My personal mission statement is: “To inspire people to believe in themselves and become everything they are capable of becoming.” As such, over the last few years I have graciously taken on the developmental responsibility for a handful of our new, early career associates and always thought of the relationships more from a mentor – mentee point of view than anything else. Little did I know, the inspiration and development would be reciprocal where more often than not I was getting more than I was giving.
I was first introduced to the idea that mentoring was reciprocal in 2012 by Sullivan Cohen and Brian Kelleher-Calnan who at the time were Senior Mentors for Friends and Mentors (FAM) for Change. It occurred while we were giving a lecture on Values Based Leadership as part of George Mason University’s Social Innovation program. After the session Brian and Sullivan introduced themselves, spoke about their work and gave me a bracelet that read “In Mentoring, Two People Learn.” Their passion for their work was infectious however it was clear during our discussion that something else was occurring. That “something else” hit me right between the eyes during a business trip with one of our new associates last year. While we were travelling together I was in the middle of some pretty challenging personal leadership issues and decided to share them with her as a developmental opportunity, “for her.” The conversation turned to a series of very inquisitive questions that she was curious about given the high probability that everything I was wrestling with was something she had not experienced before. And while the learning for her was palpable, what I walked away with was even more so. Up until that conversation I had not been able to come to terms with the situation I was facing however during the course of answering her innocent questions, the path became quite clear.
My work with our next gen associates continues today and the time with them remains rich with opportunities and challenges. I am now a firm believer that “in mentoring, two people learn” and most recently while receiving some personal coaching on how to improve as a mentor, an idea was offered up to think about the associates I was working with from a different perspective. A perspective that no longer views them as mentees but “Developmental Angels.” Developmental Angels in a sense that in some instances, the very issues that I am working them through may be revealing something very important about my own development and growth.
As we look to the future many of us are facing the daunting challenge of closing some very significant leadership gaps in transitioning generations in our organizations. By 2025 75% of our workforce will be Millennial’s and we are all racing to prepare them for the world of work. We refer to them (the next gen workforce) as students, trainees, successors and at times mentees. This being said, maybe we can open ourselves up to the idea that they have come into our lives for a different reason than filling boxes in org charts. An idea that our new associates are actually here to teach us in keeping with the philosophies of FAM, a philosophy of Developmental Angels if you will. And I can only speak for myself when I tell you that I am surrounded by these Angels and for this I am forever grateful.