Betty-Ann's Both Sides Blog
April 17, 2012
Whenever I’m asked what defines mentorship, I always respond that it’s really about the protégé being open to growth. Practically anyone can serve as a mentor and there is a definite continuum of the types of mentorship available. Some types may serve your personal goals better at different times in your life.
At one end of the spectrum there are formalized, structured mentorship programs where you sign up for a program that has a pre-determined set of expectations. The program I sponsor at the University Of Saskatchewan Edwards School Of Business is a good example. Protégés sign up, are assigned a Womentor (woman mentor), then the protégés set up the meetings and come with an agenda. The mentor simply shares their wisdom, life and career experiences.
Each protégé and Womentor is expected to have a minimum of four one-hour meetings per year, although we’ve found it’s advantageous to meet once or more per quarter. We know from experience that Womentors are more willing to take on a protégé if they don’t feel that they are “adopting” someone for life, so our program has a built-in, one year limit. After the one-year Womentorship term, the protégé and Womentor establish a strong enough relationship so, although the program formally ends, they both end up in one another’s network.
Our program recognizes that women need support to reach their goals, so several networking and professional development sessions are included throughout the year. We focus on the three impacts of presence, belonging and resilience as outlined in the study by global consultant McKinsey and Company entitled “Centered Leadership: How Talented Women Thrive.”
At the other end of the spectrum is a type of mentorship that’s completely unstructured and informal and what I like to call the “drive-by mentor”. Imagine this to be someone that you meet on an airplane. You chat, connect, and, next thing you know, you’re sharing an issue and they offer advice. Suddenly everything becomes clear and you determine a course of action. It’s a “Catalytic Moment”. The flight lands, you disembark and never see one another again. Although brief, your flight partner has provided important mentorship. No one is ever called a mentor or a protégé, in spite of the fact that this is exactly what happened.
In the middle of these two is a type of mentoring that you can make as informal or structured as you choose. In these “middle mentorship” situations, a protégé could seek a mentor to offer encouragement or advice on a multitude of issues but there is no set time limit.
Regardless of which kind of Womentorship situation you find yourself in, whether formal and structured or informal and fleeting, remember that the best thing you can do is keep yourself open to learning, growing and walking away from it inspired.