Take the International Women’s Day Mentor Pledge

If you really want to help women have an equal voice in the world, mentor one. Be willing to become one woman’s biggest fan, her strongest advocate and active sponsor.  Invest your valuable knowledge to help her truly succeed.   So today, in honor of International Women’s Day, personally pledge to mentor at least one woman this year.

Are you willing to be a supportive catalyst, and mentor a woman this year?

Yes, women have made significant advances in the past 50 years, but there is so much more women could do.  Because at all levels of leadership – boardroom, school board, court house, state house – women remain underrepresented, and in some cases, absent altogether. Only when women are equally represented in all leadership roles with men, will our local communities and global economy maximize potential.

Why mentor a woman?  When you mentor a woman, you could vastly increase her potential to succeed.  Relationships make the difference.  Authentic mentoring goes much deeper than networking, trouble–shooting, or an occasional lunch.  It’s a relationship built on trust, which makes it possible to provide relevant insights.   Mentoring is more than merely access to someone’s contacts; it is person-to-person involvement  and investment in another person’s life.

A good mentor is a smart friend, one who is committed to helping a woman learn faster, take risks, and avoid mistakes — someone who is willing to share their experience, insights, and passion.  Just take what you already know and accelerate her growth. It’s that simple.

Whatever you’ve learned — from your success and failures or managing your career and personal life — someone out there can benefit from your know-how.  Be a catalyst for a woman to advance her career, take on a leadership role, run for office, or lead a better life.  Help her work through a business plan or career options, help navigate office politics, shore up technical skills, role model a balanced work/personal life, and much more.

Wondering who to mentor?  The opportunities are endless, so choose something you care about:

  • If you’re a change agent, mentor a change agent.
  • If you’re an entrepreneur, mentor a start up.
  • If you’re an intrapreneur, find another in your company.
  • If you’re an accountant, mentor an accountant.
  • If you’re a consultant, mentor a new freelancer.
  • If you’re in political office, mentor a woman who wants to enter politics.
  • If you’ve survived a merger, mentor someone who’s in the middle of one.
  • If you’ve changed careers, mentor someone who’s considering doing the same thing.

(Need more proof that women need mentors to make real progress? Check out the links below.)

And let’s totally bust the myth that “women don’t help women!”  I know I’ve been mentoring women since I started my career more than 30 years ago.  Some women help other women, some don’t.  (And some men support women, some don’t.) Whether you have a sister, daughter, wife/partner, cousin, co-worker, or friend, you’re likely to know a woman who could benefit from having a mentor.

Looking for a woman to mentor?  Find one at MentorPlanet.com.  You’ll also find tips to start your mentoring relationship.

Still need inspiration to take the “Mentor a Woman Pledge”?  Check out the leaders and activists from around the globe at the 3rd annual Women in the World Summit  — from Hillary Clinton to Angelina Jolie.  

So today, take the International Women’s Day Mentor Pledge to mentor a woman in 2012 — and become her biggest fan, her source of support and courage.   Imagine how different our world would be if everyone decided to mentor just one woman in 2012.  Working together, we can create a tipping point to build momentum for women’s voices and leadership to reach equal representation.  Be a mentor and support women who are on the move, making a difference around the world.


On average, a Minnesota woman is shortchanged $11,000 annually or $1 million over the course of her professional career; women with advanced degrees (doctors, lawyers), it’s twice as much (a $2 million loss). Poverty, homelessness, and a lack of affordable quality childcare remain problems that disproportionately affect Minnesota’s female-headed households, women of color, and older women.

McKinsey Research: Changing companies’ minds about women The percentage of women on boards and senior-executive teams remains stuck at around 15 percent in many countries, and just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Women account for roughly 53 % of entry-level professional employees in the largest US industrial corporations, but only 37 % of middle-management positions, 28 percent of vice-president and senior-managerial roles, and 14 percent of seats on executive committees.  And nearly four times as many men as women at large companies make the jump from the executive committee to CEO.

