Do you ever wonder why some women seem to enjoy powerful positions? In this episode, host Lori Few talks about her experiences in leadership roles in her career and her mentors who have impacted her along the way.
- What is a mentor?
- 4 Types of Mentors
- How we each have the capability of being a mentor
- You never know who you could be impacting in your daily life
- Why we should all be encouraged to serve as a mentor
Good Monday morning, everyone! I’m excited to be here this morning as your hostess. This morning, we’re going to spend a few minutes with Lori. Did you catch that? A little Monday morning humor? Okay. Maybe I’m not that funny, but this morning I’m excited to be here and to talk to you about one of my favorite subjects. But before I get to that, did you know that March is Women’s History Month? Do you know how it started? Women’s History Month began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The education task force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a women’s history week celebration in 1978. The organizer selected the first week of March to correspond with International Women’s Day. The movement spread across the country as other communities initiated their own women’s history week celebrations the following year. In 1980, a consortium of women’s groups and historians led by the National Women’s History Project successfully lobbied for national recognition. And in February of 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation. So exciting! Welcome to March. I’m excited to visit with you all this morning.
I hope your coffee is strong and you’re ready to have multiple cups. I know I’ve already had mine and I’m fully caffeinated. So let’s get into the topic at hand. I’m excited this morning to talk to you about mentoring. I know we’ve probably mentioned it before on this podcast, but it’s an extremely important and personal topic to me. I want to share with you what it is to be a mentor, the different types of mentors and share some insight as to how I’ve been impacted by many mentors that I’ve had in my life.
So exactly what is a mentor? Well, by definition, it’s an experienced and trusted advisor. I’m sure that you can think of, in your mind right now, someone who has served in that capacity or in a time or another person that you have served in that capacity for. So let’s talk about the different types of mentors. The direct mentor, someone that’s assigned to you, maybe in a job, maybe in a volunteer type of situation, someone that you didn’t necessarily choose. Then, of course, there’s the unlikely mentor, the person that you least expect. And finally, the third type of mentor is the indirect mentor, the one that you were learning from all along and being impacted by, but you just didn’t realize it.
So the first type of mentor, the direct mentor, someone that you probably weren’t expecting or in a job you were assigned to partner with, or to learn something from. One of my favorite sayings is “the expert was always once the beginner,” and how true. In 2006, I stumbled upon a job interview for a job that would literally change my life. I had no idea, and really no skillset, for the job that I was applying for. I’m not so sure what the person who hired me saw in me, but I could not have imagined my life without that experience. The boss I’m referring to is Donnita Wynn.
There are many people who listened to this podcast and I’ve talked about her before, the impact that she had on my life as a young person. As a 26-year-old who didn’t know anything about law, she hired me to be her clerk. Day by day, week by week, we sat side by side in a courtroom. She taught me about things that were so important – relationships, organization, commitment, punctuality – but the most important thing that she taught me as my mentor was about community. Now, she had an incredible resume. This woman was the first female district attorney in Pittsburgh County. She was also the first female special judge to be appointed to the bench. And what an incredible experience to be able to sit next to her and to learn things and to be guided. The greatest thing that she taught me was having a sense of community. She had always said day in and day out that we were here to make a difference in the lives of the people that we serve, which reminds me of a Mitch Albom quote: “Devote yourself to your community around you and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” Sometimes direct mentors impact our lives in a way, even if they are our boss. We can learn something from them in a business setting, in any type of situation. So think about the direct mentors that you’ve had in your life. Maybe they were good. Maybe they were great, but maybe they weren’t. What did you learn from that experience? Give it some thought. I think you’ll be surprised when you start thinking about it.
Now, the next type of mentor, the unlikely mentor, the person that you least expect, someone that’s not necessarily even on your radar. Maybe you’ve volunteered with a group of people or you’ve been in a social setting and you don’t even realize that you’re being mentored, or my favorite word, mentee. I mean, mentee. That’s what they say when you’re the person being mentored. But honestly it just makes me think of mint, mint everything, mint gum, mint tea to drink. It’s kind of funny. Again, I realize Jimmy’s not here to laugh at my jokes, but bear with me.
