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Do-It-Yourself Mentoring

The keys to self-coaching.

Mentors are primarily memories. "The notion that someone will sit down and advise you on your career is just not doable today," says Dennis Matthies, a lecturer at Stanford's Center for Teaching and Learning and a consultant to Microsoft and other technology companies.

"The new business environment — fast-paced, intellectually demanding, constantly changing — makes it hard to sustain the old mentoring model. The future is all about self-coaching." Matthies points to Microsoft as one notably mentor-free zone. "People are expected to learn fast, on their own, by watching each other, and watching who's best."

What are the keys to self-coaching? First, be disciplined about reflecting on pivotal (read: painful) moments at work. "When something bad happens, don't wait for days to think about it. Immediately ask yourself, 'What can I learn from this?'"

Second, commit to getting better at activities on which you spend lots of time. Matthies calls it the "1,000 multiplier." Spending an hour a day on something for four years translates into a thousand hours — which means it's probably something that's important to your success and promotability. "In the new world of business, if we're not getting better we're getting worse."

Coordinates: Dennis Matthies matthies@jessica.stanford.edu

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