Mentoring, not a question of chance

If you do not choose your destiny, chance will

“If you do not choose your destiny, chance will”. My last mentor started our first meeting with this sentence and it made me think about my life. After many reflections, I concluded that I am a lucky person since I had many people who helped me take the right decisions. Now I have a wonderful, fulfilling job in an amazing, vibrant city. Unfortunately not everybody has the same satisfaction in their job. But the good story is that everybody can have a mentor helping them to choose their destiny.

The story of mentoring has its roots in Greek literature. In Homer’s Odyssey, a friend of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, is responsible for the education of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. His name was Mentor. Later, Athena, Goddess of war and patroness of the arts and industry, helps Telemachus track down his missing father by assuming the form of Mentor and protects the youth from ambushes and other deadly hazards.

Thus the word mentor derives from the image of a loyal, wise, trusted advisor – a teacher, protector and guide who uses his/her experience to show a person how to overcome difficulties and avoid dangers.

Mentoring is nowadays used by many companies and it should be taken very seriously. This doesn’t mean that it cannot be fun. In any case it is highly fulfilling and rewarding.

In fact, mentoring is an eminently practical matter, vital to the development of individuals. Mentors can be teachers, relatives or friends. In my career, I had many mentors; most of them were unconscious of their role. And I was unaware too. Simply looking back I can now understand their role in my life. They helped me develop skills that I wouldn’t have gained without their advice and they put things in a perspective that I hadn’t considered before.

They were able to inspire me, make me think about myself, my situation and the best way to move forward in the future.

Although my mentors have many differences, they also shared certain characteristics. They all had a high level of trust, respect, empathy and experience. They were able to inspire me, make me think about myself, my situation and the best way to move forward in the future.

In the past few years, I had the chance to be a mentor myself. It is one of the most rewarding experiences because you have the chance to make a difference in someone’s life. The objective is not to create clones. A good mentor helps mentees to know themselves better and to use the right skills to achieve their desired goals.

I use a process based on five steps that my last mentor used. I found it very useful so I decided to adopt it with few tweaks.

The five steps are done in consecutive meetings with the mentee. Each meeting is separated from the others by a few weeks to give time for reflection. Before each step, I ask questions that we will discuss during the following meeting.

The topics of the five steps are:

  • Know yourself
  • Know your boss
  • Know your organization
  • Know the situation
  • The last session is open for anything, decided by the mentee

As expected, the focus is on the mentee and in each session the awareness of his/her potential growth. The objective is to ask questions to ensure the mentee has a better understanding of where he/she stands. Based on their personal experience, mentors can give advice, but do not drive the process.

It is highly rewarding to see mentees grow and flourish. I have the chance to follow some of them for few years and it is impressive to see the development in their lives and careers, to see how they chose their destiny and drive their life with better confidence.

There is no better reward than the sparkle I can see in the eyes of people when they feel motivated and find the direction to go.

Some people ask me why I do it and if it is difficult to dedicate time to mentees. My answer is always the same: I am fulfilled and rewarded when I can inspire and help the development of people. There is no better reward than the sparkle I can see in the eyes of people when they feel motivated and find the direction to go.

I have been given a lot from many people and mentoring is a nice way to give back some of the benefits I enjoyed in my life. Mentoring is a chance to help somebody take control of their life. It’s up to them to grasp it but a positive attitude can put them in the right mood to start the process. I believe in destiny but I also believe that you can help chance take you where you want to go.

 

Riccardo Chiarelli is a leader to improve safety in all nuclear stations around the world and in the health care industry. He believes in striving for excellence and is a visiting professor in several universities. His latest speech at the US National Academy of Medicine can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcKLXuy39A8

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