Tag Archives: Protege

Mentors, Mind the Gap

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When Sheryl Sandberg’s blockbuster manifesto Lean In first came out, I was burnt out from years of being a single mom in a pigeonhole career, and I was in no mood to hear what she had to say.

My situation was not for a lack of trying. I followed all the career advice I could find…or at least as much of it as I could understand. I let my boss know I was looking to grow my career and earning power, and would be thrilled to make any move that put me on a growth career path. I accepted the challenge of covering maternity leave for one of my colleagues, proving my potential over a grueling six months. After this trial by fire, my boss gave me a great review and wrote a promotion into my official Career Action Plan. When that very job became available three months later, it was offered to an outside candidate. I never got an interview, and another opportunity never came up while I was with the company.

First, Acknowledge the Gap…

This experience – and others like it – made it very hard for me to sit through panels of senior executive women lecturing at “women’s empowerment events” sponsored by “women’s employee interest groups”. These executives spoke of work/life balance while wearing Christian Louboutin shoes that cost more than my annual childcare budget. They told mom-guilt stories about how hard it was to find just the right nanny, and explained the agonies of allocating their hours while relying upon spouses and hired help to take care of their households and kids. I struggled to juggle everything alone on an inadequate fraction of the salary. They spoke of Hillary Clinton and her famous chocolate chip cookies. During one particularly lean period, my sons were grateful to have anything other than ramen and oatmeal to eat.

When I had run out of sick time and vacation benefits for the year, I left my sick two-year-old in the care total strangers on the days when he felt the worst, because I couldn’t afford to lose a full day’s pay and his regular daycare wouldn’t take him. When my kindergartner begged me not to drop him off anymore at the local YMCA – the only before-school care I could afford – I told him he’d get used to it. Then one day I came in late, and instead of the quiet, cozy, alphabet-carpeted room where I usually dropped him off, we were directed to a massive, barely-supervised gymnasium teeming with children of every age from kindergarten through fifth grade. My young son just curled up in a ball on a bench as I turned away. I cried all the way to work that day.

When the COO of Facebook published a book called Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, it was just more of the same old red-soled execu-speak: it was not written for the likes of me.

…Then, Fill It

Since those days, I have become a big Sheryl Sandberg fan. Her PSA on the importance of mentorship and sponsorship[i] speaks to some of my most dearly-held values. I even run a website that is dedicated to promoting these values, and I’m leaning in” hard. Most importantly, though, I want to echo Sheryl’s message from that PSA: it is never too early in your career to start mentoring others.

Hearing from women like Sheryl Sandberg is amazing, and can give us something to shoot for, but even with equal representation at the c-suite level, the vast majority of women will never get there simply because those roles are themselves scarce. There are far more women out there who are like me and you, and they need to hear from women like themselves, too. We need to be available for each other: to share our struggles and, through our example, to provide hope of rising above them.

You may think you don’t have much to offer, but I assure you that you do! You may have no idea what that pleasant colleague down the hall from you is going through today, but it might just be the same struggle you yourself conquered a few years back. You may have no idea how or where or when your story could change someone’s life, but I assure you that someday it will.

Please don’t keep your story to yourself. Get the stories flowing and the healing going.

#BeTheMentor.

Let’s make this go viral.

Mind the Gap


References

Sandberg, Sheryl, “Lean In Together: Mentorship Matters” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9FIKLhx4hc


About This Series

“Be the Mentor” is a series in which I explore the joys and benefits of stepping up to be a mentor, and offer my insights on how to do it well. “Where Do Mentors Come From?” is the first article in th

Be the Mentor is published on the first Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

How Weaknesses Make us Better Mentors

One of the most surprising things about being a mentor is that it turns our weaknesses into strengths. It’s not that our weaknesses are magically transformed simply by donning the mantle of “mentor”, but rather that our struggles become our areas of expertise. In addition, the teaching process itself embeds the lessons more deeply within us, often leading to new insights and allowing us to further refine our own work as a result. In the words of Yogi Bhajan, “If you want to master something, teach it.”

The reasons our weaknesses serve us so well in mentoring others are two-fold. First, the struggle itself breaks down barriers and establishes a common ground with our protege. Second, the struggle to learn forces us to articulate knowledge in a way that being gifted does not.

