30 August

Ignite Passion and Drive In Your Students and Young Employees

Role 11: The Activator

Adapted from Scott Jeffrey’s Miller’s The Ultimate Guide to Great Mentorship: 13 Roles to Making a True Impact

Role 11: The Activator

The Activator senses the right moment to light a spark that ignites their mentee’s momentum, passions, or trajectory. The Activator is concerned with finding the right moment where their mentee would benefit from a carefully worded state­ment of encouragement and belief, fueling their drive to push harder, set even more ambitious goals, or stretch themselves in new and exciting ways.

The Goal

To ignite new levels of motivation and momentum at an intention­ ally impactful moment, reinforcing the mentor’s faith in what their mentee can achieve.

Key Activator Skills

  • Know which message to ignite
  • Look for the signals to “strike the match”
  • Use your power carefully
  • Create the spark, not the candle

The Activator provides the spark, offered at the right time, that ignites your mentee’s passions. If we divide the behavioral world into motivation and ability camps, The Activator is squarely con­cerned with the former. Where The Validator (role #6) is invest­ing in building the relationship and affirming a mentee’s thoughts and beliefs, The Activator uses their words to ignite passion and drive in their mentees. They create momentum like a fly­ wheel, a term Jim Collins coined in his seminal bestseller, Good to Great.

Know Which Message to Ignite

I’ve shared several key messages throughout this book. (Most mar­keters will now tell you it’s necessary to repeat a message seven times before a consumer pays attention and is motivated to act.)

  • Buy a copy of this book for everyone you know.
  • Buy a copy of this book for everyone you know.
  • Buy a copy of this book for everyone you know.
  • Buy a copy of this book for everyone you know.
  • Buy a copy of this book for everyone you know.
  • Buy a copy of this book for everyone you know.
  • Buy a copy of this book for everyone you know.
  • Buy a copy of this book for everyone you know.

And yes, I upped it to “eight” as the onslaught of competing messages will only get worse, not better.

Knowing which message to ignite is a crucial mentor responsi­bility. It may seem counterintuitive, but in The Activator role, you can spark too many fires. As the mentor, you need to be careful you don’t fall victim to your mentee’s perhaps contagious passion, seem­ingly endless stream of brilliant ideas, or even infectious personality where you end up igniting every idea they offer . . . or you offer. Candidly, that’s irresponsible. This role needs to be employed judi­ciously and will require you to determine which ideas, projects, strategies, or products you pour gas on and ignite.

In comedy, timing is everything. I learned this the hard way when I was in Brazil delivering a keynote speech. Although my Spanish is strong(ish), my Portuguese is nonexistent. Try giving a three-­hour keynote where humor is one of your major assets and your translator repeats everything you say, twenty seconds later, and groups seven sentences together. The result was losing my punchlines for three hours! I wanted to die.

The Activator must understand timing—just as you can’t punch up every line with a joke, a mentor can’t activate every creative idea their mentee talks about. Remember to be careful to not only ignite those ideas that you’re excited about but also watch carefully for the excitement in your mentee. When and how you activate specific ideas and goals is more important than you may realize. Sometimes holding your “gunpowder” for the right shot can have a dispropor­tionately valuable impact on focusing your mentee.

Some people fall into a category called external processors where they say out loud everything they think. This is their way of discern­ing if they believe everything they’re saying or are passionate about something they’re saying, or aren’t. They need to hear themselves say everything in order to make a judgment call on it. There’s noth­ing wrong with this communication style, however, you, as the men­tor, need to be aware if this is the communication circumstance you and they are in so you’re not validating and igniting everything coming out of their mouths.

Click to watch a short overview video of The Activator role.

Look for the Signals to “Strike the Match”

Here are some signals to look for when employing The Activator, match in hand:

  • Watch your mentee’s body language. Even when you’re meeting virtually, if you pay attention, you can tell when someone’s energy and passion change by topic.
  • Look for a repeat of ideas and areas of interest that keep resurfacing. There’s a reason this is happening. That doesn’t always mean a mentor should progress it, but pay attention. (If someone had activated every idea I was passionate about, I’d have 300 businesses by now with 295 of them in bankruptcy.)
  • Ask your mentee:
    • What excites you?
    • What brings you joy and purpose? (Those are heavy words that we throw around perhaps a bit too loosely, so be deliberate when you ask them and be sure you’re checked in during their response.)
  • Describe when you were the happiest. What were you doing? Who were you with? What about these situations brought you into a state of happiness?
  • Conversely, what sucks the life from you? What do you dread? When you want to hide or avoid something or someone, what’s going on? You never know when some of the most innocuous questions might stick with your mentee long after your call or meeting. Even long after your mentoring engagement.

Use Your Power Carefully

Don’t underestimate your power as a mentor: positional power, util­ity power, principle­-centered power, and for The Activator role, the power of your words. In most, if not all, mentor­-mentee relation­ships, the mentor will be in some sort of position of power, and you should not take that lightly or ever abuse it. Anything you get excited about, the mentee may mirror that excitement. Anything you throw cold water on may also get abandoned or neglected. Use your power carefully and don’t forget the consequential impact of your words and energy to activate exactly what’s right. Not for you, but for your mentee.

Create the Spark, Not the Candle

The Activator role is not the equivalent of the mortgage banker who approves or denies a loan. You are not the green­lighter of their passions and projects. Your mentee needs to decide when and what to pursue, as this is their decision, not yours. However, recognize the well­-timed, life­-changing trajectory your endorsement might ignite. This is what I term creating the spark, not the candle, and this is specific to The Activator role. After all, you have plenty of input into your mentee’s future via The Absorber (role #3), The Navigator (role #7), and The Visionary (role #8). But The Activator recog­nizes that sometimes their best intervention is simply to ignite the mix of passions, interests, goals, desires, or other motivating ele­ments present in the mentee. A candle lights the way, but the spark lights the candle first.

The Ultimate Guide to Great Mentorship shares easy, practical guidance on how to make the most out of your mentorship journey. Written by Scott Miller, FranklinCovey’s senior advisor on thought leadership, spearheading the strategy, development, and publication of the firm’s bestselling books on mentorship.