Steps to success: Finding your own Mr Miyagi
Anyone who knows me will be aware of my love/hate relationship with running - one thing that challenges all my motivational skills. Saying that, it may surprise you, almost as much as it did me, to find that I recently signed up for a running race: the ‘You Go Girl’ charity relay in aid of the Women’s Resource Centre. It’s a great cause and as participant number 3, I would only have to run the last 2km, with two teammates running 6km and 4km respectively. It sounded manageable… almost fun.
Then I found out that Victoria Fiddick had agreed to join our team, one of the fastest female runners in Bermuda! Perfect for any regular relay, but in this, we all had to run together.
I know Victoria because I take running classes with her. ‘What can you learn in a running class?’ you may ask. You’d be surprised. Learning from such an experienced runner has taught me how to move and train more efficiently and especially how to handle the mental aspect of running (where I struggle).
And it all came together during this race. Victoria was fantastic. She talked us through the run the whole way around, sharing what she tells herself and focuses on when she’s racing. She reminded us of our class training in stride and breathing, etc. She checked in to see how we were doing and kept us running right at the edge of our upper limits, no slacking. She knew just the insider tricks to keep our heads in that positive space and with her experience of racing, she knew exactly when to kick it up for the final burst.
We crossed the finish line sixth (I almost threw up) but it felt awesome. Because of her generosity and sharing I had just experienced a real ‘runner’s mindset’ a hint of what it feels like and how to race like a pro. It’s given me insight into areas I need to work on and tools to help me improve. And while I may never even finish a May 24 or win medals like she does, Victoria showed me some of what it takes to be a runner, and more importantly, the power of having a great mentor.
Mentoring “the missing link between a promising businessperson and a successful one”, says billionaire business magnate and investor, Richard Branson, who named several mentors he credits with shaping his life in a recent blog. I would agree that mentoring can contribute to success in any field at whatever age we are.
Mentoring differs from coaching but is a compatible tool for personal and professional development. Mentors have the experience of having done it and been there before, they ‘know the ropes’. They can offer advice and guidance, share what’s worked for them and what hasn’t. This can significantly streamline our learning by avoiding their mistakes and making the most of their insider knowledge.
A vision of Mr Miyagi may jump to mind but there are different types of mentors and ways to approach a mentoring relationship. A mentor can be a wise elder or teacher but might equally be a peer or someone younger: whoever has experience we can learn from.
Mentorships can be formal, where trainees are often matched to their mentors, the mentoring is usually focused around specific goals and follows a formal contract or programme and the relationship is tracked and documented. Assigned inter-organizational mentoring schemes are popular within many HR departments.
Informal mentoring relationships are looser agreements. It may still be situational (working towards a specific purpose, skill or project) or supervisory in nature. Or a mentorship may just develop naturally between people with things in common or when we find someone who does something we want to do well.
Mentors can be long or short-term and our mentors will likely change over time as needs in our lives progress. It can be beneficial to have several mentors addressing different aspects of career, life and interests.
Finding a mentor needn’t be daunting. In some fields there are agencies and organisations that set up mentoring partnerships, and HR departments may be of help. For an informal approach, find someone you admire for whatever it is you’d like to learn (be it their skill, their character, work ethic etc.) and ask them. People are often delighted to be asked and happy to share their knowledge… some will even be generous enough to come in sixth so that you can learn from the experience (thank you, Victoria). Mentors don’t necessarily need to be in the same field or industry. Many good strategies translate into other disciplines.
Making the most of a mentoring partnership. Some Key Tips For…
Both Mentors and Mentees:
- Identify and define your individual goals and motivations for entering into a mentoring style relationship, each set out clear expectations and strive for mutual benefits.
- Mentoring relationships work best in an environment of trust (no hidden agendas), create a safe space to ask and answer questions and with a clear understanding of the confidentiality agreement between you
- Listen and learn both parties can learn from the other. New perspectives and interesting questions may spark ideas, deeper understanding and offer collaborative opportunities.
- Establish an awareness of each other’s personality traits and preferred learning/communication and feedback styles to enhance communication.
- Advise, don’t dictate (this is an opportunity for learning, not control).
- Advise only on what you know, admit what you don’t and refer out.
- Practice listening and feedback skills and invite questions.
- Don’t shy away from difficult conversations - the mentor’s role is to both encourage and challenge.
- Share your network
- Actively request the information you seek and listen globally as other solutions may present themselves.
- Ask for clarity to ensure you understand.
- Respectfully challenge ideas you disagree with.
- Action what you agree to and respect your mentor’s time.
- Give back mentor others when the opportunity arises.
Being mentored is a great way to learn and get ahead, to develop personally and professionally. Similarly, being a mentor is a wonderful opportunity to encourage new talent, create collaborations and share your hard-earned knowledge. It can also be an extremely rewarding experience. Youth mentoring opportunities have been making headlines recently: The Male Mentoring Programme in Sandys, and YouthNet looking for reading mentors to help primary students, two of many established mentoring groups. There are also several professional and industry specific mentoring opportunities available on the island and internationally. Or will you create your own?
How can a mentor help you in an area of your life and what can you give back to others?
Julia Pitt is a trained Success Coach and certified NLP practitioner with Benedict Associates Ltd. Telephone (441)295-2070 or visit www.juliapittcoaching.com for further information.