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  • Writer's pictureLisa Gilchrist

The Power of Mentoring

Over the last six months, I’ve had the privilege of mentoring a youth member of a volunteer board. Constantly I am reminded that mentorship is a two-way street and I feel that I have learned as much as I have taught.

There was a time when mentorship felt more like a someone giving directions and the mentee frantically taking notes trying to copy down all the ‘wisdom’ the mentor had to offer. Part of me remembers doing that in some hazy assignment in the past. Part of it was exciting but there was little room for thoughtful discussion or asking the deeper questions that created understanding. Fortunately, most of my mentorship opportunities were not like that. It’s the conversation and discussion that make the real difference. That’s how learning and understanding are solidified; it is making the connections between what is seen and heard to what has been told to what has been experienced.

Mentorship opens possibilities for true experiential learning in a natural setting – it’s not in a created microcosm where parameters are set, and assumptions are outlined. Mentorship takes place in the cold, unvarnished realm where challenges can’t be easily navigated, and people get into heated disputes.

The strength of a mentor-mentee relationship allows those challenging situation to be experienced not alone as an observer but by standing back with someone’s hand resting on your shoulder and whispering alternate perspectives in your ear. And then sitting down and having a good solid debrief where it is okay to acknowledge that someone behaved poorly and to realize that anyone can be guilty of short-sighted vision and narrow focal points.

The learning path isn’t walked alone; it is shared with someone whose purpose is to be a sounding board, to ask prompting questions and to express insights. The sharing makes all the difference.

Keep Shining!

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