The Mentoring Action Plan And How To Put One Together

Mentoring is a wonderful activity that brings together not only two individuals looking for ways to mutually grow both personally and professionally, but also a practice that enhances the opportunity for employees inside a company to transcend and for the organization itself to be better by ensuring the people that make up their ranks, are individuals committed to growth and the accomplishment of the mission. Here at Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, we have talked about all of these benefits before in our many articles on mentoring, and one of the things that we have always said is that just like any endeavor you are about to undertake, you must have a clear direction of where you are going. A ship needs a bearing as well as a map to navigate the vast waters, and just like a vessel, so does your mentoring relationship need to have meaning and a clear objective in mind in order to be successful. Today we want to talk about mentoring plans, about how they are put together and the criteria to judge whether they are working the way they should.

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A mentoring action plan is a way for a mentee to realize where they are currently, where they want to get to by the means of their new found mentoring relationship, and more importantly, how they are going to go about actually getting there in the first place. The first thing that must be done is to ask yourself some really insightful questions like: What exactly do I want to accomplish from this relationship? Which skills do I lack or need to improve in order to be a better version of myself? Are there any alliances or partnerships I am interested in forging? Is there a way to measure what I have learned and put it to the test? How can I apply these new skills to my current position and how can they help me advance further professionally?

All of these can help mentees create a vision statement. A vision statement is all about seeing yourself in a place where you are not yet, but where you want to get to eventually.

Creating a vision statement can be considered the first action to take when putting together your mentoring action plan as it is used as the basis of decision-making processes and a way to find out what you really want to get out of your efforts being placed into the mentoring program. A vision plan requires for you to make a list considering the questions we talked about earlier, and also include things that you see as your own personal weaknesses and strengths. This information can help you identify your capabilities, limitations and immediate goals to pursue.

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The next logical step is to actually identify those goals and state them in a specific and realistic way so they are attainable considering your current skills and intentions. Taking a look at your past performance reviews or analyzing prospective jobs or positions you would like to attain are great ways to identify areas of possible development. Remember the acronym SMART when are putting together a set of goals to work towards.

S stands for being specific about the things you want to achieve. M is for those goals to be measurable and meaningful for you, your environment, the company, etc. A is for attainable, achievable or action-oriented instead of empty words that are nothing more than just hopeful-thinking but lacking direction and acceptance. R stands not just for realistic by also relevant and reasonable. It goes without saying that your goals must lead you somewhere and not simply be something else you are able to do,  since that by itself, doesn’t amount to much. Last but not least, we have T that stands for tangible, time-based and timely because you have to set timelines in order to know if this is working at all or you are just wasting your time. Challenging yourself is quite important because nothing worth it comes along without hard work.

Setting deadlines should come after and this is the way you get motivated to see progress and push yourself to continue moving forward. This can be done by having schedule benchmarks and feedback sessions to evaluate progress together and adjust accordingly.

The real change begins when the mentoring action plan is truly put together and subsequently put to work. Having everything laid out for you is the best way to take charge and begin to work towards objectives that can be measured and closely monitored. Regardless of how things are done, mentoring relationships are organic partnerships and they will find their own way to move forward because they do not all work the same way. Your particular case may find a different set of challenges as those of your coworkers and have common strengths that others may wish they had. The important thing is to continue growing and to always understand the importance of proper planning.

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Why is mentoring the best way to raise leaders in your company?

This is happening more and more frequently, which is quite encouraging. A company with problems (eminently, with communication problems) decides to adopt a change of perspective and start doing things differently and decides to implement a mentoring project. The company’s directives hire an expert in this area and all of them design the program with the objective that the directors become the mentors of the top executives of the organization, who could be the leaders of it in the future, to develop their leadership skills. When these types of adjustments are made, the benefits are so many that they are difficult to classify. However, the most important of these is the new form of leadership that is built and executed for the good of the entire company.

