The Unexpected Key To Unlock Mentoring

- You may change your mind about scheduling your next meeting.

Phil finished telling the story by nonchalantly stating “It happens.”  I was in disbelief to how matter-of-factly he said it.

It DOESN’T happen,” I argued.

Earlier that morning I received a text from Phil stating, “Well, I had a Plan B in case it was noisy in my office for filming, but not a Plan C in case….”  The text preview was cut off and my next patient had just arrived so I left the phone and planned to answer when I had a chance.

Phil was supposed to film that day so that I could then edit the footage for the course, Bulletproof Career Rebellion, that we are working on.  From the sound of the preview, there was some sort of complication with filming. When lunch came, I opened up the text and immediately knew there was no Plan C for this:

While getting a standard oil change, his car was backed through the waiting room that he was sitting in.  

An hour passed between when he first sent the text and when I read it.  So, I sent a few options for Plan C to still meet the filming deadline. All I got back was, “Nah… filming now.”  And the next thing I knew, there was over an hour of filming waiting to be edited.

It was that same night during book club that he told the story of how his car was backed through the dealership waiting room.  Calmly, he concluded “It happens.” I still don’t understand how unphased he was -- I’ve been more upset forgetting my lunch at home than he was after the experience with his car.

It was as he finished the story that I was reminded how mentoring is one of the greatest things we can do for our careers.  The perspective and advice a mentor can give is unparalleled. Yet, a good relationship with a mentor takes time and effort to build.  However, there is one nontraditional, but highly effective and efficient way to greatly improve the mentor/mentee relationship.

Phil has always been a supporter of working on projects with your mentor.  And while I always agreed in theory, now I’m a believer in its process.

There are the obvious benefits to working on a project with your mentor.  You spend more time together and talk more often. The increase in communication improves comfort level and allows you to get to know each other better.  You develop trust as you work through the project. You get so much more out of the relationship than sitting across from each other during a mentor meeting.

But, there are two things that stick out as unforeseen benefits.  

  1.  I got the whole story

While I laughed along with everyone as he finished telling the story, I had a much different perspective than they did.  To them it was funny, to me it was incredibly impressive.

I was more impressed with what happened after the car went through the dealership.  I knew what else he accomplished after. And, I recognized that it would have been completely understandable if the filming deadline hadn’t been met or book club had been skipped. Yet, neither of these things happened.

While everyone laughed, I was inspired.  The next time I am stressed or experience circumstances out of my control, I will be reminded of this.  It is one thing for your mentor to tell you about that time his car was driven through the dealership waiting room and he still met every deadline with quality work.  It is another thing to experience it firsthand and be shocked to see that everything was accomplished despite the circumstances. 

      2.  I learn more indirectly than directly.

Sure, working on a project has the benefit of learning about the project itself.  But, what I’ve been more surprised by is what I’ve learned outside of project. I’ve gotten professional lessons of what it takes to succeed at a high level, new knowledge in unrelated areas, and I’ve been pushed outside my comfort zone while having support. (I’ve also learned that there is no such thing as a routine oil change).

Learning from a mentor while sitting in a meeting versus while working on a project is the equivalent of learning manipulation by reading a book versus practicing the skill.  They are both valuable, but one yields much better results.

If you seek a more meaningful mentoring experience, reach out to your mentor and see if there is anything you can help with.  Regardless of the work, take it. Busy work still yields a stronger relationship. And, trivial tasks develop into more serious projects.  What will you do?


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