Mentorship and the Importance of Story. By: Sarah Haggard
I’ve always been a storyteller. Stories entertain. They make us laugh. They make us cry. They remind us of our humanness, and leave us feeling raw and inspired all at once. They are the keepers of ancient wisdom, our legacy, and cultures all around the world. Stories hold tremendous power. We’ve all walked out of a movie hiding tears of sorrow at a story well told. Binged a Netflix series or finished a good book, and mourned it’s end. Our souls deeply moved, called into action.
So what does storytelling have to do with mentorship?
The origin of the word mentor comes from one of the great stories ever told, Odysseys. Mentor was Odysseys “wise and trusted advisor.” Today, mentors are in more demand than ever. We all want a sage advisor to turn to when the going gets tough. The challenge is, wisdom isn’t gained in the classroom nor in the boardroom; the places we most often look to for mentorship. Wisdom is gained from lived experiences, which are best told through stories.
Our age and years’ experience isn’t the sole indicator of wisdom either.
Some of us have lived a few lives over by the time we reach our twenties. While others are lucky enough to life a life of ease, privilege and stability. The truth is we’re only expert in our own life experiences, knowledge comes and goes. I lost my Mom at age 27. I mentor women in their 40s, 50s and 60s dealing with the loss of a parent because I understand grief, having lived through it. Developing the ability to narrate our life experiences using story is key to being able to mentor, or be a “wise and trusted advisor” for others.
So what can you do to become a wise and trusted advisor for someone else? The first step is to know your story. Here are five ways you can get started today.
1. Make a lifeline chart, plotting out the high and low moments in your life.
2. Make a list of common themes that emerge from that timeline.
3. Write your story, highlighting those key themes, in less than 1,000 words.
4. Practice telling your story.
5. Sign up to become a mentor, sharing your story and passion for mentoring others from your lived experiences.
In a world where mentors are in more demand than supply, getting to know your story is the greatest gift you can give someone else. It is also where you’ll find your greatest passion and purpose.
Sarah Haggard is the CEO and Founder of Tribute, a modern mentorship app for the workplace that connects employees together for mentorship through shared life experiences and stories. When not working, Sarah enjoys reading, writing, mentoring college students and spending time on her houseboat with friends and family in Seattle, WA.
Bizwomen Mentoring Monday is February 25th. Support and learn from businesswomen in your community while creating meaningful career connections.
Caitlin Mullen, Bizwomen contributor’s article highlights the ins and outs of “From Bain & Company to National Geographic Society, companies make mentoring connections”. Read the full article here.
Our own Lisa Fain took part and was quoted as saying….
The reasons companies create mentoring programs vary — to improve diversity, to build a bench of potential leaders, and to retain staffers. Though most won’t divulge what they spend on their programs, all agree on their importance. The thousands of employees who participate engage with accomplished colleagues, and many accelerate their career progress through the connections they create. Being able to keep and motivate employees is crucial and “the structured mentoring relationship is really a vehicle to do that.”
In almost any business these days, you are guaranteed to interact with people whose cultural background is quite different from your own. In a global organization, you may have colleagues that come from a different country. You may partner with organizations whose employees come from another part of the country. There may also be cultural differences between you and some of the customers and clients you serve.
Impostor syndrome is not a unique feeling, but some researchers believe it hits minority groups harder.
Last May, I walked into a room of impeccably dressed journalists at a media event in Los Angeles. I tugged on my pilly cardigan and patted down my frizzy bangs.
When a waiter presented a tray of sliced cucumbers and prosciutto and asked, “Crudité?” I resisted the temptation to shove three of them into my mouth and instead smiled and replied, “No, thank you.” I was focused on the task at hand: pretending not to be a fraud among this crowd of professionals.
Ironically, I was at the event to interview someone about impostor syndrome.
The psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the term in 1978, describing it as “internal experience of intellectual phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” In other words, it’s that sinking sense that you are a fraud in your industry, role or position, regardless of your credibility, authority or accomplishments.
This is not a unique feeling, and it hits many of us at some point in our lives. But some researchers believe it hits minority groups harder, as a lack of representation can make minorities feel like outsiders, and discrimination creates even more stress and anxiety when coupled with impostorism, according to Kevin Cokley, a professor of educational psychology and African diaspora studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
In 2010, when David Nish was promoted from CFO to CEO at Standard Life, he knew the scale of the challenge his company faced. The 185-year-old giant had just embarked on a sweeping transformation from an insurer to a long-term savings and investment company. Nish also knew that as the person leading the change, he would be tested by decisions and management situations he hadn’t encountered in the past. Certain that he could benefit from the perspective of someone who had been down similar roads before, Nish turned to a somewhat unusual adviser: Niall FitzGerald, a former chairman of Unilever.
The mentoring relationship they subsequently established is illustrative of those we have studied in our research—a two-year inquiry into an emerging way in which new CEOs in large organizations gain access to seasoned counsel and feedback. We found dozens of executives who were accelerating their learning by engaging the services of high-profile veteran leaders from outside their companies. To learn more about this growing but as yet undocumented phenomenon, we interviewed 15 chairman mentors and 25 protégés—CEOs, CEO designates, and CFOs. (Chairman Mentors International facilitated access to many of the study participants.)
On the basis of what we heard, we are convinced that more CEOs should connect with mentors rather than assume that theirs is a burden to be shouldered alone. But we also discovered aspects of such arrangements that make them trickier than the mentoring that takes place at lower organizational levels. At the CEO level, special considerations must go into making a match between mentor and mentee, structuring their sessions to deliver the intended benefits, and prioritizing the process so that it isn’t crowded out by other demands. By sharing what we’ve learned about these issues, we hope to pave the way for more use of this highly efficient learning model.