Good Mentor/Bad Mentor

As I try to make my way up the career ladder I have found the support of others essential.  I really do miss having a good mentor to coach me and call me out on any bullshit though.

I have a number of experiences of ‘mentors’  – one was good, one was bad.

Good Mentor

I was fortunate to have a mentor when I did a graduate placement.  I was doing a course in Leadership skills and one of the requirements was to be assigned a mentor who would coach you as you progressed.

Sue had volunteered their time for my development and by a stroke of luck she was very experienced in coaching people as her full time profession was a life coach.

The short four month period I worked with her made the biggest impact on my life.  It changed my perspective how I saw myself and others.  In many ways some of the things I have written about is probably second hand wisdom I received from Sue.

She addressed one of my negative attributes in the the most subtle fashion that I never took it as an insult:

I had been complaining about one of my colleagues.  He was very confident and I lacked humility.  He also happened to be very succesful.

When we were at meetings he seemed to be the centre of attention and the success I had been delivering seemed small in comparison to all the results he bragged about.

I couldn’t hold my annoyance at him anymore and mentioned him during a chat.  She simply said:

“Why does it matter, concentrate on your own results”.

This floored me and stuck with me, it made me realise that I had become a bitter person – I hated people who were more successful than me, confident and liked.  It also made me wonder if I could have been more successful if I had focused on my projects rather than on other people.

From that day I change how I carried myself, I would not feel negative about people but look on the positive side of life.  She was a great mentor and got me on the path of doing better.

Bad mentor

On the first day of a real Project Management job I had an encounter with another new starter.  She was only just above me on the career ladder and for the day I had to endure her talking about herself.  Like my experience with the gentlemen on the graduate placement she lacked humility – the difference was that she had not actually achieved anything yet.

She was good at one thing – talking about herself – whether it was past jobs, her family, her degree.  Randomly she said to me:

“You don’t want to do that job all your life, I am on my way up, surely you want more?”

I was shocked and insulted that she would say such a thing.  She quickly followed up by saying:

“I don’t know what you want in life….”  and I couldn’t help but think – of course you don’t know what I want because you have not made a single effort to listen to me.

“If you want I can be your mentor” she said – I did not feel that warranted a response, she had shown no interest in me and had made me feel pretty shitty on my first day.

I never did accept an offer of mentorship, but I am making the assumption that she would have been poor at the job as I got the impression that she was not developing me – but herself.  She was quiet keen to get into management and I think she wanted something to look good on a CV (Incidentally my reputation has thrived while Bad Mentor quietly left after a number of errors and disagreements with management)

 

How to be a good mentor

  • Listen
  • Make helpful suggestions
  • Boost Confidence
  • Do the role for the benefit of others
  • May not refer to themself as a mentor
  • Experience of guiding others a plus!

How to be a bad mentor:

  • Don’t listen
  • Make harmful suggestions or undermine abilities
  • Put person down
  • Do the role for the benefit of yourself
  • Will refer to themself as a mentor – even if they have never mentored anyone in their life

 

So if you fall into the good mentor criteria welcome aboard, if you want to be a mentor because of your own selfish, narcissist ambitions then please just move on – but I suspect as a sociopath this won’t stop you.

 

Till next time, I’ll stick with being a protégé.

James

 

 

365 Days

When I returned back to work on 31st July 2014 after two weeks off from stress, I swore that I would make it do next year about not taking a single sick day.

I wanted to do this because I’d already had a few sicks days, so with taking two weeks off for stress they were adding up.  Because I was determined to fight through my problems, I did not want my sick leave to look any worse than it already was for when I got my next job.

I also wanted to do it for myself.  I have been so easy to go back bad to bed because of a cold – I wanted to see if I could fight through these and do a days work.

And what happened in the end?… who am I kidding I wouldn’t have posted this if I had failed at it – I made a full year – a full 365 days!

Changing jobs made it easier – I didn’t have a bitch boss and my commutes were shorter.

By some coincidence today I confided my stress secret to a colleague – only because they opened up about a loved one suffering the same problem first.  It was good to get it off my chest with someone who I knew would not judge me.

I guess I can get through anything when I really put my mind in it.

Till next time, I am working on 366 days – James

How not to prepare for a 10k race

Prior to my well organised Spartan double, last month I did the Pudsey 10k.