The World Needs Female Entrepreneurs Now More Than Ever

Why You Should Radically Raise the Bar

If you’re truly motivated to improve your life, incremental change won’t get you there — not fast enough. What we need is inspiration — something that sparks action, risk taking, and commitment. Often we have some vague notion of what we want in life, but we don’t allow ourselves to dream — let alone dream big.

What's your seemingly impossible dream? What will inspire you to radically raise the bar?

If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success. — James Cameron

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it.” — Michelangelo

And then we don’t raise the bar again.

Naturally if you’re living your passion, perhaps your biggest challenge is making it happen.  If you’re reading this, it is more likely that you’re not quite there. Maybe you haven’t given up, but you aren’t fully committed either. Raising the bar isn’t about pushing you to burnout. It’s about encouraging you to become more authentic — to fully apply your strengths to what matters to you.

Dream as if you’ll live forever; live as if you’ll die today. — James Dean

What’s stopping you? Thought leader Edward de Bono warns us about complacency:

1. Cozy complacency: You convince yourself that life is adequate as it is. This isn’t about endless second-guessing your life choices or wondering if your life is keeping up with the Joneses. Get out of your comfort zone but avoid rushing to a decision.  Overcome this urge with thoughtful analysis so you avoid looking back at this point in time — wishing you made better choices.

2. Lack-of-vision complacencyYou box yourself into your current situation. You can’t envision living any differently.  You see limitations: family role, financial situation, social class, career or age group.  It’s hard to imagine anything different.  You lack support or the courage to rock the boat. You shut yourself down well before the idea even leaves your head.  Allow time to fantasize; look for stories of lives or lifestyles that appeal to you.  Engage others in brainstorming too, so you’ll explore options you’d normally never consider.

3. Arrogant complacencyYou stubbornly cling to your opinions. This is a difficult one, which requires the toughest examination. Often we rationalize how we’re getting by with too little or we convince ourselves that we’re living the good life.  Only we don’t pay attention to the cracks.  We’re too busy selling our lives to ourselves. Pay close attention to your intuition and early warning signs: a nagging health issue, a quiet whisper that you’d rather get out of what you’re doing, or the years are ticking by.

These examples are overly simplified, yet perilously real. The mind is exceptional at rationalizing our behavior. In the words of Sigmund Freud: to be completely honest with oneself is the very best effort a human being can make.  Remember it’s your life you’re talking about.  Dare to think about what is really important. Live a life worth living — your own view of what that is, that is what matters most.

How do you overcome complacency? What you need is an idea so compelling, so inspiring that it will ignite you out of your comfort zone and into a better future.

Raise the bar by setting your own “big, hairy, audacious goal,” a term coined by business guru Jim Collins, in his book Built to Last.  According to Tom Peters, that isn’t quite enough.  You need a goal that is both clear and compelling.  Some business concepts don’t translate easily into our personal lives, but this idea of setting a big, hairy, audacious goal for yourself — one that you can actually visualize — is certainly worthy of consideration.

A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions. — Anonymous

President Kennedy inspired Americans to care and believe about space travel — in 1961!   He did it with a clear, concise, seemingly unrealistic challenge — to be the first country to land on the moon.  He said, I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.

On a personal level, setting the bar that extreme might seem too grandiose or ridiculous. We muse about an idea, but we don’t make the commitment and set an urgent goal or marshal our resources to insure their fulfillment. 

These all started as a dream, but someone decided to make a commitment:

Mark Twain said it well: A man with a new idea is a crank — until he succeeds.

Anything that really inspires you is likely to be complicated.  So get comfortable making mistakes. Raising the bar not only requires rapid learning but getting comfortable making mistakes. We live in a world that seems to demand flawless perfection every time — a harsh critic of failure.  Coming in second is equivalent to “losing.”

We need to take Samuel Beckett’s advice:  Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.

And of course, try again.