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When leadership is built from mentoring processes, the leader that results is not a simple advisor to his or her subordinates, and, of course, he/she is not someone who simply delegates and gives orders so that everything is done to his or her convenience. A leader built a from mentoring processes, first of all, uses coaching skills and techniques; forms and transmits knowledge, and relates and sponsors the mentees. This type of leader considers three basic dimensions that must be developed in any professional role: Emotional, intellectual and social.

Obviously, for this to be achieved, it is necessary to have certain knowledge. Otherwise, the mentoring program could fail. Ideally, a company may start with a small group of mentors and mentees. A group of ten people, for example, is easy to follow and monitor, and from there it is possible to quantitatively extend the new versions of the mentoring programs.

In the same way, it is vital to choose the pairs of mentors and mentees very well. This selection should be made jointly with experts in the human resources area, or with external organizational psychologists. The idea is not simply to organize couples that get along but to complement each other in their knowledge and experience, and from which a true learning can emerge.

Before executing anything, it is very important to plan the sessions, and, above all, to elaborate a very detailed internal guide that includes a practical methodology that is easy to put into practice.

Read also: Why does your company need a mentoring program?, by Suzzanne Uhland

These types of programs are, of course, tremendously beneficial for mentees. What most often stands out in them is the increase of confidence towards the executives of the organizations, as well as a greater assumption of challenges when it comes to their roles. However, the most surprising factor about mentoring processes is the benefits in terms of increasing and improving skills to train other people and developing their potential.

There is always an increase in the level of personal satisfaction of mentors, which is a valuable resource in an organization. In fact, mentoring is one of the practices that most increase the level of commitment and satisfaction of the people who are part of a company.

The mentors consider their participation in the program very satisfactory, not only for the improvement of their competences but also for having contributed to achieving a difference, a change, and improvement in the lives of their mentees. In the same way, this happens because both mentors and mentees expand their own networks of professional contacts, as well as the acquisition of new technical knowledge (both for mentors, who are updated by the new knowledge that mentees bring from the academies, and for mentees, who are nourished by the experience of the mentors.)

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Mentoring has an exponential effect because it not only generates benefits for mentees and mentors but also for the entire company. It can be noticed in all programs, both for small (and family) companies and for large corporations. The main improvements that are obtained thanks to these programs for organizations are four.

The first is that organizational training is improved, especially when company executives become mentors, based on the example of those who participated in the mentoring program, and have taken as mentees other people within the organization to mentor them. The second is that individual performance is improved. This is so because the mentees generally show greater commitment, loyalty, and productivity. The third thing is that, as mentioned above, there is an increase in the level of trust: Mentoring programs increase trust between the members of the Board and senior executives or senior leaders of the company, as both parties learn to communicate in a closer and sincere way. Finally, governance is significantly improved throughout the organization. The relationships between the different interest groups at the internal level of the company improve, there is a clearer and more direct knowledge of the talent, and the leadership capacities of the people who work in the organization. This facilitates the identification of future leaders that the organization may need.

Recommended: Predicting the future of mentoring programs

What Are Mentors Exactly Suppose To Do In A Partnership?

Those of us, who have been fortunate enough to work with a mentor at some point in our lives, understand the importance of having such person next to us as part of our growth process. The role of a mentor is extremely influential in an individual’s career and it can pave the road to success for those who are trying to find their footing and want to take advantage of the experience that only comes from years of working in the industry. Career-changing is the perfect adjective to describe what a mentor can do for something who really wants to take charge of their own professional development, so today here in Suzzanne Uhland’s blog we want to use this opportunity to help mentors figure out what exactly their role entails and which practices do fall outside of their scope of practice. Even if you are not a mentor but a mentee, this information can be quite useful to help you analyze your own expectations and understand how you can best benefit from the relationship while at the same time giving back, as it is important to remember that mentoring is not a one-way street and the best mentorships are known for being a symbiotic exchange in which both parties grow, learn and become richer from an experience that should not be taken lightly.

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Companies should also do their parts by understanding what they are asking for their senior leaders when they assign them as mentors and how they can best support the relationship by giving all parties involved the necessary tools to be successful in an endeavor that will surely help the organization greatly in the short and long term.

