Find a Mentor. Be a Mentor. We Can't Do This Thing Called Life Alone.
Posted on Sep 7, 2018
Lately, I've read a lot of posts, blogs and content about the importance of mentoring. I sure hope we keep this conversation going because anxieties are running high and not only do the younger generation critically need mentoring, we all could use some guidance. And the great thing is anyone can be a mentor to someone else. We become mentors when we have some wisdom or expertise to share with a willingness and desire to help others. In my experience the most beneficial mentors in my life didn't have any emotional history with me or not part of my 'situations'. An unbiased mentor can help you find perspective in a way no one else close to you can. Don't get me wrong. You can never have enough supporters of caring relatives and friends that love you for who you and cheers you on. But someone with a view from a different angle is often and precisely what helps us move ahead.
One of the most impactful relationships we can experience in life is the one between a mentor and a mentee.
I've been blessed to have had a few incredibly wise and caring mentors in my life. During the difficult and painful times in my life or when I found myself mired in fog, mentors were my lighthouse to help me regain my direction. However, I haven't always had that special mentor right when I needed them. In those times, I did what I had to do and searched for that sage advice and wisdom with professional mentors such as coaches and counsellors. In the end it really doesn't matter if your mentor is free or for a fee. All I know is that I can't think my way to success. I need outside help.What matters is to find someone who will challenge you and be forthright enough to call you on ‘your stuff’. Often we search for someone to just validate our thoughts and feelings but truthfully, if all they do is agree with you, nothing changes. it won’t take you to where you want to go. Don't look for an enabler - look for a challenger. Someone nudge you forward and help light that fire from underneath you.
I believe one of the greatest things I have learned from all my mentors is that I am capable beyond measure.
In reflecting what a good mentor is, I would describe them as people that make us feel that we’re not alone out there like a leaf blowing in the wind. A mentor grounds us and helps us cut through the chaff of confusion to gain clarity. Mentors help us focus on what really matters. They help us bring things down from 35,000 feet in the air down to smaller and digestable actionable steps. They challenge our sometimes sabotaging beliefs. They are like the compass we've been looking for that give us a good dose of courage right when we need a shot of it.
I am privileged to have been both a mentor and mentee throughout my life. As a mentor, I discovered that I learned a great deal from mentees and my life was that much better as a result. We think that a mentor 'gives' while a mentee 'receives' but in actual reality, it is a fabulous interchange of both give and take. It's important that both sides commit to bring value to the relationship for it to be a productive and a growth experience.
Here are some of the fundamental things a mentor and mentee should do to get the most out of this relationship:
A Mentor’s role:
1) Learn about and be prepared for the mentee. Plan for each encounter.
2) Establish a safe environment for the mentee where open sharing is encouraged.
3) Determine the boundaries and how often this relationship will meet/connect and stay in touch.
4) Build ongoing trust as someone that can be relied on.
5) Stay on topic and within a time frame. Help to determine the objective of the session.
6) Draw from experiences and be the connector – tapping into networks where possible
7) Ask guiding questions to assist in problem solving. Nudge them forward.
8) Teach the mentee to draw on their past experiences; where they overcame challenges or succeeded at something.
9) Listen to what they are repeating, the language they use, the body language they have. Help them to build ‘awareness.'
10) Help to keep the mentee accountable – challenge the mentee to stay on track and step out of their comfort zone
11) Give feedback but never chastise or talk down to a mentee. Draw out the important lessons and Uplift. Uplift. Uplift.
12) Help the mentee to arrive at some achievable goals and what next steps and actions they can take
13) Ask for feedback to uncover what areas you may need to improve on or do more of, less of etc.
14) Reflect and research to provide ongoing value and assistance to the mentee.
For the Mentee:
1) Find a notebook specifically for your time with your mentor and bring it religiously to every session.
2) Always arrive early and respect the valuable time a mentor is giving you.
3) Plan ahead and make a list of the important things you are needing help and guidance with
4) Arrive at each session prepared with a brief summary of what occurred in the time in between sessions (what happened, what you did differently, things you overcame, challenges you faced etc) This insight helps the mentor to build on how to best assist you with.
5) Be part of the solution. Reframe venting and rambling. Explain the issue, how it made you feel and some ideas of your own own of what to do about it.
6) Allow the mentor to help you focus on your strengths and build on your best qualities. Find what you do well, comes easy to you that you can leverage.
7) Be curious! Ask many questions.
8) Be open to feedback and areas to improve upon without taking anything too personally.
9) Listen. Listen. Listen.
10) Be brutally honest with yourself. Try not to rationalize and justify – lay down the ego that tends to get in the way.
11) TAKE NOTES! You will never remember all the wisdom in the session unless you capture them. They will be valuable to you forever.
12) Have key takeaways and a few tactical goals to accomplish before your next session.
13) Translate goals and notes into action and monitor progress.
14) Demonstrate gratitude. Often mentors are mentors out of nothing more than the goodness of their heart. Appreciate that.
Remember that you can only ever help yourself and never expect a mentor to do all the heavy lifting or to 'fix you'. Nor should a mentor ever attempt to 'fix' another person. And sometimes, we have to know when we might be in over our heads. Mentoring is not therapy. Mentoring is helping someone's personal growth by developing insight, knowledge and even practical skills towards a goal. It is one of the most humbling and fulfilling relationships we can experience.
I hope you decide to mentor someone. I hope you seek out a mentor. We can't do life alone.
I encourage everyone in this coming year to either be a mentor and find a mentor or both. It’s a funny thing but often when I’m faced with ‘what to do’, I swear I can hear the voices of my mentors (not all of them at once - that would be wierd) who helped me tap into my own gut and intuition. Their wise words have stuck with me. My mentors have helped me build true esteem and the kind of quiet confidence I needed.