This was quiet a significant race as:

  • This was the first time that I had done a 10k race since July last year
  • It marked the first time that I have run such a distance since September last year.
  • Not only was I unprepared race fitness wise – I also managed to do everything wrong in my preparations

As a result I achieved a personal worse of 58 minutes.  This is 15 minutes off my personal best – how did I fall so badly?

Strap yourself in, here is  How not to prepare for a 10k…

Weeks of prior Training:

For my pre race training I actually only ran up to 4k.  This was due to various injuries and sickness.  This created a lack of confidence in my ability.

I could have spent more time in the gym on low impact machines such as the cross trainer or the rower to protect my foot.  But my visits were sporadic and when I did go I mostly focused on weights.

Although my strength has always been helpful to power me through races – dedicating time to cardio workout would have made the distance much easier.

 

 

1 Week Prior to the race:

Want to know what I did in the week leading up to the race?

beach barcrawl

Not much because I was in Albufeira, Portugal.  My training consisted of sitting rounding the pool, walks on the beach, eating crap all inclusive food and drinking every evening.  Although my fitness was not the best, doing a race a day after I came from holiday was not the best idea!

A sensible person would have decided to leave the race for another time, but I am not a sensible person.

The lifestyle had taken its toll and during the middle of the holiday I had a spell of sickness and the shits.

There was some serious patching up work to be done to make sure I could finish the race.  So I drank a lot of water as soon as I got off the plane.

Man drinking water from huge water bottle

Man drinking water from huge water bottle

Night Before Preparation

I arrived home at midnight.  I have continued to drink a lot of water and knock back another pint before bed.

My adrenaline is still going from the holiday – I don’t settle till 2.  An hour later I have to get up to pee out all the water.

It takes time to settle and when I do I have dreams full of the rae ending in disaster.

I wake up tired and feeling mentally unprepared – I feel I am going to fail.

Setting off

I have two more pints of water, a green tea, porridge and an apple – probably the healthiest I have eaten all week.

I have never driven to Pudsey before, so I rely on the Sat Nav.  I start up the car and put in the race details I quickly printed off.  To make matter worse I am slightly late as I got caught up making a call to my mobile phone company about a discrepancy on my bill.  Right now I just want to pack everything up and go back inside.  But I don’t quit.

I am not even 100 metres down the road when my car pings to me that it needs petrol – I vaguely remember that I noticed it was low before I went on holiday but decided to worry about that when I got back.

Due to lack of time I decide to risk going straight to the race venue and then fill up afterwards.

At the race

I under estimate the popularity of the race.  The car park I set my Sat Nav to is full.  So I drive round looking for an alternative.  I find a pay and display, open my wallet and realise I only have holiday currency.  I don’t want to keep driving round using up my petrol so I park down a random side street.

I am a mile from registration.  I jog gently, quickly I am out of breath.  All I am carrying now is my car keys, a small bottle of water and an energy gel.

I am not even dressed appropriately – I am wearing a vest and have on some baggy holiday shorts.

I register and am told that the start of the race is by the memorial statue in the town centre.  I have no idea where it is, so decide to follow some other runners.  It turned out they didn’t know where they were going either.

We stumble about and eventually find it.  The race starts in 5 minutes so I swallow the energy gel and wash it down with water.  It is only after doing this I realise the gel is 6 months out of date!

The race

The race was hard – this was partly due to my lack of preparation and the number of hills.  This made it the longest 10k I had ever done, the 5k mark felt like it should have been nearer the end, but I realised this was because I was running slower than last year.

But I didn’t die – my finishing time was disappointing, but it felt like a miracle I even managed to finish.  I  saw the positive – I had hit rock bottom, so the only way was up.

Post Race – because it isn’t over yet!

I left the finishing area tired and cold.  I headed back to my car and realised how similar all the roads looked.

I walked about a mile down one road before realising that none of the key landmarks looked familiar – so I figured it must be another road.

I came to a dead end, so I started to panic – I had forgotten where I parked my car!  Just like the guy who lost his car at the Manchester Half Marathon – I had done the same!

I decided to retrace my steps and went down another road – I walked past one of the race marshals who looked familiar, he smiled – I couldn’t decide if I had seen him when I parked up or when I ran round the course.  I continued to walk down the road.

I soon realised it was not right because I could see the flats on the boarders of Leeds City Centre.

My plan was to talk to the friendly marshal and explain my problem.  But I had spent so much time looking for my car, that everyone had packed up and gone home!  I had no phone, no money, no jumper or even my house keys – I had to find my car!

I was really panicking now.  I decided to put on my race finisher shirt to help keep warm as I continued to look around.

