Mentoring, Monitoring and Mobilizing


the snail


What we do well, we enjoy doing. And, the better we become at something, the more we enjoy its doing — and the better we want to become by doing. Even minute successes or levels of progress engender a greater desire to return to the activity or challenge, enhance and expand the enjoyment of the pursuit and increase its further mastery. But, all achievements are also investments. These investments are made by both the learner and the mentor. While encouragement and support are also helpful, this phenomenon occurs, for many, even without compliment or validation of progress from another.

This process is a self-fueling improvement system that eventually produces masters and champions in a great variety of differing pursuits and professions. Learning is central to all of this.

Mentors Mold Mindsets and Mindsets Move Minds

Mentoring, especially in the subtle mentoring arts and skills needed for success in complex sales, is of very great importance. To optimally become a sales-obsessed enterprise, top-notch mentoring is key and necessary. Continuous monitoring of our advances in mentoring processes is also essential, and mobilizing everyone in these pursuits is very important.

The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits as they are more commonly known, is a Catholic religious order that is highly regarded for its leadership and expertise in the field of education. Wherever Jesuit schools exist, at either the high-school (grades 9-12) or the collegiate levels, such schools are usually considered to be among the very best, if not the best schools in that area.

Over their 400-year existence, the Jesuits have perfected a system of education or learning that revolves around three processes. These are:

  1. Experience
  2. Reflection
  3. Action

According to the Jesuit Reverend Ralph E. Metts, this system is founded on the principle that one of the best methods of learning is gained through an actual experience of the lesson. For example, to learn to ride a bike, one must first get on the bike, pump the pedals, try to keep our balance, steer the bike, and safely stop it without falling over. Actually, each of these bike-riding subtasks requires different skills and actions, but they are all parts of a whole, that is, biking or cycling. But, the desires to advance and progress in an interest or a pursuit are also parts of the ongoing learning experience.

Just as good people almost always tend to want to become better persons, we all tend to want to become better at anything that we can already do well. So, once a biker becomes initially able, the natural desire is to progress. We tend to want to become a better biker so we not only ride a lot, but we also eventually may pursue a variety of different types of biking — trail biking, racing, tricks and stunts, competition and other fun-enhancing extensions. All of these perfecting and enhancing experiences proceed from the initial biking experiences that helped us to first learn to ride our bicycles. But, we do not learn unaided.

Even our basic first lessons were usually aided. Our parents may have had training wheels installed on our first little bicycle. And, probably a parent or an older sibling may have run beside us holding up the bicycle as we began to learn to balance the moving bike. And, of course, we also may have observed others having fun riding bicycles, and this may have stimulated a desire to emulate them, or to accomplish and achieve this capability ourselves. As we progressed, we may have had mentorswho offered tips, demonstrated to us new skills or biking tricks and capabilities or simply and quietly validated our accomplishment.

Of course, this Jesuit system of learning only begins with the idea of experiences. Learning progresses through the idea ofreflection. Plato well understood the very great importance of such reflection, or examining of our experiences, and put into the mouth of Socrates the phrase, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Certainly, the “unexamined life” cannot be well lived. It is in reflection or the re-examining and thinking back over an experience and its effects, that learning is greatly aided and accelerated. Unaided by those who already well understand what a learner is trying to learn, one can progress. But, such progress is greatly impeded and slowed by a lack of then-current understanding. We do learn forward, but we only understand backwards. So, a mentor, a coach or a learning assistant who already possesses the knowledge or skills we seek can help us immensely in the reflection process.

Even if a mentor only asks us, “Well, what happened? And, why do you think this effect occurred? And what might you have done differently?” Or, “What do you now plan to do?” our mentor stimulates the reflection that we might otherwise not have done. And, if the mentor can kindly offer some tips, such assistance can expand and accelerate the initial teaching, and the reflective learning processes. For example, “Do you think that if you had put your foot down when you tried to stop your bike you might not have crashed to the ground?” As he sees “the light go on” in the learner’s eyes, the mentor then might suggest step three, or the corrected action stage. These suggestions might also take the form of confirming questions, such as, “Do you think that would work?” and then, “Do you think you could do it?” Only after such confirming questions are positively answered might the encouraging suggestion come: “Let’s try again. And, now let’s put your foot on the ground when you stop your bike.”

In more complex environments with even more complex lessons or skills to be learned, the optimum mentor facilitates further learning and choice of next action by aiding the student to “see” the lesson and the possibilities in multiple dimensions, with a broadened, more expansive perspective. The sophisticated and practiced mentor offers his questions and lessons in a way that entices the student to not only learn the skill but to love the understanding of subtlety and detail. The objective ofreflection is the recognition and the identification of the causes and effects of what has happened, or can be caused to happen better, or differently. In these processes, the student of the master mentor is aided to also learn the art of sophisticated analysis—thinking and doing so that the skills and sub-skills of each lesson can be repurposed and applied to other tasks and challenges. This learning, reflected thinking and action agility is the underlying essence of the excitement of learning and doing.

About the Author

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems, Inc. The longest actively serving CEO in the computer industry, Nies was recognized by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 as "the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit of American business." In 1992, British Prime Minister Edward Heath honored Nies for Cincom's role in bringing the software industry to England. In 1995, he was profiled by the Smithsonian Institute as one of the "pioneers of the software industry," alongside other industry giants such as Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Larry Ellison (Oracle). In 2004, Ernst & Young inducted Nies into its Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame. In 2005, along with the CEO of Adobe, Nies won the International Stevie Award for Best Executive in the International Business Awards—"the business world's own Oscars," according to the New York Post. In 2005, Nies also received the University of Cincinnati Lifetime Achievement award and in 2006, was named as one of the Top Ten IT Visionaries by START-IT magazine. In 2008, Tom and Cincom were featured in a Harvard Business School Study. Email Tom Nies:

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