Mentoring ain’t for everyone!
We often hear young women say, ‘I’ll never say that to my children!’ And then one day, to their horror, they exclaim, ‘I sound just like my mother!’ Logic says that we give what we have got. But mentors have to rise above this platitude and not give just what they have.
Rather, they must act as a catalyst in a chemical reaction and process that creates something special and sustainable in those whom they mentor. It takes a gift to be a mentor. It is also a gift to be one.
So, do you have what it takes?
The concept of mentorship is not new. In the East in particular, the process of learning at the feet of an expert in her or his craft has long been around. A friend of mine went to study Zen design in the pottery studio of internationally acclaimed Master craftsman Shoji Hamada. He got to sweep the studio floor for nearly three years. He also learned in that time to become very observant, humble and skilled at remembering things. Because the Japanese tradition was that he should learn by observation and experience – not from someone else’s theory.
The worst mentors will be perfectionistic, utterly linear, anal, control freaks. If you’re like that, do the mental health of the planet a favour and don’t sign up to be anyone’s mentor – because you don’t yet understand yourself.
The celebrated and brilliant Professor Howard Gardner (pic above) of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education has postulated 9 forms of intelligence. This means that contrary to expectations, your protégé, charge or acolyte may not necessarily think the same way you do. Or process information or concepts the way you do - or even like you! (Nice double meaning).
They may arrive at the same conclusions that you do, but via an utterly dissimilar process. It’s only if we’re able to celebrate diversity and understand that there’s almost never only ‘one solution’ that we can become good mentors.
Most critical of all: We need to be respectful to those we mentor - mindful of their style, pace, quirks and uniqueness. And we need to be utterly intolerant of laziness, self-indulgence or any hint of wanting or expecting an ‘easy ride’. Scorn mediocrity at all costs!
You’ll be an ideal mentor if…
1. You feel you have something in the way of knowledge or skills that you’d like to share with others.
2. You actually do have some knowledge or skills worth sharing!
3. You treat confidential issues better than a priest in a confessional.
4. You have your ego sufficiently under control so as to notice when it does start to kick in.
5. You have good emotional intelligence (self-understanding).
6. You’re a good listener.
7. You’re capable of concisely and clearly explaining concepts.
8. You don’t have a driving need for appreciation, accolades, approval or thanks and you’ve given up worrying about who gets the ‘credit’ for good ideas or processes.
9. You’re patient when someone’s genuinely giving it their best shot.
10. You’re aware that the same task can often be accomplished in a variety of ways. You’re cool with the idea that it doesn’t necessarily have to be only your way!
11. You’ll be prepared to have your protégé joined at your hip (other than in the bathroom!) for the process and duration.
12. You’re capable of loving people in a platonic way. (You’ll need to love them to forgive them for what they may say or do to you, or make you say!)
13. You can be tough without doing guilt. You’ll know that experience and struggle grow the best dendrites. So you won’t spoon-feed or over-protect. If short-term suffering will produce the best result, you’ll watch from the wings with your psychological first-aid kit at hand.
14. You have good intuition and emotional resilience.
15. Think you’ve got some of what it takes? Then let’s see you sign up and pass on something of value to humankind.
If you've been kind enough to read this far - please excuse the truly awful layout of this posting. TypePad (the supporting program for this Blog) and I aren't friends right now! It seems to specialise in messing with my spacing!