The difference between mentoring and coaching.

In some articles, you will see that people often put both of these terms in the same category which is not entirely wrong, but it is important to understand that coaching and mentoring are not ideas that can be referred to interchangeably because they do not mean the same thing. Mentoring normally is done in the long-term basis and with the growth and professional development of the mentee and while coaching has very similar ideals, it is not something that is done for a long time, since it focuses on very specific behaviors that need to be corrected or changed and some goals that want to be achieved. Both of these strategies are great and they work always with the benefit and growth of the mentee in mind, but while one has the characteristics of a marathon in which participants pace themselves and goals are set of the long term. Coaching usually yields results a lot faster because it focuses on something specific and time sensitive that the mentee wants to achieve.

Planning a short and long-term strategy.

Mentors and mentees work together in creating a strategy that includes both short and long-term goals. Think about those goals as a map before you go on a trip. It is necessary to understand where you are going so you can take the best route and also so you know exactly when you are going to get there. Setting up goals and benchmarks is sensible and quite responsible, and that is why this is one of the most important things a mentor has to encourage the mentee they have taken under their wing.

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Encouragement and support.

Mentors sometimes work as cheerleaders as they provide support and encouragement to their mentees. Mentors are supposed to help their partners think outside of the box and go outside of their comfort zone to try new things and to see things from a different perspective. In order to do this, mentors need to identify resources that can help their mentees advance their development and grow in their professional world. Support can also be found in learning tools and materials such as books, workshops, and courses. As a mentor, it is great if you are interested enough in helping your mentees find such tools

Honest and raw advice.

A mentor has to be able to provide truthful and unadulterated advice so their mentees. It is not their job to pull any punches and their job is to say things honestly and without a filter, something that mentees probably would not be able to get anywhere else but from their mentors. This type of insight is very valuable and it is considered of the greatest things a mentor can offer their partners.

A mentor is not there to tell you how to do things.

This is very important to stay away from. Mentors should not be telling their partners how to do things; instead they are supposed to encourage them to find solutions and to be able to solve their own issues. Mentors are not problem-solvers but instead, they are partners that provide encouragement and guidance from a perspective of experience and professional knowledge.

Why does your company need a mentoring program?

One of the main problems that organizations have in our country (and, in fact, in the whole continent) has to do with the very way in which the idea of business has been assumed. For a long time, since the times of wealth and growth, in the middle of the last century, the business world has focused on the mere idea of production, enrichment, and expansion. Precisely, that is where the problem lies since, although it is necessary to make money and not stop growing, it is also necessary to think of the world we are building. Creating a business culture is as important as economic development. One of the ways to foster that business culture is through mentoring.

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Mentoring is closely linked to our Western literary history. In Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ we find the term ‘mentoring’ for the first time. Mentor was an old man who lived in Ithaca, and who was responsible for helping Ulysses in his absence during the War of Troy. His work also consisted of training Telemachus, the first son of the hero. According to Greek mythology, the goddess Athena used the face of Mentor when she wanted to communicate with Telemachus while he was looking for his father.

Recommended: Coach or Mentor? You Need Both

Therefore, a mentor refers to a counselor, someone who is capable of giving wise and prudent advice. Recently, the term has been widely used in the business environment since it has allowed to enhance the learning of employees based on the help of more experienced workers. There are two great types of mentoring. The best-known is called ‘behavioral mentoring.’ In this category, there is typically someone with more experience that tells the mentee what things should be done and how according to the way the mentor has worked for years in the company. This is a simple transmission of knowledge, like a father who’s teaching his son how to keep carrying out his profession.

The other mode of mentoring is known as ‘development mentoring.’ In this type, the process is not limited to a vertical transmission of knowledge from a mentor to a mentee. Here the mentor seeks, above all, that the mentee develops skills, finds ways to solve problems, to find ways to develop his or her own methods. For this reason, although the mentor must be someone experienced, it is more important that he or she be trained to develop the mentee’s intelligence.

