January is National Mentoring month, which is a great opportunity for all of us to appreciate and thank our mentors. While it is cliche to say, we shouldn’t wait for a particular day on the calendar to tell us to say thank you – because we never know that the future might bring. What if you were suddenly not able to thank those individuals who have made such an impact on you personally and professionally?
I had a mentor, supervisor, and friend that made a huge impact on me, but in reflecting I don’t know that I ever told her “thank you”. Tragically, she very sudden passed away in September (http://wp.me/pNyUl-b1) and since then I have thought many times, “did she really know what a huge impact she made on those around her? How many of us considered her a mentor? Did we ever tell her how much we learned from her?”
Although my mentor is no longer here to share her wisdom, I wanted to share just a few of the lessons that I learned from her and take with me every day.
The “Ethical Challenge” – Everyday we are making decisions, but do we actually stop to ponder what ethical choices that are involved? Are we from time to time challenged by the ethics involved in making a decision? My mentor challenged me to think of the day-to-day decisions that I would make and ask if I actually considered the ethics involved. She encouraged me to talk about those decisions and to even seek out opinions of others to ensure that I was making the best decision possible.
Forgiveness is important – My mentor role modeled the importance of forgiving people and allowing them to have a second (or third) chance. We need to recognize that none of us are perfect and we need to be able to forgive. It is easy for me to hold a grudge for even silly things and I now find myself rethinking those choices so
that I can forgive.
The important things don’t come easy – I saw my mentor make really difficult decisions and I struggle with whether she was doing the right thing. She was a firm believer that being a hard worker was how we should contribute as young professionals and really earn our next level positions. Now I try to ensure that I am not
simply making the easy choice in the decisions that I make but that I am making the best decision for the organization, the students, and the staff involved – even if that decision means more hard work for some of those involved.
Under promise, over deliver – My mentor also happened to work with our facilities area in the department, so it became a common practice to think about ways to wow of clients when something happened to go wrong. Now I think about how I can exceed the expectations of those I work with on a regular basis – get information out before they think to ask about it or add details that clients would expect.
Laugh – My mentor had an infectious laugh and serves as a constant reminder that sometime we just need to laugh. We bond through laughing, we manage awkward situations by laughing, and let’s face it, laughing is good for your health. Sometimes, when the days are really long the best way to get that second burst of energy is to
share a laugh with a great colleague.
I have always thought that mentor is a strong and intimidating word – let alone to think what being that for someone means. Mentors have had a very powerful influence on me throughout my development and that is not a title that I would have used lightly – but maybe I haven’t used it enough. Being a mentor is rarely a formerly titled position, more often than not it is through informal interactions that we find the most impactful mentors. The role of mentor is not something I ever expect to earn from a relationship but I find myself surprised when I get the honor to be a mentor to someone and so I strive to live up to those high expectations I place on that role.
While I reflect on lessons from my mentors, it also it a time to reflect on what I am contributing to those I mentor. Am I role modeling the things I want for them? How do I encourage them? How do I help them learn from the lessons that I have learned? What am I doing to help them become great mentors too?
Here is my plea to you… thank your mentors for all that they have done and continue to do for you, conduct yourselves in a way that you want your mentees to, and cultivate those mentees into being strong mentors as well.
Manager for Conference Services
Texas Tech University