As a WISE Within mentee in 2011, I gained new friends, invaluable reflection and a better understanding of how the industry works outside of my organization. The WISE women I met were smart, savvy, inspiring and kind. And, when the mentorship program ended, I joined WISE’s resources committee to stay involved.
To my surprise, the WISE Within committee called me earlier this year about a new opportunity. The committee had a dynamic applicant and thought I would be the right mentor for her. I was flattered, but apprehensive. Why me? Did I belong in such a prestigious group? What could I offer?
I spent some time thinking about the reasons WISE Within is successful: Why do these busy and powerful women (and men) make time for this program and continue relationships with their mentees long after it ends? Why do mentee cohorts regularly meet year after year and recommend the program to others? Why does WISE work so hard to refine and improve the program?
I think a lot of it has to do with the industry itself. Drive, talent and passion aside, no athlete becomes successful without being coached. So it makes sense, doesn’t it, that the back office — filled with athletes of its own in its active staff — would embrace it? But great players don’t always make great coaches. Before accepting this new role, I asked myself the following questions about the qualities that go hand in hand with being an effective coach, a good start for anyone considering being a mentor in his or her organization:
Are you a good listener?
Great listeners are rare. When someone who is truly listening tells you what she’s heard, the revelations can be startling or unsettling, but their exploration is key to a successful mentoring relationship. Personally, I’ve always been quicker to offer advice, but I work every day on being a better listener and a more incisive questioner.
Do you have an eye on the big picture?
Being good in your job is important, but coaches can help you see the whole field and understand the roles of others, their significance, the qualities that make one successful in those positions and the best ways to work together. Like most athletes, even our individual accomplishments are made possible by team effort.
Do you appreciate alternate perspectives?
There are countless ways to get things done, even if it’s not the way you’d approach a problem. Good mentors help mentees figure out the best way for them; they don’t impose their style.
Are you seeking personal growth?
Coaching is not just an opportunity to support others. It also serves as another path on your personal learning journey. In a successful mentorship, the coach should come away with as much value and reflection as the mentee.
The very best mentors give us the confidence to take on challenges and to strive to become the best person we can be. I happily said yes to the WISE Within committee, and as always, the group knew what it was doing. It’s a great match, and I’m learning just as much — if not more — this time around.