Establish a Common Ground

In her TED Talk “On Being Wrong”, self-styled wrongologist Kathryn Schultz says, “Most of us do everything we can to avoid thinking about being wrong, or at least to avoid thinking about the possibility that we ourselves are wrong.” Our need to “be right”, she proposes, robs us of tremendous creative, intellectual and moral potential. Certainly the fear of being wrong and its corollary, the insistence on being right, rob us of many opportunities for meaningful connection. We may feel safer on our “Pedestal of Rightness”, but it comes at the cost of remaining remote.

As parents, we often see our teaching discussions with our children as very black and white, wrong and right. Being more experienced in the harsh realities of life, we can try to drill lessons into them by sheer force of will. It is, however, when we admit to having the same struggles that they begin to open up to us, and become open to our guidance.

In the cartoon above, for example, ”Mister Man” is teaching a very important lesson to his son, but the lesson backfires when it starts a mental feedback loop in which the boy sees no way to succeed. Mister Man has provided the “what” without providing the “how”. Mom breaks the mental loop by admitting she shares the trait of forgetfulness; moreover, she is a credible teacher because she’s learned ways of coping with forgetfulness. Mom embodies the possibility that things can get better.

When we as mentors share our struggles with our proteges, we do the same for them. We step down off of the pedestal of perfection and ask them to see us in a new light, right there with them struggling with the very same problems. We can show them the path, instead of shouting at them from a high distance.

Embrace the Struggle to Learn

In the cartoon scenario, the breakdown of Mister Man’s lesson comes because he provides the what without explaining the how. This leads us to the second benefit of getting comfortable with our weaknesses: the struggle to learn forces us to articulate knowledge in a way that being gifted does not. As a reasonably gifted painter, I have rarely been challenged to articulate my technique: I just ”get in the zone” and “let it happen”. When I am asked to explain what I do and how I do it, I sense there is often no expectation that I will communicate something my listener can imitate; rather, I am explaining the mysteries of something “other” and “special”. Since I am guided by intuition rather than discipline, I often find myself at a loss for words.

Not so with my maestra Shiloh Sophia. For Shiloh, the process of earning her skill as a painter impressed upon her a clear knowledge of what she does and why. She articulated her knowledge as part of the process of acquiring it, and as a result she can teach what she discovered to others who face the same struggle.

When she was younger, “experts” told Shiloh that she had no talent as a painter; she enrolled in art school, then dropped out and eventually settled for a corporate job. Shiloh’s calling was to create art, however, and it would not be denied. When she finally found her style, it came in the form of a simple visual language, combined with layering and design techniques that were extremely teachable. Ultimately, Shiloh not only developed an extremely successful career as a fine artist, but founded the Color of Woman school of painting and established the Intentional Creativity Foundation and Power Creatives TV to help others learn to become creators in their own right. Today she is a mentor to thousands of women who, like her, had been told they “have no talent”.

While most of us will not go on to create an entire teaching methodology or business from our struggles, we can still learn to use our weaknesses as an asset in our mentoring. When in doubt, as yourself this question: would I rather be right or helpful? In truth, it’s not an either/or proposition, but a question of starting with the right priority. If you start with the desire to be helpful, you will find the way to the “right” place for yourself and your protege. Your heart can show you how to be both.

#BeTheMentor


REFERENCES

“If you want to master something, teach it.” Yogi Bhajan https://www.harisingh.com/newsYogiBhajan.htm

“On Being Wrong”, TED Talk by Kathryn Schultz https://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong#t-132401 


About This Series

“Be the Mentor” is a series in which I explore the joys and benefits of stepping up to be a mentor, and offer my insights on how to do it well. “Where Do Mentors Come From?” is the first article in this series.

Be the Mentor is published on the first Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

The Map and Milestones of the Hero’s Journey

The wonder is that the characteristic efficacy to touch and inspire deep creative centers dwells in the smallest nursery fairy tale – as the flavor of the ocean is contained in the droplet, or the whole mystery of life within the egg of a flea. For the symbols of mythology are not manufactured; they cannot be ordered, invented or permanently suppressed. They are spontaneous products of the psyche, and each bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.

Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces 

Where do mentors come from? One answer is that mentors are those who choose to share the treasures won on their own Hero’s Journeys. To become better mentors, then, we can use the Hero’s Journey as a lens through which to reexamine our own life journeys for gems of experience which we can share. To do so, we must begin by understanding the map.

The journey itself is a deceptively simple pattern, starting with a crisis, followed by a departure from home, a transformation of character, and a homecoming. However, as the opening quote of this article implies, the journey “bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.” By reframing our stories in the context of the Hero’s Journey, we not only lay claim to the talismans of Universal Truth that lie within them, but connect to the power behind that truth2. Like the Sankofa Bird of West African legend3, let us see if we can learn to use this map, retrace our steps, and seek out the treasures that have been left behind.

Stages of the Journey

In the “4-Act Story Diamond” Hero’s Journey model used for this series of articles, the hero’s journey of transformation is accomplished in four distinct stages4:

  1. Preparation
  2. Separation
  3. Initiation
  4. Return

Within this framework, each leg of the journey is a kind of miniature hero’s journey of its own, characterized by a heroic archetype that informs the hero’s choices and ultimately transforms into the hero of the journey’s next phase:

  1. Preparation: The Orphan-Hero
    • A great crisis (dragon) drives the hero from his home.
    • Characterized by risk-aversion, powerlessness, and a dependence on others, the Orphan-Hero flees from the dragon, and is reborn as “the Wanderer”.
  2. Separation: The Wanderer-Hero
    • Having left home and the familiar behind, the hero voyages in search in search of a way to defeat the dragon.
    • Characterized by the search for individuation and personal power, the Wanderer-Hero rapidly develops adaptability, resilience and self-confidence; when he confronts the dragon, he gives chase and is reborn as “the Warrior”.
  3. Initiation: The Warrior-Hero
    • With growing confidence in his Ego identity and power, the hero now approaches the the dragon’s cave, where treasure and victory await.
    • The Warrior-Hero finds the tables turned as he must submit to the dragon and be reborn as “the Martyr”.
  4. Return: The Martyr-Hero
    • The hero must now grow beyond personal power to forge or claim his TALISMAN and prevail against the dragon; transcending his ego, the Martyr-Hero journeys back home as a very different person that the Orphan who set out.
    • The Martyr-Hero confronts the dragon for a fourth and final time. Through the transcendence of his ego and re-engagement with his role in community, he integrates the dragon’s power within himself and is reborn as the Magician.

The journey in its entirety yields a valuable lesson or Talisman which the Hero can use for the benefit of himself and his community, but so too does each leg of the journey. Indeed, even within each leg of the journey are smaller moments of choice and change that ‘bear within them the germ power of the source,’ and reflect the recurring pattern of of crisis, change and transformation . When we use this tool as a lens to review the great challenges of our past, we can recover many treasures indeed from each story we take the time to explore. By collecting these talismans, we build a rich store of treasures “where neither moth nor rust consume”, from which we enrich both ourselves and, if we so choose, our communities as well.


QUESTION: What experiences have you had in your life which, in retrospect, could be described as following the pattern of the Hero’s Journey? Which archetype resonates most with you at this moment in time?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Choose a problem you are facing right now and pick the archetype that most closely describes how you are responding to that challenge. Explore together ways that you can move past that challenge and move toward integration and claiming of your power in this situation, including the personal growth you may need to experience along the way. Commit to one concrete action you can take in this direction between now and your next co-mentoring session and report back on results when you meet again.


Endnotes

  1. Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, pp. 1 – 2.
  2. Baron-Reid, Collette, The Map: Finding the Magic and Meaning in the Story of Your Life, pp. 111 – 112.
  3. I first learned of the Sankofa Legend from Dr. Frank Robinson, who used this motif as a key theme in his 2015 Martin Luther King Day speech at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. See also: Wikipedia, “Sankofa” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sankofa.
  4. Ferguson, Andrew, The Four-Act Story Diamond. http://rageagainstthepage.blogspot.com/2006/01/4-act-story-diamond.html

For another excellent overview of the Hero’s Journey (and a terrific “Recommended Reading” list), see Nina Munteau’s 2-part article on the subject at blogspot:


Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right.
Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Meet Jomarie Ramirez

Today’s Member Spotlight features Jomarie Ramirez, a bilingual staff assistant whom I met in 2014 through our mutual membership in Baystate Toastmasters. Shortly after our club was chartered, she accepted the challenge of serving as Club President when our first club president had to step down from the role. Since then, Jomarie has continued to invest in developing her communication and leadership skills.

