Lean on Me
In early April 2020, legendary singer and songwriter Bill Withers died at age 81. When I learned the news, I had to listen to some of his songs in tribute to his amazing work and career. Some of his hits include “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day,” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.” As soon as “Lean on Me” started playing through my phone, I had to just stop and listen. It seemed like an eerily perfect moment in our world today to hear this song.
Some of his beautiful lyrics include:
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on
You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on
The sentiment in this song is the epitome of life, of mentoring, of supporting one another, and of being a good coworker, a good neighbor, and a good human being. I hope it’s the way we all live our lives each day under normal circumstances, but I especially hope that we are all doing our best to live these values during the coronavirus pandemic happening right now.
Part of the Whole
As I wrote in my blog Are Your Ready for Mentoring?, having the right attitude about mentoring can help you be an effective mentoring partner.
As mentors, we should:
- look for ways to support our colleagues
- share what we know
- volunteer to help others grow in their careers
- listen with empathy
- share stories when needed
- give advice with humility
- do our best to be good citizens in our organization and in our community
As mentees, we should:
- find ways to admit we need help
- humbly ask for advice
- be willing to listen to hard truths
- explore ways to learn from those around us
- be willing to give back to others around us once we have learned something valuable
The idea of give and take is inherent in mentoring relationships. What I don’t know today, I can hopefully learn from someone who has already walked the path before me. And once I find that knowledge, I can then share it with those around me who also are searching for insights and ideas.
The lyrics in “Lean on Me” capture this so beautifully. As expressed in the song, the sentiment is: Lean on me right now when you need to, when I can be of help and service, when I have something that I can offer you that is important to you and what you are experiencing. And when the time comes, return the favor if possible; allow me to lean on you and find strength and wisdom in what you can share with me.
This type of giving and receiving happens very frequently in my world with other parents who have children with special needs. It is a tightknit community where we share as much information with one another as we can so that all of our children can find the services and support that they need to thrive. There are always those few parents who are plugged in, who are the hyper-connected folks who know about special programs or additional options that our kids could take advantage of well before the majority of us do. And then there are those of us in the middle (where I would rank myself) who can help facilitate that awesome knowledge from the uber-connectors with those we know who may not be as well-informed.
I’ve also seen this in action within our client organizations as mentoring becomes a deeply ingrained part of their organizational cultures. I’ve seen mentoring advocates learn from one another as they launch their own focused mentoring programs within one organization. They share ideas on who to engage as executive sponsors, when to launch and market the program to employees, what messages work best for their culture, and so much more.
Having a servant mindset and a giving attitude can make all the difference when it comes to embarking on the mentoring journey as a mentee or mentor, or when embracing the idea of a mentoring culture as an organizational leader. Push to create mentoring relationships and programs that call to people, that outsiders want to be a part of. Show how much we can all get when we all give. That’s an attitude you can be proud of.