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Gain fresh perspective from a mentor

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

It’s easy to second-guess yourself when managing people. And it’s even easier to operate in a vacuum without feedback from a trusted advisor.

The solution? Enlist a mentor to gain valuable insight.

As the new CEO of Columbia Pictures in 1978, Fay Vincent had never worked in business. A top corporate lawyer, he knew he needed seasoning to lead a large company.

So he decided to hire a consultant—an experienced leader who could coach him to excel. He chose Reuben Gutoff, a senior vice president at General Electric.

“He was pretty tough on me,” Vincent says. “But a manager needs a smart outsider who can shut the door and tell you things are not going well. He’d say, ‘You botched this’ or ‘You need to shape up.’ ”

Vincent took Gutoff’s advice to heart. He knew that he needed dispassionate input from someone outside his organization, so he welcomed Gutoff’s bluntness. In later years, Vincent became a senior executive at Coca-Cola and served as Major League Baseball commissioner. Now retired, he’s the author of We Would Have Played for Nothing.

While you can follow Vincent’s lead and hire an executive coach, these experts can charge high fees and their skills as advisors can vary widely. But if you find a well-respected coach with sterling references at a reasonable price, go for it.

Alternatively, establish an informal relationship with a trusted peer at a noncompeting firm. Arrange to talk regularly and share business challenges. Promise to exchange honest feedback and serve as sounding boards for each other.


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