Mentoring Tips for Mentees and Mentors
I have been joyously listening to the Hamilton soundtrack lately (and sometimes at quite a loud volume, much to my husband’s dismay). I found myself thinking about some of the songs and lyrics with mentoring in mind, and I was amazed by the parallels I found between Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant award-winning musical and the practice of mentoring. Here are three sentiments I uncovered in Hamilton that apply to mentoring.
Talk Less, Smile More.
Oh, Aaron Burr, sir. This is not quite the advice Alexander Hamilton was expecting. However, part of this can be solid advice for mentors: Talk less. (I guess you can smile more if you want to.) The best mentors out there are excellent listeners. They also know how to ask questions, dig deeper to root out underlying problems, and just be a sounding board for mentees who need to bounce ideas off of a trusted advisor. On the other hand, bad mentors do more talking than listening, and somehow manage to turn every conversation and interaction into a way to focus on their needs, their brilliance, their ideas, etc. These are not the mentors you want to have. Run from them as quickly as you can.
I’m Not Throwing Away My Shot.
What a great attitude for a mentee (or mentor!) to have. Alexander Hamilton was “young, scrappy, and hungry,” and he was not going to pass up on the opportunities he clawed and worked so hard for. A mentee who has this type of attitude is one who is willing to work and who wants to take full advantage of the mentoring relationship. Mentees must be willing to have honest conversations with their mentors so that they can expose barriers that need to be breached and possibilities that they should grab onto with both hands. Mentors can also apply this idea to their role, embracing the positive part they can have in developing a mentee and guiding them as they grow. The mentoring relationship should be one that is valued, respected, and appreciated.
I’m Looking for a Mind at Work.
The Schuyler sisters had the right idea. They may have been talking about what they were looking for in a husband, but this can also apply to what you want to look for in a mentoring partner. No one wants to be saddled with a mentee or a mentor who is just going through the motions of participating in the relationship. This achieves nothing and can be demoralizing to the other party. The ideal mentoring partner is someone who is eager to connect, who wants to share what they know or learn what you can teach them. They want to use their brain, talents, and skills to advance the relationship, improve themselves, and support their partner. Anyone who doesn’t really want to be involved in mentoring should not be. But those who really want to put their minds and energy to work should definitely be a part of a mentoring relationship.
Mentoring is not perfect, for the simple fact that humans are not perfect. But if we try to imbue our relationships with value and purpose, then mentoring can be a positive and worthwhile endeavor that makes a difference in our lives and in the lives of those we touch.
Read Laura’s blog on being brave in mentoring.