Open your heart and mind to the protege because there is something that they are lacking that they obviously see in you.
Two situations have occurred which prompts me to write this blog. I was on a panel and was asked about keys to success. I expressed that I’ve been blessed here in Asia even though there is absolutely nothing that I’ve done here for such blessings. However, I gave my 10th in finance, time and service. Therefore, I am reaping what I’ve sown from a universal perspective. I paid it forward. Then I spoke at a leadership conference wherein everyone emphasized the importance of having a mentor. I am a strong advocate for mentoring both formal and informal relationships. I would like to share with you an occurrence that demonstrates how mentoring is impactful. You simply never know what will come of someone whose vessel you have filled. In essence, your past may pay you a visit. When I was a teen, I became very attached to a woman who I would visit nearly every day. I just liked her vibe and I would learn so much by hanging around her, listening to her, and watching her. My most special memories take me back to where I would visit with her and just ask life’s questions of her, I would sit quietly and listen to her have girl talk with her girlfriends, or I would just hang around her house absorbing her energy. I don’t know if she ever wondered why I would come around or even if I invaded her space. As a teen, I was not very receptive of such things, but I knew that I enjoyed the calmness of her home compared to my house and I was learning so much just being around her. A few years ago, I tracked down her phone number because she’s always been on my mind and in my heart over the years. I found her phone number and nervously called her. Now, this woman hasn’t seen or heard from me since before 1982, and I wasn’t sure that she would even remember me. I dialed her number and got her voice mail, and I left a lengthy message. I didn’t hear from her and started thinking that maybe she had forgotten about me entirely. I called her again and left another message. I felt even more compelled to reach this woman. Later that evening she called me. She explained that she remembered the name, but she couldn’t recall me. I wasn’t fazed by that, and I asked her if I could visit her. The next day I was sitting on the couch with a woman who I loved and adored as a teen. We talked about everything by filling in the gaps of where we are now in our lives and where we were as we experienced all that life had to offer us. I recall making the comment; I’ll never have anyone drop in on me from the future, as I have dropped in on you. I shared with her that I don’t have a young teenage girl that visits me, because I have put everything into my career and I’m rarely home to build such relationships. She was very appreciative of my visit and as I left I told her that I loved her. When I left I started thinking that it’s too bad that I don’t have a daughter or someone to look up to me, but oh was I wrong. That following week my protégé called me and said that she wanted to buy a ticket for me to attend the Oprah Live the Life You Want Conference that was coming to Atlanta. Speed forward, while sitting at the conference my protégé turned to me and said that she wanted to have me here with her because I had changed her life and career. She went on to talk about how my books, mentoring and advice meant more to her than I’ll ever know. That’s exactly how I felt about the woman from my past. I was doing what I always do…helping and supporting others, but I never stop to think how it is impacting others. I felt deeply honored and loved by her sharing Oprah with me. So, my past and present are caught up with me. I may never have a teen come looking for me, but I have people whom I have invested in and poured into that are showering me with love right now.
I share this story with you because you may never know who you are filling, inspiring and touching. You never know who is watching you and becoming a better person based on the life and career that you are leading. You can start pouring into others right away through mentoring relationships, intentional support, teaching or a variety of other ways. I want to die completely empty by pouring out all that is in my vessel into others. How are you pouring into others? I am now a firm believer that your past will pay you a visit, so are you nurturing relationships that you want to see again?
I wrote about mentoring from a receiving standpoint in my book Playing by the Unwritten Rules, and I would like to share with you some things to consider. I came across a great quote years ago that said, “You must learn from the mistakes of others. You cannot possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.” I have found personally that mentoring relationships decrease my learning curve in a variety of areas, while minimizing costly mistakes. Here are few things to consider regarding mentoring:
1. Pursue a mentoring relationship with someone who is respected in the organization, has astute business acumen, is in a position to support your efforts, and will help you to increase your ability to perform and contribute to the organization.
2. Select someone who is vested in the organization and can see how supporting you can contribute directly to the organization.
3. Shop for someone in your industry first, and then expand to others outside of your company, etc. when you have achieved some level of success.
4. Be mindful of asking someone to be your mentor before any type of relationship is formed. I often have people come up to me after a speaking engagement to ask me to mentor them. I usually decline because I don’t know who that person is, whether investing in them is time well spent, or what they want to accomplish. The best way to approach a mentoring relationship is through a formal program at work or organizations that offer members mentors. You will have someone who has been vetted. If there is no formal program, start slowly with a genuine relationship. Approach your idea mentor and ask if you can visit with them to share what you are working on and to get their advice. People love giving advice. Then follow-up and occasionally call, email or drop by that person’s office to share things with them and seek their opinion on things. Within time a relationship is formed without you ever having to ask for it.
5. When approached to be a mentor keep in mind that it is not a full-time job but moments in time where you give of yourself. You are not expected to give what you don’t have, so be natural and transparent and share what is already inside of you. Open your heart and mind to the person because there is something that they are lacking that they obviously see in you.
6. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the relationship is a marriage ‘till death do us part’. It is an encounter that may last several months to several years depending on what you are trying to accomplish. Know what you want and need as you enter that relationship. As my book indicates, you really want to have an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to put structure to that relationship.
I write about this at length in my book and hope that you will serve as a mentor and be in a mentoring relationship. It is very rewarding, but it can’t take the place of coaching, which I will discuss at another time. I would love to hear from you to start dialoguing about my blogs. I invite you to engage me. If you would like to be a part of my network to receive information and stay connected with me, please send your email address to Also, if you or woman whom you know would benefit from learning how to achieve life balance, please register for my Women’s Forum at