Naturally that’s easier said than done. As humans we have a built-in negativity bias! We are hard wired to pay much more attention to problems — dramatically more attention. Thanks to evolution, I guess it makes sense.  To stay alive we simply had to learn to adapt quickly to threats — it meant life or death.  According to author Jonathan Haidt, psychologists consistently find that the human mind reacts to bad things more quickly, strongly, and persistently than to equivalent good things. Positives just don’t carry the same weight. I didn’t want to believe this, but here is just one example, called marriage math by Psychology Today.  After just one negative experience with your spouse it takes at least five positive experiences to patch things up.

So manage your negativity bias and keep a close watch out for motivation killers. Dean Rieck’s blog, 8 Bad Habits that Crush Your Creativity and Stifle Your Success, has practical ideas to overcome your inner critic.  (Although written for the marketing world, Rieck’s ideas are universal.)

Still not convinced to radically raise the bar for yourself?  Take a look at Divine Caroline’s blog:  Ten Lies You’ll Hear Before Pursuing Your Dream. As she says, working hard on your dream will be very hard work, but at least you’ll be devoting your time, creativity, and energy on something that truly matters to you.  That’s positive in itself!  Here’s hoping you find inspiration to dream and do something that you wouldn’t dream of doing…without!

Vision without action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare. — Japanese Proverb

Is it crazy to consider a career shift in this economy?

Is now the right time? When would it be a good time? Certainly there are valid reasons not to change. The economy is tough and if you’re earning a decent living it is easy to rationalize staying where you are.  All too often we put this decision off.  We wait for the perfect time or for the perfect opportunity to come to us.

Interestingly enough, many of us are living in limbo. We aren’t fully committed to our current career or to figuring out what might be a better option.  Isn’t life too short to linger in a career that isn’t a good fit anymore?  Why wait — until you’re too locked into your current situation to change, you can’t stand your work situation any longer, or you’ve actually lost your job — before you actively consider a career shift? Exploring options while you’re in your back-up mode — worrying about finances or feeling like you’re living in limbo — isn’t an ideal environment to be open to new possibilities or actively take a risk.  (It can work, but the stress can be stifling.)

Time is life’s real currency. Are you living your life’s currency wisely?

Why not invest in yourself now? Doesn’t it make more sense to do it while you have the energy to thoughtfully evaluate your possibilities?

Time is life’s real currency.  The heart of the question is: Are you living your life’s currency wisely? Many of us start our careers optimistically, without much analysis of our choice.  Out in the real world, we gradually figure out that it was nothing like we had imagined.  Few of us did more than rudimentary skills testing.  Perhaps only a fraction of us found a mentor to help us provide real-world insights to see if we were making a good choice.  Maybe you loved your job for years; only now it has lost the excitement or the meaning it once held.  Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to be quite successful, too well, in fact, so that you don’t even consider what might make you happier — your “best self.”  Let’s hope we don’t sell out for golden handcuffs, especially if the salary isn’t all that great to begin with (or even if it is), because it’s our lives we’re talking about here!

Why not raise the bar? Consider a career change to find one that is more interesting, rewarding, and meaningful — perhaps one that is “more livable” too.  Naturally all careers have trade-offs, but the trouble is that we don’t often take the time to find a better match for ourselves.  We stay where we started just because it seems easier.  On reflection, and once we’ve made the shift, we wonder why we waited so long!  (Some of you may find that this process helps you determine that you’re in the right career; all you needed was a little rejuvenation!)

Take the time to imagine what your life would be like if only you could make a shift. According to Civic Ventures, more than 8 million Americans between 44 and 77 are embarking on new careers. We’ve all heard stories, but somehow we can’t see ourselves — our options.  So stimulate your thinking with a few real life examples:

  • An intellectual property consultant switched to his love of the ocean and now sells sailboats.
  • A banker opted out of corporate life; he prefers to work on his own, remodeling houses.
  • A computer programmer went back to school for a degree in nonprofit management; and now works in energy conservation.
  • A beautician went back to school to become a massage therapist.
  • A stockbroker now teaches fitness and relaxation.
  • A photographer’s representative switched to planning travel for touring musicians.
  • A public relations consultant who loves language, is now a teacher (teaching English to French students).
  • A copywriter went back to school to become an acupuncturist.
  • A dancer/actress became a marketing consultant (also farms part-time).
  • A marketing strategist became a stay-at-home dad, web entrepreneur, and real estate investor.

