I spent a couple hours today attempting to mentor someone. It is what I do and most of the time I do it well. But some days I fall short of my goal to make a difference in the lives of those I serve and touch. Today was no different. The conversation was engaged. The topics interesting and the outcomes were, at times, very productive. The bottom line was that I wanted to help someone “make a change” in their own life. Move in a more collective and productive way toward something different, exciting, challenging and maybe touch their life in a way that had not been touched in the past. The first thing I had to remember was that mentoring is really a one way street and that street is dependent upon the person being mentored and that often takes time.
Most individuals do not understand how mentoring works. It is not the action of telling a person what to do or not to do. That is coaching. Mentoring is helping another person find their own way through self-discovery, recognition and clarification of self. I attempted the same thing last week with a seasoned business person and that engagement was less successful than I wanted. In order to “make a change” and then make a difference you must first understand who you are and then engage in that recognition. That means that the person being mentored really needs to understand their own complexities and needs.
Many years ago I attended a “values clarification” certification workshop. I was certified at the end of the process but there was one very important part missing. I did not understand the value of values to others and how that understanding impacted the lives of others. I missed or forgot a very important aspect of my questions. It was about the other person and not me. The same is true for the mentoring process. Why should anyone have to mentor others? The real truth is that most individuals fail to recognize their limits and their excellence. Their abilities, skills, strengths and talents are all part of that recognition. Not all of us are great a doing or great at thinking or great at strategic processing or even completing a process. We are not perfect human beings. We are all different and understanding who we are is the first step in the mentoring process. I have always taken a great deal of time to support my staff in their quest for who they are. Most are clueless at the end of the day but once in a while someone will actually get it and understand their internal strengths and talents. But the majority do not. They cannot recognize both sides of this equation, the good and the bad; determine the success from the failure; what is known and what is not known; what they are capable of and what they really cannot do.
If you want to make a change and your mentor is attempting to provide an avenue for you to make a change, stop for a second and think clearly about what is presented. The change is really inside yourself, not outside. The mentor does not possess the change in you. The change is about you not some process or procedure. The change is about making a decision that may not feel right but is right. The change is about a recognition that you are singularly different than others you work with, and your contribution and your changes in perceptions about self will also be much different. Take the time to figure this out and you will not need the mentor. You will become one.