The Challenge of Finding a Mentor: The Mentoring

“You teach best what you most need to learn.” – Richard Bach

As I have mentioned in one of my previous posts, I have been looking for a mentor.  Thus, this type of a relationship is something that I have been thinking about for awhile.  It also helps that the subject of mentorship comes up quit often in many different settings and work interactions.  Ironically, I was asked to mentor one of the new members of my Toastmasters (TM) club. Being probably the most enthusiastic participant and a club officer, I agreed.  Naturally, I want to be a great one – I want to ensure that my mentee gets everything he needs out of this relationships and grows – personally and professionally.   

To define what it means to be a mentor, I started with myself. What would I want my mentor to be? What am I seeking to get our of that kind of relationship?

TM Competent Leader manual has Mentoring as one of the project.  The handbook gives some generic pointers on what mentoring means and what it should involve.  However, I do not want to approach this assignment as a project, I want to build a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship, considering that I would genuinely like to be of help.

Surely, there are as many types of mentors as there are personalities.  However, in my opinion, there are several characteristics that a great mentor should portrait.

  • Enthusiasm. The mentor has to be genuinely interested in pursing this relationship and truly want to help.  Honestly, the mentor should believe that the mentee has the potential to succeed.  Otherwise, why waste the time.
  • Commitment. The mentor has to be willing to devote the time. When someone believes you are wasting their time, it is obvious in their actions and impatient flow of conversation.   Nothing that I want to be famous for.
  • Inquisitiveness.  The mentor has to ask the right questions.  Although the mentee is the one to drive the meetings and the relationship as a whole, the mentor has to maintain focus and keep things in perspective to ensure that the mentee is headed in the right direction.
  • Being a role model.  I am a true believer in practice of your own preachings.  Unquestionable integrity is definitely something I do want to be famous for.  Setting an example will help not only when it comes to the subject of the discussion at hand, but also with establishing trust, which is crucial to the development of this type of relationship.
  • Growing together.  I am a true believer that a mentor has to get something out of the relationship as well.  Yes, something beyond the sheer happiness for the growth of your mentee.

Based on those aspects, I feel that we have actually accomplished a couple of solid things in our first meeting.

  • Rapport.  What is the level of our TM commitment? How will we get along when it comes to our personalities?  What are the different ways we operate – how do we learn, think, prepare, write, deal with the fear of public speaking, etc.?
  • Expectations.  What do we both want to get out of the mentoring relationship?  What kind of support does he need from me?  What actions do I want him to be taking?
  • Goals.  What do we want to accomplish in the club and by when?  How much effort is reasonable to put in?  What is the appropriate pace of assignment completion for each of us?
  • Rules of order.  How often do we meet?  How do we give each other feedback? How do we hold each other accountable?

I have to admit – I am being extremely selfish in this new endeavor.  I think I am setting myself up to get out of it more than I will actually need to put in.  I will always be the student, even when I am the teacher.

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