Quite a while ago, a former colleague and team member of mine once told me that he has two mothers, one at home and the other at work. At the time of course he was looking squarely at me. So first of all, I’m far too young to be his mother. There is barely 10 years (or so) difference between us. Unfortunately I do somewhat resemble that comment. Oh no, was I s’mothering him?
Yes I had a hand in his professional development. He at one time was on my team and we worked closely on many large strategic projects together, so when I helped get him promoted and he suddenly became my peer I had to restrain myself. I recall telling the team about his promotion, getting a bit misty eyed and feeling so proud of him. Although I was a bit proud of myself as well, I knew he was a crazy talented individual who would have eventually got there but I know my support helped. I mentored, raised the bar, advocated and pushed and yes, I just got the heck out of the way when I needed to. All the things, I think, a good leader is suppose to do.
Throughout my career and having worked with many great team members, I do recall times when I offered unsolicited advise on potential pitfalls to avoid. Often, I rolled up my sleeves, worked along side them, coached them and watched as they have that “A HA!” moment. The advise and coaching was usually well received. Is this s’mothering or mentoring? I keep in touch with many of them and have actually worked with several of them at different companies. I share my thoughts and advise if I can and if asked.
I miss my team. It seems like I have always had a team. From the young age of 23 I’ve been a leader. Well first a manager, making all kinds of mistakes but eventually I grew and learned to become a leader, with the help of some great mentors of my own along the way. I refuse to do the math for you but suffice it to say I have been a leader a really long time. I am a compulsive leader. I can’t help it. I miss my team and yes, I’m getting misty eyed again. I could name the names but you know who you are.
Because I’ve been missing my team, I’ve been thinking about what it is I miss. That’s easy! The energy, the shared passion for what we do. Mentoring these incredible “diamonds in the rough”. I can think of no greater rush of satisfaction, other than seeing my own children succeed, than to see one of my team members succeed at something they have worked hard to accomplish. To help them stretch themselves and grow, achieve or accomplish something that is seemingly daunting or challenging. This as one of my own mentors would say, is what “feeds my soul”.
Now that I have launched my own company; www.procurepro.ca, I am building my business and my virtual team of Procurement Associates. Being an entrepreneur at a start up is a bit lonely but my vision is to build ProcurePro into the leading boutique Procurement Consulting company in Canada. To become trusted advisers to companies, helping them to achieve Best In Class results, while working with a team of passionate, Procurement Experts, who love what they do and who get paid well for doing it. I am on a mission to raise awareness of what true procurement professionals can deliver to a company’s bottom line while transforming the professions reputation into that of being a true competitive advantage.
I needed help with this big dream so I naturally reached out to my own mentors and coaches who have continued to help me along my way. I find they are more than willing to freely share their time, thoughts and advise as I grow my business. I can’t help but feel incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such great leaders, mentors, team members and friends throughout my career. So I’m reflecting on all of this; my incredible abundance, my own leadership approach and all the while missing my team, then it hit me! I have an “A HA!” moment. This s’mothering instinct isn’t at all unique to me. Despite not actually witnessing one of my mentors get misty eyed and react in the same way while one of their team members achieved success. I realize they too truly care about helping people and gain the same thrill and deep satisfaction from helping others that I do.
So I now know it not s’mothering at all. It is a genuine desire to help someone I respect and think highly of, succeed. Something I have seen demonstrated by and learned from those great leaders in my life.
So my conclusion is this; great leaders care more about just the success of the company or their own careers. They, like me, care genuinely about people and derive satisfaction from helping them succeed. They take the time to work with and help develop them. Watch them grow, attain success and cheer when they have a victory. They pick them up when they fail, dust them off, sometimes even kick them in the butt when they need it. They show you respect, are honest with you and tell you the truth even if it will hurt. They, like me, make mistakes but try to learn from those mistakes and do better next time. They are not perfect but they are authentic. Finally, when they or you move on to bigger and better things, if asked, they continue to guide and mentor even when you take different paths.
While there may be a fine line between s’mothering and great leadership, it’s important to try to understand where the line is, balance precariously if you have to but never, ever stop caring about the people. That to me, is truly great leadership.
A sincere, thank you, to all my great mentors and leaders, who continue to guide and coach and set a shining example. I am truly grateful. Oh no! Here comes the mist!
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