My most unlikely mentor experience came when I joined a women’s organization here in McAlester. I had no idea what the women did in this organization, but it sounded like a fun group to be a part of. Little did I know that they were sponsoring, and had sponsored for numerous years, a local scholarship competition for young women. The young women would enter the competition and each person would walk away with a cash scholarship of some type to help further their education. Well, of course, I had to be a part of that. And through that experience, I wound up becoming not just a volunteer, but the executive director. I spent countless hours with young women, coaching, cultivating, talking, mentoring. But what I didn’t realize is that each one of those young women that I had the opportunity to work with impacted my life. I learned so much insight, creativity, purpose, understanding. They, day in and day out, invested and poured into me just as I was pouring into them. And I literally had no idea how much of an impact I was having until I realized that they were the ones impacting me. I’ll never forget a year after working with a particular young woman, she sent me a message and said, “I just want you to know that because of you, I earned a full scholarship to college.” And I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy for her and I appreciated the sentiment. But what she gave to me, I felt was far more important. The human connection, the grace and the poise and the positivity, that is what made the huge difference in my life even as an unlikely mentor.
“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” Again, I’m a huge quote person. This particular quote is from Oprah, but I don’t find a day that I don’t go by that I find some slogan or some saying or some quote that I just absolutely love. And because of Jimmy and yes, I admit it, but don’t tell him, I’ve started journaling all these things and writing them down. It’s important to remember those positive uplifting messages to remind ourselves. Because let’s face it, we can’t all have great days all the time. And finally, let’s talk about indirect mentors, the one you were learning from and you didn’t even know it.
I work now in the profession of education and daily I watch teachers and administrators work with students, students that probably don’t realize that these people are indirectly impacting their lives on a level that they might not yet understand, but it’s important. Everyone has had a teacher that has made some type of impact on their life. For me personally, it came in 1995 as a freshman in high school. I’ve talked on this podcast a lot about how I grew up in the foster care system, and it really truly has made me who I am. Those struggles and those challenges brought me to where I am and who I am and taught me that it’s okay to struggle. But out of struggle, you find success.
So my indirect mentor also happened to be my foster mother, Nikki. She is an incredible woman. Never once did she falter. She literally… Honestly, I don’t know what she was thinking… She chose to take in a 15-year-old girl that just happened to be in her speech and drama class at school. Other than that, she didn’t have a clue who I was. All I knew, she was my teacher. But for some reason, some purpose, she decided that she and her husband, Bob, would become my parents. You talk about mentor. I learned everything. They became my parents and parents do all the mentoring that they’re supposed to. And sometimes you don’t appreciate it as a young person and you don’t realize the lessons that you’re learning. But they would take me by the hand and teach me everything that I needed to know about school, love, relationships, commitments, things that I probably otherwise would have never had the opportunity to learn.
One of my favorite quotes, I know I’m getting quotey, but it’s relevant, I promise, is by Jim Rohn: “My mentor said, let’s go do it, not you go do it.” How powerful when it says “let’s”. Doing things together and taking someone by the hand, even when they’re scared, is the true meaning of being a mentor. Whether it’s your parents, whether it’s an unlikely mentor, whether it’s your boss, there’s always something to gain and it can be positive and it can be negative. But through that, there’s always an opportunity to learn. Mentoring is probably one of the most profound things that we can do. It’s right up there with being kind. Mentoring doesn’t require much. It’s just an ear to listen, a brain to pick, someone to lean on and someone to run an idea by.
It’s important. Think about the people that have mentored you in your life. And you know in the spirit of Jimmy, he would say, write them a note, tell them, let them know how much they mean to you. I have a stack of note cards on my desk. And as daunting as that may seem and as hard and time consuming, it’s worth it. I encourage you to do something meaningful. I encourage you to do something impactful. It’s important. And as much as we joke and laugh about a positive mindset, sometimes it’s the only thing that’s going to get us through.
I want to challenge you this week. I know I’ve shared a little bit about just briefly touching and tipping the iceberg about what it means to be a mentor. But I want to challenge you. If you don’t think you’ve ever done it, look for a way to mentor. I’m sure you have. If you take five minutes to think about it, there was probably a time in your life when you were a mentor. Find a reason to mentor again. If you haven’t done it in a while, think about the people that you unlikely became a mentor to, reach out to those people, reconnect. They say there are three basic rules to mentoring. One, mentoring is not all about you. It’s a mutual relationship. Two, be active and ask for feedback or offer support to your mentee. See, there’s that word again. And three, be grateful that someone is willing to take the time. Isn’t it funny, time? We talk about how time is valuable and precious. But what time we do have, you need to use it to be impactful. Do something great this week, challenge yourself, be a mentor to someone, just be a listening ear. It doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment, but some of the best short term ideas of being a mentor can lead to the most lasting relationships.
So go out there and have a great week, and maybe Jimmy will let me come back and host another episode. A few minutes with Lori. Who knows, it could turn out to be something maybe a little longer. Have a great Monday!