If you should ever find yourself in Springfield, MA on Three Kings Day, be sure to check out the annual celebration she organizes! You might also want to ask her about the world’s longest holiday…

Jomarie Ramirez, Staff Assistant

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jomarie-ramirez-m-s-cim-chi™-1396a317
Experience: 11+ Years in Administrative Support
Greatest Professional Strengths: Multi-tasking, ability to work with different groups, cultures, personalities of people, creativity.
Current Professional Priorities: Career change and growth. Opportunity to put my degree to use.
Interested In: Peer Mentoring, Find A Coaching Mentor, Join a Mastermind.
Meeting Preferences: Face to Face, Online or Teleconference, Industry Events.
Location: Springfield, MA, United States of America

Where I’m From

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and lived there until graduating from the University of Puerto Rico with a BBA in Office Systems Administration. I worked for a food company until I moved to Massachusetts. I am fully bilingual in Spanish and English, and in 2016 I became a Certified Healthcare Interpreter with CCHI.

Since moving to Massachusetts, I have worked in the manufacturing industry (Dielectrics, Inc.) and healthcare services (Habit OPCO, Baystate ADS Sloan Clinic). I currently work for Baystate Brightwood Health Center as a Staff Assistant, and in this role I wear many hats, including: project coordinator, payroll processor, schedule manager, and general office administrator.

Where I’m At

I am currently seeking career growth in a position where I can contribute my knowledge, educational background, and experiences, both professionally and culturally. What brought me to Mentors and Masterminds is the desire to connect with a mentor who can help me make the transition to a new field and working in a new environment/state.

I am a very creative person, and I would especially like to start working in a career where I can combine my knowledge in office administration and my creativity.

Where I’m Headed

My goal is to have a career where I could combine many of the things that I’m passionate about: helping others, sharing knowledge, continuous learning, travel, creativity, culture, photography and food. My dream job would be with The Travel Channel, or a job related to culture, traveling, sharing information about situations around the world.

What I’m Most Passionate About

I’m passionate about my culture. I’m extremely proud to be a Puerto Rican woman and I love sharing information about our history and culture. My current hobbies are photography and making glass lamps from wine bottles. I enjoy re-purposing items that otherwise would end up in the trash.


If you are a member of Mentors and Masterminds, be sure to drop by Jomarie’s profile page HERE and leave her a message. If you are a current or former administrative professional and would like to join our community and connect with Jomarie, click HERE to register!

Member Spotlight is a series of articles featuring the talents and accomplishments of our members at MentorsandMasterminds.com. Member Spotlight is published here on our blog on the second Wednesday of every month.

  • To be considered for a future Member Spotlight feature, members must complete their full member profile using the profile edit page. Members will be contacted for approval prior to being featured in Member Spotlight, and members with incomplete profiles will not be considered for this feature.
  • Members who prefer not to be featured can also select the “Please do NOT feature me in Member Spotlight” in the “MEMBER SPOTLIGHT” section at the bottom of the profile edit page. To access your profile edit page, cursor over your profile name at the upper right corner of any page on the site, then select “Profile” and “Edit” from the dropdown menus that appear. Be sure to save changes before closing out.

Mentors Don’t Have All the Answers

Taking the step from being a professional to becoming a mentor – proclaiming yourself an expert in your field – can be really intimidating.  Certainly, this has been my experience. As I mentioned in last month’s “Be the Mentor” article, I had a major confrontation with the “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!” bogeyman[i] when I realized that I couldn’t just take a back seat and hope this community would grow itself.

If there has ever been an experience that prepared me to do things for which there is no possible way to prepare, it’s parenthood. And in parenting, as in mentoring, the rewards are commensurate with the risks. In this series, starting with mentoring lessons from being a mom, I hope to provide you with the inspiration and encouragement to take that next step and become a mentor.

