I have been blessed with some great mentors. They were smart, experienced, and always had my best interests at heart–but they weren’t gentle. Probably each person gets the style they need from their best mentors, and mine were tough because I needed it.
Here are a few things that my mentors have taught me about mentoring:
1. Listen Well
The best mentors ask lots of questions. They get information before making recommendations. I remember conversations with one of my great mentors during which he peppered me with questions for a long time. At the end of the interrogation, I asked him, “Well, what do you think I should do?” His answer was very telling: “You just figured out what you should do; you just haven’t committed to doing it.”
He was right: The questioning had clarified my thoughts, and he had led me through the choices to a course of action that was completely my own. Instead of an answer, he had given me a path.
2. Guide, Don’t Do
My mentors might have recommended I contact someone, read a book, visit an exhibit or change a course of action–but they did not make the call for me, buy the book for me, take me to an exhibit or dictate a change of course. All of that was on me.
From time to time I am asked by people to “be my mentor.” The first thing that I do is to give them an assignment. It is something simple: Write a page about what you want, how success will be measured and why you chose me rather than someone else. If they start to answer, I cut them off and simply say, “Write it down and email it to me a week from today before 5 p.m.”
The interesting thing: Very, very few ever complete the assignment. Why? They thought that “getting a mentor” was an easy way to have a senior person start working for them.
3. Focus on Action
That leads me to the most important thing my mentors taught me: Take action. Every time we talked about an issue or considered a plan, my mentors wanted to know the action that I was going to take–and how soon. Who has time to coach and develop people who will not do something that is in their own best interest?
I know that what success I have had has occurred, in large part, because of the support of my mentors; I am also privileged to be mentoring a number of other people now. It can be very rewarding, but it helps to have a clear understanding of the roles of both people in the mentor relationship.
Topic: Write an essay in which you tell us about someone who has made an impact on your life and explain how and why this person is important to you.
Everyone has a person they consider to be their role-model, whether it is a famous sports star, an actress, or a favorite teacher. These people influence you and the decisions you make. The biggest influence in my life is someone often taken for granted but always there, no matter how bad things get: my mother, Teresa.
She comes from a long line of educators, whose goal was to teach the world one child at a time through kindness and wisdom. She was often known as the warm compassionate lady you go to if you were having a bad day. I can remember as a first grader, walking into her room, being embarrassed that she was consoling one of my classmates in a rocking chair, who had just taken a tumble down the slide during a rowdy session of recess. Not to say that her emotions effected her educating, though. She knew her purpose was to teach others and did her job well, but never missed an opportunity to demonstrate valuable life qualities along the way.
She was always the peaceful mediator between my brother and I. When we would argue about trivial things that we viewed as life or death situations, she would always come up with a solution that would appease us. If I could eat pizza for lunch, he could ride to town in the front seat. She would settle simple arguments in a way that most people would not have the patience to even bother with. She's one of the most compassionate people I know, and does not let anything discourage her. In times of tragedy, she has always been the unshakeable fortress that others cling to. Having to live through the loss of a brother and a nephew, she is resilient and knows exactly what to say and how to act to comfort others in times of need.
By being such an example herself, she makes me want to be a better person. She has been my mentor for the past 17 years and will continue to be my inspiration in life. She is a source of motivation and a refreshing reminder of a pure heart. She is my mother, my role model, and most importantly, my friend.