I remember participating in a culture session when I was part of Shirlaws, the global coaching company. The facilitator issued us with lots of paper and ask us to create a number of face masks. Each mask was to represent the different personas that we presented to the world.
Everyone there seemed to have no difficulty in creating a number of masks to represent the different roles they played as employee, father, mother, son, husband, friend etc.
I remember looking at the paper, confused, because I felt that I’d never really adjusted to my various roles in the way that others seemed to regard as normal.
This was and still is one of the biggest revelations in my life. My mother used to say that I wear my heart on my sleeve and my wife still says she can read me like a book. During the mask exercise I realised that I might be quite unusual and some of my life’s experiences suddenly made more sense. The rows I had with my mum, the open relationship I have with my children and the way I’ve been able to change careers and even countries.
I’ve always been quite comfortable with vulnerability and my ‘what you see is what you get’ attitude to life has meant I’ve had great success but also times when it might have been better to adapt my behaviour to a given situation.
So what does this mean for Mentoring.
I believe mentees are searching for authenticity more than answers. They want to hear about their mentors’ journey, warts and all. Too many mentors forget that they need to bridge the gap between themselves and their mentees. They think that being a complete role model is the key.
For me it’s far more important to be authentic, to show your vulnerability and to encourage mentees to embrace these traits as key components in the game of life.
Tell your mentees to let their real selves shine through. Encourage them to be confident. Teach them that the whole world feels inadequate and not good enough at times. Even you!