Archive for July, 2009

We Need to Make Mentoring a Priority in Business and in Racing

July 14, 2009

I recently competed in the Fit to Fight Ovarian Cancer triathlon. I love this race. First, it raises awareness and money for an important cause. It’s also different than most local races. In this race, the women and men race separately. One of the most unique aspects of the race this year was the increased number of first time women triathletes. For me, that was very exciting.

It was exciting to hear newcomers talk about why they decided to do their first triathlon and it was equally exciting for me to be able to share my passion for the sport with them. But most important, it was so rewarding to be able to mentor these women to help ensure they had a good race and hopefully fall in love with the sport that brings me so much joy and continues to enrich my life and fitness.

When I was picking up my race packet, there were three women in line with me who were first time triathletes. They had all kinds of questions. It was great to be able to help them be better prepared for the race by explaining things that aren’t in their race packet. My parting words to each of them were, if you have any questions or need anything on race day, find me in the transition area. I’m happy to help you.

They did find me and so did several other first timers. Word travels fast in the transition area before a race. Some just wanted a little reassurance and encouragement. Others had specific questions. Also, if I noticed something in their transition area that wasn’t set up in the ideal way, I’d offer to fix it for them and explain to them that my mentors taught me this and why it’s faster and easier to set up that way. I also asked if they’d ridden or driven the bike course prior to race day. If they hadn’t, I would share with them the course and where the hills were so they could prepare for it by building up speed on the approach, shifting to easier gears before they got to the hills and not starting the race too fast and finding themselves physically spent less than halfway through bike course.

While on the course, I would shout out to racers if we had cars approaching from behind. Many racers are not expecting car traffic even though race instructions make it clear there may be some. At the end of the race, several racers thanked me for letting them know about the cars and said it was really helpful. I told them they were welcome and that my “bike mom” and mentor taught me that and why it’s so important, whether riding in a group or racing.

Another lesson I wanted to share with racers is one I think is often forgotten but so important…if it weren’t for the race staff and volunteers we wouldn’t be able to race. These race supporters are vital. No matter what race I’m in, when we hit an intersection with police controlling traffic, I shout out to them, “Thank you for being here and keeping us safe.” The smiles, waves and good luck wishes from the officers tell it all. I did that for the first several miles in this race and as the race progressed, I heard other racers behind me, doing it too. My hope is they will continue that habit in future races. Also thanking the volunteers is very important. They don’t have to be there. They do it out of the goodness of their hearts and we all need to show our appreciation. Many of these volunteers get up before the sun on a Sunday morning. Now that’s something special and we need to make sure we tell them so.

As someone who has been fortunate to have so many great mentors in my racing life, I want to pay that forward and inspire others to do the same. My hope is that my help enhanced their race experience and they got bitten by the triathlon bug, like I did, and will pay it forward down the road and mentor athletes at their future races.

While mentoring in racing is vital to its growth and success. It’s equally essential in our business lives. The mentors in my career have played a crucial role in helping me map my course. I think we often get so caught up in our day to day work lives that we forget to share our knowledge and support with those in our own offices and those looking for guidance outside our office walls.

This is especially important right now, where we have so many people of all ages in transition with work. We have people who thought they were on course and knew their career path, now feeling lost, frustrated, and helpless. We need to reach out to these people and offer our assistance and mentor them in any way we can.

Like in the race experience I described, they just may need some words of encouragement or they may need us to help them set up their transition for better success in the race they have ahead of them. Whatever they need, we need to be there to help them navigate their new course, approach the hills and finish the race successfully…even if their finish line is a moving target.

While I truly believe competition makes us all better because it helps us set benchmarks for ourselves, we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture. And that picture is that we’re all in this together. And while we want to do our best in the race, we can still do that while helping others compete to be their best. When we help others compete we help ourselves in ways far beyond financial reward. We improve the lives of others and ultimately improve our own lives and ourselves in the process.

Never forget that you didn’t get to where you are without the help of others. Now it’s time for all of us to pay it forward.