One important question every successful entrepreneur can ask themselves is, “Who taught you what you needed to know to get where you are?” Another interesting question you might consider is: “Who had the tools or knowledge you clearly needed but for whatever reason did not offer it to you?”
At some point in life, almost everyone has collaborated with people who don’t share knowledge, don’t give advice, and don’t help others out with their experience. These people might have been our colleagues, our managers, our HR business partners, or even an intern or a consultant. Someone who, with just a couple of words and no more than a few minutes of their time, could have made our life so much easier or even helped to solve a long-standing, troubling issue we weren’t yet experienced enough to solve.
Of course, when we deal with people like that, we tend to get mad and call them selfish, mean or—what else—our era’s favorite term: toxic.
It’s not that we’re necessarily wrong in our view of their behaviour; it’s just that a judgment like that is oversimplified.
People are scared. They are scared that they might lose what they built and what they worked for; they are scared that they might become irrelevant and forgotten, replaced or overshadowed. And can we really blame them?
How many times has a new director changed loyal members of the team for a fresh start? How often does an employer promote “generous” exit packages to older staff members so that the company can cut down on its labor costs? How rare is it really for the student to become the master?
When resources are limited, people get competitive—and surprisingly enough, instead of questioning the system that limits their resources, they turn against each other. Does this mean they are excused for their behaviour? No. It does mean though, that they can be understood.
Breaking a pattern of pathogeny is not an easy thing. In a world that perpetuates individuality at the expense of community, stepping up without allowing your worst inner instincts of survival to take the best of you and actually do the right thing—not for yourself, but for someone else or the organization’s good—is a literal psychological breakthrough, a next-level example of internal growth.
Giving, when we have only been taught how to take, is not something that happens on its own. It’s a decision. An active decision that we all must start making because we need to do better. Better than our parents, better than our teachers, better than the generations before us.
In his book, Giving, Bill Clinton said that he’d rather be wrong for trusting people than for distrusting them. That means that the burden of not giving someone the opportunity they deserve should be heavier than giving it to someone that misuses it or disrespects it by being ungrateful or forgetful.
The all-too common vicious cycle of useless competition and passive-aggressive conflict must end with us.
We must commit ourselves to mentor and coach younger or less experienced people, even if we are young ourselves. Provide them with every little piece of information that would have made a difference in our life, had we found it sooner. And if we are afraid, we should still do it, despite being scared.
The fact that we had it rough and pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps doesn’t mean we should consciously make it rough for the next ones as well. Not being part of the problem is simply not enough anymore—we must speak up and engage.
We need to be part of the solution. Reset our mindsets and start taking conscious, active steps. Are you in?
One active step you can take right now is to become a mentor. EO’s chapter-based mentorship programme fosters relationships aimed at high-level leadership and personal development within a structured timeframe. Throughout the mentorship process, mentees work toward goals and establish personal accountability, while mentors support them through experience-sharing and engagement. EO’s mentorship relationships drive transformation by fostering strong, long-lasting connections that improve members’ lives and businesses, and provide valuable solutions that help foster and maintain positive mentor and mentee relationships.
If you’re interested in becoming an EO mentor or mentee, contact your EO chapter’s Mentorship Chair and start getting connected with the wealth of experience EO members have to share.
Contributed to EO by Zoe Fragou, an Organisational Psychologist with an MSc in Human Resources Management, a clinical psychologist license, and a diploma in Business Coaching & Mentorship who focuses on the psychometrics of corporate culture. She manages projects that include culture transformation, employee training and development, business coaching, personal branding, public speaking, and writing, for both private and corporate clients globally. She is a mentor for Women on Top, a feministic organization trying to bring equality in the workspace, a senior member of the Hellenic Institute of Coaching, and was voted best career coach in the Global Coaching Conference of 2021.