Coincidentally, this week when we covered mentoring in this class, I was asked to teach the GCSA staff how to mentor their replacements as I did mine. As I wrote in an earlier blog, this year I have been mentoring Brent who took over my GCSA position. I did not want to see my year of work wasted by making him start from scratch, so mentorship seemed the best option for us both. Through this, both him and I grew in our leadership and maturity together.
Within my meeting with GCSA, I used the three step outline that the author of The Geek Leader’s Handbook lays out as the best way to build a mentorship. First, you have to find out about the person. We cannot just suddenly establish that these members of GCSA will be the official mentors and immediately make a relationship form. If a relationship can be built over time, then we know it will be good however not everyone wants this sort of relationship and not everyone clicks. Next, we want to ease into the relationship. To do this, don’t make anything official. Never once did I say to Brent that I was officially his mentor because that would’ve been awkward and forced. Instead, I let him know that I would be here to help him and I wanted to meet regularly with him. Throughout our meetings I had to find opportunities to let him practice, make him comfortable enough to turn down my ideas and change the way I did things, and gradually increase the amount of information he had. Finally, throughout the relationship a mentor should help them to develop management skills. A few ways to do this is to avoid making a carbon copy of yourself, don’t overlook what’s obvious to you because it’s not obvious to them, and don’t expect them to initiate this relationship. Instead, give them information, allow them to make their own mistakes even if you may see it coming, and ask them questions.
Once these steps/tips have been followed and a solid mentor relationship has been formed, the transition must be ritualized and new member be fully set up for success there.
I believe that my presentation of this information to GCSA was helpful and I have received great feedback from that meeting. As I have said in earlier posts, I think that the best way to help any organization, and in this case GCSA, grow and remain relevant is to always build off of the information already established. If each year, the new members have to relearn everything that was probably already figured out by someone before them, then this is just a wasted year when greater progress could be made for the organization and college as a whole.
Though the idea of mentorship whether in life or in business, is new to me individually, it is not a new concept at all. Looking for some significant mentor/mentee relationships to prove this point, this article came up in a Google search. Within, we can see countless significant mentorships in our world today and in the history of the world. Some of the greatest minds have been supported by a mentor guiding their path. For instance, Socrates mentored Plato, King Saul mentored King David, Elijah mentored Elisha, and Archimedes mentored Galileo.
I really enjoy Ted Talks and the wisdom that they share in each seminar. Naturally, for this topic I turned to Ted Talks to clarify and expand on the topic of mentorship. The following is a ten minute Ted Talk by Karen Russell on “Modern Mentoring: The Good, The Bad, and The Better”.
“Someone is in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” -Karen Russell
And another inspirational Ted Talk by Joanna Kaczorowska.