Don’t start exploring career options with the job market.  Start by asking the more important question: “What do I really want?” Career experts often recommend evaluating the future growth in a particular field, researching potential employers, estimating income and advancement options, etc.  That’s vitally important, but that’s actually the easy part — and it shouldn’t be where you start.

External analysis should come AFTER your internal analysis, which is often more challenging. You know yourself better than you did right after college or your first job. All too often, we know what we don’t want rather than what we want.  Knowing what we don’t want helps us cross options off the list, which is good. Getting us out of our routine and into the more exciting, dynamic world of our passions, possibilities, and motivations is what’s key.  Of course, money matters.  But it’s not solely about the money.  As Henry David Thoreau said, “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”

According to Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis, you’re more likely to be successful when you find a strong convergence between these two factors:

  • a career that taps into your values (meaning), interests, and abilities and
  • a vibrant field with plenty of job options and upward mobility — and one valued by society.

Start exploring career options by expanding your network. One of the biggest barriers is your existing network. Colleagues know you only in your current role — which is a very narrow view of your potential. Schedule informational interviews with people outside of your current circle — people who are open to seeing you in new roles.

The good news is that it is fairly easy to network these days. Even though everyone is busy, most people want to expand their network too.  Make a commitment to yourself to meet at least one new person each week — with the precise intent of helping to identify what you value, your deepest passion, and your strongest interests. Meet in person, over coffee or lunch, so you can truly to get to know one another in a meaningful way. Be sure to help them expand their network too.

Remember to document what you learn from each interview. Keeping track of your efforts will help you feel like you’re making progress.  It’s likely to take time to piece together all the components of a successful career move. Unless you’ve been training as a concert pianist since the 2nd grade, and built up 10,000 hours of practice, chances are you’ll be in the research phase for a while.  If you’re typically used to making quick decisions, try to enjoy the process and allow yourself time to dig past the first good idea.  For people that love thinking about options, find someone that will help keep you on track so you don’t get lost in the options — a colleague, a coach, or mentor.

It’s important to remember that your career isn’t limited by your direct experience. Sure, many employers are looking for someone with a perfect fit.  But more and more, smart business people know that skills can be taught.  What matters more is a person’s ability to learning and adapt.  As the senior editor at Inc Magazine, Norm Brodsky says, companies should “hire for attitude not skills.”

Who Will Win the Change the World Contest?

According to a recent The Chronicle of Philanthropy post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes businesses are more likely to change the world than nonprofits because they lack resources.”  Now that’s a quite a challenge to the roughly 1,000,000 US nonprofits.

Is business properly motivated to change the world for the better? Do they have the right mindset? Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is gaining momentum, as evidenced by the first virtual CSR conference. (You can access reviews at Fabian Pattberg’s blog.) Taking a closer look at just one issue, sustainability, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic.  According to a U.N. Global Compact/Accenture study, “93% of CEOs believe that sustainability is critical to their success.” They believe “a tipping point, meshing sustainability with core business, might be possible within a decade.” Can we afford to wait 10 years?

Two business giants think philanthropy is a way to change the world: Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. They believe in it so strongly that they launched a campaign to motivate other US billionaires to follow their lead — and donate 50% their wealth to charity. Apparently it’s working, others have already signed on.  That’s certainly connecting smart people and money for change.

Author Nancy Lubin, goes so far as to say the nonprofit world can teach business a thing or two, not the other way around.  In her new book, Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business, she says nonprofits know how to do more with less, while keeping innovation, passion, and creativity high.  Some might argue with Lubin, saying nonprofits are part of the problem, because, like business, they are too invested in their current way of operating — they don’t change, innovate or make any real impact. Others might argue that charities simply don’t operate on the mega scale of business.

