I just reviewed a book for a writer´s publication and it occurs to me that what the author says about writing could be applied to just about any industry. The book, Reading Like Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them, by Francine Prose is all about the value of studying that to which you aspire. Clearly, we augment our learning through workshops, seminars, programs, lectures, all sorts of assessments, etc., but sometimes one of the best ways to learn is simply by watching, observing, taking mental notes, and asking questions of the individual whom you aspire to be like. I´d like to be able to write with the same immediacy, feeling, and sense of place that is characteristic of Anne Tyler. So do I read a lot of Tom Clancy? No, of course not. I read as much Anne Tyler as possible.
In the same way, that´s how someone in a company can learn from the star sales rep or the successful marketing manager or whoever it is that one can glean from. Many years ago (and forgive me if this came up before though if it did it was long time ago) I used to be the director of communications for a remodeling trade association. I fielded many calls from the media, particularly in the spring when homeowners began to think about renovating their homes. After a while all those calls began to be a burden-I wasn´t able to get to my other tasks as quickly or as often as I needed so I invited my assistant into my office for some show and tell. I don´t think I used the speaker phone, but I did ask her to listen to my responses to media inquiries about who was remodeling, what they were remodeling, why they were remodeling, and everything you ever wanted to know about remodeling. We laughed quietly at certain points while I rattled on about the virtues of new countertops and wood flooring versus tile, but we accomplished something really important: she learned how to handle media calls and I was able to carve out some time to get to some pressing to-do´s.
It´s not unlike what happens with mentoring and you don´t have to make a big, formal deal about it. Imagine if you could be a fly on the wall during an important meeting, one that could impart some valuable gems like how to win over that skeptical prospect, how to bundle a bunch of products to garner more interest and save money, and what exactly the finance director was talking about at last week´s meeting.
If you´re the one who wants to learn, then figure out how you can best capture what that talented guy down the hall is doing to be so successful. If you´ve got a particular talent at work-say, calming down an obstreperous customer-then share your skills with someone who´s still trying.