Mentoring – The Good, Bad & Ugly

A reminder why mentoring should be more purposeful

Scary, refreshing, challenging and liberating. These are just a few terms that can be attributed to mentoring. It is not for the faint of heart.

Mentoring - The Good, Bad & Ugly

I thought crossing a road in Nairobi was dangerous. Most drivers consider traffic lights to be a suggestion. That was until I encountered the Romans! After a long day at a workshop, I was ready to hit the streets and discover Rome. At a pedestrian crossing, I started to cross the road when the pedestrian light went green.

However, my sixth sense screamed at me to stop. I heeded. A split second later, I heard a whining rumble. Vroom! A mean-looking Ducati motorbike whooshed past me. This was a different part of Europe! A week later, I felt like a bad case of whiplash had afflicted me. My neck hurt from the rapid side-to-side confirmation that every crossing was clear.

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Why Bends Straighten Us

3 thoughts from my bicycle diaries

The air whistles past my ears as my heart pounds in my chest. My lungs gasp for oxygen. The muscles burn as lactic acid builds up.

Why Bends Straighten Us

One of my major life goals is keeping my body fit and healthy. Over the years, I have tried running, aerobics and basketball with limited results. It was frustrating. But then I  discovered the joy of open-road cycling. It gave me a new freedom.

No inhibition will come between my goal and I. My bike ride gives me time to do more than exercise. It is an opportunity to think free of any electronic distractions. I am off social media or my work. The most treasured of them all is the reflection and meditation.

But it was not all natural to me. My scariest moments have not been the steep climbs. It is in the hazardous bends and turns along the roads. I have to contend with loose gravel and a few nasty drivers who try to run me off the road.

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What Will You Do Different This Year?

Do you desperately want to change your game in 2015 but feel stuck? I will soon be releasing ‘The Game-Changers Manifesto’ just for you. It will be the stepping stone to a game-changing leadership course coming to you in 2015. Watch this space…

Setting goals, I have gathered from many people, is a scary venture. It is uncomfortable. Properly structured goals by design, should get you out of your comfort zone. But I guess the most challenging part of goal-setting is how to deal with accountability.

What Will You Do Different This Year?

There are two levels of accountability. The first is to self. You are shackled down by the fear to let yourself down if you are unable to achieve your goals. The second level is exposing your goals to the world. In a sense, it revolves around becoming vulnerable. To be asked questions when you cannot resolve a conflict of your goals verses your expected results.

This thought was provoked by something Seth Godin mentioned on his blog. “The first challenge is freedom: Not just the freedom to plan your day and your projects, but the freedom to try new things, to go out all the way out to the edge, to launch things that might not work.”

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Leaders EAT Flatbread

medium_18497964What can we learn from a ‘flattish’ loaf of bread? A few weeks back, our 8-year old daughter evicted all of us from the kitchen. She was on a mission to wow us with a magnificent display of her culinary skills. Execute Mission Bread… 3, 2, 1… Blast away!

Well, we did not know what she was up to until she emerged from the kitchen covered in flour. It was only then that I got a glimpse of her handiwork. Like the true leader she is, delegation is one of her strengths. My services were urgently required to fire up the gas oven.

Laid in baking tray were two rolls of wet dough. Into the oven they went. That’s when I asked her what she had used as the raising agent. “Yeast!” she proudly pronounced. That was the same stuff my wife had agonized about. Apparently, my wife thought the yeast was not active and shelved any idea of baking bread.

This young girl took me back to Leadership 101. Just EAT it, don’t over-process stuff. Kill the excuses, attempt what I can, and, tear into leadership roadblocks [TweetMe].

EXCUSES not allowed.  The yeast may have gone bad, but that was no excuse for not testing it out. It’s not like we were baking bread for one hundred people. It was just two loaves! Leaders don’t give excuses; I just need to get it done with whatever resources I have available to me [TweetMe].

ATTEMPT. Launching out is the best way I get to grow as a leader [TweetMe]. I need to pursue and look for opportunities to grow my skills. Many times I second-guess myself on ability or preparedness to lead, even before I make any attempt to.

TEAR down barriers and share whatever you have with love [TweetMe]. Seth Godin says that it’s “Better to pick just one thing you can be proud of, rather than offering just about everything in an attempt to please just about everyone (and thus no one).”

So, what are you planning to EAT?

P.S. You may have noticed that there is a change with my blog. To serve you better, I have moved the service to a self-hosted blog. Subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Just enter your email address at the top right.

Thank you for your support.