You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers

As they grow into teenagers, the children you thought you knew can seem to become near-strangers as they withdraw and individuate themselves in preparation for adulthood. The things they used to love are irrelevant. When you ask what they are most passionate about now, the responses can be, well, less than impassioned…

All of this can conspire to make you feel pretty helpless as a parent.

As my older son Andrew worked his way through of high school, I asked him all the questions a good mom is supposed to ask. Have you started thinking about colleges yet? Do you know what you’d like to study? And so on… His answers – often sounding more preverbal grunts than actual words – left me very anxious. Had I missed some opportunity to help him explore his interests? Had I somehow inadvertently put the kibosh on his heart’s true calling, just as a tender seedling was, unbeknownst to me, beginning to sprout?  Doing my best to keep my freak-out to myself, I decided the best course of action would be simply to stop pushing on the questions that weren’t working, and focus on the things that allowed us to spend more time together instead.

Our conversations during those relaxed times began to reveal who my son was growing up to be. At his suggestion, we made several trips to local museums: what a delight! I would never have thought to propose it. He seemed to be especially talkative in the car, so I took every opportunity to drive with him and our conversations ranged from current events to history to Latin etymologies to deliberately mangled French. He knows I love to write, and sought my editorial advice on many a school project: I was free with the red pen, and he felt free to take or leave my suggestions.

In his last year of high-school, he wrote a 10,000-word novella, volunteered with a friend’s campaign for Select Board in our home town, and got an after school job. In February, he received full tuition scholarship from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and when he was ready he came back to me and his stepdad with questions that led him to a decision to major in Political Science and minor in Creative Writing as a pre-law course of study.

The truth is, Andrew has come to all these answers in his own way and time, and in the 4 years to come, all of those decisions may turn completely around.  My job as his mentor during this time was never to have the answers for him, but just to be available. I provided honest feedback about his plans and ideas based on what I know of him. I offered advice when – and only when – he asked for it. Above all, though, my job was to provide loving support and a dose humor to relieve the pressure of this major transition. Ultimately, my job was to care.

Take this attitude into your own mentoring and you will find that as the pressure comes off, the relationship blossoms. There is no greater joy than seeing your protégé arrive at the solutions and answers they need in their own way in their own time!

You don’t have to have all the answers. Be a good listener and, in due time, your protégé find their own answers.

[i] This is otherwise known as Impostor Syndrome, which Wikipedia defines as “an inability to internalize…accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome)

Where Do Mentors Come From? (Part 2 of 2)

Hero’s Journey 4-Act Story Diamong by Andrew Ferguson (http://rageagainstthepage.blogspot.com/2006/01/4-act-story-diamond.html), shared under Creative Commons License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

As I explored in Where Do Mentors Come From? Part 1, if I am to keep my promise to serve the growing community of administrative professionals at Mentors & Masterminds, I must answer this question. I have been forced to dig deep to find the Mentor within me, to reshape and polish what bits of value I find there, and to courageously share these treasures (so they seem to me), so that perhaps I may help others conquer their own challenges.

Whenever I do this kind of deep personal inquiry[i], I am drawn back to the work of Joseph Campbell, and his articulation of the world monomyth, or as it is more commonly known, the Hero’s Journey. in fact, “Meeting With the Mentor” is a pivotal moment in the Hero’s Journey. In The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler’s classic writer’s guide to the Hero’s Journey, the Mentor is introduced as follows:

An archetype found frequently in dreams, myths and stories is the Mentor, usually a positive figure who aids or trains the hero. Campbell’s name for this force is the Wise Old Man or Wise Old Woman. This archetype is expressed in all those characters who teach and protect heroes and give them gifts. Whether it’s God walking with Adam in the Garden of Eden, Merlin guiding King Arthur, the Fairy Godmother helping Cinderella, or a veteran sergeant giving advice to a rookie cop, the relationship between the hero and Mentor is one of the richest sources of entertainment in literature and film. [ii]

By reviewing my life in the light of this framework, I have indeed reclaimed many “elixirs” of truth that have helped me to navigate my own path, and to be of support to others. Now, I discover therein the germ of an answer to my core question, “where do mentors come from?”:

Mentors are wisdom-givers who have completed their own Hero’s Journeys.

