I recently completed a project with a group of female leaders in a local organisation which was aimed at helping them to build their confidence in the workplace. After an initial group session in February, each was invited to select a mentor from a pool of voluntary mentors and allocated one to work with over the next eight months.
By way of a measure of the improvement in confidence over that time, the first session included each participant delivering a one-minute, impromptu presentation. relevant to the topics we were covering. Then at the follow up workshop last month, each of them was asked to present for up to 15 minutes covering what they got from their interaction with their mentor and they were allowed to prepare in advance.
I was both delighted and impressed with how far each of them had come in terms of their confidence and even though I could tell that this exercise was still very difficult for some of them and outside their comfort zone; they all got through really well.
It was not only the remarkable improvement in their confidence in a relatively short time that I witnessed but also how much they valued the experience overall and their interaction with their chosen mentor.
But what is mentoring exactly?
There are probably a few definitions out there but a simple one is ‘an experienced and trusted advisor’, I take that to be someone who offers their skills, experience and unique wisdom to another to support their learning and development. It could be someone in the same or similar field who has the attributes that you aspire to have or is in a role that you would like to be in at some point.
It may be informal or formal, a simple conversation or series of conversations that guides you along your development and different people along the way. Someone who inspires you to do things differently, encourages you keep developing and offers tips and tools to support that.
Knowing how valuable this part of the program was for the participants and having had various mentors of my own, I would love to see mentoring embedded in the wider community particularly for young people who may be struggling at times and need someone to trust, look up to and guide them when parents or grandparents aren’t able or available.
Beyond that, businesses and individuals in rural and remote areas who may not have easy access to such support could also greatly benefit from such a connection, if it’s not being done already.
Food for thought!