The Working Mother’s Mentor

When I say “mentor,” what comes to mind for you? Do you think about someone serving at-risk youth through a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters? Or do you envision a tenured manager having coffee with a new hire and helping her craft a plan to ask for a raise? Or maybe you picture an entrepreneur soliciting advice from a peer who has managed to sell a business for millions.

My own experience with mentorship took place primarily at Procter & Gamble. I had several mentors assigned to me during my 15 years there, and I was a mentor to many others during that same time. While my mentors were each truly impressive teachers who helped me navigate a rather complicated system, the term “mentor” itself just never struck a chord with me. It always felt stuffy and formal, maybe even a little forced. Worse yet, sometimes I felt like just having a mentor made me somehow appear weak or needy. (How’s that for honesty?) I’m a pretty smart cookie with a wicked independent streak, and I like to figure things out for myself! So when I left my corporate life, I thought I’d left the world of mentorship behind as well.

Until this week, that is, when I came across an eye-opening blog post by Dale Partridge.  As I read Dale’s post and reflected on the model he outlined, it became clear that I’ve had FAR more mentors than just the ones assigned to me at P&G, and that mentoring working mothers is exactly what I’ve been doing with my life, both through my coaching practice, and now through The Shine Movement.

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I knew I was helping women who wanted to gracefully balance two callings –

1) to have thriving and meaningful relationships, most often as a wife and mother, and

2) to make a contribution to the world beyond her family by using her gifts in service to others.

Every day, I work to help these women find their focus and amplify their confidence, identify their limiting beliefs, change patterns that don’t serve them well, see around corners, and learn systems and approaches that help them find better balance and make peace with their choices. But mentorship? I never thought about my work in that way.

Dale says:

At the core, mentorship is a safe and vulnerable relationship between two people. Typically one is older (and wiser) and the other (the mentee) is younger and untrained. The goal for the mentor is to both teach and hand down legacy. The goal of the mentee is to grow and learn from the mentor.

He goes on to outline two critical roles for the mentor. 

Reveal Blind Spots: The mentor should help their protege see obstacles and dangers they do not see. This could be anything from bad habits and attitude adjustments to bad business decisions and red flags.

Provide Shortcuts: The mentor has insight, leverage, clarity, and history. From these areas of expertise, they can offer accelerated transit toward the mentee’s goals.”

And based on that, I’d say every working mother could benefit from having a mentor. Who doesn’t need insight, leverage, clarity and history poured into her, especially in the early days of adding motherhood to the mix? But what if you don’t know anyone personally who can mentor you and share her secrets?

It’s this next part of Dale’s post that opens up a path you may never have considered. He outlines three distinct types of mentorship and sets some ground rules for each. And guess what. Only one of them requires that you have a pre-existing personal connection with the mentor. The others are open to absolutely anyone if you just know where to look.

The three types of mentorship, in Dale’s words, are:

Organic or Traditional Mentorship: An unpaid relationship between two close, safe individuals. Typically focused on more intimate personal and professional growth.

  •  An organic mentorship must evolve from a strong relationship. Asking a stranger who you admire to mentor you is inappropriate. A relationship must be established first for an organic mentorship to work.
  • A mentorship is not solely friendship, it’s a relationship built on growth and teaching. If you don’t place clear boundaries, milestones, and expectations around your mentorship, it won’t work.
  • A mentorship must feel emotionally safe. Most of our healing comes from dark parts of our lives, if you won’t allow access to these areas, you won’t make much progress.

Paid Mentorship: Regularly seen in a one-on-one or group setting. Often times this type of relationship is expensive. The learning is less intimate but still powerful.

  • Consider this an investment into your success. Often times there is a cost to growth, this one is worthy.
  • The growth model should be focused. It’s common that paid mentorships are for specific areas of learning. The mentee should clarify expectations, goals, and desired results before jumping in.
  • Mentorships aren’t short. Don’t plan for anything less than 3 months at a minimum of 6 sessions. Because it requires time to feel close, the real growth won’t occur until later in the journey. My suggestion is plan for 6-12 months to see prime results.

Curriculum Based Mentorship: Often seen in a community setting led with videos, tasks, and homework. Similar to the curriculum at StartupCamp. (Note: Or mine at The Shine Movement.) Price is typically cheaper, focused on specific growth, and a great place to start.

  • This requires dedication. Because a curriculum mentorship lacks the direct one-on-one accountability, you will be required to remain disciplined on your own. No mentorship program works for quitters, especially curriculum programs.
  • Pay attention to the content quality. Because the content is your teacher, you should expect the utmost quality in their videos, writings, PDF’s, and more.
  • Make sure it includes a community. The best curriculum programs have a tight-knit community of fellow students. For StartupCamp, it’s our private Facebook group. (Note: For #SHINE it’s our online discussion groups inside the site.) You need a place to build relationships with people who are sharing your journey.

It turns out, those latter two types are exactly where I’m investing my time and talent. And that’s why I’m reclaiming my identity as a mentor after reading Dale’s mind-opening post.

It’s time for a new era in mentorship…and I’m excited to be a part of it. Twitter_logo_blue

If you’re a working mother and you’re intrigued by the idea of having a mentor, I’d be delighted to hear from you. You might want to start by checking out The Shine Movement online or you can explore my private coaching program if you’re craving a more personalized experience.

You are smart and independent, and you can figure it out on your own. But you don’t have to. Twitter_logo_blue

The right mentor can save you time and energy as you balance your callings and commitments at work and at home. Maybe it’s time to give yourself that advantage.

Every working mother needs a mentor. Twitter_logo_blue

See for yourself.

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