Happy Tuesday #Jontourage,
Welcome back to the “Classy Gent Chronicles”, where staying classy is the only way to be. On this week's edition, read how being a mentor has changed my life.
In honor of it being the holiday season, you often hear a lot of people talking about volunteering. I personally LOVE volunteering so I figured what better topic to write about than one of my favorite activities... mentoring. When we think of community service, we often think of physical labor activities like cutting grass, shoveling snow, planting trees and helping people move boxes. However, community service is much more extensive than just physical labor, you can also improve the community through what I call "intellectual labor".
Mentoring is a very interesting concept in the sense that your job is to guide someone else's steps in life while figuring out your own at the same time. Most mentor and mentee relationships start out informal. Usually, mentoring relationships are formed by being around someone that you trust and have a great deal of respect for. From there, you begin spending more time together, discussing life's challenges and hoping to get some great advice. Before you know it, you feel like you have someone who you can finally call a mentor and you all go on happily ever after.
If only it were that easy right? Wrong!!! Mentoring, when done correctly, is a lot of work on both parts. It requires commitment, respect, and trust. My experiences mentoring has actually reshaped some of the philosophies I wanted to implement as a future parent. Here are some good mentoring tips to ensure both parties have the best experience possible.
1. Officially declare that it is a mentor-mentee relationship. Most times where there is a breakdown in a relationship between two people, there is usually confusion regarding expectations. If your mentee sees you as a mentor and you do not see yourself as one, you are being held to a standard that you are not even working towards which is going to create friction and disappointment.
2. Remember it is their life at the end of the day. As a mentor, I have not agreed with many decisions that my mentees have made. Of course, I want the very best for anyone I choose to mentor but I also realize that I cannot live life for them. If something goes well in their life, it is not my benefit to reap. If something goes wrong in their life, it is not my consequence to bear. Your job as a mentor is to provide guidance, not live for them.
3. Make time. Most relationships of any kind die due to distance and lack of commitment. As a mentor, you are probably a busy person who has multiple commitments you are juggling. However, it is never a good idea to be a distant mentor. If someone is counting on you for support and you know that you cannot be there, communicate that. For one of my mentees, I see him a few times per week. However, for another mentee, I talk to him every single day in some way shape or form. I am always sure to communicate times when I know I will be busy. No one likes feelings ignored.
4. Hold your mentee accountable and hold yourself accountable. The best part of mentoring is definitely the social interaction (grabbing food, seeing a movie, playing video games,etc.) However, the major responsibility of a mentor is to acknowledge and confront the harmful things that you see happening. My mentees and I have easily had over 100 conversations on areas of concern and he knows that it's always out of love. Sometimes it’s met with understanding. Sometimes it’s met with eye-rolls but nonetheless, it’s always out of love that I speak up. Also as a mentor, I always do my best to lead by example. I also do regular check-ins with my mentees to ensure that this relationship is still helpful to them.
5. LISTEN... I will say it again...LISTEN!!! I had to put this in all caps because mentorship is customary to whoever you mentor. One thing to remember is that not all the time does a person need tangible advice, sometimes they just need someone to listen. There have been times where my mentee had a problem and talked for 30 minutes straight. He did not need my advice, he needed my listening ear. People just want to be heard. Too often, we are opinionated before we even know the full situation. How would you feel if you went to the doctor's office and you were prescribed medicine before you even told the doctor what was wrong?
Being a mentor has made me much more patient. When you are dealing with the youth, you have to understand you are going to have to repeat yourself multiple times. Mentoring has helped me become more of a future planner. I have mastered the art of planning ahead for my mentees. When they go out of town, I am constantly thinking of things they need to pack in case they forget. My mentees are smart but it never hurts to have a second brain helping you plan out stuff. Being a mentor has helped me be a better communicator. I am constantly speaking to my mentees about my successes and shortcomings as a way to help them learn from my achievements as well as my mistakes. Lastly, being a mentor has helped me improve as a person. I feel much more confident opening up about things because I know it will help them. I am more mindful of how I keep my car and how I drive because I want to make sure my mentees are responsible drivers. I even make sure I walk around with cash because I talk to my mentees about not just relying on a debit/credit card.
Overall mentoring has a lot of rewards...whether that's watching them walk across the stage, receiving an award or even just living a happier life, it is definitely worth it. I taught one mentee how to drive and get his driver’s license. I have helped one mentee lose weight as we work out together several times per week. As a mentor, I have gotten to see my mentees through some really tough times and some fun times. It was those fun and tough times that built such a strong bond.
Moral of the story: Shirley Chisholm said, "service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth". If you feel like you want to give back to someone else in a way that will be forever impactful, be a mentor. It will grow on you. Comment below with your ideal traits you would want in a mentor?
Remember, in order to live out your dreams, you have to think it, feel it, live it! Until next time, stay classy...
For more Classy Gent Chronicles blog post, be sure to visit https://www.authorjon.com/blog
Jonathan C. Harris is no stranger to leadership, hard work, or success. At the age of ten years old, he earned the right to be a guest weatherman for a day on Fox 5 DC News. He has already received over 100 honors and awards including Forty Under 40 for Prince George’s County, MD, TEDx Talk speaker, American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Outstanding Men’s Program, high school Valedictorian and the Kiwanis Club Citizenship Award. Raised in Fort Washington, Maryland, he has served in leadership positions his entire life, from being the manager of the school store in elementary school to the president of the Homelessness Awareness Club in middle school to the president of the National Honor Society in high school.