I am a student of nearly everything. I often come across an article that talks about something with which I have no familiarity and within minutes I’m downloading a new book to my Kindle so I can learn more. I’m quickly drawn from topic to topic in a way that leaves me with a little knowledge about a lot of things. There are a few topics that have continued to attract my attention for years. One of those is the crazy way in which we organize people; particularly in business, but also in the rest of society.
A peculiar thing about our minds is that once we fixate on a topic, we start to see it everywhere we look. Close your eyes and think of the color green. You’ll see what I mean when you reopen them. This fixation has led me to find ideas on organizing, training, and leading groups everywhere. Just this morning, I heard Larry Laswell speak about executive coaching. He intrigued me because he spoke the truth about organizing.
Laswell defined four types of experts one might seek (and easily confuse). He said that if you need advice, you hire a consultant; if you need knowledge, you seek a teacher; if you need experience, you find a mentor; but if you need to make yourself better, you get a coach. That has to be the best summary ever given on the world of expert advisors. It’s important for those of us in the advising business to recognize what kind of expert our client is seeking, and then to be sure that we can be that kind of expert for this person.
I find that the friction in my relationship with others is directly proportional to whether they take on the role I need from them and I the role they need from me. I can’t coach everybody and I certainly don’t need everyone to be my mentor. Sometimes the roles are reciprocal within a relationship. Sometimes they change over time.
Often, I don’t realize what the roles really are until I have the perspective of time to look back on it. I do know that my relationships click when the roles are a good fit.