What is mentorship really about? Victoria Black weighs in . . . .

Wise leaders over the years have said that we all need mentors throughout all of the seasons of our lives. As we prepare for a new program year, who is your mentor and whom will you mentor, as you face the joys and challenges ahead?

In the past, these “dog days” of summer have often been filled with nostalgia, as colleagues, friends and I have regretted the shortening of daylight hours and the cooler weather that usher in autumn.

But this year, thanks to my deferring my holidays until August, and especially thanks to participating in a detailed mentorly conversation with Monica Kreuger, Elaine Mantyka and Donna Sealy, I am anticipating another year with enthusiasm and opportunity.  Do you have such folk to facilitate your entrepreneurial journey?

. . . Which brings me to today’s blog topic—Mentorship: When were you last in a mentoring relationship? Did the relationship benefit both you and your mentor/protege? Did you understand your role as a mentor/protégé and his/hers, as well?

In a recent TEDTalk, University of Texas academic Victoria Black spoke of finding a huge imbalance between the number of publications that consider the role of the mentor and the number that consider the role of the protégé. Articles and books were four times more likely to discuss the mentor’s role, than the protégé’s, even if the stated purpose of those publications was to serve the needs of the protégé.

Black suggested that both parties need to be very conscious and purposeful in the ways they relate, meet and work with each other. She recommended—and the best time to start is early on—that protégés consider three components of their relationships:

(1) Commitment—Is the protégé (reasonably) prompt in responses, mentally attuned and proactive in how s/he engages with his/her mentor? And does the mentor do likewise?

(2) Reciprocity—As part of understanding that mentorship works in two directions, does the protégé add to his/her mentor’s knowledge and strengths?

(3) Vulnerability— Protégés often struggle to change their actions and attitudes, but if they aim to be open in their approach by sharing vulnerabilities, they can alter the course of their lives as well as their mentors’!

Since 2014, I have worked with a genius mentor, Monica Kreuger (Chief Visionary Officer of the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship), through the Raj Manek Mentorship Program. In our monthly meetings on strategy, I have experienced firsthand how committed, open to sharing and to vulnerability that Monica is. I strive to be the same, even if my entrepreneurial resources (as a business writer) are in an earlier stage of development. We share an important, ongoing conversation, without an explicit beginning or ending. There’s no issue or question too small or too large to bring to the conversation. Such support is a God-send.

One of the benefits (and blessings) of working with Monica is that she never views the differences between mentor and protégé negatively and encourages all protégés to reach higher and act more boldly than feels comfortable—especially when it’s easier to “hide” due to our fears.

This is the journey of mentorship; it is indispensable to many kinds of growth, including the entrepreneurial kind.

And now it’s your turn: Do you agree with Black’s comments on the responsibilities of protégés in mentorship? What can you share about your experiences in either role (or both)? Please feel welcome to write in: I’d be delighted to extend this conversation!