Written by: Sally Banek, CPA, CMA, via Linkedin
Two weeks ago, my 19 year old daughter departed on a journey. Four months of training in Thailand, followed by two more months of missionary work in Cambodia and Laos. If it were anybody else’s daughter, I’d be thrilled.
“What an amazing adventure! Do it now, before life gets in your way.”
But it’s not somebody else’s daughter. It’s my girl. I am torn between pride and sadness, excitement and loss. Why am I writing this on LinkedIn? Well, partly because writing pulls the ache out. But also, constructively, because I can draw a parallel between this experience and that of being a mentor.
We can probably agree – having a mentor is important. Being a mentor comes with a set of responsibilities. I could use sports analogies here to drive that thought home . . . mentors need to be the coach who doesn’t drop the ball, always at the top of their game.
To be honest, I don’t know a hockey stick from a golf stick (sorry dad). But I know leadership and I know parenting. I’ve been lucky to have been led and mentored by some of the best, and I’ve led teams myself, for most of my career. I’ve also had 19 years’ experience as a parent.
What I’ve learned is that for the mentee to get the most from the relationship, you need to provide wise mentorship, sometimes tough mentorship, and alwaysheartfelt mentorship. My advice to the mentors or potential mentors out there:
Set expectations and stick to them
Your mentee should know what you expect from them. How will you define your relationship as a success? How will you measure their progress? What happens if they don’t meet the growth targets they are setting? Set boundaries, don’t waver, and respect follows.
Often, mentees are afraid to say what they really think. Or they simply are unable to articulate it. Or – let’s be honest – their way of speaking is almost alien to the way you communicate. But rather than glide over their lack of communication, it’s time to askcompelling questions to get to the meat of the conversation. Then simply listen.
Be respectful, forthright, and speak with integrity
In other words . . the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Your ability to be honest, warts and all, will open the door to allow your mentee to do the same. Not that I enjoy sharing all my stupid-youth stories with my daughter, but I’ve yet to regret it.
You know a lot, you don’t know it all
Mentorship is a two-way street. Share your wisdom, then listen. Surely there is something you can learn from your mentee. My daughter taught me that although our paths are wildly different, both are valid and worthy.
It’s ok to get personal
While a mentor/mentee relationship should of course be career focused, that’s a human being sitting across from you. With his own problems outside of work, his own beliefs, his own unwarranted doubts. If you can get to those, you can wrap your wisdom around all of them. It will allow you to better equip him for life, not just work.
Agree to disagree
Sometimes a mentee will simply not agree with your wisdom. Ouch. That can hurt. What’s the point if they’re not going to listen? The point is, they may not agree today but they may learn the hard way and agree tomorrow. That’s ok. The line I’ve used countless times is “I may disagree with you, and if I do I’ll make sure you know why. But in the end, I will support whatever decision you make”. That support makes your mentorship worth its weight in gold.
This has been a
mom’s leader’s advice to mentors everywhere.
Misha, call your mother sometime.
I write about leadership, career growth, best-practice hiring and more. You can read my other articles by clicking here, and follow me on Twitter @SallyBanek1. My posts can be found on babbly.com, and I am a BlogPoet at blogpoets.com.