Whether formal or informal, mentors help you make your way - SmartBrief

All Articles Leadership Whether formal or informal, mentors help you make your way

Whether formal or informal, mentors help you make your way

3 min read


Today’s post is by Patricia Morgan,  author of “From Woe to WOW: How Resilient Women Succeed at Work.” She speaks and leads workshops on Solutions for Resilience.

“You can do it and here is how.”

Those words came from Mrs. Drake, my University of Toronto program coordinator and one of my early mentors, more than 40 years ago. She continues to track my career from her retirement home.

Mentors are the trailblazers for those of us who follow. It may be a gentle path or one filled with risk-taking and fierce challenges. Sometimes we need our mentors to firmly grip our hands, and at other times, we only need an occasional nod of encouragement.

A mentor typically is a step or more ahead of your aspirations, providing wise guidance, instruction and support. Unlike a friend, a mentor does not function as an equal or peer.

Mentoring relationships can be arranged formally through a program or informally by your own choosing. In a formal situation, mentor and protégé agree to the relationship and in all probability will agree to goals with timelines. Informal mentor relationships are more casual, spontaneous and seldom have structure, stated goals or role expectations.

An example of a formal mentorship program is the Lilith Law Professional Development and Mentoring Program in Western Canada, which was developed to encourage and support female lawyers by pairing mentors and protégés. The legal field is notorious for its long hours, demanding clients and for providing little breathing space for raising children and attending to other family needs. “This is just about building confidence and resiliency,” the program’s founder, Ronnalee McMahon, told the Calgary Herald.

“I have been wrestling with confusion and conflict as a female lawyer and a married woman who would like to have children,” said one of the program’s protégés, as quoted on the Lilith Law Web site. “I’ve gained clarity and been able to see this more as a challenge rather than a barrier. It’s exciting.”

Mentor relationships can also be informal. You might choose not to tell your mentor that you seek to emulate him or her, or you might say something like, “I enjoy learning from you.”

One of my informal mentors — yes, you can have more than one — is Patricia Fripp, a professional speaking coach and the first woman president of the National Speakers Association. Whenever I went to NSA conventions I attended her sessions. When she came to Montreal to lead four days of training, I signed on. Along with six others, I spent two days being Fripperized — receiving one-on-one coaching in front of the small group. Just a few months ago, I drove three hours to attend an evening seminar to learn more from her. Fripp has endorsed my speaking and remembers me.

If you want a mentor, decide what is best for your situation. Depending on your relationship, you might choose your aunt, manager or a leader in your field. Look for someone who is available, listens, has the knowledge and skills you want to acquire, has an interest in your success and is willing to give you encouraging  feedback and constructive criticism. Then one day, be open to lending a hand yourself.

Image credit, lisafx via iStock