall. I accepted her invite and we jumped on a Skype call.
Esther shared with me that they are planning to bring youth and women together to prepare them to be better leaders. We spent the rest of the conversation discussing why they don’t need to bring an Israeli-Canadian-American to Ghana to tell the youth about leadership, even though I have worked extensively in Africa. I provided her with ideas on how they can tap into their local leaders and showcase them as the future of the country, which I am pleased to say they have. I asked questions and also suggested she tap into the local businesses and create unusual partnership. And finally, I shared that she should show the youth what is possible by sharing how she had the courage to reach out to someone she didn’t know and spark a conversation via LinkedIn. It is open and available to everyone. There is no barrier to entry apart for a device, connectivity, literacy and electrical power. The world is small and getting smaller every day. Esther continues to communicate with me and give me updates on how many local youth are attending and how the event has been localized. We both hope that we will meet in Ghana when I can come speak on a more global topic and meet the youth and women. I admire Esther for having the courage to create a local event that will meet why they are running it on the firsthand.
Not one person from the speed mentoring event continued the conversation, apart from sending me a LinkedIn invite. It was a missed opportunity and I checked with other mentors, this was not happening. It is one of the biggest problems we have at work today. We run from meeting to meeting, from event to event, and we don’t have deep conversations. I often wonder what work actually means in the 21st century. Is it doing our email? Is it sitting in endless meetings watching slides fly one by one on screens? or is it going to meetings and doing our email? How many people in your organization work around a shared purpose?
The world is open and connected. Today, we can easily reach out to other people and we need to leave behind our 20th century antiquated practices. There are no quick fixes and there is an increasing human need to connect with other people, even if it is just to share our stories and have someone else listen. Community, relationships and trust are becoming more critical to business today, despite being labelled as “soft” skills. They are what is needed. We need more people who live and work out loud and know how to co-create outside of organizational silos.
Call to Action
I’d like to ask you to join me and live out loud in the 21st century. Because if you will, you will find that you will never be alone or isolated again. You will easily build a community of like-minded people but it will take some thought and effort to create it in a world where the platforms we have are abundant but do not serve our human need to connect on purpose.
And if you don’t know what living or working out loud means, please ask me as I will be happy to share.