But there is a hybrid in the contest too, social enterprise.  It’s a blend of business and nonprofits that are out to change the world — it’s integral to their mission.  And it’s growing.  At this year’s SOCAP10 Conference more than a thousand of the world’s leading social investors, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and thought-leaders met to invigorate social change.  There are organizations, such as Ashoka and the Social Enterprise Alliance, that support social entrepreneurs, nationally and internationally.  The Hub provides creative meeting places and support, bringing people together with the intention to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.  More companies are touting a “triple bottom line” approach: people, planet, and profits.

Government is a huge player too: city, state, and federal budgets fund billions of dollars toward major projects, many of which are operated by businesses and nonprofits. As an example, The Corporation for National and Community Service is a public/private partnership with a $1.4 billion budget to mobilize more than six million Americans to solve critical problems through national service.  That’s scalable. President Obama launched a $50 million Social Innovation Fund to support promising nonprofit organizations working in low-income communities and leverages private funding.  It’s not a lot of money, in the scheme of things, but it’s a mindset toward more innovation and tangible results.

All the while, millions of people like us are taking action in big and small ways. We affect business, nonprofit, social enterprise, and government through our votes and activism. We’re buying local food, biking to work, writing our senators, and voting for what matters to us with every purchase we make — and changing the world.  Many of us — 41 million people (19% of American adults) — fit a consumer segment called LOHAS, with a focus on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living, and social justice.  We’re becoming more connected too, through communities that are committed to making positive change, such as:

  • Change.org informs people about important causes and encourages them to take action — “165,399 actions taken this week.”
  • Worldpulse fosters women’s leadership worldwide, “telling stories of women who had lost everything except their passion for a better future.”
  • Idealist.org promotes volunteerism and nonprofit careers.

So maybe there really is a trend — a contest to see who can save the world. Maybe business will see the huge market potential in CSR.  Maybe nonprofits will see how more results-oriented thinking will help them be more innovative and mission-driven. Maybe social enterprise will become the norm.  Maybe our local and federal government will fund more innovation.  Maybe more individuals will get involved, rather than assuming someone else will naturally do the right thing.

We need everyone testing, experimenting, analyzing, and improving if we’re going to make real progress. I’m hoping everyone will enter the contest.  What can you do?  I’d be interested to hear your stories about what’s actually working to change the world.  Couldn’t we all use a bit more inspiration.

What stimulates innovation more: caring or crisis?

Perhaps that is another proverbial chicken or egg question.  But it is important for us to think about.

As each day of the BP oil spill goes by without any real progress, I wonder how it affects the American psyche.  Is the crisis motivating action or fueling hopelessness? In a recent article, Philippe Cousteau, makes a strong statement: How U.S. responds to spill reflects the soul of this country.

In any tough situation, how we respond matters. Take the financial crisis.  It shook things up for all of us. And it’s continuing to shake things up for businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits.  How do we respond as the uncertainty continues, (Wells Fargo: The Moderate Recovery Continues, but Is It Sustainable?)

To find out how the financial crisis is affecting Health and Human Services Organizations, I attended a conference, United Front: Advancing the Common Good in the New Normal. Here’s what I learned:

  1. More people need more services — caused by the financial crisis.
  2. Significantly less funding is available — from government (state/federal) and foundations.
  3. State and federal budget deficits look bleak for a long time ($55 trillion US federal deficit).
  4. The worst of the recession may be over — but recovery won’t be easy.
  5. Jobs lost won’t be recovered until 2013 — 8.4 million jobs in the US.
  6. Wages fell — significantly — for the first time in 40 years.
  7. Aging boomers will choke the healthcare system with end-of-life expenses.

Gloomy indeed.  Will this stimulate action and innovation? According to economist, Dr. Tom Stinson, that’s precisely what we need to do.  We can’t keep doing the same things the way we’ve always done them — or get by trying to work harder with less.  We need to significantly improve productivity through what Stinson referred to as disruptive innovation.

The good news is that while most people don’t think of themselves as innovators, they do consider themselves to be problem solvers. So think of disruptive innovation as problem solving on steroids — or problem solving with passion.

