“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give,” said Winston Churchill.
Mentoring takes great effort. This endeavor neatly aligns with a core value of Toastmasters - Service to Others.
“We are alive when we are in love.”
Love, a powerful emotion, isn’t it? The word is not limited to romance. It also refers to a sparkling relationship. A relationship that nurtures and inspires. A bond of trust.
Such is a bond or relationship between a mentor and a mentee.
A person who helps to see the value and potential inside another is a mentor. Many times, we allow ourselves to commiserate perhaps because of our upbringing, perhaps because of our surroundings. Then here comes a person, a stranger more often than not, who teaches us to believe in ourselves, to love ourselves.
And that very moment, our trajectory is changed, almost in an instant.
Remember the Whitney Houston song, “Learning to love yourself. It is the greatest love of all.”
How? She sings…
“Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier”
Is a coach a mentor? A coach also can help you realize your dreams. But that relationship is short-lived. Mortal. After achieving a specific task, the relationship ends.
Let me give you an example. Last December, I reached out to a trainer who lives nearby. I told him that I have been going to a gym and doing random exercise for a few years and yet had difficulty losing 10-15 pounds. He asked me to stay within his dietary guidelines and meet with him 3 times a week for half an hour for 10 weeks. I gave him a destination and he promised to take me there. I agreed.
Did it work? Yes, absolutely. I lost 15 pounds. At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t fit into these pants.
After the 10 weeks, the goals were achieved and that relationship ended.
However, a coach can turn into a mentor by taking an interest in the mentee’s life and building a relationship that goes far beyond a specific task.
20 years ago, I was hired by an airline as a Reservations agent. The company had a glamorous incentive for Reservations agents. The agents who sold a million dollars in ticket sales during a calendar year were taken on a week of paid vacation and recognized at a formal gala. Quite an extravagant event. A year later I made the million-dollar goal with a couple of months to spare. At the end of the year, another agent asked if I was planning to work toward the recognition the following year. I had no doubt.
The agent said they personally were never capable of selling a million dollars in ticket sales in a year. They were more focused on customer service than the revenue. That conversation sparked a relationship between us. From there-on we took time to greet each other, made small talk about families, personal issues…etc.
One day, I was listening to the agent on a call. In that prolonged conversation, that agent gave a lot of options, established a rapport with the customer, but when the call ended, the agent hadn’t asked for the sale. Even a 24-hour hold would have given the agent credit. Afterwards, I emphasized to the agent that it was an impressive conversation. I even took some notes for my personal improvements, and then expressed how they could have capitalized on the service by asking for the sale.
I still vividly remember the next day when the agent asked me to demonstrate how to set goals and become a million-dollar seller. I shared a flight plan with the agent. It was only a map. It was up to them to find what they could or couldn’t do.
I wasn’t there as police. I was there to encourage. I never regimented the agent’s schedule. When there was a misstep, I was there to advise, to support, and to guide.
The good news is the agent made the milestone! And better yet, our relationship never ended.
Let me take a quick side step. We have all heard mentees referenced as Protégé. I don’t like that term. I think it has an egocentric meaning. The process of taking a Protégé is a mentor’s attempt to create a duplicate in his or her image. That seems to me it has more to do with a God complex than mentoring. For some of you who are familiar with Star Trek – The Next Generation, I’m sure you are thinking of the Borg Collective!
As I studied the Level 2 - project 3 in Dynamic Pathway, I had an epiphany. It has been 5 years since I joined Toastmasters. The first couple of years I was a lukewarm participant, just like my early gym days. But things changed when I joined the Toastmasters At The Square team. They were all strangers. Yet I drew energy and strength from them. I received encouragement and inspiration from every one of them. Their love took me beyond articulating my stories. In that journey, I found my purpose. In an unassuming way, they had all become my mentors; my tribe.
I realized this proverb is truly a life lesson for all times:
“If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day; if you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”
Mentoring serves a greater purpose. Mentoring is a gift that keeps on giving.