Proverbs 12:1 says, “If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it—how shortsighted to refuse correction!” While you are learning what you need to know to succeed, you are going to need guidance from someone who can keep you on track and help you make decisions.
No one knows everything. It’s important to get guidance from someone you respect who has performed similar tasks or who has been on similar projects. Seeking mentorship allows you to create a dialogue with someone and get direction on where to find the information you need. A mentor can tell you what works and what doesn’t, and what to look out for. A mentor can direct you to other people who can help you.
We see the world the way we are, not the way that the world is (Kehoe, 2011). Scotomas, blind spots, cause us to see what we expect to see, hear what we expect to hear, think what we expect to think (Tice, 2005). “I don’t communicate well—I get too nervous.” “I am not good with people; I have never been a people-person. I’d rather deal with computers.” “I’m not the leadership type.” Locking in such beliefs shackles you, prevents you from being anything other than what you tell yourself you are.
Your mentor can help you see yourself and what you are capable of from a different perspective. He or she can help you see the blind spots and unlock the shackles that prevent you from meeting your full potential.
You need a mentor who can show you the way. But don’t wait for your mentor to find you—take the initiative to find a mentor. You can join organizations and clubs in your area of interest, such as the Project Management Institute and Toastmasters International. Seek mentorship, and you will find the direction and encouragement you need to become a strong leader.
Management and psychology students generally learn about Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory, discussed earlier. During the experiment phase, the goal is to mindfully pursue what Maslow defined as a peak experience. This is a profound moment of love, happiness, understanding, or rapture; an experience in which a person feels in harmony and balance with the world around him or her. A person who self-actualizes, who meets his or her full potential, has many peak experiences (Maslow, 2012a).
Now it’s time to turn your commitment, your learning, and your mentorship into a planned peak experience. For example, the PMI® provides volunteer opportunities that will help you develop your leadership skills. The members of your local PMI® chapter can help you face and conquer your leadership challenges.
Because IT geeks are generally challenged when it comes to communications, I highly recommend Toastmasters International. Toastmasters provides opportunities for leadership as an officer in the Toastmasters club and during club meetings. Toastmasters will provide you with opportunities to develop and present speeches. Your fellow Toastmasters will gently evaluate your presentations. All of this mentorship occurs in a non-threatening environment that will help you grow as a communicator and a leader.
Experimenting with leadership in this way gives you the opportunity to visualize yourself committing, learning, being mentored, then planning and implementing a project. When you are successful, your self-esteem and belief in yourself as a leader will increase, and for a moment, you will self-actualize. It will be an experience you will not forget because you will develop a schema, as discussed in Chapter 3—a new neural pathway that you will draw on the next time you face a leadership challenge.
If you are taking on a leadership role for the first time, you may be nervous. You may fear failure. But if you have prepared yourself by studying and if you have a mentor to lean on for advice, you have the resources you need to be confident with your commitment. You have made a commitment to yourself to perform because you know you will be one step closer to becoming an IT geek leader. Experimenting allows you to make excellent contacts and to build a reputation for yourself as someone with outstanding character and determination.
I highly recommend keeping a Leadership Journal. This is just a notebook that you keep with you to write down and review your thoughts, feelings, plans, goals, and self-talk. It can help you stay focused and on track during your self-leadership journey.
Here are a few steps that can help you with your experiment:
- 1. Visualize yourself performing in a leadership role. Imagine what you will see, hear, and feel as you do lead. Think about situations you might encounter and how you will react. Rehearse presentations until you have them down cold.
- 2. Develop an action plan for the leadership tasks that you plan to perform. Ask your mentor and someone else on the project to review the plan and provide feedback.
- 3. Meet with all of the people involved in the project and communicate the plan. Get their feedback and address their issues.
- 4. Lead, communicate, correct, and encourage.
- 5. Follow up with your team members, your leadership, and your mentor. Keep everyone informed and keep the communications process flowing.
- 6. Thank everyone involved in the process. Consider showing your appreciation to those who helped you through this process with special gifts and recognition.
- 7. Write in your Leadership Journal any notes or observations you make along the way.