Don’t Show Up Empty-Handed!

Find ways to Exchange Value with your Mentor

 Begging businessman“Everybody got they cups, but they ain’t chipped in.”

Snoop “D-O-Double-G” is on the money and is also right when he says it happens all the time.

I teach old Brands new tricks, and for a couple of decades, I have done so from the C-Suite.  Somehow potential mentees know that I have developed several leaders who achieved tremendous results.  Mentees eagerly show up to learn leadership secrets and become executive superheroes.  These executives are knocked off balance, however, when asked, “what did you bring in exchange for the gifts you hope to receive?”

With varying degrees of finesse, these executives often conclude they have nothing worthy to offer a CEO.  And so the lesson begins.

If you hope to lead others, you will have to invert that ratio.  You must think about what you have to offer those that you would lead rather than exclusively focus on what they bring you.  In short, you must lead from their perspective, not yours.

Businessman Scratching His HeadUpon reflection, many mentees declare my opening question an unfair trap.  After all, they did not come to lead me; they came to follow.   It is not a trick. My question stands!

It is usually not fun to watch them suffer beyond this point.  So I explain that to find the professional success they are seeking they must convince people like me to be more than sages.  They must compel us to become active sponsors and advocates that push for their opportunities and career and possibly link our personal brands with theirs.

“How am I supposed to do that?”

I ask them, and I ask you to think about the world from your mentor’s/sponsor’s perspective for a moment.  Are they privy to your unvarnished, breakroom conversations?  What questions do your team ask in the “meetings after the meeting?”  Do you have any suggestions how we can make the company’s story or strategy more compelling?  When is the last time you endorsed an executive’s leadership with other leaders or directors?

As you read the questions above, I trust they begin to form a framework that enables you to shift your perspective and prepares you to exchange value with those you hope will help you.  I promise that if you exchange even a little value with your mentors, it will set you apart from 99.9% of your competition.


  • Reflect on the value creation opportunities you may have missed.
  • Decide how you create value going forward.
  • Implement your plan and watch your relationships blossom.

If you would like a few more ideas to help you get in touch with what you can offer those around and above you, download my Value Exchange Thought Starters.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

11 thoughts on “Don’t Show Up Empty-Handed!

  1. Sam, love this one! Business like life is a two way street of giving and receiving. For me to successfully provide mentees with guidance in their careers, I need to know how they’re thinking and approaching business issues from their own perspective. I can certainly learn from that too. I immediately passed this down to my mentees. Keep it coming!

    • Great to hear you spreading the word. Together we can transform leaders all around us and generate more positive results than anyone of us could alone. I doubt any of these nuggets will get by you, but get you mentees directly signed up just in case. Additionally, you want to make sure that follow through on your counsel.

  2. Sam, I’ve heard a lot about you from my mentor Stanley Obioha so of course, I’ve signed up to receive your newsletter. Loved the post and looking forward to gaining more nuggets of knowledge and applying to my career.

  3. I have often shared with students when I am teaching that I am not the smartest peson in the room, there is so much information they can share with me to enrichen the learning process, and I constantly encourage students to “Don’t show up empty-handed”, as you phrased that challenge so well Sam!

    • Thanks for the feedback. I get a kick out of translating things into “sticky soundbites” or “snackable content.” Besides, how often do we get to quote Snoop?

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