[photo credit: MrTopf via photopin cc]

Leadership is a sacred trust



[Excerpt from my new book soon in a bookstore near you…“Down But Not Out: Becoming a Significant Leader at Home.”]

The first seven years of my life were filled with enjoyment and unlimited possibilities. The future looked amazing. I could not wait to ‘grow’ up to scale the heights of Mt. Kenya and enjoy snow on top of it just five miles from my maternal grandparents’ house. To the south of home, there were wildebeests to race with as they performed their well-orchestrated annual migration in the Maasai Mara.

Life with my dad around was awesome. “When I grow up, I want to be like daddy,” I would blurt out without hesitation on being asked what I would like to become. And for dramatic effect, I would thrust out my rib-decked chest in a display of pride. I was that skinny!

My father was my pillar of refuge, the conqueror of anything that crossed his path. Life, I thought, was full of reckless abandon and a future as endless as far as the eye could see. Life was good. That was the powerhouse my father was to me.

Violent interruption. However, a long nightmare was brewing. Unbeknownst to me, my father was about to be violently torn away from me. He was transferred to a different workstation and had to move away to another town. This would take him away from his family. Sometimes, he would be away for up to eleven months every year. It was a bad dream that was to last for over two decades. For this long, I did anything to escape from a past dotted with dark times; times of struggle, pain, poverty, and need. I would pay anything, everything, to forget and totally obliterate this history.

For years, they would keep a family torn apart. Pain ran deep while dreams were shattered and lives devastated forever. A painful existence this became. No child should be allowed to block off a part of his or her life in a bid to find peace within. I was bitter with my father that he chose not to be more present at home for his family.

The depth of this bitterness became evident one day as I was reading the newspaper. For some weird reason, I paused on the obituary pages and wondered what my reaction would be if my fathers photo happened to be there. “I would not shed a tear,” I thought to myself without batting an eyelid. Then, a bolt of lightning jolted my heart while icy blood cut through my veins. This hit home so hard that I wanted to vomit violently!

If you can’t forgive, forget effective leadership. Nearly thirty years later, I chose to forgive my father. It had been a long arduous journey, but one I had to take if I was to live my life to its fullest. I realized that if I was to become a leader to my own family and beyond, I did not have any option but to forgive. But could I?

“The people you lead need to see that you’re not simply reacting to what’s happening around you, but that you’re making sure you’re ready to provide them with whatever support and opportunities they’ll need to succeed. This is why leadership today is less about what you know and more about the relationships you have with those you serve as [they] need to see that you have their backs as much as you expect them to have yours. It’s also why leadership is becoming harder to do well because it requires that we do more than simply maintaining the status quo, but that we seek out avenues and opportunities to improve things; to make things better both for those we lead and for those we impact through our actions,” notes Tanveer Naseer.

Then it happened. On the Christmas morning 2012, I called my father for the first time in years. I have no recollection of the last time I spent Christmas with my father. This time, I called just to wish him a Merry Christmas. And it felt good. My heart was not beating on overdrive. My breathing was normal. The chock-hold I had previously felt on my throat was gone! We had a very cordial conversation. For the first time in their lives, my children spoke to their grandfather. For the first time in his life, my father heard the voices of his two oldest grandchildren and that of his fourth grandchild. For the first time, he could wish his grandchildren a Merry Christmas. This is seven years after the birth of his first grandchild, my daughter.

At 12:11 am on the dawn of 1st January 2013, my cellphone rang. It was my dad on my first call of the year. He just wanted to wish me well in the year ahead.

True leadership brings restoration. Thirty years later, nearly to the dot, the healing began. For the first time in my life, I felt like could stop running and start living again. It was like blood supply was restored to some dead tissue in my body.

 “There is no need for wars or violence, under any circumstances. There are no problems that cannot be solved around a table, provided there is good will and reciprocal trust or even reciprocal fear.” Promo Levi, Auschwitz survivor, ‘The Drowned and the Saved’, 1986,

If leaders were ready to forgive others of any hurt or harm that had been directed at them, then restoration is an inevitable outcome. I can already feel the restoration building up from deep within me. Are you ready to forgive to surge forward? It is time for you to lead from within.

[photo credit: Brett Jordan via photopin cc]

What’s your name?

Roots run deep

Never forget, roots run deep.

[Excerpt from my new book soon in a bookstore near you…“Home Bound: Lead at Home in 6 Intentional Steps”]

I recently came across a very interesting but sad description of a family’s lineage. Dr. Kevin Leman* describes his as ‘A Well-Watered Ancestry’. This is not to be confused with the charming, progressive, and healthy type of ancestry. “I come from a long line of drinkers,” says Dr. Leman. “Virtually all Lemans enjoyed slugging down a few cold ones. Okay, not a few. Many.” Not many people I know desire to provide such an ancestry or build a similar foundation for their family.