I followed the final stretch towards the finish line and I caught sight of my car – I was so relived that I kissed it.  I started the engine and the hum of the engine sounded light.  I thought that the next tragedy would be my car running out of petrol, but fortunately that was not the case.

I estimate that I must have ran/jogged/walked another 6km.  I didn’t feel too bad either  – I realised I was much fitter than I thought.

So learn from my mistakes and prepare properly for your race!

Till next time – James

Everyone could potentially be a leader

I was reading a book on leadership, when someone remarked “Aspiring to be a manager are we…”

There still seems to be a wide confusion between being a leader and being in charge.

So to put it clearer – you may call yourself a manager or the boss – but that doesn’t mean you are a leader.

One of the best examples of a natural born leader was in one of my admin jobs.  She was an administrator and had never been a manager.  She certainly hadn’t done any management courses.

Even though I had been there one week it was clear who was leading the department.

She hadn’t been there the longest.

She didn’t know the most.

Yet she was always the first one to turn to for advice.

Everyone looked up to her and whenever there was a problem she would take charge and set the direction of how to get out of the mess.

She certainly wasn’t the manager – she had taken to hiding from all the problems in a private office and never coming out.

Whenever we were in the deepest world of shit, while others panicked and had melt downs, she always seemed logical and calm.

You could confide in her for advice or any issues.  She was happy to teach, coach and develop others and never saw the improvement as others as a threat to her own career.  She viewed the improvement of others as a way of everyone being better off.

That was the true leader in the office and everyone knew it.

So remember – although we can’t all be a manager, everyone can potentially be a leader

Until next time

“Aspiring Leader not boss” James

The First (and only) ‘Best Planner Signer’… 1997

It was the final year with Mrs Sutton as the teacher for form 9S.

We had been with her since 5S (so four years).  And as each year went by we gradually molded into one of the better class groups in the school.

Next we would be in Year 10 and so we would be getting a teacher that specialised in the ‘older’ children.

What started as the ‘most ignorant class’ she had ever had the misfortune of teaching, proved to be a sad day.

As an adult now – I really hate the education system, in reflection I felt like it  did nothing to helping the aspirations of the next generation, in many ways it felt like a state required baby sitting service.

But credit to Mrs Sutton she took a very nervous, neurotic, shy child and turned him into a not so nervous, but still shy child.  It doesn’t seem much but it was enough to get me through to the next level and for that I am eternally grateful.

However one error on her part was from the last form class.  She gave each child some unique ‘novelty’ award certificate.

They ranged from esteem boosting ‘Most likely to be a professional sports person’ which went to the sporty kid.

To joke awards such as ‘Romance of the year’ for a relatively nice, normal girl who had got into a relationship with the school bad-boy, arsehole (Authors note: it should really have clicked then that girls/young women don’t like nice boys).

It was fun listening to all the awards and as she worked her way down to my surname I had been daydreaming what certificate I would get.

“Best planner signer…” she announced and as I walked up to the front of the class to some very unenthusiastic applause I couldn’t help but think “Is that the only thing you could think about me?”

PD3 SPREAD 11-12

Planner signing BTW was a system used by my school, where a signature was required from a parent every week to see record  of any homework, detention and other things

I went home and my mum saw my certificate – because my award was so average and boring, the fun nature of the awards ceremony had been lost on her and she told me to keep it safe as it would look good on my CV if I applied to go to college.

I could not get over how uninteresting my award was.  Was I really that dull?

I was pretty average at school – average grades, average sportsman, average looks, average popularity, average behaviour.  But there had to be something more interesting to say about me?

As an adult if I got a similiar sort of award I would probably do something to be more interesting, but as I was a kid I didn’t learn anything from the experience and went home and played video games.

It was only about six years later when I was stuck in an average dead end job that I realised the importance of having extra curricular interests and the importance of self-improvement.

I also think that little incidents like this have built up in me, making me competitive, wanting to strive for the best, or even worse… for perfection.

Now I am grown up, I still find things like this bother me.  And that is why I will never be average again.

Until next time

James

Fighting the Forces of Negativity

This week has been my most testing time in my new job.

I have been optimistic and upbeat since starting, but this is the first week where I seem to have been fighting the forces of negativity from all sides.

With people leaving, going on holiday or being off sick, things look light on the ground. Continue reading

When you least expect it

When I was younger and I had insecurities and self-doubt about meeting someone, my mum would always say

“You only find love when you stop looking for it”

Despite my young naive age – I thought that was bullshit.  To find someone required some effort.

