Becoming a mentor came at the start of my journey into L&D as a way to gain experience and give back to others. That journey with The Princes Trust has given me as much development as it has the number of mentees I’ve supported.
It was always one of those things I’d considered and never taken the plunge on, debating over and over in my mind. I want to give you a bit of a personal balanced account of what I’ve experienced, should you be thinking about taking it up.
I’ll be honest, I was sceptical about how much of an impact I would personally get, given that you’re there to support another person and give them guidance. It’s just going to be asking questions, right?
From my first meeting this viewpoint changed. Drastically. I now realise how powerful these relationships can be for mentors and mentees, if both sides commit to making it so.
For one, it’s more than ‘just asking questions’. Anyone can ask questions. Not everyone can ask the right, thoughtful questions that challenge thinking, disrupt patterns and mindsets in the hope of creating a breakthrough. And those breakthroughs are so unique to the individual that going through the motions wouldn’t help them.
I’ve also increased my patience. It’s easy to get carried away with a mentees business idea and allow them to as well. You’ll likely have to build and rebuild all or parts of it which can create tension, reactions and impact motivation. Having the patience to keep going through these challenges is vital.
With that patience of building and rebuilding I noticed improvements in my ability to set realistic expectations of mentees to help manage their mindset, energy and motivation. Like I said, it’s easy to get caught up and carried away with them, so being able to set reasonable expectations will help you as a mentee, and the mentor too so they can progress at the right pace for them.
It’s not about the business the whole time, there’s a person that sits behind it. One of my first mentoring relationships was more of a success in what we achieved for the mentee in themselves. Increased confidence, reduced anxiety and better organisation. Regardless of the success of the business, these improvements will set them up for their next challenge. You can have a bigger impact than the immediate need.
Don’t take it personally. Any of it. Especially if the relationship isn’t quite right and you go separate ways, or if they don’t engage after the initial messages. It’s not personal. It could be anything, and it’s so easy to overthink. It’s helped me react better to ‘rejection’ or negative situations. Yes, that relationship might not have worked out, it frees you up though to help the next person looking for support.
It’s not about how much time you set aside, it’s about what you do with the time you’ve both set aside. Sometimes you only have chance to catch up face to face for 20 minutes in a month, in which case you prioritise and plan to get the most from it. It’s helped me take the most of short, passing opportunities in my personal and professional life and to prepare to get the most from it. I could get as much from a 15 minute meeting as I used to in an hour, for sure.
I know other mentors have had different personal development breakthroughs driven by these relationships, so this list is by no means exhaustive.
If you’d like to know more about the mentoring that I do, or have any questions around my breakthroughs, get in touch.
And if you like what you’re reading and want to make a difference, a great place to start is with The Princes Trust.