If you were to ask yourself who were your best mentors in your life, I’m sure several people would come to mind from your childhood to even a person you currently see on a daily basis. Perhaps they were a great school teacher, a coach, an academic program advisor, or a supervisor from your first summer job. When you think about those mentors, can you truly remember what exactly they said to you that made you feel ...Supported? Inspired? Captivated? Chances are you don’t remember what they said, or what their hairstyle was, what they were wearing or their overall mannerisms. Often what shines though and has us thinking and reflecting about our time with them is how they made us FEEL. They encouraged, inspired, motivated, and enabled us to see a part of the world that we had not yet been exposed.
Now I’m going to ask you to reflect on another mentoring note – who were your WORST mentors in your life? Who were the tedious teachers, the exhausting coaches, the leaders with lack of patience or who showed favoritism to team members and did not foster teamwork? Those are unfortunately the people who had a large effect on your life in terms of your goals and your career choices. They may be a current co-worker or employer who doesn’t like to your ideas, micro manages you, and frustrates you to the point that you can’t focus on your actual work tasks. Fortunately, there is a silver lining to these negative individuals whom you have crossed paths in your life. It is the negative influence leaders who you should remember, and strongly take note of the choices they make since their role in your life demonstrates an exact OPPOSITE model of who you want to be when you are a leader, a mentor and a role model. Harness the energy, emotions and time you have had for these individuals and in turn, know that you will make choices as a leader to promote the passion of life-long learning, engage in new ideas and be patient as everyone cultivates into professionals and agents of change at a different rate.
I share these thoughts on positive and negative influence leaders in our lives because it is a great responsibility to be a mentor to others. It’s also a privilege. I have had the opportunity to not only mentor fellow colleagues but also be linked with a post-graduate school to be a preceptor to a specific student for 4, 6, and 8 week placements at a time. These weeks can feel more exhausting than a normal work week because all of your moves are being watched by a young professional starving to grow and make a contribution to the real world. Being a professional leader is often focused on the student in training yet what happens in a positive mentor/protégé relationship is that the mentor is the one who learns just as much as the student. I love when students/young colleagues ask me questions such as “Can you tell me why you decided to complete that task first?” or “How did you come to make that decision?” because these are the questions that we often forget to ask ourselves on a daily basis in the midst of our busy lifestyles and careers.
So the next time you are asked to take on a student or a new colleague in training, please don’t hesitate to help as you will benefit in your career as well. Mentorship is a beautiful experience full of reflection and engagement of both parties, bringing everyone to a level of asking more questions and deeper understanding of their careers – and quite possible themselves. Remember, you could be that positive, influential role model that this young professional needs.