Happy to finally get a chance to write about my mentoring experiences this summer. We often overlook the value in telling our story about being mentored or mentoring someone else. I’ve learned from hearing from friends and colleagues that the variations in mentoring relationships aren’t as widely known or used just by default of the stories going untold. So, here’s my part!
The last time I served as a consistent mentor was with Chicago Women in Philanthropy’s Women’s Leadership Mentoring Program. I served as a mentor for two full years to two different early career women. One worked in communications the other in resource development. Both very dynamic and very successful in their fields as well as the artful balance of everything else in life. I learned a lot, specifically about what I didn’t know that I could teach! How ironic. I assumed when I accepted this role that there would be a formula to follow, a set of questions to check off during the year, a number of people to introduce and get out of the way. Not so. Through sharing our work and life experiences I think the mutually beneficial relationship grew and things that I didn’t know my mentee could use came out during discussion, invitations to random events I attended and sidebar conversations about how my lack of sleep (or ability to wake up at 3 am and be productive for about an hour and go right back to bed with no problems) was embedded into my lifestyle so much so that it no longer bothered me! At the end of my mentoring time when competing priorities adjusted I still have two people who are doing wonderful things in this world that I learned a lot from and I hope was able to share a lot that they can use in their daily lives.
The last time I served as a one day mentor was earlier this summer with the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Camp CEO. I was able to spend 24 hours at Camp Butternut Springs in Valparaiso, IN with 40 young women and a host of other CEOs, the wonderful staff and board members of GSCNWI. I was assigned two mentees, Anna and Emma. Anna a incoming sophomore certain of her desire to teach and Emma and incoming senior understanding her artistic abilities, hopeful to choose a good liberal arts college wanting to make good use of those. Both having siblings, very dedicated to their families and ready to take on the world. I could not have asked to get to know better campers this year or for a better experience and opportunity to share my path to CEO leadership. The theme of this years camp was: Following Our Hearts In Pursuit of Opportunity , which occupied a huge banner in the meeting hall. How poignant and timely. I was greatly inspired by the questions the ladies asked and their goals!!! I’m accordance with the 3 C’s of Girl Scouting; Courage, Confidence and Character filled the camp site. I arrived on Wednesday and, along with other new arrival CEOs, was greeted with a fabulous welcome song. After hearing it a few times it never leaves your brain. I’ve been tempted to sing and record on my phone so I never forget. Our day consisted of workshops on purposely expressing your character and exposing yourself to the world beyond your immediate community. The highlight of our day came after lunch with shark tank pitches. The group was challenged to invent something that solves a modern day issue. Their ideas were amazing. One particular idea about food insecurity access bracelets deserves a pitch to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. During this event I watched the campers withstand some of the toughest questions about their products. These are skills they will need when presenting their ideas to teachers, professors, future bosses and community members.
At the end of the day I got to share my leadership journey-one I’ve always downplayed but fully accepted as my purpose in life. I’ve just never stood from the mountaintops and yelled my story to the masses. My journey to CEO at Evanston Community Foundation was one of my challenges as a teenager, purpose as a young adult and accepting of an opportunity to use the full scope of my skills and talents. Our day included lots of other great things and luckily I got to stick around for S’mores and songs by the campfire. If you’ve never tried a Reece’s cup S’more, you’re missing out on a world of goodness. I assured the group that any increase in pricing of the cookies was alright with me!
The next morning when it was time to depart I got a chance to record the goodbye song, which I will cherish forever. The experience of being with the group for only 24 hours was great. I was headed back to my day to day and with the understanding that this time I mentored simply by allowing campers to ask me questions that are important to them. Questions like-how do you make tough decisions and when you were in high school did you think you’d be where you are today in your career? Questions like-If you want to be a model do you have to be this tall or this small? All very important self confidence questions. I hope my answers were helpful.
If you know me, you know my husband and I parent a very dedicated to life 5 year old. When she heard I was going to Camp CEO…all she heard was camp. My daughter has no clue what CEO means nor does she care. It didn’t matter why I was going to camp. And when she heard Girl Scouts, she certainly would not let that go. So, luckily her school will be hosting a daisy troop this year and she can join. I was never a girl scout, but I have to believe there is a girl scout in me and I was happy to be among them even for only 24 hours.
So, there you have it. My two most recent instances of extreme vs very loose mentoring. Both very rewarding for me and hopefully for my mentees. All in all, I know that mentoring is defined by what you need and what you can give. There isn’t a hard and fast rule to getting it right. If you are able to be a mentor, know your limitations with that role and be able to express them.If you are seeking a mentor, know your needs with that role and be able to express them. Find your circles of influence that may offer informal instances of mentoring. You’ll find that what fits you best is a variation that gels well with the life you live, the time you have to give and the outcomes you’re trying to reach!
This post was written by Monique Brunson Jones, the CEO of Evanston Community Foundation. To learn more about Monique, please visit her blog empoweredtoday.org.