Apparently disruptive innovation is just what’s needed to reform healthcare according to a Business Week article by disruptive innovation expert Clayton Christensen.  He recommends… “moving the simplest procedures now performed in expensive hospitals to outpatient clinics, retail clinics, and patients’ homes. Costs will drop as more of the tasks performed only by doctors shift to nurses and physicians’ assistants. Hoping that our hospitals and doctors will become cheap won’t make health care more affordable and accessible, but a move toward lower-cost venues and lower-cost caregivers will.”  Conference speaker, Mary Brainerd, President and CEO of Health Partners, is doing that, locating retail clinics in neighborhoods and sharing expensive technology.  Michael Porter, Harvard Business School professor, spoke last week at the World Innovation Foundation conference, where he recommended focusing on increasing healthy outcomes rather than just cost savings.  Others might argue that disruptive innovation in healthcare can only be achieved through improved nutrition, exercise, and alternative healthcare.

Whether you believe in any of these healthcare solutions doesn’t matter. What’s important is that we get more people involved solving problems they truly care about. We can’t leave innovation to just a few people at the top, in a special job, or task group.

How do we foster thoughtful innovation? There are no easy answers.  Taking risks is ever easy — with or without a crisis.  How can you get motivated if you’re worried about making a mistake, being criticized, or losing our job?  It’s hard enough when funding is tight and where new initiatives are rare.  It’s even harder if an innovative idea failed; institutional memory is long where failure is involved.  If you’ve never participated in anything you consider innovative, how do you know where to start? If we care about our work, we need to find ways to motivate ourselves.  We take risks everyday; we just don’t always see it that way.  As management guru Peter F. Druker points out: “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.  People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”

I suggest that to increase your comfort level and likelihood for success, talk to people who are doing it right now.   Seek out someone who’s willing to support you as you test the waters on your idea.  Find a mentor.  Find ways to gain insights and the confidence you need to be more innovative.

Look for innovative ideas that inspire you. While they might not have anything to do with what you’re doing right now, perhaps you’ll start to think differently.  I’m inspired by the enormity of innovative projects streaming my way everyday.  What appeals to me are practical examples, what people are accomplishing today even while the financial crisis continues. A lot is happening as the lines between business, nonprofits and government agencies are evolving.  The concepts of social enterprise, triple bottom line, and corporate social responsibility are forging new collaborations, new possibilities, and higher expectations.  Here’s a great example: A seemingly unlikely collaboration, Coke and Greenpeace partnered to reduce the beverage company’s biggest carbon footprint caused by 10 million vending machines.

Links to Innovators

Whatever you’re passionate about, I hope you won’t wait for a crisis to motivate you. Innovate because you care — be a proactive problem solver with a passion. And seek out the support you need to help you be more successful when you do.

Kick-start Innovation: Are you looking for a fun, easy way to get people thinking and exploring new ideas?  The Creative Whack Pack is something I’ve been using to help start the conversation for decades.


Will the oil spill inspire you to become an Eco-Mentor?

When something the size of the gulf oil spill happens, my frustration builds with each news update.  Naturally I want to help.  But what can I do?  What can any of us do?  We can’t all quit our jobs, rush to the coast, and try to save wildlife.  Besides, how many of us have ever worked cleaning up an oil spill?  How many of us are experts in green technology, climate change, organic farming, or sustainability?

What we can do is start to shift — from the reactive to the proactive.  Let’s share our knowledge today so we can help more people and more places on the planet right now. Match your expertise with something you value, and mentor someone who is working in an eco-based organization or endeavor.

Become a “Green-to-Green, Traditional-to-Green, or Personal Life Eco-Mentor.” To stimulate your creativity, I’ve included a definition and a few examples of each of these three eco-mentor types below.  What if 1,000 people became eco-mentors? Now imagine if that number were 100,000.  Just think what we could accomplish for the planet.

Eco-Mentors:  Green-to-Green

If you already work in an environmentally focused job (green, environmental, sustainability, organic, bio dynamic, recycling, upcycling, etc.), you’ve got a head start on many of us.  Your experience is so valuable because you know what works, what doesn’t, and what’s needed — in the green economy.  Accelerate the learning and mentor someone else who is already green.