When we first discovered that we were going to become parents, the joy I felt is indescribable. My heart nearly burst with pride. I was going to be a father! However, questions ravaged my poor mind like a bad storm and tore at my innards like the worst tornado ever. Would I be a good father? How would I take care of the growing family? What if I lost my job, then what? Will the baby ‘steal’ my time with my wife? Would my employer insist on sending me out on mission for extended periods? And many more!

My mind was desperately trying to answer, “What is your name?” It was a desperate attempt to begin molding the definition of my family and the identity that would be its anchor.

To appreciate where we were coming from, we will have to go back to the beginning. Like Dr. Leman, I too had a ‘well-watered’ ancestry, especially on my father’s side. My grandfather loved the tipple, I have no recollection of a single night he came home sober during those days we would be visiting him and my grandmother. My uncle and two aunties also partied hard. Alcohol was a feature in any of our family events, it is a miracle that some of us did not end up thoroughly imbibed at a very tender age!

With this background, I had to break traditions that were not healthy for my life and that of my new family too. It was time to reclaim the dignity of the name. This identity would go against common-speak and stand out for its resilience, integrity, and above all, a spirit of servant-leadership.

Naming our children was not going to be routine, it was not a labeling process. It was a re-birth of my wife and I. We were going to bestow a legacy upon our children. From birth they were going to walk in the promise, a promise that they were made for greatness. Please note that, in greatness, I do not necessarily mean they will become celebrities or some beings with an elevated status. I would not mind if they did, but this was not the primary focus.

Their names were just the first step to a future where they would become people that matter. They would become pillars of hope in a world of pain, deceit, poverty, and mediocrity.

How are you taking charge of leadership in your home? What deliberate steps are you making to become that intentional leader your family deserves?

* Dr. Kevin Leman, What a Difference a Daddy Makes: The indelible Imprint a Dad Leaves on His Daughter’s Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 72.
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Leaders Teach & Inspire

Lead, teach, inspireThe personal brand arsenal of any credible leader needs to have some key drivers. Of critical importance is the ability to teach and inspire followers and peers. If my vision doesn’t excite my followers, then my mission is just but a lame duck! This is explored in a guest blog “Leading through teaching and inspiration” on BeYB (Believe , Become, Be Your Brand).

So, what drives your personal brand? Will you add teaching and inspiring others to it? I urge you to give it a try…and take a deep dive into the classics. Leaders teach and inspire others to a higher level of meaningful existence.

About BeYB
Peter Sterlacci is the pioneer of personal branding in Japan. Building on his background in intercultural consulting & training and Certified by Reach, the global leader in personal branding, he works with on-the-move careerists in global companies in Japan. In a culture where “fitting in” is the norm, Peter uses a three-step process derived from his own passion for cycling to promote the mindset shift necessary for setting and reaching career goals in today’s economy. Tap into the value you provide to others and authentically build your visibility and credibility within your work teams and target audience.
Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSterlacci

Leadership reloaded – taking stock

“At some point in your life, you will face a situation where you are in a leadership position and dozens – maybe thousands or millions – look to you to lead. When that occurs, you won’t feel ready. But you have to lead anyway,” Oliver Van DeMille in A Thomas Jefferson Education.

Have you encountered a situation that left you feeling incapacitated? Like a deer caught in the headlights? You feel weak, scared, and lost? Many in leadership face this dilemma, especially when no solution or fix is at hand. You are coasting thinking all is well. Then wham! Shortly, you are sailing through the air full of dread of the landing. As the flying is in a vessel designed to be firmly grounded, a car.

If your leadership style ‘hands-off’, you guide your followers on what is required of them. It then becomes incumbent on them to get work done. You are only available if they encounter any challenges that require further guidance. The flipside is the ‘hands-on’ style, the micro-manager. Constantly, you look over your followers’ shoulders fearing they might deviate from your ‘perfect way’.

However, only a few are coming into the situation room.  Plans are not deployed to the letter and output falls behind schedule. They are frustrated and you are livid.

Lesson 1: It is time to shift gears, time to jettison the past. A change is required of your leadership. While some of your followers are happily executing their roles with minimum supervision, others will need very close monitoring. Leaders need to constantly re-calibrate their style to accommodate the prevailing environment.