As I spent time growing up and I experience rejection and loneliness my mum continued to repeat the same thing.  I got little comfort in the words.

“But I want to love someone, why can’t they love me…” was the typical thought that crossed my mind.

Then sometime after years of dealing with flakes, drama queens, ‘bi-polar’ princesses and shit testers I had had enough.  I wasn’t going to endure this anymore, not when there were so many other greats things I could be doing.

So the rest of my life took hold and eventually I began visioning myself spending the rest of it alone.

I prepared for a bachelor lifestyle thinking about the flat I was going to live in, to the mini gym I was going to build in the spare room.

And then it happened…

Turns out mum was right.  It does happen when you stop looking

I met Vicky through Tinder and although many of would argue that I was looking, I went in with zero expectation – I had done the whole online dating thing before through OKCupid and Match.  And if any other men have used these sites, they will understand about the frustrating process of trying to impress a number of low quality people.

Call me cynical, but I thought that many of the women on there used the site for validation to feel good about themselves.

With Tinder I expected the same – but we me up for drinks exactly a year ago and still going strong.

The Future…

My plans have changed slightly, the bachelor pad is turning into a search for a potential family home.  But many of my other goals I still want to achieve, its just this time I have a woman who tells me every night “You can do it”

And although the gym in the spare room is not likely to happen, I begin working towards the first steps in making a garage gym.

 

My Hell – 1 year on

It was almost a year ago when I was heading up for a crash and my life took a turn for the worse and I thought there was no escape.

I even wrote a post about it called My Hell.

I was truely in a sorry state – I was in no fit condition to work, so the only thing to turn to was keeping fit and the prospect of a new relationship.

One year on I can’t even begin to explain how happy I am, my life has gradually changed in so many ways.

This was thanks to the love and support of my true friends who stuck by me when I fell down and also my own determination to say that I was not going to live like that anymore.

I was going to make real improvements in my life and attempt to utilise each day.

Now I am in a good place –  I have a steady, stable relationship that I never thought I would have, a good job, great friends who will be there till the end and a car that has made me independent more than I ever realised.

I have learnt to love myself, be grateful for the positives in my life and make the most of life – even when it gets tough I am seeing the benefit.

There will always be someone or something that brings you down, the question is are you going to take it or will you fight back?

Wishing you all the best

Till next time

James

Connecting with others: Ask them what they know

For the past month I have been collecting survey data in relation to how successful portfolio, project and programme management has been implemented into the organisation (but don’t worry I am not talking about that).

Last week the survey closed and to my surprise after doing all the donkey work of collecting the data I thought it would be passed onto the analytic team to try and establish what the survey data ‘says’.

To my surprise, the manager (and I mean the main manager) asked me to do it.  I was up for it – this was a chance to impress and I wanted to do a good job.

I have analysed data before as part of my time at University, but I was feeling a bit rusty and I wanted to do the best job possible.

So on a late into the evening I begun working and as I struggled to make sense of the data I had an idea.

There is a guy in our office who is intelligent on a completely different level.  Just listening to him astounds you and he does a job that is beneath his skills.  It is his obvious lack of motivation that stops him being in a higher position.

I knew he used to work in analytics so he was the guy I had to speak to.

As I approached I noticed he had the office communicator on and his e-mail open with a conversation that was obviously not work related.  He greeted me in a friendly manner and as I asked for his help, he said sure and sat down.

I explained my task and instantly I saw something different in him – his eyes lit up and he started going over my rather uninspiring looking graphs.  Next he pulled a pen out and started circling sections – he began explaining his workings and talking about various things

“Do you know what a bell curve is?” he said in a manner that did not patronise and made me feel like I was intellectually on his level.

“I vaguely remember, but could you just be clear for me?”

Patiently he continued to explain his logic and answer any questions I had.  I explained what I had been doing and he complemented me when I did things correctly and pointed me in the right direction if I had not.

Just as I went back to my desk to act on his advice he said

“When you’re done, come back and we’ll go over it”

Thanks I said, suddenly feeling a lot more confident and optimistic about the task.

The Lesson

From this experience I realised the importance of making people feel needed.  We all like to share what we know and I even gave him a break from his regular daily tasks.

Because we sit at other ends of the office we don’t always get time to chat, so it was good to establish a connection through some work I was doing.

Next time I need help with something I will think – who is passionate about subject?

