Shelli Vasser Gilliam, CMP, SEPC
Board Director, Leadership & Career Development
In Part 1 of this article last month, we focused on the mentor and what it means to serve in that capacity. Let’s continue the conversation this month from the mentee’s perspective and consider ways to develop a meaningful relationship.
When people collaborate, ideate, experiment, share stories and have thoughtful conversations about their dreams and aspirations, remarkable things happen.
Before they decided to collaborate, however, what do you think happened?
They had a conversation. Made an agreement. Ultimately, they both said, Yes!
Yes to the shared experience of developing a relationship rooted in trust and understanding. Yes to gathering and creating something innovative, cutting-edge. And, as one of my fantastic family members reminded me — yes to being available, accessible and committed to helping one another.
Mentors elevate our thinking and conversation simultaneously. By lifting our thinking, we move beyond binary choices and forward to the short- and long-term impact of our work and decisions on ourselves, family, community and the world.
I enjoy storytelling and weaving together contextual elements so the person I’m speaking with can appreciate the content. I am inquisitive and also enjoy generating ideas. My mentors bring their ideas to our discussions because I supply them with information prior to the gathering. They have taught me the value of seeing things from a higher altitude. Our best discussions happen when I have an open mind and consider multiple possibilities.
Suggestion: Be ready to elevate the conversation with your mentor by focusing on the impact of your work and decisions. Here’s why:
Having wide open, circular conversations about random situations or minutiae is not productive or helpful to your personal or professional growth. It also wastes your mentor’s time. Time is valuable, and your mentor’s time is limited.
What can you do to make your investment of time more effective?
- Approach your discussion with considerable thought. Preparation is required.
- Be specific. Let your mentor know why you are seeking their guidance and the amount of time you would like to spend on your conversation.
- Establish expectations and a guide for your discussion.
- Honor each other’s time.
By following these steps your thoughts will be organized, and the conversation more fluid. Likewise, your mentor will be prepared and able to curate some ideas and questions in advance. The mentor may also help you chart the course and provide advice to avoid potential pitfalls.
Another important piece to having a meaningful mentoring relationship is to find a way to express gratitude. Perhaps you pay for coffee, tea or a meal. That’s generous, unexpected and has immediate impact.
Another way to express gratitude: A simple, well-timed, handwritten note will go a long way, and it costs little but still has incredible meaning. The impact is great because we’ve become accustomed to other forms of communication such as email, text, social media, etc. When we receive something hand-delivered or in the mail, it’s a nice surprise! Allow me to share a story.
Recently, I was asked to participate in an interview for a graduate school project on talent and human capital and how that relates to a role this person aspires to in the future. The interviewer stated the overall expectations of the project, and we began our discussion. I was grateful for the opportunity to share my insight.
The interviewer expressed his gratitude by thanking me before we got started and again at the end of the call. I had no other expectations. Imagine how shocked I was to receive a beautiful handwritten note that he personally delivered during an event we both attended. That simple yet impactful act blew me away and made me smile!
Social media DMs are a good way to communicate. Texts are quick, informal and helpful when on the go. However, handwritten notes are superstar awesome!
To recap both articles, mentors and mentees must be authentic, honest, curious, available, accessible, collaborative contributors, and they must honor one another’s time. As a mentee, it is also a good idea to express gratitude for the mentor’s time and commitment. No matter how you decide to thank your mentor, make sure you do so in a meaningful way.
Share your comments with me on LinkedIn using #MPIPotomac #eventprofs #meetingprofs #mentoring.