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Do you have a mentor?

Posted on 14 August, 2019 at 19:25

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay 


A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to hear a brilliant speaker who within her presentation spoke about the amazing value of having sponsors and mentors. She really made me think about who I have in my corner, who inspires and pushes me and supports me to be the best I can be.

I often speak to groups of managers about the importance of peer support and mentoring as I don't think this is something that is done well in many Tasmanian workplaces. But if I'm being honest, I have to say that I don't do it well either. I do have a couple of informal mentors — not that they know, because I've never said or asked. I'm now thinking about the unique challenges of being the sole trainer in my own small business, business is great but I could really do with a sounding board and some tough love at times. So why don't I ask a valued colleague to be my mentor? is it because it makes me vulnerable? or, do I think they will refuse for fear of competition? probably a little of both.

Respect at Work is unique, and my training style is my own so what is holding me back I wonder. Self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy are such enemies to productivity, but I am as human as everyone else and these emotions occasionally creep in. Asking someone to be my mentor is surely a sign of flattery and likely would be a win-win situation for us both.

Thinking back 30 years to my first supervisory role, it was an exciting but terrifying time. Going from thinking only about yourself to being responsible for others is a big shift. A great interview and attendance at the right number of courses doesn't make a good manager, a good manager relies on more than technical skill. And, like learning to drive, practical exercises don't compare to the daily navigational challenges of the job. My supervisory journey was like a traineeship or an apprenticeship in successful people management because I had a couple of awesome coaches. We didn't speak of mentors back then but that's similar to what they were, they were supportive but brutally honest and I (and my staff) benefitted greatly from my relationship with these coaches. One person in particular shaped my journey and all these years later I can gratefully attribute some of my success to their mentorship.

You might already be surrounded by valuable sources of knowledge and support that you can tap into, either as a formal mentorship arrangement or just a one-off chat.  For that people management situation you aren't sure how to approach, or that conflict that is difficult to manage; it's quite probable that you have access to someone who has wisdom and experience from navigating those challenges before. We all have to start somewhere and learning is a continual journey, don't let your fear of vulnerability stop you from finding your best way forward.

That person that encourages your growth and development, that embraces their role and that you watch and learn from — they might be your mentor — ask if you can meet formally and if they will help you to be your best version of yourself.

I'm off to find my future mentor.

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