 

Until next time

James

The Spartan Manchester Double

As part of my race calendar I set myself the challenge of running the Spartan Trifecta this year.

spartan

This means that I am required to run:

  • The Spartan Sprint (Approx 6km)
  • The Spartan Super (Approx 12km)
  • The Spartan Beast (Approx 20km)

The Sprint and Super Races

The first of my two races (Sprint and Super) were scheduled for Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th July in Manchester.

For reasons unknown – Sunday was cancelled and merged with Saturday.  Now a Sprint would take place in the morning and a Super in the afternoon!

This was a daunting challenge – I had planned to book a hotel in Manchester and use the time to rest, refuel and recuperate.  With the changes – depending how quickly I ran the Sprint, meant that I had about three hours rest.

This was not good for me.  The most I have ever run is 14km and because of recent foot problems I had not done much running.  I was hoping to get through these on my gym fitness and determination.

I could have changed the sprint to a race in Scotland or Wales, but this was just inconvenient.

Preparation

In order to ensure that I had the best success on the day, I made sure that I was well prepared – ensuring that I was well hyrdated, well fed, had clean kit for two races and ensured that I had all the other annoying essentials (such as race waivers to money for parking).

Prepare for a race – read ‘What should I bring to an obstacle race?’

nutrition

 

Nutrition – Water, Energy Drinks, Energy Gels, Soluable Energy Tablets, Snacks, Apples, Pasta meal (not shown)

prep

Preparation – x2 kit, post race clothes, blanket, towels, jumper, packed bag (with race waver, wallet, phone, house keys, sun cream, medication, book)

On the opposite side of being organised, my friend Will forgot his running shoes and had to make do wearing size 10 trail shoes for size 12 feet!

The Sprint (Race 1)

This went well, I wasn’t breaking any personal bests because I wanted to pace myself and I still lacked confidence that if I went too hard my foot would cause problems.  My friend Tom who had been training ridiculously hard to reduce his time – shot off.  I wouldn’t see him until the finish line.

I stuck with Will at the start, he had probably trained about as much as myself.  But his height gave him an advantage of a longer stride and I soon had to let him run off on his own.

Later on I caught Will up, who was walking at the sandbag carry.  I ran with him until he fell off the balance beams into a 30 burpee penalty.  So I decided to continue on ahead.

I got to the end and reached the spear throw – it hit the target but it didn’t stick in so I was stuck with a 30 burpee penalty.  I crossed the finish line tired, but injury free.  I knew I could do the other race.

The Super (Race 2)

This was not so easy.  Having the three hour rest made things a lot harder – I think as the adrenaline had stopped pumping I started feeling aches and pains.

Tom joined me for the double.  He wasn’t quite as interested in getting a good time, so he went slower.  But I was still too slow, so he shot off and I didn’t see him until the end.

A lot of the course was a repetition of the Sprint, but seemed much more difficult and took more time.

I messed up the monkey bars on the way round, which made it 3 times I have failed this obstacle at Spartan and I was stuck with the 30 burpee penalty which nearly finished me off.

I continued to plod along all woozy.  The race was in a public park and now there were lots of visitors walking in front of my path, oblivious the difficult I was having to run in a straight line.

I got to the rope climb, which I had stormed at the Sprint race, but it was much harder this time and I screamed as I made the final ascent to the top.  I had put so much energy into climbing up that I did not have the strength to climb down – so I slid down the rope cause nasty rope burns all over my hands and thighs.

I struggled over a few walls and ran the final part of the course where I reached the spear throw for the second time.  I could not hold the spear straight this time and it took me a minute to get a steady aim.  I threw it and missed it again.

spear

Was never going to be a great picture

I really did not need the 30 burpee penalty, but I made sure to do every single last one.  If I was going to earn the Trifecta medal this year I was going to earn it fairly.

 

I saw the flames in the distance – Tom was shouting at me to sprint, which I did.  Normally I would do this in a convincing fashion.  This time my legs cramped up and I had to amble across the finish line.

But I did it!  I did two races in a day!

It wasn’t easy and it was far from my best performance.  But I now am two thirds of the way to the Spartan Trifecta medal.

The next race is the Beast, which is the longest distance.

As these races has restored confidence in the capability of my foot, the next step is to get back out running along with my gym work.  I don’t intend to go for a fast time at the Beast, but being able to run the race without stumbling across the finish line would be nice.

spartan_me

 

Until next time… aroo!

James