“Mentors – we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give” ~ Winston Churchill
Many articles have been written on mentorship. But what exactly is mentorship? And more importantly, what does it need to be moving forward?
The Oxford Dictionary defines mentorship as:
- the guidance provided by a mentor, especially an experienced person in a company or educational institution, or
- a period of time during which a person receives guidance from a mentor.
This idea of mentorship is not something we just dreamed up. Its concept dates back 3,000 years. In Homer’s Ancient Greek poem, Odyssey, Odysseus entrusts his young son Telemachus to the care of Mentor, his trusted companion, as he heads off to fight in the Trojan War. Flash forward to the current century, and Oprah Winfrey makes it no secret that she considered Maya Angelou her mentor. Oprah gives Ms. Angelou credit for giving her advice and for being there during some of the most trying times of her life. Some believe if it was not for Ms. Angelou, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and OWN, Oprah’sTV network may not have happened.
Mentorship is the influence, guidance, or direction given by a mentor.
A mentor gives help, teaches, or advises a less experienced and, most often, younger person. In an organizational setting, a mentor influences personal and professional growth. Most traditional mentorships involve senior employees mentoring more junior employees; however, mentors are not necessarily more senior than the people they mentor. More importantly, mentors have the experience to pass on to their mentees, and they have a strong desire to share and be of service.
Chopra and Saint (2017) assert that great mentorships, such as parent and child, are modelled with mutual respect, trust, shared values, and good communication. The best mentorships are when the mentee transitions to mentor. At DEVA, Impact Arts Co-op, and PowHERhouse Impact Media Group, we take mentorship seriously. Mentorship is a verb, not a noun. Like the three strands of a sweetgrass braid, proactive mentorship has three aspects to it.
- The first strand: it is not enough for us to pass on our knowledge to another. We ask ourselves daily, how might we deliberately weave mentees into this opportunity for learning and growth to encourage on-the-ground leading in action as we walk beside them.
- The second strand: it is equally important that we model our behaviour, because if you can see it, you can be it. This includes intentional listening circles on a regular basis and mirroring back to our mentees so that they feel seen, heard, and appreciated.
- The third strand: it is essential that our mentees, our collaborators, our braids, know that we take a Hands-at-Your-Back approach. That is where the magic happens. Everyone performs better with support. Working in silos is passé. Long gone are the days of “Every man (and woman) for himself” COVID-19 has been the great equalizer. We know we are better together, because we know intrinsically, that we are all connected.
“A rising tide lifts all boats” ~ John F. Kennedy
Elevating mentorship to a consistently integrated and inclusive braided approach to whole leadership is a key aspect of decolonizing business practices. With seven-generation thinking, we are invested in the next generations, as they are the future.
To learn more about how you can get involved in our mentoring programs or to creatively collaborate with us, please reach out to Sharon Marshall at email@example.com.
Chopra, V, & Saint, S (2017). Six Things Every Mentor Should Do. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2017/03/6-things-every-mentor-should-do.