These are the final notes for the Mentoring and Coaching session. Please let me know in the comments if there are any errors or miscredits. Thanks!
Mentoring and Coaching
Last year during the BlogHer Getting Deeply Geeky session the subject of mentors came up. So few of the techie women in the session had had women mentors and role models, and many felt a sense of loss about that. How do you find a mentor or coach? How do deliver effective mentoring to someone who needs it? And what’s in it for the mentor and the mentee? We're bringing some mentors together to talk about their experiences and provide practical advice about how to create your own mentoring experience. Join coaching and mentoring expert Colette Ellis and blogger/educator Elizabeth Perry, along with Liz Strauss and Wendy Piersall who will talk about co-mentoring one another.
Colette Ellis (C)
Elizabeth Perry (E)
Liz Strauss (L)
Wendy Piersall (W)
(C) Blogs at Discover your Competent Advantage - on work life issues
(W) Blogs at emomsathome.com - top home business blog on the internet. Blogs about home business, how to make money from blogging, drive traffic, working with kids, etc.
(L) Blogs at Successfulblog.com, on bringing the head and heart together in business and in life.
(E) Blogs at Woolgathering - sketch blog - also a teacher - as a teacher have a role in mentoring. Colette - you have done research on mentoring - professional mentors, how many people have them vs. people with DIY mode.
(C) Who has worked with a coach? Who has had or been a mentor? She did surveys on difference between coaching and mentoring. Formal coach definition consists of a professional relationship, person typically getting paid, some set of goals being worked towards. Mentoring - people really sharing best practices, keeping them from making the same mistakes. Asked audience about formal vs informal mentors - more people have informal mentors. Many companies have formal mentoring programs (peer mentors, senior mentors).
(E) School has mentoring program for new teachers - not a giant faceless pool but someone you can go to with a question.
What does Audience want?
How do you go about getting a mentor?
How do you go about getting a "good" mentor?
When website is so new - so many questions - what are the boundaries, how do you find someone, can you just ask someone blindly or randomly? Place like BlogHer - great for finding someone.
Writers - when you want to reach out to more successful writers - sense of competition - v. hesitant in approaching people you know who are more successful
Keeping both people engaged in maintaining the discussion and the relationship, especially in a less formal arrangement
How to make sure your mentor or coach "fits" and how do you end a relationship that isn't working.
(E) became a mentor to a student she worked with at the school, who graduated yet stayed in touch - young woman went to a patriarchal, catholic university, and was interested in technology and new media. She was used to the idea that she could figure out technology, but ran into barriers whereby men would treat her like she didn't know what she was talking about (typical attitude towards women, freshmen, etc.) She would contact E for her technical answers - she felt like she was a pathbreaker and needed a sense of support behind her to take these risks. E was receptive, and flattered, to being approached.
(L) always flattering to be asked if asked with sincerity and generosity. Not flattering if random, and out of the blue, someone just looking for a warm body. Do your homework - Ask out of a pure knowledge that the person you're asking knows what you want them to know.
(W) So many ways in the blogosphere to bounce ideas off each other. Mentors, friends who also blog but who do different things and have different expertises - her group has a call once a week and bounce ideas off each other. Need to have the courage to ask for help, and to know what you're asking for.
(C) Do you think in the co-mentoring experience - should people be in different fields or is it beneficial to have people in the same area of expertise?
(L) if asking writing blogs for help they are generally very generous! All people she mentors, range in age from 17-25, one has daily contact, every one of them started in the comment box. That's the quickest way to know if there's a fit - read their blog, you'll find out if their blogging resonates with you and what they have in common. They each have strengths in places; in areas where they meet they can brainstorm and have new perspective.
(C) ask the question because she thinks of the people in her trusted circle. Meets a lot of entrepreneurs - has a trusted circle of advisors. Has a colleague in PR, they are writing buddies, they work to keep each other accountable for what they say. For technology maybe it's someone else she calls. Sense of who can provide expertise you're looking for, create a trusted circle - people who will support you when you need support or who will call bullsh*t when required.
