Mentoring: You Can Do It
Mentoring, Can You Do It? YES, YOU CAN!
Mentoring, in most cases, is not for the faint of heart because of the varied situations that you can encounter during that relationship. And yes, it is a relationship, because, I believe that, unlike coaching or consulting, mentoring is a more involved process and can become a lifelong experience. I would dare to say you need the "Patience of Job," and then add that it's for the open-hearted person who has an innate passion for helping others and giving back. Not to mention, it's a beautiful experience when you see the impact you have had on someone and the impact it has had on you, the mentor, as well.
So, if you're ever asked to be a mentor, your answer should be yes, within reason of course. I can't speak for anyone else, but mentoring is definitely a scary process for me. What if I'm not doing it right, what if I'm telling them rubbish, what if I'm not smart enough...what if, what if, what if? But you'll never know unless you open yourself up to the possibility that you have that innate capacity to help, teach, and also learn from that teaching. You must push your bar a little bit higher each time in order to be of greater service to others than to yourself.
Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”
When a friend of mine asked me to volunteer as a mentor for a business venture competition, my first response was, "No I can't do that." She asked, "Why not?" I said I didn't know anything about mentoring people for a business competition. She reminded me that I'd run a business before and worked in varied capacities throughout my lifetime. "So what? Those things are different," I said. Then, she gently reminded me that I too had entered this very competition, albeit donkeys ages ago, when we had no mentors and the landscape was vastly different. Anyway, I left it at that, having not committed. A few weeks later I received an email thanking me for offering to volunteer. I stared blankly at my computer screen and said, "I'm gonna kill that girl."
That night I had mini nightmares. The next day, Richard Branson's quote came back to mind and I said, "Oh well, let's do this." Side note - everyone I spoke to encouraged me saying that the experience would be good and that I'm more than capable to do it. Apparently, I, Deon Cecile, was the only one having panic attacks about how badly I would do. Self-doubt is a b*%ch!
Richard Branson said, 'If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!'
Mentor Meets Mentees
I recall the first meeting where Mentors would be assigned their Mentees. I sat in front of a set of students who were giggly and fidgety most of the time. I remember thinking, "Lord please don't let these kids be assigned to me as they don't seem mature enough and I'm not sure I can handle that." YEAH-YEAH, I know that sounds bad, but I am allowed to think like that sometimes. But, the Lord has an extreme sense of humor when He's ready. He always does and always seems to give me the things I say I don't want...hmmm...maybe I should say I don't want to be filthy rich...just a thought. Anyway, I think you all know what happened next. Yup, The Lord, decided to laugh at me and assigned me the very same giggly, fresh-out-of-high school, students.
Anxiety, Fear, Panic, and Trepidation manifested themselves in an instant. Then I transitioned into Excitement, Prayer, and Supplication. Prior to my first meeting with the mentees, I said a prayer, though by this time I do believe the Lord was having a bellyful of laughter at my expense. Then I said to myself, "Ok Deon Cecile, time to put on dem big girl panties, it's showtime."
I dragged along a friend to my first mentorship meeting, to help me flesh out the mentees' ideas and to keep me sane during the process. At the end of that meeting, I told them they needed to "wheel and come again," their idea was shoddy at best. The next few months were everything I could never have expected or imagined. I embraced it with all I had and all that I borrowed from the friends I took along for the ride. It was such a wonderful experience. My mentees' submission was accepted and they were invited to present in round 1. They were then selected to present in round 2 where I got to sit, like a proud mama bear, and watch my babies present. Unfortunately, they were not selected in the top 3 who would now advance to Nationals and potentially International. But, I am super proud of their achievements and what they were able to achieve in such a short time, especially after I shot down their first idea, scared the holy crap out of them, and had them pivot on many occasions. They still have a very viable project, which would require a huge capital investment and expertise that they don't currently possess. However, the sky is still the limit for them and their plans, if they do decide to go ahead in the future; which I strongly encouraged them to do.
Here are a few things I have learned on this mentoring journey.
Self-Improvement. It made me pull on strengths I never knew I had and ones I had but was fearful of using. The fact is, I had to be on top of my game, as much as possible, thereby forcing myself to improve my skills and knowledge.