Further Than They Thought They Could

posted by Steve Heston on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 in In Good Company

“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”

Unattributed, so I’m claiming it

“We never know how high we are ‘til we are asked to rise; and then, if we are true to plan, our statures touch the skies.”

Emily Dickinson, American Poet (1830-1886)

In my career, I’ve been blessed with five or six solid mentors and three more who were / are truly exceptional mentors. Who I am today, professionally, is a testament to their investment in me. As the years weigh in and wear on, I’m at that stage where the requests to be a mentor come more frequently – and that’s incredibly rewarding!

So, what is the job of the mentor?

As a mentor, the job is pretty simple. First, we have to believe that the mentee can go further than they believe they can. Then we ask them to rise, ideally, to a plan they’ve hatched and one that we’ve helped them refine. It’s also crucial to know how high they believe they can go, and what they believe is keeping them from rising. In short, mentoring is more about the questions we ask than the answers we provide.

So, what’s the job of the mentee?

To be present. To be transparent and vulnerable. To engage in a conversation with the intent of harvesting value, and a desire to honor the time of the mentor with complete focus. And, to engage in the process of feedback—positive, negative, inquisitive and beyond; that results in a two-way benefit in the relationship.

The best mentor / mentee relationships are all about what comes next. As the dialogue evolves, it can alter the mentee’s trajectory, and also lifts the apex. People who seek out mentors already understand that it won’t be a slow, gradual, turbulence-free ride to the top. People who want to be mentors are there to help them navigate the bumps and guide them through on their rise.

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