Ain’t No Forest Without The Trees

It takes one tree with a purpose to begin a forest; with purpose, one tiny seed, mixed with the right conditions, can spring forth a magnificent tree. As a tree stretches upwards, it also stretches outward with its mighty branches dropping seeds of opportunity onto the fertile ground below. It takes time, along with the correct mixture of seed, soil, and sunshine to produce a forest; equally it takes the same ingredients to make a successful organization. It takes the right soil of culture to enrich the seeds of each of its members to germinate into the oaks of success. Soil and seed are essential, but sunshine is critical; without sunshine, growth is impossible. Mentorship is the sunlight lacking in today’s dealerships. The automotive industry has many trees, but few forests; our problem is not a lack seeds; but a lack of mentorship, failing to provide optimal conditions for seeds to become forests.

Traditionally, the sales profession has a competitive sink or swim philosophy; a manager blows up a new salesperson’s raft with airs of hope and promises, then abruptly pushes the new hire out to bravely fight the rolling seas of dejection and regret alone-eventually succumbing to the mounting pressures and wearily falling into the rejection- infested waters of the black top. Dealerships are guilty of having The Popcorn Bag Theory; we want results with little effort. In theory, we want to take the wrapper off (hire), toss the bag into the microwave for 2 minutes (training), and then expect to yank out a hot steaming bag of fully popped kernels (results).

Mentors are the light needed in an industry that has survived utter darkness. The reputation of the automotive industry precedes itself; buying a car is thought of playing a game at a local carnival. As a customer, you know the odds of winning are slim, but maybe, just maybe, with a little skill and a lot of luck, you may win the 3 foot tall Scooby Doo. If we desire to see a change in our industry, we must begin the chain reaction of developing seeds into trees. A forest then begins when each tree reciprocates the action and gives of itself. Mentoring is no respecter of person and is not denoted by title; you don’t have to be an owner to mentor a manger nor do you have to be a manager to mentor a salesperson; instead mentoring is denoted by character and experience. Mentoring can be thought of as Men-tour, taking a prodigy on a tour of the trail you have blazed in the path to success. Keep in mind, you cannot mentor someone who has no desire for self-improvement; a mentor has the ability to show him or her which road to travel, but it is up to the mentee to drive the bus. Now that we have the seed, let’s discuss how to fertilize and bring its potential into reality.

  • Visualize before seeing: In football, have you ever wondered why a quarterback throws a bonehead interception right into the defender’s hands? It’s because the QB was not throwing to a receiver per se, he was throwing to a spot; he anticipated the receiver being at that spot at that exact moment. Equally, a running back doesn’t wait to see the hole open up on the line of scrimmage; he must instead anticipate it, because he has only a fraction of a second in which to run to daylight. An effective mentor designs goals for a mentee to run to; he doesn’t wait to see the hole of opportunity open, instead he anticipates the opening and hits it in full stride. Opportunities favor the prepared mind; as a mentor prepare your prodigy to envision the end results of his goal and run to it. A goal is a destination; success is a journey.
  • Passion: Mentors know in order to reach the upper realms of success, a mentee must have the passion, and the emotional bond to reach his aspirations-all the while becoming deaf to the nay Sayers and blind to inaction. Benjamin Franklin once said, “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” Passion is the chemical reaction to reasonings and opposition as baking soda is to vinegar in a 3rd grader’s volcanic science experiment. Passion is the fuel to propel one’s vision into reality.
  • Walk before running: A toddler doesn’t quit learning to walk after falling down once; he pulls himself back up and tries again. Through repetition, he learns how to balance himself and eventually begins to take small steps, which lead to larger ones until the child becomes tornadic-running at full speed. In the beginning, a mentee will be full of vision and passion, eager to take on the world. A mentor must train his mentee as if he were training for an iron-man contest not a sprint; success is a long, arduous race. It takes years to become an overnight success.
  • Use a scope: Scopes work better on rifles than they do shotguns; instead of using the pray and spray technique blasting a variety of pellets hoping you hit your target, put a scope on your rifle and bullseye your goals by focusing on your strengths. A world-renowned heart surgeon doesn’t perform knee surgery; although he has generalized knowledge of other parts of the body, he specializes in one. On specialized knowledge, Henry Ford lamented, “Tell me why I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have people around me who can supply any knowledge I require?” As a mentor, help your mentee focus on their strengths and become specialized instead of wasting time and energy trying to shore up their weaknesses.
  • Become a fisher of men: A fisherman catches for himself, while a fisher of men has the ability to teach what he knows on the condition that the mentee pays it forward. Mentorship is the pollination of life’s learned lessons -cutting through the underbrush of failure and creating a more efficient path to success.

Someone asks, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?” The answer is yes. Falling trees are sounding out everyday falling due to inadequate roots, rotting with doubt and are anemic to bearing fruit. Mentorship provides the nourishment of guidance required for a strong foundation; develops the antibodies of encouragement to ward off self-defeating thoughts; and fertilizes the fruit-bearing seeds of opportunity. A tree doesn’t struggle to be a tree nor does it worry about its position in the forest. A tree is known by the fruit it bears; when a tree gives of itself and bears fruit, it ceases to become a tree and instead grows into a forest. I’ll see you next time on the blacktop!

**Originally printed in AutoSuccess Magazine

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