“Always help people increase their own self-esteem. Develop your skill in making other people feel important. There is hardly a higher compliment you can pay an individual than helping him be useful and to find satisfaction from his usefulness.”
“I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.”
“If you want to succeed as a mentor, first seek to understand yourself and others.”
The toughest hater to deal with is the one above you.
I stepped off of the number three spot on the championship podium and watched the wrestlers from the weight class above me step onto it. My protégé climbed onto the number one spot. Our coach put a first-place medal around his neck. I was pissed. In high school, I developed a habit of making other people on the wrestling team as good or better than me. Each year, I picked one or two other wrestlers to train with daily. I would push these guys hard, working to improve their technique, strength, and stamina. It was my job as team captain. But towards the middle of the season, they would start to push back. Sometimes, they would start to push harder than me. When this happened, my first reaction was to tone them down. I would convince myself that they weren’t ready to be successful and it was my job to steady their development. If their success continued, I would get a strong urge to hold them back or delete myself as their mentor so they couldn’t “steal” any more of my skills. I had to actively fight against this mindset. The truth is, I was afraid of becoming obsolete. I was afraid of other people outshining me.
One of my Graduate school mentors called me into his office. “I’ve decided to make you a co-first author on the Journal of Experimental Medicine paper. You’ve contributed more than anyone else and deserve it.” Shocked, I thanked him profusely and went back to the lab and continued to bust my ass. It was only my third year and getting my name on a JEM paper as a first author, shared or otherwise, was huge for me. Fast-forward two years. I walked into a conference room where my mentor and the head of my department were sitting. “Take a seat, Isaiah,” the department head said. “From what I’ve heard, it doesn’t seem fair to count the JEM paper towards your graduation.” I looked at my mentor. “Sorry but it’s true, you contributed only a moderate amount to this paper.” What changed?
To Hate, Or Not To Hate
Haters act to negatively influence motivation because they are insecure. They are afraid of losing their significance. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the realm of mentorship. In Mentoring 101, John Maxwell tells the story of Hitler hiring a chauffeur. Hitler interviewed over thirty different candidates and selected the shortest man in the group. He kept this man as his personal driver for the rest of his life, never promoting or firing him, even though the man required special blocks under the driver’s seat just to see over the steering wheel. Hitler was so incredibly insecure that he needed to use other people, including his chauffeur, to make himself seem bigger and better. The same is true for bad mentors. They keep people under their thumb in an attempt to exert their significance. These people are so desperately afraid of becoming irrelevant that they will go to extreme lengths to hold other people back in life. Their goal is to keep you dependent and prevent you from developing as a leader.
Counteract the hater mindset with an abundance mentality. Understand: success is a limitless ocean, not a leaky faucet. Throughout high school and college, I learned to overcome my fear response to insignificance by seeing everything as an opportunity. If someone is better than me at something, I find a way to learn from him, or I find a way to work with him. Or, I compete directly with him and enjoy the fact that we are sharpening each other’s skills and making each other better. If I’m responsible for another person improving beyond me, I take pride in it and allow myself to become his student. This perspective is not always easy. The key is to practice having an abundance mentality until it becomes a habit. Eventually, you will start seeing everything as an opportunity, rather than as a threat. And you will be able to pass down this mentality through proper mentorship.
Mentorship is the process of making yourself obsolete. When the mentor-protégé relationship first develops, the protégé is like a wide-eyed child, soaking up all of the knowledge and skills the mentor has to offer. The mentor enjoys this because the eagerness and obedience of his student makes him feel important, and because the work of the student makes the mentor’s life easier. Over time, the protégé increases his knowledge base and skillset, elevating himself closer and closer to his mentor. Ultimately, the protégé may reach or even surpass his mentor in a particular field of study. The student will develop leadership skills and begin to establish his own leadership influence. At this moment, the mentor has a choice to make: to hate or not to hate. A true mentor will find great joy in his protégé’s progress and success. This mentor guides his student to success but does not take credit for it. He will send his protégé on his way, letting him fly with the wings he helped fashion. A hater will do the opposite.
How To Keep People Dependent
There is great power in keeping other people dependent on you. As a hater, you must constantly be on guard against rising stars. The best way to do this is to keep those within your circle of authority dependent on you. Be a bottleneck. Regulate everything. Establish processes and protocol’s that make all information go directly through you. Seek to control as much of your subordinates’ knowledge as possible. The key is to let others only borrow your skills. Give them the fish, but do not teach them how to fish. Understand: autonomy is the enemy. Never transfer your abilities to anyone. Your goal is to increase your own leadership influence without helping anyone else develop as a leader.
Inspire proficiency in others, not mastery. In order to maintain your authority, you must tightly control the morale of your workers. Promote only moderate levels of motivation and self-confidence. When someone starts to increase happiness or generate confidence beyond these levels, beat her down with busy work and negative reviews. Walk the line between inspiring others to work for you and making them feel helpless without you. When you want something done, shower your worker bees with praise and encouragement. However, once the task is complete, take credit for it and undermine everyone else’s contribution. Remind people of your significance. You are the boss. You are in control. It is your way, or the highway. The last thing you want is someone to start thinking on your own. Punish initiative. Also, keep your subordinates anxious and on their toes. Be soft when they need you to be a hard ass, be obtuse when they need understanding, and be busy when they need attention.
Create Followers, Not Leaders
Never pass the baton. Do not let others develop leadership skills. Keep them from learning how to develop others. There may come a time, despite your best efforts, that one of your protégés begins to surpass you in a certain field. You must be ruthless in these situations; otherwise, you face irrelevancy. First, claim credit for everything that your protégé has accomplished. Second, undercut your protégé’s impact. Destabilized her contribution. Sever her involvement. Use what’s left of your superior rank to bring attention to all of her faults, professional and otherwise. Most importantly, challenge her credibility. The key is to weaken her position behind her back. Turn her into a villain in as many ways as possible before others have a chance to deal with her directly and make up their own minds. If you have developed a friendship with her, harden your heart through fear and anger. After all, there is nothing more terrifying than insignificance. And it is your protégé’s own arrogance that is forcing you to last out. How could she possibly think she could stand on her own? Who does she think she is? She is nothing without you. You are responsible for all of her progress. In my next post, I will show you how to be a victim, sit in the pits, and keep other people from enjoying life.