I’m starting a new mentoring relationship this week, providing support someone i’ve never met before through a global mentoring scheme. It puts people in the UK and US in touch with people in various developing countries to establish mentoring relationships. It’s a slightly daunting prospect, feeling some degree of responsibility for the success of the thing and worrying whether i’ll actually be able to add any value.
I know that mentoring is a two way process, that it’s not a case of the mentor teaching the mentee, but rather of providing structured conversations that enable the mentee to explore challenges themselves and providing support to those discussions. In a perfect relationship, both mentor and mentee will go through a process of discovery. I’ve done this a number of times before, but at the start of things, it’s always a time to be nervous.
Everyone benefits from a different perspective: indeed, it’s one of the first things i ask people these days, do they have a mentor? It’s not that i believe that there is anything magical about mentoring, i don’t believe that it’s going to lead to enlightenment, but i do think that it can help you with that most important of things: perspective.
We tend to allow the walls to close in around us, for out viewpoint to become narrow, framed by our immediate pressures and concerns, by our work environment and colleagues, by our home and social lives. Sometimes the opportunities to break out of this are limited, but mentoring, especially this type of global programme, can provide these opportunities.
It’s good to be able to reframe what’s important, to learn about other people’s narratives and challenges, to use this understanding to explore our own constraints and to see how narrow our own perspective has become.
So the start of a new mentoring relationship is a time for reflection on one’s perspective and for anticipating the learning ahead. Only time will tell how successful that will be for both of us.