Wednesday, January 18, 2012

WISDOM Wednesday: “What’s So Great About Mentoring?”

 This story was written by Malati Marlene Shinazy


I read once that successful people have at least one mentor in their career.  Sounded like a great formula: Get a mentor; become successful. So, when I was a young boomer, I went hunting for a mentor.

George F. Simons is an expert in the field of diversity and cross-cultural communication. His list of accomplishments is long and impressive. By the time I met him, he had written books, developed award winning training games, taught at universities and had a thriving international consulting and training practice.

As is typical for me, I just called him up and asked if he would be my mentor. I was thoroughly shocked when he agreed so readily. He had but one requirement: I make a commitment to myself and to the field of diversity to learn everything he had to offer. What I didn’t realize at the time was, he was offering to share with me literally everything he knew.

Each day for an entire summer, I drove two hours round trip over a notoriously twisty mountain highway to spend time with him. I absorbed all the information, knowledge and nuances of insight I could… The experience was simultaneously thrilling and formidable.

 And, I swear… I grew from a newbie into a junior expert in just a few months. This one change in my life had to be the reason: George was mentoring me.

When I decided I was ready to strike out on my own, I put into practice everything George taught me… Voila, I became successful too. -- Actually, I was more than a bit amazed. Could it be the mentoring? I thought so at the time. Now, I know so…

A few years ago, with a new job, I inherited a millennial generation employee who was, I was told, “like a sponge,” continually soaking up information to grow professionally.

Ah – ha, I thought… You know where this story is going, right?  What did this woman need to boost her to the next level of success?  Yup, mentoring.

So, as we now know is typical for me, I just plunged in and asked Nikie if I could be her mentor. She quickly agreed, as George had done so many years prior.

For the next two years, I shared all the knowledge I had about the field of learning and workforce development, including cross-cultural aspects, metrics, project management… I mean, everything. I shared what I knew about the industry in which we worked, economic cycles, key success factors to competitive advantage and corporate cultures. Everything.

Mentoring became one of the favorite aspects of my job. I watched Nikie develop from a young professional into a seasoned pro who could take each project offered and run with it to successful completion.

Mentoring grew me. And now, mentoring was growing another individual. When Nikie told me she was looking for a new job, I was thrilled. She was ready to strike out on her own… as I had decades ago.

Over the years, George, my mentor, became a valued life-long friend. Yesterday, he left for his home in France to write another book.

Tomorrow, my mentee leaves for her next career step… We promise to communicate regularly.

How wonderful it will be when one day I hear Nikie is mentoring someone too.

What’s So Great About Mentoring? For me… Everything!


15 comments:

  1. Malati Marlene ShinazyJanuary 18, 2012 at 7:19 PM

    Have a different view on this topic? BOBB welcomes diversity-- ms.

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  2. Mentoring professionally is a key to both parties growing: one gathers knowledge, one creates the future. How can we convince more parents to take on this role with their children, and their friends, to share life's knowledge, and build a stronger, richer future?

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    1. I wonder if parents realize that everything they do, overtly and tacitly, is shaping the future in some way? Once I realized it, it certainly changed my behavior... Your thoughts, Thomas?

      BTW: Thanks for reminding me. I took notes of dream about parenting. I'll post it in a future Wisdom Wednesday. -- ms

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  3. This is a beautiful story from a very talented and especially successful author. It's a real pleasure to read your blog. Thanks, Don and Jewell

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    1. Thanks, Don & Jewell. I so appreciate your support. How fortune I am to have lived in La Grange.
      -- ms

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  4. As you so poignantly point out, mentoring is always a symbiotic relationship. The mentor also learns and grows in the experience. Excellent.

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  5. There's a long tradition of mentoring in all kinds of disciplines. It makes perfect sense. Gone are the "go it alone" days that were once part of the American ethos. With few exceptions, smart, ambitious people progress faster when teamed with someone who is willing to share knowledge and experience. It's a positive reciprocal relationship for both mentee and mentor.

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    1. A wonderful example below - an excerpt from Maya Angelou for the Harvard Mentoring Project:

      "I was about 12 and a half, almost 13, Mrs. Flowers ... said, you will never really love poetry until you speak it, feel it come across your tongue, over your lips."

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  6. Replies
    1. You've had an impact on my life that extends far beyond the summer of 1993 and all the speeding tickets I got driving "Over the Hill."

      Google definition of extend: Expand in scope, effect, or meaning.-- TU!xoox
      -- ms

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  7. With your permission I'll use this piece in my classroom as a wonderful example of how it's so necessary to connect with others, not just in school or at work, but to add some sanity through collaborative partnership in an often difficult world. Will Jones's example of the "go it alone" mentality is still extant in our schools, both with teachers and students.

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    1. You bet!

      I just discovered that, since 2002, January is National Mentoring Month...

      See: hsph.harvard.edu/chc/wmy/index.html

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  8. Loved your story and how it set you on your professional path. I never had that opportunity, as it took me a good part of my adult life to figure out what I really wanted and loved to do. In my personal life I was very fortunate to have met a young Thai family that took me under their wings,...then I learned to fly. I've had people that I had known for a short time, come and tell me I had changed their life, and were so grateful. It felt so good to hear that, but also very surprising to me, as I had no idea the impact our friendship made.

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  9. Sounds like you were mentoring without realizing it, Sundarii -- thanks to your family in Thailand. -- ms

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