It was easy to see that some early coaching and mentoring would’ve benefited the mid-career woman who shared her story with the audience.
Jen, (not her real name) was visibly moved when she got up towards the end of our recent RSM Signature event to share: “I chose the “Discover Your Passion” session because I was confused. I had six different passions and I didn’t know how to choose one. But the group helped me see that all my passions where actually under one umbrella and now I can look for an opportunity where I can pursue that passion.”
It was exactly the kind of insights participants of our programs discover yet, very revealing of a reality many women face (particularly those with diverse backgrounds) the lack of role models growing up and subsequent lack of career coaching and mentoring. Had Jen cultivated mentoring relationships early on in her career, she would’ve probably been much further along. Why? Because a good mentor would have helped her figure out what she was passionate about and would’ve helped her align her passion, interests, knowledge and skills with her career goals. And that alignment in itself proves to be extremely effective for career growth. Because we tend to prosper when we do what we love.
Coaching and mentoring
Although the terms coach and mentor are often used interchangeably, for clarity purposes, let’s make a distinction between receiving coaching and mentoring.
According to Wikipedia, “Coaching is training or development in which a person called a coach supports a learner in achieving a specific personal or professional goal. The learner is sometimes called a coachee. (…) Coaching differs from mentoring in focusing on specific tasks or objectives, as opposed to general goals or overall development.”
It helps to think of a coach as someone paid by you or by your company to help you develop a particular skill or achieve a specific goal. For example, you might hire a coach to help you strengthen your communication or management style, or to help you become a good public speaker. There are all kinds of coaches and although you may think they are a luxury reserved for those who can pay an average $250 an hour, you can be part of our Step Up program for a very affordable price.
Again, according to Wikipedia “Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé.)”
The concept of a “mentor” originally meant someone older who guided a child. The word “Mentor” itself comes from the name of a friend of Odysseus entrusted with the education of his son. But nowadays peer mentoring and mutual mentoring (which is at the core of the RSM methodology) are very common and equally if not more valuable than the traditional style of mentoring. A mentor is not only someone who can help you set your career goals bu,t most importantly, the person who helps you connect the dots, understand the unwritten rules and policies of an organization, figure out who the power brokers are, how to present your ideas so they are easily accepted, and so on.
Even when they are informal, peer mentoring relationships are powerful tools at your disposal. Colleagues who know more about how things are done, or about a particular process, for example, are a rich source of knowledge and guidance when you start working in a new department or project. The advantage of peer mentoring is that when done well, both parties grow together and have each other’s backs. You can practice peer mentoring with colleagues in your own organization or outside. Both options offer a multitude of advantages for your development.
Mutual mentoring definition
As I mentioned above, at the core of the RSM methodology is mutual mentoring. As a matter of fact, we call it RSM Mutual Mentoring Circles. It’s where Jen discovered that she only had one overarching passion. But you don’t need to be at one of our events to experience the effect of this type of mentoring. Mutual mentoring is about finding a person from whom you’d like to learn and who could learn something from you regardless of age, experience or seniority level. In fact, the more diverse the partners, the richer the experience as each person enters a new world and opens the door to her own world to the other party. Both individuals benefit and grow in the process. They are both invested in the relationship and interested in seeing the other person succeed. They both push each other’s agendas forward. A complete win-win situation.
Mutual mentoring is also known as reciprocal mentoring. Here’s Lily Benjamin’s, A Global Talent, Organization Development and Change Management Executive, take on it: “Reciprocal mentoring is a mutually beneficial relationship, based on a more egalitarian connection, regardless of the title of the Mentor or his/her level in the organization. It is founded on the premise that we all have value to add; and mentors and mentees learn from each other. The structure of it in itself promotes interconnection, synergy, and teamwork. However, for this reciprocal relationship to be beneficial to both sides certain conditions needs to exist. Expectations need to be clearly defined, rules of engagement have to be agreed on, both parties need to be willing to learn from one another, trust needs to be established, and both parties need to be open to seeing situations from different angles.”
It’s never too early or too late to seek coaching and mentoring. It’s always the right time when you realize you must find a mentor or a coach to continue to challenge yourself and grow. That’s when you will take the full advantage of having someone who can help you get what you want. Never let your age or career stage stop you. Go for it!