When my son was in third grade, he asked that I participate in a Parent’s Career Day. During my 15 minute segment, I was to explain to his classmates what I did for a living. When I took my place in front of the room, introduced as Ben’s mom who works in a downtown insurance company, I explained that I worked as a boss who managed people in the operational departments of my company. I’m here to testify that a person will never feel so totally hung out to dry until they see a child’s eyes glaze over from boredom or incomprehension.
During a lull in my dialog, one blond haired freckled boy asked “Do you fire people from their job?” He totally focused upon me and I knew at that moment my answer would be critical. I told him that sometimes that was a necessary but sad part of my work. To that response, he sighed and in a trembling voice said, “My father was fired last week … is he a bad man to have his boss fire him?”
The teacher’s eyes welled with tears thus revealing to me that the next few moments were vital and I should tread with care. Through a small child’s effort to understand the whys of a situation, the nurturing aspects of my personality surged forward. I answered him with tenderness. To this day I still feel the tremendous weight of responsibility for making sure I communicate in such a way that it reinforces a person’s self esteem rather than carelessly destroy hope or motivation.
As females, we strove to burst through the Glass Ceiling in our careers, but I wonder if we dodged the shards?
Inadvertently, somewhere along the way, it became a hostile competition among women. Through direct experience and observation, I’ve witnessed my female counterparts becoming their own worst enemy. Rather than focusing on the strengths of what women offer each other and using them to everyone’s advantage, efforts to undermine talented coworkers evolved into an all-or-nothing-war-like campaign.
The concept of mentoring and building up others to take your position when you move on was a foreign concept until the last decade. Fortunately, women began to realize that competition for promotion doesn’t have to be brutal. It’s about understanding that personality, creativity, dedication and accountability are the primary assets to promote.
When I speak with younger women in the work force, they aren’t nearly impacted by gender based promotions as Baby Boomer women were. Through these conversations I realized that this new generation was participating in what I call “reverse mentoring.” Our youth is teaching us about the new world order and sociological changes.
Mentoring isn’t something that simply takes up time and space anymore.
It is a personalized and truthful interaction with other human beings for the betterment of all. Advice is now given with a caring spirit rather than a destructive mindset and it creates a new tone for success. Rather than operating in an environment of isolation, we can talk about family and dreams. But then we have to take it a step further and hold each other accountable for making those dreams a reality.
Mastermind group creation is a concept that is thriving in today’s business world.
Each participant has something to offer the other members of the group and whatever is discussed in those meetings stays confidential. It is a shared perspective on a common problem that allows us to reconnect the dots and come at an issue from a different direction.
Responsibility for our communication efforts, interactions, and intent must be fully accepted by us if we choose to become a mentor, informally or formally. There is no room for “off the cuff remarks” because when an individual is a mentor, the mentee places you in a position of trust and honor. It is your duty to handle it delicately and respectfully.
To this day, I’m proud of the direction I chose to take when answering that small boy’s question about his father’s character. By choosing to give him hope and perspective, I realigned myself permanently in respect to my female relationships and grew as a business professional, wife and mother.
Teaching around a campfire or through mentoring opportunities is hardwired in all of us. I don’t consider it a weakness to reach out to another person for help. And it only enhances your personal power when you respond and support others who need you.
Be a guide on the side: mentoring matters.