The Star Wars movie series is often cited as the textbook example of this Hero’s Journey, and repeatedly demonstrates this truth.  Heroes of the Clone War movies – Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi – become Luke’s Skywalker’s mentors in the rebellion movies A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In Disney’s 2015 reboot of the series, The Force Awakens, Luke himself is introduced as the probable mentor of Rey, the heroine for a new generation.

The gifts which Vogler references are also a product of the mentor’s Hero’s Journey. Whether they take the form of physical objects, wisdom stories or prophecy, these gifts always come from the Mentor’s personal treasure store, imbued with a sense of history and great value. They are direct bequests to the Hero of the treasures won by the mentor own their Hero’s Journey.

Taken from this perspective, then, we are all mentors – or can be, if we are willing to do the deep work to unearth the treasures of our personal Hero’s Journeys. In this series “Beyond the Hero’s Journey”, I will explore the Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right. Each article will include a question for your personal inquiry, and a co-mentoring challenge designed to help you and your co-mentoring partner transform your stories into a gift that you can share with the world. I hope you will choose to make this journey with me.

QUESTION: What mentors have you had in your life, and how did their own experiences (as far as you knew them) equip them to become a mentor to you?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Pick one professional challenge you have overcome and, as simply as possible, share that story with your co-mentor at your next monthly meeting. Discuss your lessons learned, and ask your co-mentor what insights they gained from the story.


Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right.

Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Endnotes

[i] Here I would like to acknowledge the influence of my teacher, artist Shiloh Sophia (http://shilohsophia.com/), and her process of Intentional Creativity.  To learn more about intentional creativity and the Color of Woman Method, go to http://www.intentionalcreativityfoundation.org/.

[ii] Vogler, Christopher, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (2nd Edition), Michael Wiese Productions, Studio City, CA, 1998. (page 47)

 

Where Do Mentors Come From? (Part 1 of 2)

When I launched Mentors and Masterminds, my goal was to answer to a common question among administrative professionals: “Where can I find a mentor?” I imagined myself as the behind-the-scenes administrator of an organically thriving community where current and former administrative professionals hooked up for mentoring “dates” and ultimately found “true love” in the form of long-term mentoring relationships: a career-oriented Match.com[1], if you will. I hoped, too, that community members – particularly those more knowledgeable than I – might be inspired to share their own stories, thereby creating a self-sustaining learning community. Like the Field of Dreams, I believed that if I built it, the community would come.

When I was first planning the site, I consulted my Toastmasters colleague, website builder and marketing guru Heather Turner, DTM for suggestions on how to build the site.  I got my first whiff of trouble when she described her own experience as a member of a similar site for small business startups: “The problem I’ve noticed,” she said, “is that everyone wants to have a mentor, but no one wants to be a mentor. When I was a mentor on the site, I was deluged with requests, because there were on average 1 mentor for every 150 mentees who wanted help.”

To answer the question “Where can I find a mentor?”, I would have to answer another question first: “Where do mentors come from? “That should be easy enough to solve,” I thought, “I’ll just create a category called ‘co-mentoring’ and encourage everyone to participate, giving us roughly equal numbers of mentors and mentees.”

After the launch in October 2016, it quickly became clear that, if I wanted my new site to mature into the community I had envisioned, there was a need to do more: to not only encourage members to step up as mentors to each other, but also to show them how. This kind of thought leadership was hardly what I’d signed up for. I just wanted to be the “techie-behind-the-scenes”. Who was I to offer myself as an authority on mentoring?! As I began to wrestle with this question, I was paralyzed by Impostor Syndrome[2]. The terror was not unlike that which I experienced when, nearly 18 years ago, I was a brand-new mom faced with the care of a healthy but helpless newborn boy: what have I gotten myself into?!

On the other hand, there was also a promise implicit in the launch of my site, and I wasn’t about to leave that promise unfulfilled. To help grow the community, I needed to become a mentor’s mentor. Having identified the problem, I knew I could tackle it. After all, I’ve survived eighteen years of motherhood…and I’ve done a damn fine job of it, if I do say so myself. In fact, parenting taught me more than a few good mentoring lessons along the way, lessons like:

  • You don’t need to have all the answers to be a mentor.
  • In mentoring, your greatest weaknesses become invaluable assets.
  • You can’t mentor everyone, and that’s okay.

