Mentoring is hard

As a mentor, my job is to use all available resources to help my mentees personally grow. I could try to hammer home some messages by repeating over and over. In fact, for some things I actually do. I can hear myself now:

“Someone’s always watching you…”
“Keep it simple.”
“If you are going to identify a problem, be ready to provide at least 2 good solutions.”

For most personal growth lessons, I find it more far more valuable to let the mentees figure things out on their own. It gets tricky because of a lot of people want the solution to be easy and they want it now. Just yesterday, one of the Duplessy Foundation Purpose Fellows asked me how what I was having him explore going to help him now. Fortunately or unfortunately, shortcuts are hard to come by when it comes to learning life lessons.

I do have a formula for the mentoring process and teaching these life lessons:

1. Inspire/Blow things up

I realized early into doing mentoring work that people will get tired of my voice. I have a decent voice that could probably do well on the radio but after many hours of fireside “church chats” my mentees see me like this:

Church Chat Lady

Every mentor eventually look likes like this to their mentee(s)

Knowing my voice and message gets stale I try to create an experience I get their attention again. It might be an inspirational quote, meeting a person that embodies the lesson I am trying to convey, or just doing something like this guy and blow things up:

Watch at 54 seconds. That is what inspiring and blowing things up is all about.  He definitely got their attention and that is my first step.

2. Educate

After I have gotten my mentee’s attention, I try to deliver the content of the lesson in a simple straightforward way.   The mentees are usually very receptive at this point and I know they want to retain the information – but they won’t. That is when I know there has to be a practical application of the lesson shortly after going over the fundamentals of a particular lesson.

3.  Challenge

The challenge I guess you can say is a test.  I hope it is one that mentees want to take.  The model of the Duplessy Foundation is to use volunteer projects our Purpose Fellows help an organization in their area of interest solve a business problem.  That model is rooted in the idea that learning by doing is the last piece of making the lesson really stick.  Even outside the volunteer projects I am constantly thinking of ways to engage fellows with mini-projects or challenges to apply what I am trying to get them to see.

The challenge for me is to let them stumble a bit, encourage them to ask questions, and find the answers through trial and error.  It is seriously hard to just ‘let the process be.’  Sometimes the solutions take longer to find and the mentees get frustrated.  That is when questions like “how is this going to help me?” rear their ugly heads.  I usually smile and tell my mentees to “trust the process”.  Thank goodness (for the most part) they do.

Seth Godin wrote a piece on his blog about two kinds of schooling. Here is an excerpt:

Two kinds of schooling

Type 1. You can take a class where you learn technique, facts and procedures.

Type 2. You can take a class where you learn to see, learn to lead and learn to solve interesting problems.

You can read the full post here.

I foolishly and proudly try to do more of the latter with my mentees.  It’s rewarding. It’s trying and stressful. It’s hard.

Comments Closed