“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”
– Mark Twain
My grandma used to encourage me to hang around a certain couple of kids in middle school. She felt I needed a good example and boy, was she ever right. Those were the teeter-totter years when a kid could spin off in a wrong direction. Here was a typical late-night conversation around our kitchen table….
Grandma: “Honey, why don’t you spend time with that tall boy, Dan, and that dark-haired girl, Carolyn? They are such nice young kids. That Dan, he’s an excellent example of gentlemanly conduct. And Carolyn, she’s a shining example of a conscientious student. It would be good for you to spend time with friends like that.”
Me: “Because I like Mark and Deb. They are examples . . . in their own way.”
Grandma: “Examples of what? How to have woeful manners? That Mark, his hair is as long as a girl’s! And Deb, I won’t comment on her skirt length except to say that she might as well not wear one.”
Me: “Gram, how about this idea. Why don’t you hang out with Viola? She’s an excellent example of a rock star bridge player. And how about that Floyd, he’s a shining example of how to talk without taking a breath for thirty minutes straight!”
And so our conversations would go. Gram, hoping against hope, that I would observe a shining example in my friends and imitate it. Me, hoping against hope, that we’d move on to another topic. (I was with Mark Twain on this one, her recitations of my classmates as good examples could be really annoying!)
I loved Gram and knew she meant the very best for me.
She knew what observing a good example can do for a person.
Effective mentors set effective examples. And they are continually aware that their example is out there for the world (and their mentee) to see.
In a recent Psychology Today article, Dr. Alex Lickerman shares insights that underscore these thoughts on example:
“You never know who’s watching you. And someone always is, whether your child, your sibling, your spouse, your friend, or a stranger in another car on the road…Nothing can encourage us like someone else’s good example. They’re frankly few and far between—but they’re there if you look for them. Want to create value with your life? Become a good influence.
Stop and think. What better service can you provide someone else besides being a good example to them? Not with conscious intention, which always seems contrived and has little power to encourage, but by simply… becoming the examples you yourself want to see.”
Mentors, what can you do to become the example that you yourself want to see?
Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Check that your perceived example matches your values. Ask for feedback from a few close friends or colleagues. How do they see you? If you value punctuality, do they see you as someone who sets an example of consistent timeliness? If you value open communication, do they view you as someone with an open door policy and an invisible welcome mat outside your office? That input from them will be valuable.
- Consider role models that you seek to emulate. Whose example do you admire? Why? The reasons why you admire another will speak strongly to the example you want to set.
I chuckle at Mr. Twain’s tongue-in-cheek view that “a good example can be pretty annoying.” While it may be true, it’s also true that an effective mentor sets an effective example.
That mentor can be you.
If you want to know more ways to receive creative, usable content about setting a good example, send an email to Lori@LoriBachman.com with EXAMPLE in the subject heading. You will receive three essential ways to equip others in setting a positive, influential example in the mentoring process.
Lori Bachman is on a mission to help businesses improve their organizational results and bottom line ROI of their mentoring programs. She is founder and CEO of The MentorShift Group, where she writes, speaks and consults on impactful mentoring.