(E) in a formal teaching situation she learns as much from her students as they learn from her. A mutual relationship of respect is always beneficial. Everyone brings something to the table, the relationship is not only one way.
(C) the fact that you are concerned with being able to give back in the relationship and have a two way interaction tells that you would make a good candidate for mentoring - you never know what you might find for that person, you may be able to help and not know you could.
(A) formal mentor program at a place of employment - somewhat nervous about a senior level mentor at job; idea that you'd come to them with issues and fears, when they are also the person who is evaluating you, is uncomfortable.
(A) Personally believe - an assigned mentor is bogus, it's not really a volunteer program - has a built in artificiality - She personally had a mentoring relationship that grew organically, and continuned when the people left the organization. There may not be an interpersonal fit and the relationship may fail.
(C) This kind of mentoring relationship can be about the structure of the organization - as you learn about the culture you will learn more about how open the relationship truly can be. Can also navigate through the company and perhaps build an informal connection for a proper mentor.
(W) There will always be a time when you've gone too far (in what you've told someone), and you'll realize that point when you've passed it. There will always be more to learn. Open up as much as you see fit because both you and the mentor will get more out of it.
(A) is there a line where you open up too much about yourself? Should you open up about your fears and doubts, etc. especially when it's a reporting structure.
(E) that goes back to what C was saying - learn the organization and its culture and you will learn how far you should go.
(L) The relationship changes whether you're the mentor or the mentee (mented? Does that make an ex-mentor, de-mented? Ha!) no matter what your role is, if you're in a place of high trust with another human being, you will get to the point where you wonder about what the person thinks of you. Helps to keep it segmented. Talk about the RSS stuff with the RSS expert, and the authenticity stuff with the authenticity expert. Go to the people who have the answers.
(C) most of us can remember a time when we didn't know how to do something. If you're tapping in at the expertise level, you can almost bond on the concept of unfamiliarity.
(A) Traditionally, she believes it's been assumed that men will mentor each other.. is that why women seem to be trying to get "in on" the mentoring action? Could that be the appeal of coaching or mentoring for women?
(A) More difficult to find a female to mentor in certain professions.
(A) Highlights what wendy was saying - need to seek out mentors in real life and in many facets of life.
(W) One place to get great career advice - find an awesome recruiter that is in your niche. They are great for unbiased advice.
(C) What about sticky issues? What if a mentor gives unsolicited advice?
(E) Or if you give someone an opinion they don't like? She considers mentoring something like helping someone to learn to ride a bicycle.. eventually you have to let go and they have to make their own way. She figures you have to set limits on yourself in order to give your mentee room to grow on their own.
(C) You do want to establish between the two of you what will work for you. Same as with a coach.. you need to be clear on what it is you are looking for, and so should the mentor.
(L) Authenticity and honesty is very important. It is much like a marriage.. your spouse is not the only person in your life. Neither should your mentor be. You also need to respect the boundaries on to each other... need to maintain perspective on what's going on.
(A) at what point should you consider a career coach?
(C) The difference between a mentor and coach is that this isn't just advice. You're putting in place a program to make changes in your career and you should be committed to making changes.
(A) Chose their coach when they saw them speak at an event, and the coach offered a free session. Caution - many offer free sessions - keep in mind you need to find someone who is aligned with your goals. Need to find someone who is up higher than where you are. In this case, while she had a good experience, it was short.
(A) Company paid for the coaching service. Enabled him to make a transition within the company to a different job.
(A) Had a coaching experience that was not so pleasant. Very valuable in work element of coaching - but wanted to be involved in all areas of her life. She felt it crossed into personal life and personal issues. Did not want to jeopardize her position, ended up leaving her job.
(C) goes back to concept of what are the boundaries and what are the guidelines of the relationship.
(L) Knows that she herself is much more conversational and fluid as a mentor - she jokes she is relentless as a coach - there is still heart, but the mentoring thing is much more fluid, head and heart thing combined. "Don't mix money and love" - keep the boundaries very firm. As a coach - the coach may have an opinion about someone's situation, but it isn't about the coach's opinion; it's about the coached's life and decisions.