The other thing that keeps me going is this: I deeply believe that everyone has creative potential, and that there is no more important work than encouraging the development of that potential.  As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”[3]  Rather, we must challenge ourselves and others to thinking and doing things in new ways.  There is no more powerful tool in this endeavor that the personal encouragement of a mentor…and a friend.

Someone needs the gifts that only you have to offer, so join me as I explore the joys, rewards and methods of becoming a mentor.


 “Be the Mentor” is a series in which I explore the joys and benefits of stepping up to be a mentor, and offer my insights on how to do it well. “Where Do Mentors Come From?” is the first article in this series.

Be the Mentor is published on the first Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com


FOOTNOTES

[1] My personal inspiration was actually a less-known dating site, lavalife.com. Met my S.O. there in July 2004 and 14 years later we are still going strong! It’s less about the how and where you meet, and more about the time you invest into finding a good match and creating a great relationship.

[2] Wikipedia defines impostor syndrome as “an inability to internalize…accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome)

[3] Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins121993.html

Lessons in Revolutionary Thinking

lirt-headerby Tara E. Browne, DTM

When I was awarded one of three scholarships for the 2016 Conference for Administrative Excellence, I was beyond excited. I looked forward to acquiring strategies and tools to advance my administrative career. I expected to be totally blown away by insights and techniques from thought leaders on the cutting edge of the administrative professions: new measures for peak performance; creative methodologies for problem solving; fresh perspectives for relating to those I work with every day.

What I got was all of the above…and so much more.

As speaker after speaker challenged our assumptions about administrative work, and I found myself being inspired by a profession that I had so long ago wandered into with neither purpose nor ambition.  There were so many  “AHA!” moments in this conference that it would be impossible to do justice to them all in a single blog post, but I’d like to share my top three with you here.  These were paradigm-shifting moments that sharpened my sense of mission, strengthened my commitment to cultivating professional community, and expanded my vision for our potential to impact our careers, the companies we work for and the communities we serve.

Ownership and Mission

Dr. Daren Martin’s presentation on showing up like an owner – and not “just an admin” – provided many great examples of how we can choose to show up, from dress and grooming to meeting etiquette to original professional contributions.  At the heart of it all, though, he underscored that we must become clear on our personal mission.

In my “other life” as an artist, I have a clearly defined mission statement: I create art and experiences that help others to recognize their creative potential, and I help them to manifest and celebrate that potential in ways that make our world more beautiful, joyful, loving and abundant.   As an administrative professional, however, applying this mission statement to my daily work is a stretch, to say the least. Often I feel torn between my personal mission and my professional reality. So when Dr. Martin casually remarked, “In fact, I have a couple of mission statements,” he kind of rocked my world.

Wow. You mean I can have more than one?!

I was, however, concerned about diluting my effectiveness by having conflicting missions. Instead, I realized, I could translate my artist mission statement to the fit the needs of specific focus areas. First, I broke it down into three parts:

  • What I Do: I create art & experiences…
  • Why I Do It: that help others to recognize, manifest and celebrate their creative potential…
  • End Result: in ways that make our world more beautiful, joyful, loving and abundant.

Then I translated that to fit a task at hand – developing MentorsAndMasterminds.com:

  • Experience I Create: I help administrative professionals connect…
  • Activate Creative Potential: through the power of their stories…
  • Make Our World Better: to become heroes of their careers and mentors to others.

I help administrative professionals connect through the power of their stories to become heroes of their careers and mentors to others. 

Now that feels like a mission I can accomplish!

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

  • What are the core elements of your personal mission statement: the “What”, “Why” and “End Result”?
  • Are there areas of your life that might call for a supplementary mission statement?

 

Part of the Admin Nation

Of all the presentations, I was perhaps most excited to hear Peggy Vasquez expand on her May 2016 webinar and the subject Develop the Power of Your Inner Circle: after all, it was her webinar that inspired me to create Mentors And Masterminds! As she shared her stories, I was transported right along with her, from her earliest DECA mentoring experience, to the challenge of writing her first book, to her vision for an #AdminNation. It was this third element that truly inspired me.