  1. Mentor someone in a similar position and a similar organization.  You might have significantly more experience than the person you mentor — or you might be peers.  Peer-to-peer mentoring can be very effective even when the individuals have similar knowledge levels — it’s particularly important in rapidly changing fields. (And whose isn’t rapidly changing these days?)  An organic restaurant owner could mentor another organic restaurant owner in a nearby town or another region.
  2. Mentor someone in a similar job but in another type of organization. Cross-pollinating ideas often sparks creativity, which is a key benefit of this type of mentoring.  If you work in human resources for a green manufacturer, ideas and programs that are common among manufacturers might be new and innovative to someone in an energy audit nonprofit.
  3. Mentor someone in your organization that works a different department or job.  Because everyone in an organization might get involved in social media, a social media expert could mentor anyone at any level, at any age.  If you are that person, you could mentor people in accounting, purchasing, sales, management, marketing and many more.

Eco-Mentors: Traditional-to-Green

Most of us aren’t in “green jobs,” but we can help the environment by mentoring someone who is. As an eco-mentor, you help someone build confidence, avoid problems, expand their network, and more — but you don’t need to know everything about their job, organization or industry.  You provide them with support, helping them over time, as they learn, adapt, and make progress towards their goals.

An accountant in a traditional industry could mentor an accountant in a green industry.  An entrepreneur in a traditional industry could share her knowledge with a green entrepreneur that is starting a new organization.  A nonprofit fundraiser could mentor a social enterprise executive director about relationship management.  Expertise could be shared and cross-pollinated between people and organizations in so many ways, that the challenge is for you to narrow down your choices!  More examples:

  • Accountant for a food wholesaler Seek out an accountant that works for an alternative energy firm to mentor, such as a wind farm, a solar panel manufacturer, or biofuel.
  • Community Organizer Mentor someone from a green-focused nonprofit or NGO who could benefit from your expertise.
  • Consultant Take on an eco-business as a pro bono project.
  • Copyright Lawyer for a bank Help an eco-friendly manufacturer protect their household products by mentoring their in-house council.
  • Corporate Tax Manager for an insurance company Mentor a social enterprise CEO and help her better understand tax issues and opportunities.
  • Human Resources Manager for a retailer Find a smaller organization and mentor the human resources manager.
  • Information Technology Manager for an airline Mentor an IT manager in a green business.
  • International Marketing Manager Mentor someone in an eco-business in one of the countries you already serve.
  • Investment Manager for an international financial services company Mentor a nonprofit Executive Director about investment risks and strategies.
  • Healthcare Administrator Mentor someone in a similar administrative position in an eco-business.
  • Plant Manager Mentor someone in a green manufacturing business.
  • Purchasing Manager for a manufacturer Seek out a high-growth eco-products company and help them learn how to expand, nationally or internationally.
  • Restaurant Owner Mentor someone who is launching an organic bakery or restaurant.
  • Social Media Manager Mentor a manager in a retail based green business.

Eco-Mentor:  Personal Life

Though mentoring is often work-related, eco-mentoring can be equally useful in our personal lives: at home, at school, and in our communities.  We need to share more of this type of expertise. Sure, there are many online resources, but nothing can replace person-to-person support when we’re learning something new.

  • Eco-Mentor: Bike-to-work If you’re part of the millions of Americans who do, consider mentoring someone who is going to try it this year.  Support them while they overcome all the obstacles you did: adjusting to weather conditions, outsmarting bike thieves, or coping with traffic.
  • Eco-Mentor: Simplified Lifestyle Have you dramatically simplified your life or become an “unconsumer?”  Perhaps you’ve reduced your carbon footprint, downsized to a smaller house or apartment, and switched to local and organic foods. Mentor someone who is trying to simplify their life by sharing what worked for you and help them find their own way to simplify.
  • Eco-Mentor: Recycling Program Have you launched a recycling program for your child’s school or your town?  Then you know how complex a challenge it is to bring people together and actually get it implemented. Seek out someone in another school or town to mentor during the year.  Help them get off to a good start and give them a better chance of success.  There are so many different types of recycling programs (Hennepin County even has tips for organic recycling tips for schools) and so many places that still need them.
  • Eco-Mentor: Inner-city Gardening Have you started a gardening program for your school or town?  If so, you know more of them are being created all across the country to fight obesity, improve nutrition, and provide local food sources.  You may have seen the movie, Fresh, and know about Will Allen’s legendary north country garden.  So many people are interested in this and could surely benefit from your insights, your mentoring.