Read also: Why people in the business world need a mentor?, by Suzzanne Uhland

This type of programs, especially the second one, not only allows the productive capacities of the company to continue in constant expansion but help the employees to build themselves as persons. It is, in some way, a social investment. When employees have gone through mentoring processes, particularly development mentoring ones, they generally positively affect the business environment and produce changes in other employees and processes of the entire company. This happens, above all, because development mentoring aims at a modification of the identity rather than just a behavioral programming. When the mentees have changed (actually, improved) a series of mental patterns, they become better people and employees.

Mentoring is more than a necessity for companies. Some might think that mentoring processes only take place in large companies, with a large human resources departments. Actually, it is not like that. In fact, mentoring programs in small and medium-sized companies have been as frequent as in large ones, and for several decades.

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The reasons why a company needs mentoring programs are basically two. The first one is that companies, like all systems, are becoming more complex as they grow and form subsystems (in the form of departments, such as logistics, marketing, production, etc.,) and these, in turn, gain depth during the growth of the company. This is one of the great objectives of any organization, but here there may be a problem if the departments start operating as independent entities and thus lose the direction of where the organization should go as a whole. Mentoring is, then, a way of building bridges between different areas, of transmitting knowledge among them and redistributing information more equitably.

The second reason is that mentoring itself leads us to question the idea of professional success. What does it mean to be successful? Certainly, it is not just about making money, but about building ourselves as people. Mentoring, then, is a possibility to do so, to bring new values to society, instead of focusing solely on productivity.

Mentoring makes us more human, in a moment of history when the obsessions with artificial intelligence and large-scale automation processes force us to rethink our situation in the world as human beings. Companies do not function thanks to the workforce of millions of machines (at least not for now,) but thanks to human beings who feel, who dream, who seek to improve themselves. So, it does not matter what industry a company belongs to, nor how big it is. A mentoring program can be tremendously beneficial in any case.

In this TED video, Kam Phillips explains how mentoring has the ability to change the world.

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The Most Common Mentoring Mistakes Made By Companies And Employees

Here at Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, we have talked about many times of the clear advantages of having a mentoring program set up for your employees, as well as joining one as a mentor or mentee in your organization. Companies benefit greatly when they pair up their employees and thus bring new member up to speed on the company’s practices, procedures, and goals while at the same time investing in the development of new members of the organization. If you are a senior employee, then mentoring opens up a door of opportunities in a whole different way, by giving you the chance to learn skills that perhaps were not relevant during your own training and that are common with today’s younger generations, or also by helping you enhance your own leadership skills in a real-world environment.

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It is clear that the advantages are many and for everyone involved, but then again we have to talk about the most common mistakes organizations and individuals make when putting together, maintaining and participating in a mentoring program. Mistakes and wrong dealings when it comes to mentoring can develop to become difficulty seeing the advantages of the relationship, benefiting from being part of a mentorship and even result in the failure of the program itself.

These are some of the most common mistakes made when it comes to mentorships.

Sometimes even great mentors fail because they forget to do things such as reframing challenges in a way that can be easily understood and properly assessed by the mentee. Our frame of mind is something crucial when it comes to finding ways to deal with obstacles as things may seem impossible to solve and predicaments may feel impossible from where we are standing. Reframing problems allow us to remove ourselves from the predicament and literally find a new approach. A great mentor knows this and sometimes that is what sets them apart from the rest. Forgetting about reframing or simply tackling issues without changing our frame of mind is a big mistake in mentoring and one that even experienced participants easily fall into.

Another big mistake in mentoring happens when mentors simply give out the answers to mentees. Finding solutions is about coaching individuals and helping them reach conclusions on their own for the most part. A good mentor is not a person who solves issues for you; instead, they guide you and help you find the answers on your own while helping you stay on track while a goal has been set and a plan has been hatched.

The problem with giving a mentee the solution to their issue is that we are literally taking away from them the opportunity to grow and learn from experiences. The job of a mentor is to facilitate such learning opportunities and not to take them away from their mentees.

A great way to mentor is to ask questions. Instead of telling them what to do, have them answer questions about why they haven’t done something yet, thus making them really think about what is it that is stopping them from taking risks or to analyze aspects that they may have not considered before.

