Since my first real job at 17, I have always been blessed to have mentors in my life who have ‘shone their light’ and provided a pathway of opportunities for me that I would not have seen as available or possible. They have helped me answer the important ‘why’ questions and then supported me emotionally and cognitively through the what and the how processes. I have very fond memories of walks along the waterfront, talks whilst traveling in cars, breakfasts in cafes and being introduced to people who provided me with critical information just when I needed it.
This led me to understand that the best mentors are committed listeners that allow others to be truly heard, have genuine compassion, are sensitive and can provide tough love when required. They hold the space for real conversation to take place and allow the mentee to access a level of understanding/consciousness that the person may not normally be accessing.
My mentors taught me how to be of service and how to assist others.
Mentoring Vs Coaching:
I get asked the question a lot “what is the difference between mentoring and coaching?”. My response may not be the typical textbook response, but I say the following:
Coaching is about getting tips and techniques and adding to what you already you have (thinking, habits) and or know (knowledge).
An example is a recruiter wanting to make better headhunting calls to potential A-level candidates. The coach will typically provide information on what to say, when to make the call, how to handle typical objections/questions. The coach will normally role play this and provide feedback.
Coaching can be beneficial, but nowhere near as impactful or life-changing as mentoring.
Mentoring is about helping the mentee understand what makes them tick and what options and possibilities are open for them in their existing or future roles. True mentoring involves working at a much deeper level and often means guiding the mentee through a deep level of personal transformation.
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The Mentor and What they do:
In my experience, great mentors will have been through, or are going through, some deeper level of personal transformation. Linkedin is regarded as having an excellent executive leadership team. CEO Jeff Weiner openly shares the fact that all of his leadership team have been through some form of personal (self-leadership) transformation.
Many mentors have experienced hardship (divorce/separation) or financial difficulty combined with a healthy level of success at a family, business, community, financial and well-being level. They can tune people into the mentee’s purpose and unlock obstacles. Once a level of confidentiality and trust is established and the ground rules are established on how the mentoring program will work, I start to ask a series of meaningful questions.
Each person is different, but some of the questions I ask to commence the process are:
- What are you struggling with most at this point in your life/career ?
- What really matters to you ?
- What are you avoiding in life ?
- Have you done your best work yet ?
- Tell me the time you felt most alive, what were you doing ?
- Tell me the time you were most happy/peaceful, what were you doing ?
- Will you be in your current work role in 6 months time ?
- If money was not a concern what would you do ?
After asking these questions, I often follow up with a follow up questions like “Why or tell me more”
These questions begin a process of discovery and lead the mentee to know what they need to do and how they can do it. A mentoring program should have a set timeframe and will include practical components such as a 90 day plan, ongoing actions and reviews.
Finding Your Mentor:
Intuitively, we know when we are ready for mentoring (we have a problem, questions or goals we need assistance with). Chose a mentor who has qualities you admire and that you want more of.
You can have multiple mentors for different goals. Once ready, the right mentor will often come into your life and be ready to work with you. Have the courage to reach out and be taken out of your comfort zone. Embrace the quote “Life begins at the end of our Comfort Zone”.
Benefits of Being a Mentor:
It can be very stimulating and rewarding, as a mentor I am always learning from the person being mentored.
To be a mentor is a very privileged position.
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