(W) There will be two different answers to a situation if you are answering as a mentor or a coach. A coach will lead you to find the answers yourself; a mentor will often give their own opinion. Very different answers.
(W) How to direct the relationship? Did have a coach that wasn't cutting it; she knew enough about coaching to say she knew what was working for her and what wasn't and to say "this is how i need you to coach". If that wasn't the right style, then let's part ways. She will now ask people straight up front - do you or do you not want me to hold you accountable?
(A) Feels she has a poor history of finding coaches and mentors. Her challenge is knowing that she needs a mentor but not doing it because she doesn't feel she's connecting with someone.
(E) Could potentially start small - do some homework by reading someone's blog; talking to them after a session and say you enjoyed the session, could you get in touch with them down the road. Work your way up to it - discover that you can walk up to the front of the room.
(C) understand that we are all people, and we all want to get to know other people. It's hard sometimes to leave the comfort zone, and a set of small steps is ideal.
(E) It's also how you're raised... girls have traditionally not had a lot of practice in asking, or being called on, to talk about things.
(L) Success story.... sat in a conference with someone who was about to speak to 1500 people. Called her at the last minute for dinner.. she was free. People assume she had plans. Next point.. people don't always realize you are a 'person'. People see you as a speaker .. intimidating.
(W) throw yourself down the gauntlet, and have someone else hold you accountable. I will do this small step or else I will have a friend hold me accountable.
(A) personal experience related to speakers. Saw someone who was very enthusiastic about coaching, didn't call him, ended up almost losing him as a contact... she makes a point to say you should believe the people who say "call me".
(C) remember that the people who are speaking are also audience members at various times. Remember the 3 great connections or 1 great connection.. you don't need 50 from one conference. The genuineness will come through.
(L) It's still a whole lot easier if you've done your homework and understand the special thing about that speaker.
(C) And people can tell when you're genuine.. you can tell when people are interested.
(E) And thats when you can use the idea of having different mentors in your life. She had a friend in an entirely different field, who she had help hold her accountable and she did the same for her.
(W) very important to not have a friend who's an enabler! Need someone to support and challenge.. you said you were gonna do it, so do it! Not someone who will let you off the hook.
(A) Especially if you are an old school type person... she discovered quite accidentally that her Christmas card list was the most amazing mentoring list. Look at old friends in a new light.
(E) the conversations between friends of friends can turn into amazing things.
(L) if you're feeling overwhelmed by a task, break it into chunks. If it's overwhelming to find a mentor, then think of one thing and one person who is good at that thing.
(A) Further to the idea of using Christmas card list... you can discover things about people that you didn't know about people you already know on things like facebook. From the interesting things that people put in there.. you can find out amazing things that just never came up in regular conversation.
(W) reiterate the power of a tool - just how powerful a coaching blog is. Has had people tell her they are amazed that she gives away her stuff for free on her blog. has had requests from people to say, can you blog about X topic?
(E) also gives you a chance to bring back old posts from the archives, if you've written something worthwhile that is now outdated.
(C) Is not a cookie cutter coach.. anything on her blog is for a mass audience, but the coaching program for each person is tailored individually.
(E) Breaking up.. love the notion of going on pause with a coach, both take a break to reevaluate. Then you get space, it can be gracefully dropped or it can be reestablished.
(C) for any professional relationship you have timescales. A little more murky in terms of mentors.. can be somewhat more mushy.
(L) has not had to let anyone go.. but people do put people in boxes. People change and grow.. the relationship also needs to change and grow. If one part of the equation refuses to see the other side as unchanging, or feels threatened, or tries to maintain the mentor/mented relationship beyond when it is appropriate. Eventually these relationships reach a place where they have to terminate - can even get to the point of unhealthy. If the relationship is making you feel negative - on either side - reevaluate it.
(E) encourages everyone to see yourself as a mentor. Find your own skills where perhaps a friend does not, and be in a place where you can provide assistance. It's a great way to learn about how to be with a mentor- by being a mentor. There are things that you know that nobody else knows, an entire culture has produced you and your unique vision of the world, and that is incredibly valuable!
Session closed.. thanks to the speakers and the audience!