This is was a short list of eco-mentoring possibilities.   I hope you’ll send in more examples of how people can become eco-mentors.  We need more ways to inspire people to think about ways their experience can help the planet.

Most of all, I hope you’re inspired to take your own expertise, whatever you’re passionate about, and find someone to mentor.

For tips on how to find a mentor or be a mentor (and find the time to do it), watch this site for future blogs.


Unhappy at work? You’re not alone.

Sadly, more than 50% of us are unhappy. That’s true regardless of age or income. In fact, job satisfaction is the lowest it’s been in two decades — even in this economy (according to a recent Conference Board study).

Another survey confirms this: CareerBuilder.com says 40% of workers have difficulty staying motivated.

That’s a lot of unhappy people.

Digging into the list of what causes unhappiness at work is extensive.  Yet common problems are easy to identify: heavy workloads, long hours, and strained resources — combined with expectations of high performance. The result: high stress with no end in sight. This confirms what a lot of us already know. After all, we spend more hours working than anything else.

What if work were more meaningful?  Would that make a difference? Yes, if you believe author Malcom Gladwell.  In his book Outliers, Gladwell defines meaningful work as the connection to effort and reward — along with autonomy and, what may seem surprising, complexity.

When we value our work, job satisfaction goes up and stress levels go down because we believe all the effort is worth it.

What is meaningful work? Now there’s a challenge. Years ago, I heard a speech by Larry Wilson, founder of Wilson Learning talk about meaning.  He described a woman who worked in a factory making plastic tubes. How could that be meaningful? It had meaning for her because she knew that the plastic tubes were used in childrens hospitals for newborn babies. For some immigrants, it’s meaningful enough just to have a job so they can send money home to Somalia, Mexico, or China,

Source of Light, painting by John Schuerman

But many of us want a whole lot more. I know I do.  Work demands so much from us that it’s not worth it to settle for anything less.  Yes, I’m fortunate enough to have options.  Most of us do, but we often don’t look for them.  Early in my career I was naive — thrilled to be in a challenging job and fortunate enough to keep getting promoted. Looking back I wonder how I ever survived in the rigid environment, however much I was learning or earning. I settled for a job that provided opportunities, which was important too.

But what if I had stumbled upon a career I really cared about? Better yet, what if I had thought about finding a job that had meaning beyond the basics of a good salary, benefits, and career potential?

Work consumes most of our waking hours.  Don’t we owe it to ourselves to find a job that appeals to us? Fortunately more people have raised the bar, they expect more meaning and are more likely to be happier at work.

Millennials expect to “make an immediate impact by doing meaningful work. They will work long and hard provided they care,” state Harvard Business Week authors Carolyn Martin and Bruce Tulgan. Boomers want meaning too, with encore careers.  Even boomers forced to postpone retirement are choosing carefully. To support these boomers, Encore.org was launched by Civic Ventures, a nonprofit think tank that wants “to engage millions of experienced individuals” to become a force for social change.

The tricky part is finding work that is meaningful to you.

Perhaps a mentor could help you think through your interests or explore options you might not otherwise consider. Finding out more about yourself, what truly matters, is much more difficult than some people might think. Some people take a big leap, and jump right into their new life.  But that doesn’t work for many of us.  We have so many obligations or routines that are hard to break — or simply don’t know what we want. (Though we often know what we don’t want!)

What ways have you used to take a leap or explore your options to find more meaningful work?