Without A Strong a Mentor, You Will Fail To Reach Your Career Potential

Without A Strong a Mentor, You Will Fail To Reach Your Career Potential

One of my favorite books in the bible is the book of proverbs. The main reason why I love this book is because of the many practical lessons we learn by reading this piece of scripture. In the book of proverbs we learn that, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14); “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20); “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15); “For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 24:6). It doesn’t take too long for anybody to realize that a Christian leader must have an abundance of counselors in order to bring glory back to God.

In my life, I have had many counselors who have played a critical role in my development as a professional but one in particular has made a tremendous impact on how I see both life from God’s point of view and higher education. His name is Kurt Dudt, a former United States Marine combat veteran who taught me how to lead academic departments with a heart and ways to shoot guns competitively. The immense amount of wisdom that I’ve learned from Kurt can’t be paid back. I am indebted forever to him. During the literally hundreds of walks that we had for five days a week (sometimes more than once a day) for two years, Kurt has shown me why most higher education leaders fail and only a few de facto succeed. In this article, I will share with you some of the many secrets that Kurt has shared with me throughout our daily 2:00pm walk conversations. Are you ready for this? The content you are about to read is pretty revolutionary and critical if your goal is to lead others with success.

Here are twelve (out of the 100) pieces of advice that Kurt has taught me on how to become an academic unit leader.

1) Before any major decision, pray.

2) Let the members of the team have a say but implement your vision. You were elected to lead and it is your job to get things done. Implementing your vision is your job.

3) Before making any major decision, ask faculty about their concerns and prepare for them, to ensure your goal is accomplished.

4) Let faculty teach the classes they want so that you can have your final decision when you need.

5) Be proactive and defend the department and faculty members if necessary, especially if the faculty member is too inexperienced or there is faculty conflicts involved.

6) Make time to speak with students, be available.

7) Speak with faculty on a regular basis. Invite them to lunch sometimes.

8) If a faculty member faults, try to bring him back.

9) Listen to the non-mainstream faculty member’s contribution. They often provide wisdom in their responses.

10) Don’t be afraid to tell you are not happy with something.

11) Recruit talent. Every time “Luis” is doing something well, Kurt Dudt receives praise.

12) If a colleague is in trouble, help him even if it is 3:00am. If a colleague is in the hospital, go to the hospital… if a colleague’s mother dies, go to the funeral/viewing. Address faculty as a body (he is one of us) and defend the faculty member.

Without a strong a mentor, you will fail to reach your career potential. Nobody is born knowing the operation of leadership. The bible provides tremendous help in this regard along with a friend who is willing to coach you. Be aware: A leader can’t have an evil stream otherwise, problems occur. A leader bring (unite) people together, as much as possible. Remember: Don’t expect followers to be leaders. The moment you see an organization empowering non-leaders to positions of absolute authority, flee from them quickly because disaster then becomes inevitable and eminent.

When undecided, pray… When in question, ask… When in trouble, resolve… When you know, share. Never under any circumstances, forget that. Pray often! Pray for an advisor! Remember: The almighty God listens to your prayers. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

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Veer away from social media for self-promotion

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Life is a riot.

The other day, I was working on a scholarly journal in my office at the Lee University Communication Arts Building when a United Way of the Ocoee Region coordinator emailed me inviting me to deliver a keynote for their interns on the topic of communication.

I gladly accepted the invitation, made the necessary arrangements, and later delivered a two-hour workshop on the topic of winning in life through creative communication.

We had a blast, I must add. We laughed, we learned, we played, we thought. We exchanged understanding! Mutual respect was immediately attained by all parties. I liked them and they seemed to have liked me back.

I simplified and clarified, which in 2018, is a strong skill to have in the midst of all of these new technologies. Being human pays off. I didn’t have to compliment myself and put it all over social media. They did that for me, which ended up being a wonderful feeling.

Due to the nature of social media, people all over the world are engaging in way too much self-promotion, which in the long run can be quite damaging.

For a short period of time, I would argue that engaging in some form of self-promotion is required if one is to attract a sizable audience to buy into their personal brand’s goals and objectives. After all, how can anybody believe that people are experts on anything if they don’t tell you that they are?

Our society has grown used to hearing people saying how great they are, reasonably. Repeatedly claiming that you are the next Steve Jobs because you have wonderful entrepreneurial or technicals skills can, and probably will, give you more headaches than rewards.

Making other people happy face-to-face can do wonders for you. There is just no way that an ordinary computer-mediated conversation would do what my face-to-face keynote delivery did for United Way of the Ocoee Region and its employees. Playing the harmonica in front of a computer screen and failing to make eye contact with your audience will simply destroy any attempt to deliver a remarkable keynote or training presentation.

We are growing used to believing that we can emulate the real world with cyberspace. I don’t think we can. Complimenting yourself too much, regardless of the medium you decide to use, will result in negative audience reactions. People want to see you speaking charismatically and emphatically with them, sometimes singing a song when they least expect. At least, this is what I do. It works wonders every time.

As Harry Beckwith once said, “Being able to listen makes you captivating.” The opposite is also true, “Failing to listen makes you boring.” I would even go further to say that those who don’t listen end up not being heard by others.

Online communication is at best mediocre, and won’t have the same impact a person has when speaking with another person. Understanding is something that we strive for and expect when speaking with others.

Do we really understand everything we are being told these days in social media, text messaging or even email? Maybe we understand more than I want to admit, but I bet you would agree with me that your smartphone auto-correct has made you uncomfortable a few times this past month.

When we try to emulate something, we rarely do it with perfection.

Life is a sale, as Christine Clifford once taught us. Every time we try to communicate with somebody, we are trying to sell our ideas, thoughts and beliefs, values, you name it. The computer puts a barrier between you and the receiver of your message.

I am so convinced that face-to-face communication is so important for you that I am writing this column presenting many arguments for why mediated communication may not be the best way to communicate with people.

Be very careful not to believe that the computer will always make your life more paramount. What makes you outstanding is your ability to communicate with other people, and let me tell you, it is best done live and in color.

Got  it?

——— (Column previously published in the Cleveland Daily Banner)

(About the writer: Dr. Luis C. Almeida is an associate professor of communication at Lee University and a TEDx speaker. He is the author of the book “Becoming a Brand: The Rise of Technomoderation,” and a devoted Christian. He can be reached via his website at  luiscalmeida.info).