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As a mentee, one of the biggest and most common mistakes is choosing a mentor that is too similar to you. It is very comfortable to talk to someone with your same background and way of thinking, so developing that kind of relationship will be naturally easy, however, it isn’t recommended to avoid contrast when it comes to mentoring. You will learn the most from partners that are of a different gender and background because you will be exposed to a whole new spectrum of experiences that can enrich your own. Think also outside of your chain of command and go for someone who is not your direct supervisor so you can avoid conflicts of interest. Be bold and brave and get out of your comfort zone.

Another mistake mentees make has to do with asking for advice that is too general. Always be specific about your questions, about the issues that worry you and about the advice you want to receive. It is normal to not be clear about your needs at first, but finding out is part of the experience.

As an organization, one of the most common mistakes people make is wrongly pairing participants. Sometimes this is done at random and that spells out a recipe for disaster. Remember that not all senior members are willing to participate in mentoring, so this shouldn’t be something that is imposed on people. The trick is to find people who are excited about the opportunity to teach others and partner them with employees who have interest in advancing their professional life and goals that can benefit from receiving help from others with more experience.

The last and probably the most important mistake companies make is that they forget to follow up and supervise their own mentoring program. That could mean the end of the program itself, easily.

 

A practical ABC of how to implement a mentoring program in your company

A mentoring process is an excellent solution for the development of any organization. This type of program allows the transmission of knowledge to be carried out in an efficient and friendly way, and it constitutes an opportunity for a company to produce and preserve a series of knowledge that it has discovered for years. Mentoring allows the contact and collaboration of workers from diverse areas and knowledge which brings great benefits in terms of communication and integration. One of the most positive consequences of this is that the workers who have gone through mentoring processes are more likely to make more effective and accountable decisions than others who have not as they feel more secure when they start executing new processes. However, it is important to learn how to develop these programs by the book. If a mentoring process is not implemented properly, it is possible that the corporate climate that a company has built so meticulously for years breaks down in a short time.

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For this reason, it is essential to take into account an ABC to be followed in order to implement a mentoring process in a company since it is not enough to establish a series of objectives to achieve and have the availabilities and knowledge of the mentors. Let’s see why.

First of all, a basic aspect that must be done to implement an appropriate mentoring process is taking advantage of the existing communications within the company and doing ‘some marketing’ among the employees of the whole organization. The important thing here is to explain what this process consists of to the executives of the company, and, above all, to make them feel included in this project. It is necessary to clarify what mentoring consists of, what its benefits are for an organization, what the main objectives are, who can participate in it, and how they can do it. It is important to clarify that mentoring is a voluntary process at all times and that both mentors and mentees carry out a mentoring process because they wish to do so. If an adequate explanation is achieved at this point, the more experienced employees of the company are more likely to feel motivated to be part of the mentoring project; especially, if they know that they have the full support of the organization.

Read also: The Best Tips For Making Your Mentoring Relationships Successful, by Suzzanne Uhland

To this extent, what follows from here is, first of all, a correct planning of the whole process. A series of clear and achievable objectives must be established, as well as a step-by-step approach to attain them in the short, medium and long-term. Here you can establish both the number and frequency of the mentoring sessions, as well as the operating guidelines that will be followed throughout the entire program, and the necessary tools for the transmission of knowledge.

In this first step, it is important to take all the time to properly plan and draw a roadmap that, although it may diverge a bit from the practice, will help to keep the program within clear limits. This, not only to not waste time but to prevent the mentoring program from turning into something completely different from what was initially planned.

The next step is the mentor training. It is not just about talking and talking about work experiences, but about meeting learning objectives, to listen to the mentee’s questions, to know how to assign tasks, and to have good communication. For all that, some training is required and all mentors should be trained, not only in mentoring techniques but in the most basic rudiments of instruction.

