Monday, 4 April 2011


Not  in fact the departing words of Sir Fred Goodwin or Chuck Prince, perhaps, but if we are honest most of could do with a grandfatherly figure who can fearlessly, and with our best interests unconditionally at heart, advise us and, most important of all, get the best out of us.

Leon Taylor is an Olympian. He won a silver medal at Athens doing with Peter Waterfield, the most difficult dive invented in history. He fought injury, disappointment and still threw himself off the top of a three storey building, hitting the water at 40mph again and again and again. In short he’s crazy.

But he’s written a great book on mentoring and he’s Tom Daley’s mentor (so. if Tom doesn’t win a gold in 2012, Leon’s entirely and brazenly to blame.) A great book because it has an innocent clarity about it. No cynical management book this, it prescribes laughter, hard work, excitement, and good planning as keys in the success recipe. But having the calm, inspiration and support of your mentor can make the difference between hero and nobody.

There are two things Leon says that stick with me:
You can’t always choose what you do but you can always choose how you do it”.
I’d rather be a great check-out operator than an unenthusiastic brand manager and so on and so on. Do what you do brilliantly and with enthusiasm and the rest will follow.

The second is a quote from Dr Steve Peters and his three rules of life:
1. Life is not fair.
2. The goalposts always move.
3. Your job is to do your best under the circumstances.
Steve has pretty well captured the dilemma mankind faces. And by making us face it does us all a great service. Stop whingeing – get up and get on.  But as a mentor I think I want to add a fourth point.

4.  Your mentor’s job is to help you understand how great you can be if only you press the right buttons.

When people say “but what does a mentor do?” I feel like saying “what does a gardener do?” Answer “makes the soil sing with colour.”  Mentors are those button locators. We are the messengers of hope and inspiration. We help people see what good is and how to get there. We fuel laughter and adventure. We make good people become great and sometimes good people do something different in order to become great.

Life is like high diving. It’s frightening. It hurts. You haven’t got enough time to think but if you have a mentor like Leon Taylor, or a select group like him,  you can learn to press the right buttons and do your best under any circumstances.

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