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To Mentor or Not to Mentor? That Is the Question

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To Mentor or Not to Mentor? That Is the Question

In my role as a practitioner, I am a mentor to my clients. However, it never occurred to me that I would be seen in the light of a ‘mentor’ outside of that specific role. So it was with some surprise that one of our practitioners described me as his ‘mentor’ (does that need a capital letter or am I being presumptuous?) in a public forum.

I was secretly shocked and secretly chuffed.  I had always held my own Mentors (capital letter definitely required) in very high esteem, so I wasn’t quite prepared for it in relation to myself and to be honest not sure if I even deserved it.

While I have always seen the Mentor role as one of natural evolution I have never quite included myself in that evolution.  It’s a big responsibility.  Clearly the idea of Mentorship and being a mentor doesn’t necessarily have to come from our perception of ourselves.

Author Rosemary Shapiro-Liu author of ‘The Mentor Within’ signed her book for me with this annotation “Linda, Enjoy your Mentor Within – because you already know what to do”. I think in the ‘doing’ of it I am OK, (and I’m so grateful for Rosemary’s vote of confidence) it’s in the ‘being’ of it that I am a bit shaky.

On pondering why I might have excluded the Mentor descriptor from including myself it’s because I still see myself as a student too so many other incredible women whose contribution and work draws a clear line in the sand around the term.

They are ‘real’ Mentors – even or despite the fact that to be so might actually put their life at risk as was the case of Geraldine Coy from Red Tin Shed whose investigation of a massacre in post – apartheid South Africa actually caused her and her family to flee the country due to death threats. Geraldine has gone on to mentor on leadership in corporate Australia and invented a game ‘The Brave Truth’ alongside her book by the same name which highlights the values of true leadership and how to ‘be’ it.

Now that’s the kind of person I associate with Mentor status.

Or Naomi Simson from RedBalloon and Shark Tank fame who beams from ear to ear when she talks about her kids, feels self-conscious when she sees herself on TV, dispenses practical advice and runs a massively successful business that is all about wonderful life experiences.  Naomi also has a clear stance on workplace wellness, balance and working within your realm of passion because otherwise what’s the point?

So compared to them I kinda sorta feel a little unworthy. And this is where the question arises, do we choose it or is it thrust upon us? How do you know you are Mentor material?

How many milestones do you need to pass to be able to rightfully claim that title? Is it a line you step over or is it an invitation from others? Or is it both? Is being a mentor only something that can be conferred upon you by your first mentee? Can you even be a mentor without having a mentee?

It a bit like that ponderance ‘If a tree falls in a forest, but no one hears it did it still fall?’ Is ‘Mentorship’ real only after someone feels that way about us – rather than us simply assuming the title?  ‘I am a mentor, therefore, I am’ (self) versus  ‘you mentor me, therefore, you are? (student)’.

Tricky stuff. You can see why I want to get it right. The experience got me thinking about what it is that now, after travelling miles and miles in Small Business I have to offer others that I had possibly never considered of value before.

And what about you? Have you considered your hours of toil perfecting your craft in Small Business as something you could mentor with? If not why not? And also, so what?

Is it really that big a deal if in fact, we move through the milestones and the miles and miles without ever passing on knowledge but instead have simply contributed a life of excellence as a small business owner?

Ahh… so many questions. I might be over analysing it. Come to think of it, if you are sort of half way to being a mentor are you just a ‘ment’ or something else?

Now I’m just being silly… a silly Mentor…. I kinda, sorta like it.

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