February 2015 PATHtips™

appealThoughts on Mentoring Series – Part 2

Truth in Labeling

When we engage authentically with another, we come into the mentoring relationship consciously being ourselves.  This consciousness must be deliberate, otherwise our ideas may inhibit the growth of the truer nature of the person we seek to encourage – even invalidating or alienating them from the resources we seek to offer.

Our first post was about being AUTHENTIC as a characteristic of effective mentoring.  This month, let us consider how we define mentoring.  How are our labels impacting our effectiveness?

What do we mean by TRUTH IN LABELING?

I don’t call myself a mentor.  Others do.  You know, the amazing people we meet who let us know that our actions, words or example inspired or encouraged them to move forward on an unknown to us path in life.  I am honored to support a dream with facts and example of action.   However, the label is concerning.  Labels generally make me pause.  Not because I anticipate ill intent.  Rather, semantically, what a mentor is to you may not be what a mentor is to me.  Well-meaning relationship assumptions can set up misunderstanding and frustration.  This can negatively impact budding mentoring relationship potential for productive outcomes.

Clarity or Truth in labeling requires that all involved in the mentoring relationship communicate assumptions and relate them to the mentoring relationship we seek.

 How I understand “mentor” impacts what I do and what I expect from someone I am “mentoring”.

We can be in the same organization – using the same words – and do completely different and sometimes opposite actions all in the name of “mentoring”.

 What do you expect?

 When you hear the word “mentor” what comes to mind?   Your parent?   A trusted adult?  A peer?  A stranger?  Yoda?  Was it the content of their character, a decision that they made, an outcome in their life or the way they made you feel that caused you to label them a “mentor”?    How about a newly hired attorney seeking partner?  Or, fifth grader who just moved to a new school?

“Mentor” is defined:

  • Noun- a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. An influential senior sponsor or supporter.*
  • Verb (used without object) –  to act as a mentor:*

*  Dictionary.com  Unabridged. Retrieved January 21, 2015, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mentor

As a mentor, I could:

  • Listen and correct, validate  or redirect decisions
  • Give tangible resources – money, food, shelter, clothing, books
  • Share experiences and spend time
  • Wait to be asked for “stuff” or establish a regular schedule of one-on-one meetings
  • Form a relationship with established purpose – at work, church, school, for college planning, or living support

 So many factors impact the process and outcomes of the mentor relationship.

 If you believe your role is to share your experiences to influence decisions,  communicate this desire – recognizing that it belongs to you – and insure that your mentee agrees with this role.  If you believe that your role is to provide tangible items – do that – only insure your mentee believes that this is the best use of your experiences and resources for their needs.  Communication helps bring assumptions under control, lessening the mystery of what the purpose and outcomes anticipated should show.

I have sought to develop a word or words that successfully illustrate what I’ve gleaned from practice as it relates to the effectiveness of bringing people together for support and to move forward.   It is plain to me as I work with people that if we are not on one accord with the definition of mentoring, our time together takes much longer to bear fruit; sometimes causing us to separate with little accomplished.

I believe that mentoring is more than a “person”.    Opportunities allow us to engage in new thoughts and actions.  Places provide those opportunities.  The people transmit feedback.   So, I settled on Hope Relationship™.

We are more than mentors… we are Hope Relationships™:  people, places and opportunities that move us forward and push us back.  We need them both.


Be well!

Ms. Patricia

PS: Click here to learn about PATHworks!™ Hope Relationship™Experiences for families, individuals and agencies.

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