The year 2017 was all about mentoring for me.
I've written about it multiple times, and I'll write about it again. Every Friday since January, I visited a college campus and met with several students to try and pass on a little knowledge about social media and writing. I wasn't always perfectly successful at this knowledge transfer--we're talking about other people here, with different levels of motivations and skill level. Yet, it was always a wonderful exercise because it's all about the process of mentoring, not any desire to see immediate results.
Why are the results not as important? For me, it was all about seeing potential. I read a quote in a book recently that summarized my entire year perfectly. Here it is:
If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.
The quote comes from a writer and statesman names Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who died in 1832, but it's incredibly relevant today if you run a small company or lead a team of any size. It hit home for me because it is one of the best ways to mentor people. It's a technique and a tip that works in almost any setting. If you are mentoring, stop trying to see the person for their current skill level. Don't evaluate people on their current personality traits or knowledge, stop trying to push someone to make quick progress and excel at their current endeavors only. Start seeing the person you are mentoring for who they will become eventually (say, after you are done with the mentoring).
It took me a while to fully understand this. One student mentioned to me early on when we started a new writing project that she wanted me to realize she had great potential. Another gave me a note after a few months of mentoring thanking her for helping with her growth.
Don't we do this as parents? We always think about the potential. If you have raised kids, you know you have to look at a third-grader as someone who eventually will understand math, who will comprehend things like balancing emotions. We'd go crazy as parents if we thought our kids would always keep forgetting their books at home or crying about a classmate saying an unkind word. We put hope in the fact that kids won't stay the same for long. Why do we see coworkers and employees on a team as being so stagnant then? Maybe it's because that designer on your team never tries to learn a new Adobe app or because one of your supervisors has had anger problems for years.
Yet, when we mentor, we're the ones doing the guiding and instructing. We have all of the tools to help others grow, and to think the person receiving all of that instruction will just stay the same says a lot about our ability to mentor. Instead, what if we're actually successful? What if an average writer can spend enough time with you to become an excellent writers? (I'm here to tell you, it is possible.) If you have in-depth knowledge of social media platforms, and you try to pass that knowledge on to someone else on your team, hold firm to the belief that the recipient of that knowledge will move from point A to point B with your expert assistance. Set aside any worries or concerns that you will fail at the knowledge transfer and see that person as someone who will instead respond favorably...and even take over your own leadership role someday.
If you can somehow muster the outlook that your mentoring will be effective, that the process will work beyond your wildest dreams, you will be surprised by the growth. You might also receive a note thanking you for taking the time to make it happen.