Influence is a pretty hot topic right now. There are as many definitions of it as there are ways to measure it — or game it for that matter. I do believe we sometimes confuse “influence” with “reach”. We might be able to get people to listen or read something, spread news or even make something go viral — and don’t get me wrong, this can be powerful, educational, and even inspirational. When I think of influence though, I think about impact and how something can change a person’s behavior, character, or even their life — hopefully for the better. How do you really measure that? That kind of influence can’t be measured in Klout scores or lists. If you really want to see the value of your influence, there is no more powerful way than to mentor another.
Let me start by saying, I am not a big believer in formal “mentor programs” — mostly because I have never personally seen one actually work. Best I have seen are more like buddy programs that help during onboarding and first weeks of employment as people learn to maneuver their new surroundings, systems, and processes. When I look at the most valuable and influential mentors through my career, they weren’t assigned. They evolved through connection, chemistry, a willingness to share, guide and teach (on their behalf), and a willingness to listen and learn (on mine).
When I reflect on my strengths and accomplishments, I can assure you most were not original on my part. They are a direct reflection of the amazing mentors I have had – and continue to have and seek — in my life. The credit I take is seeking them out and/or paying attention when they crossed my path. I know what a huge impact and difference these people have been for me, and as such it has been important for me to give back by mentoring others.
It is important to look for mentors, inside and outside of your function, that not only advise and guide you, but challenge and stretch you as well. For those of you in HR and Recruiting, I highly recommend you seek mentors from the business side too — their goals are your goals — so the more you know, the stronger you will be. As you look to give back, pass on what you have seen and learned as appropriate, to those who can benefit. The mentoring relationship will come naturally and follow much the same path as I described above. Recognize it and make sure to reinvest what you have received.
So…Go blog, tweet, retweet, share, and even feel free to buy some shares in my social stock — but if you really want to see your influence in action, be a mentor. You can just as easily go viral mentoring someone directly as you can broadcasting through social media. Pass on the knowledge, insights, and wisdom you have gained through your mentors and experience – and hopefully they’ll tell two friends and so on…and so on….