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What mentoring means to me
This had to be the beginning.
What’s the point of promising to write about mentoring without explaining what it means to me?
I’ve never put it in writing before, but I’ve explained it in person time and again. Largely because I’m hugely passionate about it and partly because I won’t shut up either.
Mentoring is not exclusive to marketing, so I’ve tried to explain the answer to this question in wider terms first, before applying it with more focus for you marketers out there.
No doubt, I’ll write something specifically for various elements of marketing and my advice on those, but for now here’s what mentoring means to me.
Being listened to
Let’s get this one out the way.
Who out there doesn’t like to be listened to and feel like their ideas are helping someone else?
That isn’t to say you should start mentoring purely for the sense of being the centre of attention (this goes against its very nature, as the mentee should be the one doing most of the talking), but when someone seeks out your advice, it’s an ego-boosting moment.
And this matters.
If someone has shown an interest in learning from you, that’s a huge win on the potential impact you’ve already had on them – either through management or by developing a positive reputation within your company, or externally via social media.
They’ve reacted positively to something you’ve said or done… and would like to hear more.
It is absolutely not the number one reason, but it does count.
This is honestly my number one reason.
I’ve written extensively in my about me long read on the opportunities and legs up I’ve been afforded in my career.
Due to an unbelievable support network – initially family and then managers – I know I wouldn’t be in the place I am today without their motivation and encouragement and, as I said in my wedding speech, the occasional kick up the arse!
I’ve been given many opportunities, so why shouldn’t others?
Development isn’t a straight line and neither is career progression so helping someone to understand this is a regular conversation in almost every mentoring session.
And it’s vital to remember that you don’t mentor the job role, but the individual.
Sounds obvious when you read it, but the point of working with a mentee is to benefit them as a whole – which of course will help them with the role they do now – but also to help them self-improve as broadly as possible.
Of course, there’s considerations to bear in mind, especially if this is internal mentoring within a business (e.g. if they want to leave that business, it’s probably best to stop mentoring them), but mentoring is about providing a safe space for honest conversations.
Help them to discover how they work best, how to strengthen their skills and, critically, understand their weaknesses.
Being a sounding board
I think, and reassuringly have been told, that I offer good advice.
If I can share an experience of my own, or a very sideways analogy (there’s a blog in this in the future), and it resonates… it feels great.
You, the mentor, have shared something and they’ve reacted positively.
It means a lot. Genuinely.
I might share an experience which has nothing to do with me; something I’ve spotted, heard on a podcast, or seen happen to someone I know.
These are all for a mentee to ponder and mull over in their own mind, using them as a smorgasbord* of ideas to consider their own next steps.
I also question everything… well, nearly everything.
This doesn’t mean I play Devil’s Advocate for the sake of it, because that can be tedious.
It means I pose a thought or idea that may help someone to take a step back and consider the alternative. This is especially useful when you’re mentoring someone facing imposter syndrome and questioning everything about themselves and their ability.
(Ironically, these are the people who are usually smashing it too!)
It also works when your mentoring relationship is grounded in very different personality types, where your default setting contrasts with your mentee’s.
(I’m an ENTP and will definitely write on this in the future!
At the end of the day, it’s their journey. I can offer them ideas and thoughts to ponder, which they then action or interpret in their own way.
They can also ignore it!
And that’s perfectly fine too.
*There’s no real reason to use that word, apart from the fact it’s unnecessarily brilliant.
I’m fascinated by getting to know others
Inquisitive, nosy… two sides of the same coin.
And a coin I definitely own!
(Enough with the coin…)
More seriously, I have toed the line between these two for many years.
When I was younger, during school years mainly, I definitely fell into the nosy category more frequently than I should have done.
And I got called out on it.
But now, I know how that translates when tempering my instincts: I love getting to know different people and hearing their thoughts and experiences.
Being bothered and showing an interest goes a ridiculously long way.
Hearing different stories
This is closely linked to getting to know someone.
Different people give us different points of view that we may never have considered due to age, gender, background, race and the real challenges of life.
As mentors, we might not be to directly relate to those factors as they’re completely different to our own experiences. And we will probably never fully relate either.
But we can listen and understand how these factors affect the mentee in question.
In that person’s context, how do they impact them and their thinking? Their beliefs? Their decisions?
This is what you’re working with.
Once you get that, mentoring hits new levels, and it’s fascinating.
Mentoring in marketing
When mentoring meets marketing, it really does intrigue me.
Marketers face the same challenges, in different contexts. We’re all trying to increase brand awareness, generate leads, and give our company the best chance of making a sale – in whatever way all of these things happen where you work, and how they’re measured.
The specifics of this might be giving someone the tools to write a strategy, helping them define the purpose of each of their social channels, or just bouncing around ideas for their next campaign.
And, of course, guidance on managing others!
So mentoring other marketers is about sharing experience and knowledge, plus – which I try to do – lessons from my own failures.
And while I don’t believe there’s a lesson in everything – if you have one to share (or eight), then share it.
Thanks for reading,
Drop a comment with your thoughts 👇
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