If you drive much at all, you’ve had the experience of hearing a siren wailing, seeing flashing lights, knowing you MUST pull over very soon to get out of the way of the police, fire or rescue vehicle.
Working in a mentoring relationship can be like that too.
You’ve been speeding along, making great progress and then, over time, you loose energy. You feel pulled over by the side of the road. You know you’re getting warning lights, but you have a bit of confusion. Your mentoring relationship may need life support and somehow you think YOU may be the problem.
One of the biggest obstacles to a successful mentoring relationship IS internal. Constant self-criticism can drain the blood right out of any potent relationship. “I can’t.” It’ll never work.” “It’s too challenging.” “I’m not ready.” “They won’t like it if I do that.” “I never do that very well.” “This could make me different than others.”
These are all wounding words, and they can cut to the core and halt progress. The best remedy is to drive straight forward and ask these questions to confront your inner loudmouth critic: “Am I really helpless?” “Do I actually NEED to escape this next challenge?” “Why?” “Is that really true?” “Do I remember my energy level when I began this?” “What motivated me then?” “Am I ambivalent now? Why?” What could I gain if I drive straight forward?” “What would I get that I don’t have now?”
Having some self-doubt is all too human. But if your roadblock is steady self-defeating chatter within, it’s time for first aid–give yourself aid, first. This applies to mentors AND mentees. Human development is a journey loaded with challenges and obstacles–but the rewards can be SO satisfying–for those who mentor intentionally and for those who apply themselves as mentees.
But a lot of the language is about INFORMAL mentoring, more like role modeling, or a kind of “follow the leader.” With FORMAL mentoring though, a serious program has a real calendar and lasting, measurable impact. Formal mentoring programs really can help you get around the dance floor of life.
A formal program for adults within organizations begins with intense orientation for both mentors and mentees. Goals are set with the mentoring partners in agreement. A structure is put in place. A process is visible, conscious and ongoing. It has structure without strangulation. Alignment between the organization, its stakeholders and the ones being mentored is sought, while the strengths and gifts of the mentees are encouraged and expanded.
Often, mentees are asked to reach BEYOND their comfort levels. There is actually a kind of contract between the mentor and mentee pairs, that supports regular meetings and makes space for growth and development. The benefits of a formal mentoring program can actually be measured and observed.
Formal mentoring moves people from “having a model” to “becoming a model” in working to develop others!
Imagine that you want to move up to a more rewarding but challenging position. Or enhance your visibility and reputation in an organization. Or make a lateral move that requires skills you don’t have right now. Or change careers altogether. Or begin a career. Or choose between different and competing options?
Having someone who is not your boss and who really wants you to succeed in life can be SO helpful.
Without such a person in your corner, it is harder to build up your skill kit; polish your resume; test your ideas; anticipate changes in a particular industry; or take advantage of experience-based listening and guidance. Life without a genuine mentor is definitely more difficult.
At the same time, life WITH a good mentor can speed your progress; uncover talents you were not aware you possessed; answer questions that can clarify your thinking and action steps; develop your creativity and confidence in problem-prevention and problem-solving; and affirm you as a person interested in life-long learning and positive growth.
Why wouldn’t EVERYONE seek out a few good mentors along the way? Whether the mentoring is formal or informal, life with a mentor has a great deal to recommend it!