2002 is the year to mentor.Engineered Systemsmagazine started off the year with a two-part article on professional growth by Steven Liescheidt and Kelly Brewer (January and February) that addressed professional development. In President Bush's State of the Union message, he encouraged people to take the time to mentor, while the same message was being communicated throughout southern New England by a Boston TV station that same month. For my part, I will be speaking at the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) on training and mentoring this month.

The Team Generation

A lot of things have changed since last September, and most have been for the good. When it comes to professional development and the development of others in the design, construction, and building management industry, this renewed interest in others is a refreshing change from the "me" generation that has now transformed into the "team" generation. To endorse this investment in others, let me start by asking the question, "Who hasn't been helped along the way?"

If you fall into that category of having been helped in the past, including receiving encouragement, guidance, and support, then you need to make sure this process doesn't stop with you. Mentors must be proactive, and that doesn't necessarily come instinctively to each person who is in a position to help. Here is a refresher course on this subject:

  • Recognize that not everyone is meant to climb the ladder, but everyone is entitled to be the very best at whatever level in the organization they fill.
  • You want everyone to be excited to get up and go to work so you need to be the coach cheering on the other person.
  • For the individual to be successful, a broad range of skills is needed, beginning with time management, good communication, and positive attitude.

Setting Goals and Training to Get There

Goal setting can be the tool or, better yet, the roadmap by which an individual can monitor and measure his progress. Analogous to driving from Boston to Atlanta, you probably wouldn't attempt the trip without a roadmap, so why would you want to encourage someone to attempt to be successful without a means to monitor and measure her progress? Goal setting is integral to establishing a successful professional achievement plan. Training is equally essential to building on the plan and to increasing the individual's chances of succeeding.

By identifying the training courses needed to grow from one level of performance to the next, the individual will have a list of things to do that will support his quest to grow in the business.

In growing in the business, this should not be interpreted to mean the person is focused on working her way up the ladder of success. Being trained to be the very best at a particular job description doesn't necessarily translate into this person now moving on to the next job opportunity.

Remember, not everyone is meant to reach the top of the corporate ladder, nor does everyone set their sights on this goal. There are lots of people who want to proficient at a specific job and continue to improve their performance at this job without the need to change positions. Recognizing what you enjoy doing for work and that you are really good at that job can be reward enough for many people. There is more to life than just work.

I use another analogy of a juggler: "keeping all the balls in the air." For each person, there are balls associated with business and others that are associated with personal life. Mentors need to help the student understand that they should focus on achieving what excites them professionally while raising their awareness to also succeed on the home front.

It is good to see that ACEC recognizes that professional development needs to be part of the business community. In the past, corporate America has made it far too convenient for some to turn their heads on their employees, their community, and their families for the trappings of success. Training and mentoring should be part of the day-to-day commitment of the design, construction, and facility management community. ES