Why you should get a mentor
Fridays have become my favorite days because imagine this: someone you admire sets aside time to meet, do life with you, dig into how you REALLY are, share themselves if not their story or how they do life, cheers you on, calls you out, guides and gives you feedback and advice.
That is what we call a mentor.
I have taken time to reflect on how the journey has been like and I would like to talk about how having a mentor has changed my life. I will in this long post highlight the first two Phases of that Mentoring Relationship and my takeaways. Not sure how raw and deep I’ll get but I’ll do my best to touch on all the important things.
The aim of this is to inspire someone reading how important it is to have a mentor.
2021 was a different kind of tough year but the highlight of my year was that I got an amazing mentor. Why did I need a mentor?
Because at that time in my life ( in 2021) I was of the belief that mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction. I can confirm that a relationship with a mentor who provides knowledge and support can assist you in answering even the toughest of career questions. The relationship with my mentor continues to provide me with a host of benefits and, in a competitive economy, a mentoring relationship like what I have is providing me with an advantage that I had not known how much I needed.
Let’s dive into the hot stuff I have learned so far and how the next phases look like.
It’s said that successful mentoring relationships go through four phases: preparation, negotiating, enabling growth, and closure. These sequential phases build on each other and vary in length.
I must admit it was one phase I was afraid of (Elena has no idea) why? I didn’t know if I was REALLY ready for this phase as it required a whole level of vulnerability and it freaked me out at first.
Amazingly, we had created a rapport before so this made it easy for us to pick up this conversation from a comfortable perspective.
We went through the strategies for Preparing the Relationship which included:
• Initiating contact with each other.
• We exchanged background information (I’m glad we spent lots of time on this for various reasons).
• We took time to get to know each other better-it felt like I had to re-meet my mentor now as she was wearing a mentor hat.
• I shared past mentoring experiences and those who influenced or still influence me.
• We talked about the learning and development goals-I will never forget when she said that “it’s okay to change this” that affirmation made me feel more safe.
• We determined the personal expectations of the relationship.
• I always hope that I was clear with what I needed (still do) from my mentor.
• I believe we are still defining the “deliverables” and desired outcomes (looking at this as an ongoing process).
• We candidly share personal assumptions and limitations-this is also a never ending process).
• And finally for this first phase we discussed personal and learning styles.
During this first phase we developed a “work in progress” set of Mentor Guiding Principles which included:
- Striving for mutual benefits. The relationship as we defined from the beginning was mutually beneficial. If I can call us participants, we committed to the relationship by choice. Each of us openly shared and continue to share our goals for the relationship and work collaboratively to help achieve them.
- Agreeing on confidentiality. Maintaining an environment of confidentiality is a critical component in building trust between mentor and mentee. I realized that without a mutually understood ability to speak freely as the situation warrants, the relationship is unlikely to reach its full potential.
- Committed to honesty. It’s a beautiful feeling when you realize the two of you are willing to candidly share what you expect to gain from the relationship and the vision for getting there. Luckily before this mentoring relationship started, I had an idea about the art of giving and receiving feedback. That came in handy as I was both mentally and emotionally prepared to receive frank feedback, even if the feedback is critical. In a nutshell, I can say that she has a way of picking intentional words and packaging them in such a lovely yet thought provoking way.
- Listen and learn. Mutual benefit and honesty can only be achieved when both members feel their viewpoints are heard and respected. My mentor is very present therefore the relationship has not been primarily about her.
- Flexibility. It might help for a mentoring relationship to have defined goals, but the process may be as important — or more so — than the goals. We have had sessions that had no structure and they were a banger!
If you have a mentor, there are questions you need to ask yourself after that first phase. They made me reflect if I was heading towards the right direction They include:
- What are you looking forward to in this mentoring relationship?
- What do you see are your strengths?
- What do you perceive are areas for improvement?
- What areas would you like to see worked on in this mentoring relationship
- Are you able to prioritize those things to work on so that areas most important to you are addressed early in the relationship?
- Are you familiar with your learning style? What are the best ways for you to learn new information? Are you comfortable with seeking our experiences that may be out of your current comfort zone in order to build confidence in areas of improvement? How do you feel about this?
- What are the most challenging things about your job or what you do?
- What are the most exciting things about your job or what you do?
- What motivates you? What stresses you?
- How do you relax, rest or recharge?
- What else do you want to tell me? Or what else matters should I know?
- Where do you see yourself? Or my fave- short term worthy goal that will feed into a long term goal.
For this phase we had an agreement as a pair. We negotiated the following:
- How much time will be committed to the relationship on a regular basis? We were very realistic on this and it works very well for us.
- We wrote down goals and analyzed them to meet the SMART criteria.
An ongoing process as I am unlearning smart goals and learning about A Worthy Goal.
- We agreed on a discussion format. (e.g. Formal agendas, topic-driven agendas, check-in conversations, etc.)
- I personally have a journal to help stay focused, monitor progress and capture follow-up items. But we have a google doc/sheet that we should be filling after sessions.
- We established some ground rules. (e.g. Confidentiality, boundaries and “hot topics”)
- We agreed to be flexible! This is where we share expectations and plans which we know will keep changing as our relationship progresses.
- We evaluate progress, milestones, goals, regularly.
- We established each other’s learning styles which are important, identified and discussed what we understand by successful learning.
- We articulated criteria for success. What does success “look” like?
Enabling Growth Phase
From January 14, 2022
I am curious about this phase because this phase is the work stage of the mentoring relationship. This is the phase I believe Elena and I will have most contact with. I can bet she will support my learning and CHALLENGE MY ASSUMPTIONS throughout.
I’d like to give a rough idea of what I have thought this phase will be like for me. I am flexi, as I have no idea what her thought process is like but I would like to share that and when the phase ends, I will come and look at what I feel was left out or do a comparison or whatever.
I know there will be Investigative Questions which will:
- Solicit facts, objective data
- Tell me what you have accomplished so far.
- What happened?
I am ready for some Discovery Questions like:
- What did you learn from this?
- If you had it to do again, what would you do?
- What worked best?
- What advice would you give someone else just starting the same project?
- What concerns you?
- What are your ideas?
- What would happen if you did _____?
- What scares you about this?
- Tell me three things that you would consider in making a decision on that.
- What are you most comfortable with?
- What conclusions can you draw from the experience?
- What is your reasoning?
- What did he/she do to help the most?
- Give me two alternative ways of thinking about this.
- If he/she says this, what could you say back?
- What else could you have done?
- What is most important to you?
Some Empowering Questions I am expecting include:
- What outcome are you looking for?
- What will you do first?
- What must you do to make that happen?
- How will you begin?
- How will you know when you have it?
- Who else needs to know this?
- What resources do you have/need?
- What is the risk of doing this? Not doing it?
- How might you get in your own way
I don’t know if you have a mentor, are looking for one, are in a toxic relationship with a mentor, not sure where to even start, or you don’t get why TF would I need a mentor for, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on mentorship.