Photo credit: Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay
The Buddha constantly emphasised that the attainment of enlightenment was not the end of the spiritual journey but merely the beginning of a duty: the unremitting responsibility for providing counselling and solace to those in need of help for their prevailing predicaments (Dukkha).
In a professional context, and in a word: mentorship.
Paying it forward: Traditionally, we look at paying back as the way of acknowledging help and support given to us in times of need. There is a more effective alternative: paying it forward. In gratitude for what was received, we should consider helping others in need. The downstream benefits and multiplier effects are much greater. That’s what mentorship is all about.
“. . . a great mentor can provide a path to finding your own true answers.” Tina Turner quoting Miles Davis, the jazz legend.
Coaching differs significantly from mentoring. It is often short-term, well-structured, and designed to achieve specific, tangible outcomes. A coach is the least personal relationship option.
“Searching for a mentor is similar to searching for a spouse: you two need to share common values, concerns, experiences, communication style, and, of course, have time to invest into meaningful conversations with one another.” — [Anna Szabo, Turn Your Dreams And Wants Into Achievable SMART Goals!
An ideal mentor should be:
- Accessible: there when needed.
- Experienced: been there, done that.
- Well connected: knows someone . . . who knows someone.
- Tough but empathic: iron hand under a velvet glove.
- Enthusiastic: yes, you can do it!
- Charismatic: wow factor.
The scaffolding of good mentorship
- Recognise what you desire from the relationship. It’s crucial to keep in mind that mentorship is a relationship. Instead of jumping right into business, the most effective mentorships are those in which the mentor and mentee take the time to get to know each other and grasp each other’s viewpoints.
- Set expectations together from the start. How long do you want the mentoring to continue (but you may always extend it if you both believe it’s beneficial). Define critical objectives for your mentee to attain. Work together to build a general idea of how your meetings should go. Make certain they are focussed on a few essential problems.
- Take a genuine interest in your mentee as a person. The cornerstone of good mentoring is empathic listening.
- Develop a sense of trust. Trust takes years to develop, yet it can be shattered in an instant.
- Don’t make assumptions about the mentee – inquire. Age, gender, colour, physical habitus, and appearance are seldom reliable indicators of what lurks underneath. Find out what makes the mentee tick by talking to them.
- Share your experiences. It can provide you with a unique perspective on the challenges your mentee may be dealing with. You could have had a similar situation, so now is a wonderful opportunity to share what you went through and how you dealt with it.
- Look for resources to help your mentee. This is where mentors can make a real difference. You’ll have insider knowledge of the area and access to resources that your mentee wouldn’t be able to obtain on their own. Link them to these resources.
- Be aware of your limits. When your bandwidth is limited, admit your lack of expertise and recommend other sources or persons.
Anyone can be a mentor: The image of a mentor is often one of leaders, who have been sharpening their skills for years and are experts at what they do. However, that’s not quite true; you can be a mentor if you are enthusiastic and willing to share your experience with others!
Post-COVID, remote work is now firmly entrenched as an alternative for providing professional services. Many individuals believe that physical closeness is necessary in developmental connections such as mentorship. This is wrong. However, mentorship is characterised more by the results achieved than by the medium by which it is carried out.
- Plus: Virtual mentoring may be more egalitarian since visible status signals signifying organisational position and physical stature are reduced to a voice and a screen of equal size in video-based talks.
- Plus: The limitations of shared space and location are also removed with virtual mentoring. Mentor/mentee schedules and locales are more flexible with online choices.
- Minus: Because the whole spectrum of nonverbal signs and vocal subtlety may be lacking, it may take more work to create trust and rapport in the relationship. Virtual mentoring, like many other online partnerships, may suffer from email overload and screen weariness.
“I knew from my own life experience that when someone shows genuine interest in your learning and development, even if only for ten minutes in a busy day, it matters.” — Michelle Obama, Becoming