Most of us would like to inject the wisdom of a mentor into our work lives. As we read the stories of successful individuals describing the impact of these “guiding forces”, we might find yourself feeling a bit left behind. Real mentors — those that can can shape our work lives — are few and far between. To coin an old adage, they “don’t grow on trees”.
On a related note, I happened upon this incredible post by Nancy Duarte, who instructs us how to the tell the stories that matter. She shares techniques, that have helped her clients build life stories that engage and motivate others. (The process involves active reflection.) Most of us are challenged to recall the events and conversations that are no longer in the forefront of our minds. Through her process, we might recall pivotal moments and possibly identify those in our lives that have served as mentors (yet we haven’t identified them as such).
She calls these bits and pieces, “latent stories”. I love this idea.
One of Duarte’s techniques involves placing your name in the center of a piece of paper and then mapping connection between people, places and things — ensuring the we also describe the dynamic of each relationship. As I began the process, names ended up on the paper that I hadn’t thought of in years. In fact, their positive impact had been buried under a number of negative experiences that hovered (and clouded) over more positive experiences. For example, my schematic revealed a middle school teacher who instilled a real sense of pride concerning my strengths in math and science. She encouraged me to make a lasting contribution to the world, although at 13 my wish was simply to be accepted and blend in.
Bingo. Pay dirt.
I hadn’t really labeled her as a mentor — but there she was. What were the lasting lessons she taught? To take pride in who I was, even if I seemed different. There were many others as well. Those that shared the candid “one-liners” along the way, that did shift my self-view, my behavior or my path ever so slightly.
You may not think that you have a strong mentoring backstory.
However, exploring the past may reveal the individuals who saw potential within you. (Isn’t that what a mentor does?)
They showed us— by taking the time to share.
That is certainly a story worth retelling.
Who are the unsung heroes of your work life?
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.