During a small business mentoring session with Ryan recently, he asked me this question:
"As a mentor, how important do you feel it is to have a mentor yourself?"
What a great question! Now, before I begin, I must stress that I am only answering for myself. These opinions are purely my own, and may not be shared by other mentors, as we're all unique...and special. Mentors are incredibly special people. And lovely. So wise and helpful. And extraordinarily humble too. *Chuckle*
LEARNING SHOULD NEVER END
I have always held a firm belief that if I attended an independent "How To Be Karan Scott" training course, I would learn something new.
Knowledge and learning is inexhaustible, there is an infinite abundance of it, simply without end - however knowledgeable and experienced we may already be. This is why I cite the Karan Scott training course. You'd think no one would know me better than myself, but my nearest and dearest are always teaching me new things about myself (i.e.: aspects of my life, character and/or personal development which have noticeably grown, or could grow etc.). In many ways I am mentored by them daily, and they help to propel my continuous self-improvement and development forwards. There is always something new to learn, whoever you are.
Before working with a mentor I didn't know what I didn't know. Does this apply to you too? With all of the knowledge and learning out there, it can feel a little overwhelming to know where to start. A mentor will help, support and guide you into making the best decisions to achieve your goals, whilst pointing you in the direction of the resources you will need to get there.
YOU NEED A THINKING PARTNER, NOT AN ECHO CHAMBER
There are always multiple ways of looking at something. Let me ask you this: How many sides of a coin are there? Did I hear you say two sides; heads and tails? Well, there are actually three sides to a coin; heads, tails and the edge (however narrow it might be, it exists definitively). Similarly, in a disagreement there are three sides to the argument; yours, mine and the truth in the middle.
Differing perspectives are invaluable. We know that like attracts like, so this principle would carry forward to the friends and (work) acquaintances we gravitate towards. These are likely to be like-minded people with similar life experiences and world views, so they're unlikely to offer completely fresh perspectives from your own. A non-partisan mentor should offer you constructive conflict (i.e.: push back and challenge your thinking), rather than just be your echo chamber. Sycophants may stroke your ego, but they will keep you small and your potential thwarted
HUBRIS IS TERMINAL
Hubris is a toxic infection we must inoculate ourselves against. It's hubris to think that the way we see things is everything there is. A strong mentor, whilst deploying the constructive conflict principle, will help to keep you honest, humble and connected to reality. Opinions are not facts. Opinions are not (necessarily) reality. A mentor should advise you long before you wander off the right track and into the oncoming traffic of hubris. Mentors have travelled the path you're on now, and they have been in your situation (or comparable situations), so we know where many of the triumphs and pitfalls are hidden. A mentor's hindsight will become your foresight if you let it.
Sycophants, or your own habitually unchallenged thoughts and beliefs, will tend to over inflate your ego and sense of invincibility; much like a high powered compressor would inflate a beach ball. Whilst a mentor should not burst any inflated self, we would endeavour to maybe release a little of the excessive air contained within, to ground our mentee in reality not illusion.
THEN THERE'S THE KUTA
Whilst I consider myself to be a Type A, high energy, results orientated, laser focused work shredder, I have my off days like anyone else. Sometimes I can i.e.: become distracted by events, motivationally deflated, or I can decide to think bigger than before, and need to align myself to some new goals. This is where my mentor steps in to give me a kick up the arse, exactly as I would step in and dispense a kick up the arse for my mentee.
Do I think having a mentor to mentor me is a show of weakness? Short answer, nope. Long answer, nope. I would have to possess hubris of Trumpian proportions (don't get me started!) to assert that I alone have all the answers. Of course I don't, who does? Let me tell you this...
A friend of mine, Cathy, trained to be a person centred counsellor, and spent many years undergoing her own psychoanalysis, before being allowed within a country mile of a client. This served a kind of purging exercise; how could Cathy support her clients effectively, if she was anchored and weighted down by her own long-standing issues? Once qualified, Cathy was then professionally obligated to continuously enhance and refine her training, whilst continuing with her own therapy and personal development. The learning never stops for Cathy. Those of you with children know how many teacher training days there are in any given school year. Despite being qualified to teach our babies, the learning never stops for teachers, and it's true for mentors (and other professions) too.
Another way of looking at this (did you see what I did there?) is: There are always new books being published, new technology to adopt and harness, new methods, theories, apps, new science and gigantic discovery. No one person in the world can be the font of all that old and new knowledge, except maybe Stephen Fry? I cannot count the number of times I have recommended a book to a mentee, who has then recommended one right back at me. We're talking about a mutually beneficial dissemination of information here. I certainly learn plenty from my fascinating mentees, who are experts in their field, of which I had no prior knowledge (i.e.: publishing, car sales, holistic therapies, catering, project management, floristry, IT services), whilst I of course impart my knowledge and experience, based on my training and education. My mentor's education and experience is not the same as mine, so why wouldn't I tap into yet another information stream, to compliment and enhance what I do already know?
We are all good at different things, and I call upon my mentor where her expertise exceeds my own. For example, the best brain surgeon in the world may want to open her own clinic. Whilst being the very best within the brain surgery arena, Ms Brain Surgeon knows diddly-squat about marketing, social media or PAYE. This is where a mentor can step in, with deference to her superior brain surgery prowess, but then proceed to advise Ms Brain Surgeon on what she didn't know she didn't know.
Minds are like parachutes, they only function when open
I wrote a blog article a while back - 8½ Reasons Why You Should Invest In Mentoring - which you may find interesting. Whether you choose to read the article or not, I would urge you to always invest in yourself, simply because it pays the best dividends.
Until the next time my friends, stay strong and awesome!