Recommended: Tips for Effectively Train and Mentor a New Project Manager

After all of the above, what follows is to select and assign both mentors and mentees. Because the mentoring program focuses almost exclusively on the first ones, it is essential to clarify what the skills and abilities of the mentors are, as well as the knowledge that they intend to transmit during the program. Likewise, it is necessary to identify which employees are willing to start a mentoring program, to and verify that there is a fluent and effective communication between the mentors and mentees who will work together.

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Finally, it is necessary to constantly review the performance of the program and to evaluate whether the proposed objectives were reached or not. Many errors occur the first time a mentoring program is implemented. It is normal (and, in fact, necessary.) The important thing is to identify them and to find ways to avoid incurring them again. Before any mentoring program, a company should take into account the previous program, and improving the new one in some way. This is the only way for a mentoring program to not negatively affect the business culture of an organization.

After the evaluation, the idea is to plan the next program again. It is advisable to study the mentoring processes of other companies and learning from the problems of others, as well as their good results.

Check this video for further information.

 

The Best Tips For Making Your Mentoring Relationships Successful.

 

Mentoring relationships are rich alliances in which both parties bring their best to the table in a joint effort to come out a better version of themselves at the end, not only professionally but also personally as well. As with most relationships, this is hard work and it requires practice and dedication in order to make the best out of the experience. Both parties must be willing to conform to the rules, to be honest, and forthcoming and to give their best effort when it comes to receiving advice and also giving it when needed. It is more common to see senior members of the organization paired up with much younger executives who want to take advantage of their experience so they know how to navigate the waters of career advancement. It isn’t different when it also works the other way around, when senior members utilize the skills of their mentees so they can learn about aspects of the business that they are not familiar with; things like technology, new trends and the evolution of the business itself towards places that are different from what they are used to.

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Today in Suzzanne Uhland’s blog we want to talk about some advice that can be useful for both mentors and mentees by helping them truly appreciate their mentoring relationship and learn from the mistakes and lessons that others have learned before from them. Remember that even if you look at mentoring as a bond in which someone takes the time and effort to guide a junior employee, that doesn’t mean the mentee is out of the hook when it comes to being responsible for giving back in this symbiotic partnership.

For mentors

Be an active listener. Listening is more than just sitting there and being quiet while the other person goes on about their life, their observations and postulate questions. Active listeners sit up straight, engage the speaker and annotate the information they receive so they can come back and review it. Using non-verbal language is extremely important in this engagement exercise and it works two ways: not only it allows you to show your mentee that you are interested in what they are telling you, but also it helps you process information in a way that gives you the best chance to answer back with insights that are truly useful and on point when it comes to advising for the best course of action.

Part of being an active listener also has to do with actually listening and trying not to talk so much. Some mentors believe that their job is to tell stories and illuminate their mentee with their particular clever insight on every situation. While this isn’t entirely wrong, you must know how to balance your speaking with your listening, as you need to make the right assessment as to how you can help, and how you cannot. Encourage independence and understand that your way of doing things may simply be one of the many ways out there to get things done. Personal anecdotes are great, but they should now take up all of the time you have together. Try listening and allowing your partner to talk so you can get a better read of what is going on and how you can help out.

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For mentees

Understand that most of the work has to come for you. You have to know that you are primarily being benefitted in these relationships and while you do bring a lot to the table if you do your part, there is a component of sacrifice and compromise that you must always keep in mind. Mentors are busy people who take time out of their days to share their knowledge and experience with you, so be sure to take responsibility for making the relationship work.

Keep in mind that your goals have to be clear and it is your job to define such goals. You must know what you want in order to achieve it, especially when you are consulting with someone as to which is the best way to do so.

Be curious and inquisitive at all times. You cannot be helped if you are not interested in what you are doing and a mentor will be motivated when they see you trying to improve. Always write down questions before sessions so you can talk about things that are important and you are not there just wasting the time of all parties involved. Make yourself available for your mentor and always make sure that you meet deadlines and keep appointments. Be honest and open about your doubts and trust the person you chose as a guide since they are a reflection of your projection for a better professional career and the advancement you want to reach as an individual. Always have a positive attitude and understand that being better requires a lot of hard work.