Being a mentor gives me permission to examine my values and see how they align with those around me. When I first joined our Team Up Mentoring Program, I was excited to dive in and mentor one of my coworkers! My first mentee was a lovely person who was willing to talk big picture, but not quite interested in exploring things that are only revealed in the quiet, small places. We developed an understanding, but there were no “AH HA” moments. Similarly, my second mentee was a bit shy of professional relationships. So, it was very difficult for us to build a foundation of trust so that those rich meaningful discussions could sprout and spread. Trust is the soil. You must have great soil to have a great harvest. Plant whatever seed you want. If the soil is dry and void of nutrients, any fruit you get will be the same – dry and uninteresting.
However, as I stuck with the program, Team Up continued to evolve with structure and topics to explore. I met another mentee who was interested in building a relationship that would nurture both of us. When we need to turn a situation over, and look at it from various sides, the mentor/mentee relationship creates a safe space in which we can discuss our values, our beliefs, our misunderstandings, our designs, and our dreams. It’s not just about solving problems. It is about promoting your contribution. It is about getting on the narrow path of real success. We answer questions about procrastination, about self-advocacy, questions about disappointment. Who are you now, and who do you want to be? What do others say about you and how can you change that? Do you have the courage to manage your boss? How do you lead others who don’t report to you?
Whenever we meet, we have an enriching time because we built the trust foundation and agreed to be authentic. We don’t have the same values about everything. But the strength of community is not what we have in common. It’s the fitting together of my strengths with your strengths. I can say what would be important to me, but I must also encourage the mentee to say what is important to them. And by sparking this self-evaluation, the mentee is better equipped to take the next steps toward achieving change or expanding their capacities in an area.
Professionally, I am stronger because of my work in the mentor/mentee relationship. It becomes painfully apparent if I’m preaching to the choir but not taking my own medicine. When you help someone sharpen their instrument, you are reminded to take out your tools and sharpen your own. By supporting the mentee as they deal with their struggle to manage time or advertise their successes, your own smudges on the mirror show up. By embracing true transparency, I have reflected on my personal hesitation, reluctance or concerns and dealt with them! My confidence spiraled upward. Grace and generosity towards others as well as generosity towards myself increased.
Soon, I was mentoring people in the breakroom and supporting teammates by the photocopier! As each of us creates an environment of walking together, people become bolder and more empowered. This has been my most valuable lesson in my Team Up experience. The mentor/mentee relationship requires such a small amount of time, but the payoff can roll forward beyond your expectations! I challenge you to build a trusting relationship with a mentee, then loop your arm in theirs and walk together into new habits of self-exploration, self-advocacy, and generosity. Your life will change. I guarantee it.