Why mentoring is a two-way street

Wikipedia defines mentorship as:

…a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.

“Mentoring” is a process that always involves communication and is relationship based, but its precise definition is elusive. One definition of the many that have been proposed, is:

Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)”.

mentoring is a two-way streetSo what is it? Most of the mentoring I’ve given or received has been very informal, which I think, for me anyway, works best.

Mentors come into our lives for different reasons. I remember my first mentor. At this time, I knew I deserved a raise. He was a partner at a different events company who took me out for dinner and told me how to go about it. (I was 30 at the time and just back to work after my kids went to school.) He taught me how to go after what I wanted and believe in myself – that’s mentoring. I got that raise.

I have a great respect for many in the meetings industry, and I’ve learned from them. A younger member of our profession and I used to go to yoga classes together, and after, we’d talk about our work, as well, of course, personal things. We mentored each other. I know I learned a lot from her and I know she respected what I told her as a more senior member of our profession. That professional: Ellen Boddington, CMP CMM of Stellar Management & Conferences. It was a perfect of example of an informal mentoring processes – without labelling. We mentored each other in a most informal way.

There is nothing wrong with setting up formal mentoring programs in schools, corporations, associations. It is just more formal and is often one-way – from senior to junior. In today’s world, I know I learn all the time from those just entering the field. Right now I’m “officially” mentoring/coaching a young woman who is truly a rising star. She wants direction. We do it formally, meeting every month, and I give her homework. Reverse: She continues to explode my world with social media ideas, presentation ideas and this week, how to design word clouds.

Here’s a story about my last day of classes this year at Centennial:

I teach a course on communications and media as it relates to the meetings industry. This is the second year, and last year I threw out what was being taught – about press releases, follow-up, brochures, etc. It was outdated, so I added a lot of social media and modern elements. The final presentation was about designing a communications/media plan for a two-day Dog Lovers Association Conference and its 10-year anniversary. I didn’t see a single poster or press release. I saw full social media plans, great graphics, mobile apps, bus wraps (this was open to the public) along with specific ad placements. I was blown away by what these people know. (They are 25- to about 45-years-old.) I learned from them – that’s reverse mentoring!

Imagine, these 25 young people are now let loose in our profession. The communication ideas they bring will revolutionize how we promote conferences/events. And I can take this forward to any new endeavours I get involved in.

For a second presentation on venue comparisons and recommendations for a two-day Children’s Wish Foundation conference, this is where I mentored. With each presentation and the venues they chose, I was pretty much able to give them a history of the venue. That’s my mentoring to them.

Mentoring should always be a two-way street. If the mentor can’t learn, isn’t open to new things, how can they expect to mentor for the future generation of professionals?

About the author:

Sandy Biback, CMP CMM, has over 30 years’ experience in the meetings/conferences/events world. She is an active member in PCMA, SITE, CanSPEP and FEO. Along with her own company (www.imaginationmeetings.com) Sandy is a teacher at Toronto’s Centennial College where she teaches several courses in a post-graduate certificate program, Festivals, Events & Conference Management (FECM). Sandy believes in starting small when creating sustainable events and moving towards fully sustainable events and always leaving a legacy of helping behind. She can be reached at 416-694-7121 or [email protected]

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