Mentors Mean Well, But What if They’re Giving You Bad Advice?

Mentoring designed by Irene Hoffman from The Noun Project

Mentoring designed by Irene Hoffman from The Noun Project

It’s the ultimate life-dream: To be taken under the wing of a benevolent, all-knowing, paternal mentor, who will surface your strengths and open the doors for you into success. While mentors are a real thing, the rest of life doesn’t always work that way. Mentors have their own lives to tend outside of their protégés; their own separate goals, motivations, and perspectives. In a new piece up by Robert Sutton at the Harvard Business Review, even Sheryl Sandberg warned against taking mentor’s advice without a strong dose of salt.

Here’s a few of the points Sutton says you need to keep in mind:

Are you straying from the path that your mentor has taken?  Piles of research on “social similarity” or “similarity-attraction” effects suggest that most mentors will have a positive reaction to paths you take that are reminiscent of their own and a negative reaction to paths that clash with their past choices.    So if your mentor spent a year working in, say, China as part of his or her career and you are about to turn down a similar opportunity, don’t be surprised if he or she sees it as a mistake. . . 

Do your peers — and those you lead or mentor — know more about you than your mentor does?   There is a structural problem with many mentor-mentee relationships that I have implied in past writings: A large body of research shows that, in pecking orders of any kind, the people (and in, fact, animals) who have less power attended more closely to and understand those with more power than the other way around (see here and here).  This so called “asymmetry of attention” means that you probably know a lot more about your mentor (who is likely more powerful than you) than your mentor knows about you.   Consider some implications. You may be overestimating how well your mentor knows and understands you as a result (and thus putting too much faith in his or her advice).   Such asymmetry also suggests that your peers, our better yet, the people who you lead and mentor, may give you the best advice.

Read the rest of the tips here.

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Matthew Weiner: Finding Success from Failed Projects

MattWeiner

Matthew Weiner, writer for Mad Men and The Sopranos, speaks about the confidence gained by the simple act of creating something independently, even if it’s something no one else will ever see.

Anyway, once I got out of film school I said, they will not let me fly the plane. So I’m going to build my own airport. I shot my first movie, What Do You Do All Day?, in twelve days, in 1995. It cost twelve thousand dollars. Anybody can raise twelve thousand dollars—now it would probably be even cheaper, because there was no digital then.

Even though the movie didn’t go anywhere, Weiner says it still changed his life. He went from feeling frustrated and bitter about having no control over his life to feeling a sense of grandeur. So when his friend asked him to sit in at the writer’s table of a new sitcom and pitch jokes, he had no problem:

And I drove onto the Warner Brothers lot and sat down at the table with all these professional writers and had no trouble talking and telling jokes. Not just because I’m an extrovert, but because I’d just made this movie and I knew it was funny.

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Stop Dirty Networking: Make Friends, Not Contacts

Matilda by Danny DeVito

Matilda by Danny DeVito

Research has found that people who engage in “instrumental networking,” where the goal is career advancement, made people actually feel physically dirty. So dirty, in fact, that they thought about showering and brushing their teeth! 

As creative professionals, it’s understood that for the sake of our careers, we must constantly expand our networks of potential partners and clients. But how can we do that without repulsing people? Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, suggests ditching traditional networking altogether:

Those who are best at it don’t network – they make friends.

. . .

Business is a human enterprise, driven and determined by people…When you help someone through a health issue, positively impact someone’s personal wealth, or take a sincere interest in their children, you engender life-bonding loyalty.

Opt for spontaneous networking, where the goal is the simply the pursuit of emotional connections and friendship

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Keep a No List to Show Time Saved

Rejected designed by Yazmin Alanis from the Noun Project

Rejected designed by Yazmin Alanis from the Noun Project

When you say “no” to something, you’re choosing how to spend your time. Over at her blog, Bobulate, NPR creative director Liz Danzico describes what would happen if we focused on keeping a No List, and the surprising benefits of doing so:

When I say no (e.g., conference talk invites, ‘pick my brain’ invitations, jury solicitations), I immediately add my regret to the No List. I nurture this growing list of no-things, adding category data like dates events would have happened, themes, and date turned down.

Too much yes, I quickly found, is unsustainable and unhealthy. What could I make from no? So I started a list. Instances of saying no… Suddenly, I’m making list of cities not seen, airplanes not embarked, and time saved, rather than time taken away. Several months later, I have a made a substantial something. It’s how I’ve marked time.

To keep a No List means simply writing down any time you say “no” to something. By tracking everything you decline, you are not only saving time by focusing your efforts on the most important things, you’re also refocusing your attention onto the things you’re truly passionate about.

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Open Thread: Do You Involve Customers In Your Creative Process?

Collaborative-Learning designed by Duke Innovation Co-Lab for the Noun Project

Collaborative-Learning designed by Duke Innovation Co-Lab for the Noun Project

That’s right. Clients don’t have to just be on the receiving end of our work. Patrick Hanlon at Inc. explores the ways that clients can become collaborators. He writes:

Today, consumers aren’t just your buyers, they can also be your collaborators. They can help you design, build, promote, and sometimes even distribute your products or services.

He pulls an example from the business world about working with customers at the onset:

First, collaborating with customers during the product innovation and design phase helps marketers understand real need states.  P&G, GE, Yum! brands, and others bring consumers into early stages of design and development.

Hanlon stopped short of really answering the question, so let’s discuss it ourselves. How can we collaborate with our clients to enhance our work and processes? How can we use them to gather invaluable feedback to make sure what we’re doing – whether it is building a product, developing a new service or executing new promotional ideas – is actually effective? How can we then turn clients into fierce ambassadors invested in our work, of which they feel ownership in?

Let us know in the comments what your experience is with customers as collaborators.

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When Is Something “Good Enough” to Ship?

Envelope by Ana María Lora Macias from The Noun Project

Envelope by Ana María Lora Macias from The Noun Project

No one really cares that you’re an overachiever. As creative professionals, we’re seldom satisfied with our output because it’s seldom perfect. But more often than not, good enough is perfect. Head of Creative & Design at HubSpot, Keith Frankel, shared a simple guide to recognizing when a deliverable can be considered “good enough.”

  1. It successfully solves the problem, addresses the need, or conveys the message intended.
  2. It is clearly and distinctly on brand.
  3. The quality of work is consistent with or above the level of previous work.
  4. It has been thoroughly yet objectively scrutinized by other qualified individuals.
  5. The final decision of preference had been left in the hands of the creator.

According to Ayelet Gneezy, Associate Professor at the University of California in San Diego’s Rady School of Management, “You really, really want to keep a promise, and anything beyond that is marginal, if anything…Don’t kill yourself trying to over deliver.”

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James Victore’s Tricks and Treats for Getting Motivated

If you’re struggling to feel motivated, using tricks or treats may be all you need to get the momentum going again. Illustrator James Victore swears by the unique approach to getting unstuck:

The first step of getting motivated: identify the type of motivation problem you’re having. Are you not motivated by the work itself (such as it doesn’t excite you) or are you lacking internal motivation (like a lack of energy because you didn’t sleep well last night)?

Once you know the type of motivation problem you’re having, you can motivate yourself with tricks like forcing yourself to work for one hour by using a stop watch, or promising a co-worker or peer that you’ll get something done in the next 30 minutes. Anything that can “trick” you into getting started on the work.

Alternatively, the treats approach is just that — a literal treat. If you make progress on (or finish) the work, reward yourself with something you’ve been wanting for a long time.

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