Monday, July 30, 2012

On Mentors

A comment from a friend started me thinking about the mentoring relationship.  She was talking about her mentor and how they had a falling out.  She said, "I guess that's normal.  Once you realize your mentor isn't perfect, you can't continue the relationship and you can't become friends - it just won't work."

Mentors are a special breed.  They share their knowledge, they do all they can to support your efforts, and they often become friends and colleagues. I was taken aback by her comment, because my experience has been just the opposite.  I have been fortunate to have had a number of mentors over the years. I deeply value those relationships - both for the wisdom and guidance during the mentoring period and for the life-long friendships that evolved.

The transition from mentor to friend isn't always easy.  I agree with my friend - the realization that a mentor is just a human being with quirks and frailties will change the relationship. But if both parties are open to the change and are willing to talk openly about any conflict or uneasiness that comes up, it can evolve into a rewarding friendship. I think the key word is evolve.  The relationship changes over time as you move beyond the teacher/student dynamic and recognize the other as an equal. 

In September, I'll be visiting a former boss and mentor from when I was in my early 20's.  She taught me a lot about the business world and encouraged me to stretch beyond my self-imposed limitations. Her faith in me helped me gain self confidence.  She has long since retired and I have remained good friends with her and her husband.

Who was your mentor and what did they bring to your life?


  1. My early mentors
    weren't labeled that but I just watched them live
    and work and absorbed their lessons without any conscious effort.

    Nancy Lees was an important influence on me
    in San Diego during the 1980s. Her paintings hang on
    my walls and remind me of her joy while working.

    1. Good point, Patty. Sometimes we don't have a formal mentoring relationship, yet we learn just by being in their presence.


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