NEWSLETTER | MENTOR ME 24/7
Does Mentoring Really Work?
We hear so much about the power of mentoring, but yet I’m often asked whether mentoring really works, and, if so, how does it work. Even long-time mentoring partners will ask “How do you know that you are having a true mentoring relationship?” I took some time to explore these questions with some mentoring partners, and would like to share a few things that I discovered through those conversations.
The first step for mentoring partners is beginning the relationship after making the connection. As we all know, a connection is just the beginning. Each person only knows what they observe on the outside or read about each other. A mentee must know what they are looking to gain from a mentor and be able to discuss that with them. So, how do you break the ice? How does one begin?
Some start the conversation through email. It is unobtrusive and allows both parties to think about what they want to say before communicating it. Mentees acknowledged that they were nervous about how they were perceived, and some of the ways they overcame their concerns were by saying ‘hello’ and thanking the mentor for being open to mentoring in the area of career. They expressed how they wanted this to be a mutually beneficial relationship, not just a connection. They also gave a brief overview of what they wanted to gain from the mentor.
Others indicated that they started the conversation by a phone call. They needed that personal touch and to connect through the voice. What was interesting is that regardless of the method used, the mentees basically launched the partnership by saying very similar things to their mentors.
Now that the door has been opened, what's next? How do you move forward? Most of the follow up discussions centred on what the mentee hoped to gain with conversations exploring the challenges, questions and experiences around that area. This opened up a dialogue and began the process of building the relationship in one primary key area - trust. Unanimously, everyone agreed that the foundation of keeping a relationship is having that trust. Once this was established, they could continue to build from there.
I began to explore the benefits of the relationship for both mentors and mentees. When I asked mentees what they would tell others about how they benefited most from the relationship, the responses included:
“Just do it! Growing from a girl into a woman is hard, and sometimes you get so down on yourself when faced with challenges in your career. You can want it so bad that sometimes you’re afraid to apply for the next position or talk to others in charge. FEAR will freeze you. My mentor had been in the same position and understands. She helped me move through it and get closer to what I really want in my career.”
“Authenticity! My mentor was just like me from the very first meeting. She showed me that being successful doesn’t mean there are no challenges. She was open with me and discussed some things that she was dealing with herself. Actually – we both were able to get fresh insights from each other.”
The mentors I spoke with indicated that they gained so much from their mentees. Sometimes it was having another perspective, due to age differences; and some of it was to share their own inhibitions and get valuable insights from their mentee. In one situation, the mentor did not celebrate their accomplishments or spend enough time with family. Through their discussions, the mentee helped her understand the importance of time balance how important it is to acknowledge your accomplishments and share it with those you care about.
It was interesting when I inquired about the most valuable thing about mentoring. I heard the same thing over and over again. The most valuable thing about mentoring is not finding someone and mimicking everything they do, but being able to connect with your soul and gaining a better understanding of your challenges.
When someone has been there before, they have truly walked in your shoes. Equally important is that you have the ability to be free and not hold back; you can be honest in a safe environment. This was so significant that one mentee said, "Someday, when I am on that podium giving my thank you speech, I will be grateful to my mentor, and, without a doubt, I would never forget what they did for my soul; the footprints that they left on it." She was forever grateful for her mentor.
I believe this is just an indication that when people are willing to share their experiences, be honest with the good and bad, and have trust – truly anything is possible.
Acknowledged as a “visionary leader”, Vicki Hamilton develops new IT strategies to address old workplace problems. An award winning technology executive with over 20 years of senior level experience, Vicki’s strategies drive high value results (USD20M+.) Her latest initiative, The Wright Answer, is a global online match making mentoring program for women from college through retirement. Connect with Vicki and join the experience at www.thewrightanswer.net.
by Vicki Hamilton