Lesson 2: A crisis can get the leader in a whole lot of self-doubt. You may feel lonely and even have no one to turn to for help or advise. You will need to find a few people who become your ‘bouncing wall’. These are your accountability partners that help you check on your progress or lack thereof. They provide solid advise and, when needed, loving rebuke. If you are to succeed as a leader, you need to establish your personal ‘Board of Directors’.  Remember, it can be very lonely as a leader, and you need all the credible support you can find.

Lesson 3: Remember that leadership mostly operates like a bolt-action rifle. Bolt-action firearms are very popular for hunting as they are balanced, strong, rugged, reliable and accurate. Likewise, the leadership process is measured, targeted and carefully thought through. “Concentrate your energy, thoughts and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged in,” Andrew Carnegie notes. When hunting, your prey keeps on shifting its position. It is incumbent on you to change your approach to be successful in leading.

Lesson 4: Finally, leadership is a journey, not the destination. Remember to invest in knowledge acquisition. A true leader maintains a ravenous hunger to learn, as this is the only way to ensure sustainable growth. Your followers will notice this and most probably embrace it too.

Deliberate leader

Over a period of twelve weeks, my wife and I were privileged to facilitate a parenting course. It was clear that most participants were eager to learn, inasmuch as some seemed a tad sceptical as to the efficacy of the course. The course is designed for parents to equip them with practical parenting skills, discipline ‘how-to’ as well as enhancing the parent-child relationship.

As the participants embraced the lessons, they reported marked improvement in their children’s discipline and engagement. The parents also realized that they had a lot of adjustments they had to make in their own behaviour for their children to tow the line.

1) Recognize your current status

A critical mark of a leader is accepting that they do not know everything. Leaders know their weaknesses and seek out ways to plug in these deficiencies. In other words, true leaders demonstrate a high level of humility. It is what differentiates them from a run of the mill existence. In learning they become more competent. “A competent person does what he does well, continually preserving and distilling what’s best – and stop doing what he doesn’t do well,” John C. Maxwell.

2) Invest in knowledge

Continuous learning is the fire that burns under the seat of any credible leader. At one point in your life, you have to accept that you need to reach out for help. Joining a 12-week course and sitting through two-hour sessions at 6:30am on any Saturday is not for the faint hearted! Identify the leadership areas that you need to work on, and doggedly pursue the knowledge that will help you improve on them. Remember, admitting that you do not know something does not make you vulnerable. It strengthens you, as you are able to grow from others who have struggled with the same issues and won.

3) Lead by example

Followers will not naturally do what the leader is not practicing.  In fact, human beings, like water, tend to follow the path of least resistance. If they do follow, most probably it is out of fear, not choice. For discipline to ‘stick in the ribs’, practical examples will have a major influence on your followers. If young children must eat their vegetables, your guess is as good as mine what you need to do. You cannot be chewing on a steak and expect them to plough through a pile of green stuff! It cannot be expected that followers will take the desired action unless the leader walks the plank first.

4) Presence marks the spot

Leadership, parenting and apprenticeship have one common feature: quality time needed. Time to demonstrate how a tool works, guide on practical life skills and cultivate/nurture how social interaction works. Masterpieces inspire the apprentice towards refined skill. A leader will not have any impact unless they establish that values can only be imparted over time. According to psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck, “Until you value yourself, you won’t be able to value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” The same applies to leadership. You have to choose to be available.

5) Leadership starts with you

It is all in the mind. When it comes to indiscipline, many are surprised to realize that a major proportion of blame lies with them and not the child. To the child, everything they encounter is new. The child needs to be immersed into a culture of discipline for them to know what indiscipline is and its consequences. For your child to be disciplined, you have to lead by example. Do not expect your son or daughter to clean up after whatever odyssey they have been up to, when you leave a trail of destruction everywhere you go.

When one decides to take on true leadership, problems just become challenges to be surmounted. “Did you live, did you love, and did you matter?” Brendon Burchard, author of ‘Millionaire Messenger’ and ‘The Charge’. Over to you…

One-degree past mediocrity

Many an executive may rank staff management as their foremost challenge in running an organization. Some of their employees do not give any impression of hard enough nor show any initiative. They never seem to make good use of their time in the office. They are mediocre, just lukewarm.

Mediocrity transcends the rank and file of many organizations in both public and private sectors. These workers are characterized by a common trait; just do what is necessary to get by. In return, they expect the best of remuneration complete with commensurate benefits…health plans, retirement plans, and promotion.

In a bid to resolve this, management tries to invest in training programs for their staff. There will be an optimistic foray into team building activities. The ambition is to transform these mediocre workers into super-performers.

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