“In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. You must care. You don’t have to know how many square miles are in Idaho, you don’t need to know what is the chemical makeup of chemistry, or of blood or water. Know what you know and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with.” — Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou, a prolific poet, writer and activist beautifully put into words my sentiments on the importance of mentorship. I would never have gotten to the place I am today without the strong and resilient women that guided me throughout my own life. Communities, family members, friends and others in business have been a spectacular influence and vital support system.
This year I was nominated for the Inspire Award by a woman whom I had mentored over the past few years, after meeting at a NAWBO event and eventually becoming close friends. The funny thing is, I did not realize she considered me a mentor. I would encourage and push her into situations that she was not comfortable with due to her newness to being in business for herself. What I did was natural, and not intended for anything other than sisterhood and friendly guidance. Yet, it made me realize the power of paying it forward in guiding others, as I had been helped and guided myself. So as I reflect on mentorship there are few things I have come to learn:
1. A mentor is something more than a friend, someone more important than a mere business contact. A mentor invests in your wellbeing, your professional aspirations. They do not simply hear you, they listen. Being a mentor has so much more gravity than the two syllables composing it.
2. In teaching, you learn to be a good mentor, listener, and problem solver. Finding suitable options to choose from is not always about them making the right choice, but trying and failing and trying anew again.
3. You don’t look for people to mentor, they come to you. Lots of people will approach you, but the goal is to find the right fit, where each person will challenge the other.
4. Whether someone aspires to be a CEO, business owner, developer, or any other career, the aim is to assist in expanding a community of intelligent, compassionate people that will continue to help one another. Connections and networking come second to ensuring the right tools are had to survive industries that may not have an open front door.
5. A mentor’s job is to foster creativity and confidence. Guidance is key, but the job is not finished until that person is able to step out and be successful on their own. There is no better feeling than seeing a mentee succeed and thrive in their endeavors.
6. Always employ three things: listen, ask thoughtful questions, and allow mentees time to process new problems and information.
Though I might be seen as a mentor, there are many things I have left to learn, and I am always happy to learn those things from the women I guide. This nomination for the Inspire Awards has touched my heart. It tells me I am doing something right helping the women that enter my life, and gives me renewed passion to keep going. Together, we can far exceed any expectation set before us. And to those that have guided me, I cannot thank you enough. It is my hope that through sharing my experience here, other men and women will be inspired to reach out to their friends and business colleagues to mentor and be mentored. After all, though we build our lives around hopes, dreams, and a lot of overtime, we truly grow through overcoming challenges with the help of those who love and believe in us.