• Grace Simpson

LEARN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A MENTOR FROM PROJECT RUNWAY'S TIM GUNN

TIM DOES A LOT MORE THAN JUST MAKING SURE ALL OF THE DESIGNS END UP ON THE RUNWAY


Photo by Barbara Nitke

I have a very significant reality tv show addiction. It does not take much to coax me into a conversation about how Kim would never lie about a surrogate or how I understand why Khloe would rush to Lamar's side in his time of need. I like to think I can blame my mother for this since she still avoids my calls on Wednesdays at 8pm to watch her beloved Survivor (season 52).


I do watch some more sophisticated reality tv shows as I like to categorize them and this includes Project Runway. Going strong on Season 14, Heidi and Tim steer clear of the drama and still focus on developing the pure talent of aspiring designers. While Heidi's "auf wiedersehen" comments at the end of every show are treasured, it is Tim Gunn's abilities as a mentor that have taught me a few lessons about leadership. Here is what you can learn from Mr. Tim Gunn.


He inspires the designers to "Make it Work!"

His signature phrase does a few things: #1 is addresses the elephant in the room that the designer is in major trouble and #2 it provides the sense of urgency needed to give the designers the final push to the runway. This affirms to the designer they need to change directions to see results!




Remember this when you are mentoring and avoid sugar coating dire situations that require urgent actions. Often times the first step in changing directions is the hardest, and this is where you can help.


Every designer is eager to hear his feedback each week

Every episode the designers are presented a challenge, go shopping at Mood for fabric and head back to the workroom to begin sewing. A few hours into the sewing fury, Tim Gunn comes into the workroom and announces he will be checking in with each designer. And, you know what? The designers could not be more eager to have Tim's perspective and critique on their work (even if it is not so positive).


Remember the designers use Tim's critiques to ensure they present a killer look on the runway and as a mentor you should use feedback to assist in personal development. People want feedback and once your mentee is used to your consistent feedback, they will await it just like the designers await Tim's.


He prepares the designers for the next step

While Tim does get to enjoy the show from the runway, he is always frank about not knowing how the judges will react to certain looks. But, when he senses conviction in the designer about the bold design, crazy pattern or over the top accessories, he challenges them to own their look on the runway and defend their brand.




Remember this when you need to help your mentee prepare for conversations or presentations that may challenge the status quo or deal with tough critics. Just because during no one else can see their vision right now does not mean it will not be accepted down the road.


Leadership lessons do not always come from workplace training or professional seminars. If I can glean mentorship ideals from Project Runway, I know there are so many other areas in our everyday lives that provide us these tips. So, embrace your guilty pleasures or not-so-smart looking habits and find your next leadership lesson in an unexpected place.

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