In that spirit, let me step out of the way and let some wise words find their own way to you.
I heard a panel of incredibly successful women in business answer questions about mentoring today.
It was part of a ‘Women in Business’ series of events at the IFG.
In a refreshingly honest, open and collaborative atmosphere, these were the top tips that were shared in response to questions:
- Thinking about finding a mentor?
You may have different needs for different phases of life. Think rather of a ‘personal board of advisors’ – perhaps diverse, changing over time.
And – as was added later – make sure you sit on ‘your own board’.
- What sort of commitment is involved?
Think of different forms of mentoring. There might be ‘Big M’ – a long term commitment, there might also be ‘Small M’ – an occasional coffee or chat for a specific issue or opportunity. You choose.
- How do you find a mentor?
Go to events, read, listen, and if someone says something that chimes or touches, then carpe diem and make contact. After all, what is the worse that can happen? And an instinct is often a good starting point.
- What makes a good mentoring relationship?
Lots of elements, but reciprocity – a sense of mutuality is important, truthfulness, constructive challenge, and intent. The professional mentor on the panel talked of using a ‘story so far’ and ‘what do we hope to get out of the process’ alongside some ‘conversation starters’ as preparation.
- Is there a ‘grit in the oyster’ part to mentoring or is it all cosy?
No, not a cosy chat: good mentoring will involve perfectly calibrated challenges along the way. All panel members recalled great learning from mistakes and ‘terrible decisions’…
- What about working with someone, mentoring them, and then they want to make a sideways move?
Mentoring is about growth, about fulfillment, about potential. Not only are there different stages for people – foot on the accelerator in one phase, off the accelerator in another- but very different routes for different people.
So what is sideways?
Is it necessary to have a mentor?
No, not at all. Many find what they need in their own networks, or within, or amongst friends. (The wonderful Margaret Mountford counted herself one of these)
An honest and vulnerable question was then asked by a young man.
“What is your advice about dealing with ‘Imposter Syndrome’, feeling that you are taking up the time of people who are ‘out of your league’?
There was an appreciative quiet in the room. The answer was calm, constructive and concluded with…..‘Do you know how good you are?’ to the young man.
How rarely we hear that.