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How Participating Creates Networks. 5 Tips On Being A Good Mentor.

40 Years between Cath & I has been the best gift of all.

Six years ago I was blessed to meet a special friend. We met as participants of a regional leadership program in Victoria, Australia. Better still, one day we were matched as mentors for each other by our facilitator Jill (a big thanks to Jill). The day this happened my friend Cath and I shared a giggle. One of the youngest participants at 24 years (me) was being matched with the oldest participant at 64 years. Little did we know that having 40 years between us, would be the biggest gift of all.

Throughout the remainder of this 10 month leadership program, we challenged each other with instructed tasks i.e. to push each other to try new things, asked for advice in our professional careers and setting some short terms goals. During this program each individual was challenged to deliver a presentation about themselves. On the day that Cath presented, I remember being blown away. This tall, attractive and strong lady had recently separated from her husband and was ready to start a new stage in her life on her own. She spoke so proudly of her family, and particularly her granddaughter who is profoundly deaf. Cath who is hearing impaired could relate to her granddaughter. Together with her daughter, Cath did everything in her power to not only help her granddaughter Cate, but to communicate to her world what it was like to have a hearing impairment. Cath took all the participants through her journey by demonstrating Auslan and giving us the gift of empathy.

Our graduation day was a proud conclusion to  this program. Twenty four participants came together to celebrate and acknowledge their camaraderie of sharing 10 months together. During this 10 months, we had completed; a 3 day trip to Melbourne, 3 intensive overnight retreats, attended 24 program days, heard presentations from 72 speakers and examined 30 skills required of a leader. As a group we had met at over 30 different locations across an area of  some  54,000km. We all still had our full time jobs and personal life to maintain and uphold. On the day of our graduation we were joined by 200 of our employers, colleagues, family and friends. My proudest moment of the night was when Cath joined our elected Graduate speaker on stage to compliment the audio words with Auslan. I knew underneath Cath was trembling with fear but the audience was none the wiser.

Seven years on since completing the leadership program, Cath and I have remained close friends and mentors for each other. People often question and liken our relationship to a mother daughter scenario. However, I already have a mother and she already has daughters of which each of us have incredible relationships with. Cath and my relationship is very different. We talk about our career, love, relationships, our retreat time, what scares us, what excites us and we constantly challenge each other to step into the unknown. It’s not until we receive comments sometimes, that we make time to step back and review the purpose of our relationship.

In 2011 Cath and I traveled through Canada together. Again, most people we met thought we were a mother and daughter (or if there was a sales pitch coming sometimes sisters). Cath challenged me by having days of organised travel, set break times, set destinations and set driving rosters (not to mention where to spot bears). I challenged her by having spontaneous days, unknown destinations, impromptu breaks and allowing the people we meet along the way to influence if we head north or south including taking her  by surprise  with white water  rafting.

To this day Cath mentors me by pulling me into line, providing wise advice from her life experience, telling me when I am being ridiculous and overcomplicating things as well as highlighting that what I think or how I view things now will evolve over my life. Cath has been instrumental in challenging me to practise the tasks I am weak in and letting go of my fears. I mentor Cath on the world of technology, quicker ways of doing things, different food ideas, giving the younger perspective on relationships and topics and letting go of always being structured and living for the now.

So when people show interest in Cath and my relationship it allows us to step back and review what Cath and I get from our relationship and what others could get from a similar mentorship with a big age gap.

1. Be sure to thank those who created your learning opportunities!

If it wasn’t for the leadership program and particularly our facilitator Jill Briggs, Cath and I believe we would not be friends now.

2. Who says that friendships have to be with a similar age group?

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of friends in my age group whose company I enjoy. However, my friendship with Cath gives me a whole new perspective on life.

3. Who says that surrounding yourself with like minded perspectives is a good thing?

Again, I have many friends and associates who I share common interests with. How without exposing ourselves to different perspectives, do we learn to be empathic.

4. There is a not only a place for traditionalists and baby boomers to mentor geny but also for geny to mentor the traditionalists and baby boomers!

Often there is an assumption that the older generation are to always be the mentors and the younger generation the mentees. But the reasons why Cath and my mentorship works is because it’s a win/win where we are both learning. Our relationship is about listening and having respect for each others differences. Neither considers ourselves to be right just different and we are open to that. We think this is what so often alienates traditionalists from Gen Y. Traditionalists will often believe they are right and therefore will be listeners too often.

5. Embrace lifelong learning opportunities but step back and review what the purpose is!

Have you ever found that you have a relationship which is one sided where one person gives, gives, gives and the other takes, takes, takes. Healthy relationships need to have a purpose for both parties. So maybe it’s time to reflect and let go of the ones where you only give.

About the author

Lisa Mangelsdorf

I confess that I work to live rather than live to work. But when I can combine my passions into my work, I work best. This blog brings together discussions about one of my passions which is connecting people. I endeavour to fight the norm by chasing flexible working options and change seekers, hence my involvement with this blog. I'm fortunate to be connected with a global team at GAIA Insights. Retaining Gen Y within the workforce is an issue for most businesses across the globe. For help contact us because we know EXACTLY what they want from the workplace and we can help your business retain that key talent.


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