Recently, I stumbled upon this Forbes article on Mentoring – The gift that keeps on giving and these lines really resonated with me:
“Mentorship is not about age or title, it’s about action. It’s not about pushing wisdom down from the top down or bottom up, it’s about sharing wisdom all around. A moment of mentorship can lead to a lifetime of impact.
I have huge belief in the power of mentorship and how rewarding it can be – for the mentor and mentee alike. In my career, I have had some amazing mentors who have guided me, stood by me, given me wings and encouraged me to reach for the stars. I even spoke about one of first mentors – Steve Kaufman earlier, in this video. Steve, ex. CEO of the Arrow Group where I spent 12 years, and now a Harvard professor, let me spread my wings in the world of business by playing to my strengths, having 100% belief in me and teaching me about patience and the physiology of delay.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to mentor 42 students of the first batch of the P-TECH program in Singapore on a combination of Power Skills and Soft Skills I call ‘Self-actualisation’ Skills.
This August, the entire Asia Pacific leadership team and I spent 2 days mentoring young girls from the Government Higher Secondary Girl’s School, Amer, Jaipur, India – and this has been one of the most rewarding experiences for all of us. The immense talent, skills and potential these girls exhibited inspired us and we came away enriched with learnings
Today, at IBM I am very proud and excited to be mentoring 28 super-talented mentees – with myriad skills, ambitions, and perspectives. So much learning and exchange of ideas!
Recently, Emma, one of my mutual mentors gifted me a copy of Nikita Gill’s ‘Great Goddesses’. In this book, which I absolutely love, Gill, a British-Indian poet beautifully illustrates the retelling of the creators, warriors and survivors of Greek mythology. I had never read anything like this before and usually this is not a genre I would have explored myself.
She also introduced me to some fascinating pop culture art aimed at helping people find their purpose in today’s times – times that feel like a roller coaster ride of thrills mixed with fear of the unknown. For me, these illustrations have shown how meaning can reveal itself in cool and creative ways. They helped me better understand the challenges faced by today’s youth and have also shown me how stories can connect us to people of different ages and enlighten us with information we never thought we were interested to learn.
Images sourced from: raminnazer.com
I was keen to know from Emma how our mutual mentoring sessions had impacted her and here’s what she had to share:
“Our mutual mentorship has been wondrous. The advice she has shared with me is reflective of her character – defiant, bold and thought provoking. Through our discussions, Harriet has encouraged me to embrace being edgy, do things differently, not to accept a ‘no’ without reason, challenge the status quo, take risks and step out of my comfort zone if I want to make real change.”
From my own experiences, I believe mentoring is key to evolving in one’s personal and professional journey. At IBM too, we believe mentoring is a great way to reinforce our values of diversity and inclusion – to ensure everyone feels valued for their opinions and feel like they truly belong here. I am excited to share that we will be rebooting and diversifying our mentoring program in 2020 with the following 5 initiatives:
Icons sourced from: flaticon.com
As leaders it is important that we learn from those who are different from us in age, profession, interests and ways of thinking. Cross-generational and cross-dimensional learning is vital to our growth personally and professionally and is one the best examples I can think of being truly diverse and totally inclusive – it’s a great way to learn about the many similarities and differences between us and helps us acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate the uniqueness in each other.
Mutual mentoring has also helped me to stay sharp and relevant. It has allowed me access to new, fresh thoughts and ideas – unexpected inputs from totally different perspectives – perspectives I wouldn’t have thought of or connected with otherwise. These have helped me make better business decisions, listen more intently to my teams and act with greater agility.
A couple of other values I admire from my various mutual mentoring sessions are how much everyone values and admires honesty, responsiveness and being genuinely interested as well as interesting – being authentic to oneself and others without trying too hard
Mentoring is an act that is not time or age bound and can be limitless – there is no saying how long one can mentor or be mentored – it can be a lifelong association and learning experience and can be truly rewarding if based on mutual respect, understanding and supported by an insatiable appetite to learn.
I believe the true essence of mentoring is the ability to give back by sharing our knowledge, learnings and experiences with anyone who needs it – pay forward to our mentees what we gain from our mentors.
To be a good, trusted and wise mentor is not a simple task – it’s a challenge that requires us to push ourselves every day to be relevant and authentic, to develop a genuine interest in seeing others grow and dedication and commitment to see it through to the end. It requires us to develop a balanced mix of direction, training, support and motivation,
In the new year, I encourage all of you to take up this challenge by stepping out of your comfort zone and finding a mutual mentor. Take a leaf out of their book and make real change together, pay it forward!