I was at the WITI Conference (Women in Technology Summit) earlier this week and I appreciated the emphasis on being proactive about identifying and reaching out to potential mentors. I also really liked the callout at a conference sponsored by a women’s professional association that mentors can be men and women. As I look at my mentor roster history (mom, dad, sister, boss, peer, boss, boss, CEO, team member, peer) half of them have been men. And I’m grateful for that, because it’s important to be able to leverage your mentors as sounding boards to obtain alternative perspectives. Whether we like it or not, gender probably influences your perspective – and that nuance counts when you’re looking for feedback.

The add I would make is that I think it’s a miss to limit your learning moments and mentorship opportunities to specific individuals that you have more formalized “mentor” relationships with. While I have had half a dozen or so true “mentors” so far in my lifetime, the true gift in my mind has come from the learning moments in between the mentoring conversations.

My husband and I have recently come to the conclusion that our 2 year old son will always prefer running around in a grassy field or exploring the wilderness than playing on a play structure or playground. So, we’ve been spending the past few weekend mornings going on short hikes with him throughout the Bay Area. Last Sunday as we were walking through a field, I picked one of those wispy flowers where you can blow and all of the seeds disconnect from the stem and float into the sky. For our son, it was the first time he had seen anything like that and was absolutely delighted – so much so that we ended up trekking for another hour doing just that – blowing flower petals into the wind. That feeling of delight is one that as an adult so few moments conjure. So it made me wonder – what are the things that trigger that feeling of delight for clients, employees, friends, and family?

It’s the things around us – the little things that go unnoticed. The thank you’s when you aren’t expecting it. It’s when you notice that someone got a haircut or when you recognize the obscure new sticker your team member put on their laptop. It’s when you send your client a hand written birthday card. It’s when you give your mom and dad a hug.

My learning moment this week is that focusing in on the little things around me and the experience we deliver to our clients is what creates differentiation, loyalty, and delight. My 2 year old mentor taught me that.

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