It’s your first week as a new salesperson at the dealership. You’ve been shown around, received some training and you’re excited by the potential you see in the career ahead of you. It’s lunchtime, and you’re alone in the breakroom when one of the experienced salespeople sits at your table. As he starts to talk to you, you’re hoping you’ll gain some pearls of wisdom from the experienced veteran that you can use with your first customers.
“Let me tell ya, kid, don’t listen to a word they tell you,” Mr. Know-It-All says, “they” meaning your trainer, your department manager, the GM and the dealer. He goes on to tell you, at length, why no one seems to know what they’re doing, how “they” are “out to get you” and how the system is rigged. “The advertising is stupid, we don’t have the right inventory and they’ve hired too many salespeople,” he said. “There’s no way you’re going to make a decent living here.”
With that, he gets up, wishes you good luck, tells you, “I’m here for you if you need anything else,” and leaves to take another smoke break with three other know-it-alls. You feel queasy, and it’s not because the left-overs from last night’s dinner have gone bad. It’s because you’ve just met your anti-mentor.
What NOT To Do
One of the biggest advantages we can earn in building our career — or any other area of our lives — is receiving the guidance and coaching of a good mentor. They can assist us in becoming our best selves in any area by not only supporting, encouraging and challenging us, but by providing us with an example of what success looks like. Put simply, they walk their talk with their attitudes, actions and results — and we feel recharged when we spend time with them.
There’s another kind of mentor, however, who isn’t as pleasant to be around but can be almost as important for our development. These are anti-mentors, like Mr. Know-It-All.
The anti-mentor’s poor attitude and results show us what not to do. They are the cautionary tale that shows us what our lives will be like if we follow their example.
In our “Mr. Know-It-All” example, bringing new team members down to their level removes a threat to their sad existence. If we excel, it shows it can be done; the fact they haven’t done it isn’t because of “the system” but because of their own negative attitude and lack of effort.
It’s imperative that we surround ourselves with positive, productive people who will enhance our confidence and performance — Theory of 5 studies have found that our income, success and other elements of our lives tend to be the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. There are, however, people who we can’t avoid because of situations or relationships. These are often co-workers or family members and, while can we seek to limit our time and interactions with them, we can’t dodge them completely.
Drawing Motivation from the Unmotivated
So, if spending time with these people is inevitable, what can we do? Hunker down and wait for their storm to pass? Hope they don’t do too much damage to our attitudes and outlooks?
No, once we’ve identified them for what they are, we can use the anti-mentor’s actions, attitudes and examples to fire our own as we travel in the opposite direction. Just as our mentors show us what to do to attain success and victory, our anti-mentors provide us with the roadmap of what not do to.
Anti-mentors can be motivators unlike any other. Anger over their treatment of us, fear of being like them, disgust at their laziness and unwillingness to work on their own development is a motivator. We shouldn’t be solely motivated by the feelings our anti-mentor stirs within us, but it’s best to put that energy to use in reaching our goals.
While we can use their bad examples in forming our good ones, it’s important to protect ourselves from their negativity and, in some cases, their attempted abuse. People will treat us the way we allow them to treat us; we have the right to say “Stop!” when enough is enough. They have no right to our time or our mind.
The negative emotions they stir within us can be the fuel we need to work just a bit harder, to stretch just a little more, to reach our goals. While we want to win for our own reasons, proving an anti-mentor wrong is yet another reward for our hard work. Maybe our example might wake them up to take a look at their own life and the results their “efforts” have been getting them. While that’s not our responsibility, it can happen and is one more reason to give our all to reach our goals.
Our anti-mentors never seem to be happy or satisfied. To them, “it’s always someone else’s fault.” When we recognize this behavior — when we know we’re dealing with an anti-mentor — we can learn the lessons we need from them and disregard the rest of their “teachings.” While we might never feel the need to thank them, they have provided us with another key element for our future success.
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