In my passion for helping other women, it’s important to remind myself that I have limitations – if I try to mentor everyone, I’ll get overextended. Accordingly, I’ve had to find ways to do things differently in my quest to get more women in management though mentoring.
Over the last couple of years, my solution has been to run an informal “match-making” service for young women who have come to me looking for mentorship. We’ll generally get together for lunch, I’ll listen to their issues and aspirations, and I’ll then scout out another experienced woman to serve as their mentor. It’s probably not a surprise that demand for this free service has been increasing, making it imperative to once again look for a creative solution to avoid becoming overextended.
My answer came through a partnership I’ve formed with the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan. We have created an official “Womentorship” program, which will connect even more women with mentors. Participants can be graduates from any university discipline, and the program will include some educational components and networking events to support these leaders of tomorrow. In announcing the program, the Dean said that he believes that the program is the first of its kind among Canadian business schools.
The kickoff event was this past Thursday, May 14, and I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to be in a room with such a wide variety of proud, empowered women. All that “egg power” really increased the feminine energy in the world. Even the Dean got into it – he concluded his remarks by admitting that he just wanted to go home and hug his wife! It was great to found a program that allows me to “walk the walk” without stretching myself too thin. I’m practicing the Fourth Step, Self-Care, while at the same time caring for others as part of a new and unique mentorship program.
Mentors need to care for themselves to be a good example to their protégés. I remember learning such a lesson from one of my mentors who always, without fail, went home for dinner. No matter who was in his office or what they were discussing, he would start preparing to leave at 5:45. When he got up and put on his coat, it was our signal that the meeting was over. By going home for dinner each night he not only followed through on his personal commitments, but also provided a great example of someone who was able to balance work and family life. It demonstrated to me that it was possible to have success in both areas.
Mentors, like anyone who dedicates themselves to helping others, can run the risk of “burnout.” To avoid this, I’d recommend the following Self-Care guidelines:
1. Set boundaries at work, and thereby protect yourself and set a good example for your protégés. In fact, I’d say that good self-care is the bestway to take care of protégés.
2. Take time for friends and family – in so doing, you’ll model a value-system that encourages protégés to live a balanced life.
3. Be proud of the special attributes of your gender. “Womentors” should pass along feelings of pride to the next generation.
4. Look for creative solutions to your goals while taking care of yourself. This can be the best example of all – don’t always do things the way they’ve always been done!