In particular, Peggy talked about the concept of Ubuntu, which Wikipedia describes as “a Nguni Bantu term roughly translating to “’human kindness’…often used in a more philosophical sense to mean ‘the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity’”. Further, Peggy argues, “human beings didn’t become the dominant species by competing, but by collaborating.”

Certainly in my own career I have to avoid the most prevalent forms of competition in our profession: information hoarding, adherence to obsolete processes, and the vicarious exercise of executive privilege, to name a few. Unfortunately, many colleagues still seem to struggle to understand the value of collaboration, and that’s where this succinct value statement fits in.  This message – “Human beings didn’t become the dominant species by competing, but by collaborating.” –  paints a powerful word-image of how collaboration creates success that I can share to bring still more administrative professionals on board the “Admin Nation”.

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

  • Where would you like to see more collaboration among your administrative peers? 
  • What methods – both direct and indirect – could you try to help foster that increased collaboration?

 

A Revolutionary Vision

The most impactful moment of the conference, however, did not come from one of the scheduled presenters, but from surprise guest and Marcham Publishing CEO, Lucy Brazier, whose presentation about the Isipho Admin Bursary in South Africa created a true paradigm shift in the way I see the administrative support professions as a whole.

I understand the value of the work that we as administrative professionals do, of course…but the tribute paid to that value by colleagues and executives has often felt like little more than lip service. Many administrative professionals provide years of service with ever-increasing skills and responsibilities, but no corresponding path for career advancement and compensation. Having wandered accidentally into this career, I saw no way forward, up or out…and I struggled to rid myself of an underlying sense of professional deficiency and self-doubt.

When Lucy shared the life-changing impact that the Isipho Admin Bursary will have for the scholarship winners who will attend this training in the coming year, I felt true appreciation for the privilege I have to be secure in my own job.  Moreover, I was reminded of Erick Gray’s famous words:

Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.

According to the US Department of Labor, Secretary/Administrative Assistant remains the #1 job for women in the United States, and although recent data is harder to find, a 2011 Monster.com article estimates that 95%+ of administrative support roles are held by female employees. Given that so many women rely upon this profession, I realized that this role holds the potential to change the lives of not only women and the families they support, but even for healing communities around the world.

In just a few short minutes, I gained a completely different perspective on the value of this work we do. For the first time ever, I felt truly proud to call myself an administrative professional, and inspired with a conviction that yes, I am a Revolutionary Assistant, and I can help change the world.

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

 

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Co-Mentoring

To connect with lots of like-minded professionals to share success stories, get a fresh perspective and provide mutual support, select the “Co-Mentoring” option. You will get most of the benefits of a traditional Mentor/Protégé relationship, but without having to compete for the comparatively limited supply of senior mentors. A co-mentoring relationship is much easier to form, because even if someone doesn’t feel ready to be a mentor quite yet, most people are more than happy to be a sounding board and accountability partner to a peer – and gain those same benefits in return!

Coaching

A Coaching relationship more closely fits the traditional Mentor/Protégé model, with the senior partner providing coaching in specific skills and strategies of the trade in addition to the kind of support described in the Co-Mentoring model above. If you are a senior administrative professional, consider sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience with other in a Coaching Mentor capacity. There is truly no reward like seeing a protégé grow and succeed!

Mastermind Groups

If two heads are better than one, then how about three…or four? Similar in nature to a Co-Mentoring relationship, but expanding upon it to tap the collective energy and insights of a group, Masterminds can become especially valuable resources for those who participate in them. One member’s project is often another’s inspiration! Join (or form) a powerhouse team of motivated peers, focused on big goals and committed to helping each other along the way.

Networking Groups

For some much-needed fun and laughter after a hard day’s work, what could be better than socializing with others who know the tribulations and triumphs of your job? Networking groups are a great way to get to know other administrative professionals in your area, and benefits can include connecting to new sources of information, having inside contacts for event planning or services, or even getting a lead on a great job opportunity. Starting one can be as simple as finding a good happy hour at a local restaurant, picking a date and emailing some friends.