I was having a friendly lunch with a former Protégé a few days ago, and she mentioned that she attributed her success with achieving a major priority of hers was because she just did what I suggested.
I took the opportunity of her kind words to ask if there were just one thing she would suggest to me that would help me be a better mentor. She thought for a moment, but not overly long, and said "Don't overload the Protégé." We talked on that for a bit, and she felt that there was too much to do, or too little time to do it, or both.
Fair enough. I guess that's my impatience coming through. And it resonates with another Protégé who was also feeling rushed with our weekly meetings, and wanted to have them half as frequently.
What I'm finding is that regardless of the frequency of the meetings there will always be more to do than you have time to do it. The purpose of the meetings is to stay on course, to stay focused on the priorities, and to take action.
The feeling of being overloaded is similar to the feeling of vertigo when you look down the mountain. When you change where you look, the vertigo goes away. You will feel overloaded if you look too far down your list of priorities, at the infinite number of things you can think of that need to be done. This feeling of being overloaded will evaporate immediately if you simply focus on the number 1 priority on your list. You can't possibly feel overloaded if you are taking care of your number one priority.
This way, you will always be doing the most important thing.
What should the mentor do when the Protégé doesn't do what the mentor advises?
I have been dealing with that issue and have come to the conclusion that some people move faster than others, and that I need to show patience, which is not one of my great assets.
How long should I repeat my advice and exercise patience before I give up on the Protégé and move on to help someone who does take action? That's a judgement call, but I'm thinking that a year is plenty of time, and if after a year the Protégé still doesn't get it, there is something basic going wrong and I must not understand it but since my best advice isn't being taken then I'm wasting my time and the Protégé's time (and money). It should be time for the Protégé to get another mentor, or go it alone.
I never liked firing a customer who pays right on time and treats me right in every other regard, but I'm not in this for the money, only to see results. If there are no results, then it's not fun for me, so I should move on. I figure I do owe the Protégé a final meeting where the options are discussed, and then at most a few more weeks to see if anything is going to change, but then if there are no changes, it's time to move on...
I would never reveal the identity of a Protégé without his/her permission (it's sort of like a doctor/patient confidentiality thing). However, I can speak in broad terms about the nature of the situation and the advice, which I feel is of the most essential importance. Here is my last written correspondence on the matter:
Here are the priorities the way I see them:
1. Increase profitability.
a. increase prices - if you have a question about an item, or group of items, then just write it down on a separate list and continue with the price increases that you can do right now.
b. advertise - spend money on ad words where you can prove that it is worth the investment. do not spend a penny on ad words if you can not track the investment and know that it is worth while.
c. increase sales to existing customers:
- have your customer care reps up-sell on all current orders
- have customer care reps call past customers who have not purchased recently.
d. decrease costs - review purchasing policies, establish systems for optimum order points and order quantities.
There is no # 2 priority, just #1.
Do 1a first, then move on to 1b, and when 1b is done, then do 1c.
When you have finished with the above priority list, then you should be in good shape,
and can focus on whatever is next.
If your sales for the year will be 1.5 million, and you could have raised your prices 8% at the beginning of the year, as planned, then 8% of 1.5 million is $120,000 in profits ON THE BOTTOM LINE, that you have thrown away by not taking action. Every month you delay the price increases, you throw another $10,000 away, and you seriously endanger the existence of your company and your personal and family financial strength and success.
There is only one thing that matters in this world, and that is ACTION. It is irrelevant what we think, or what we plan, or intend, or hope, or want, the only thing that matters, or will ever matter, is what we actually DO.
Do not fear that you will take the wrong action. You are smart and have experience with your business. It is unlikely that you will take the wrong action. It is highly probable that you will take the right action. If you take action, you learn something. If you take no action, you learn nothing.
If you take action, and you learn that the action is wrong, you can stop, or change your action based on what you have learned. Taking action is done in steps, as you have learned in Principle #10: Test. This limits the downside of your actions, and optimizes the upside.