Thanks for finding your way here. This post first appeared on July 27, 2007 at my former blog address and now includes other bloggers who covered the mentoring and coaching session along with BlogHer ’07’s description and my notes. Unfortunately, all comments vanished in the move. But, I’d still love to hear from you if you want to talk . . .
BlogHer ‘07’s Mentoring and Coaching Session Description
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.
BlogHer ’07 Mentoring and Coaching Session Notes by Barbara Rozgonyi
Colette: The International Coaching Federation says the coach is doing the work and guiding you through the process while being paid. Mentors tell you about their experiences and help you with yours and don’t get paid. In one survey, more people responded that they had informal mentors than formal mentors.
Elizabeth: Our school has a mentoring program for new teachers.
Question: Having a mentor would be so valuable. I don’t feel this sense of competition. Would love some advice on how to help people. When you branch out and want to talk to more successful writers, there’s a sense of competition and I’m afraid of getting that rejection. Both people have to be engaged in some sense of the relationship. How do you keep the direction going? If you have a relationship and you’re finding it’s not gelling how do you break up? How do you find or get a mentor?
Elizabeth: One of our students graduated and stayed in contact. She was interested in technology and was enrolled at a new school where freshman girls were certainly not supposed to ask for a certain kind of RCA table. She asked me: Is this the particular piece of hardware that I really want? She was in a situation where she was a path breaker and she needed support from me to get where she wanted to go.
Liz: It’s flattering to be asked when someone asks with sincerity. If you ask with genuine sincerity, it’s appealing and attractive.
Wendy: There are so many different ways to get mentoring and coaching to create mentoring opportunities with each other. Liz and I mentor each other and I have group mastermind calls once a week. Every week, 1 or 2 people ask questions. Bloggers could answer your questions in a post. It comes down to having the courage to ask and know what you’re asking for.
Colette: Do you think that in a co-mentoring experience you should each have different experiences?
Liz: [Responding to a writer’s comment that it’s hard to find mentors because of all the competition.]Being a writer, I understand what you’re saying, but writing bloggers are some of the most generous people I’ve ever met. Bloggers are incredibly generous people. Almost all of the people I mentor, some across the world, every one has started in my comment box. That’s the quickest way to find out if their blogging resonates with you.
Colette: Being an entrepreneur, I know some colleagues that have trusted friends in other places, like PR and technology. It’s getting a sense of who can provide the service you’re looking for. I call it the people who need to support me and the people who will challenge me. Once a friend asked me have you already sent that out? She found a typo I didn’t see.
Question: Do you have to bring something to the table?
Elizabeth: If you approach somebody with genuine openness, interest and respect, there’s some room there. The things I’m saying resonate with them. If I start throwing out terms like RSS, does this metaphor mean anything to you.
Liz: Everybody brings something to the table. Everybody does.
Colette: The fact that you’re thinking, you might run across a lead, you might find someone for that person that you never thought you would.
Question: I’m nervous about a mentor that I’m going to be reporting to.
Audience: I think an assigned mentor is bogus. It has a built-in officiality to it.Mentor relationships are based on common interest. What if Frank is a total jerk?
Elizabeth: This isn’t a real a mentorship.
Colette: You should feel like there’s an open door as you get a sense of the culture you’re going to learn more about what happens behind the scenes. Just because you have this formal relationship, doesn’t mean you can’t navigate through the company.
Wendy: There’s always going to be a line where you’ve gone too far. The more that you open you up and the more that you learn, the more you’ll get out of it – as well your mentor.
Question: Isn’t there a fine line about how much you should reveal about yourself? They might think this person isn’t ready for a career.
Elizabeth: It comes down to the culture.
Liz: That question is the same outside of an organization, too. Whether you’re a mentor or a mentee, no matter what your role is, if you’re talking about business or you’re alike, you’re going to worry about what they think. Talk about the RSS stuff with the RSS expert. Find the experts. Because they’re already secure. They’re not going to have issues.
Colette: If you’re tapping in at the expertise level, you can almost bond on that concept of unfamiliarity.
Question: Don’t you think that traditionally it’s been assumed that men will mentor each other? Women had to work a little harder to find a mentor and I wonder if that’s some of the appeal for women. [mentoring/coaching]
Audience: Women, especially young women at home, often seek a woman who understands they have to straddle a second job at home. It’s just much harder to find women mentors. It’s much harder to find a female in the sciences.
Male questioner: We individually need to seek out mentors in many places. They should be people who will guide you in the first year of work. Career advice should come from somebody else. Find a woman friend that does that. We need to rely on our friends and colleagues to guide us.
Wendy: A really great place to get career advice is from a recruiter in your niche. They have a vested interest in giving you unbiased advice.
Elizabeth: Try to think of mentoring as teaching someone how to ride a bicycle. At some point, they’ll fall down and want to get back on. You need to give people room to make their own decisions.
Colette: You do want to know what works for you. There are different things, as the mentee you need to be clear about what you want to get from the relationship.
Liz: Authenticity and honesty is really, really important. A relationship is like a marriage – you have more people than just significant others. You also have your days that you don’t get along with your significant other. Whatever you do, don’t make it about you. After a venting call from a mentee, I didn’t feel very good. You know sometimes that your significant other is upset. But it’s not about you. It’s about keeping your perspective
Question: At what point do you consider a career coach?
Colette: The difference from a mentor to a career coach is you have to be committed to making changes. You can be very specific on what you want to work on, like feedback on preparing for an interview.
Audience: After I took on a life coach, I chose to leave my job. A friend of mine matched me up with this person. It actually was very useful to me and helped me to identify some patterns of behaviors. It helped me gel a few messages within myself. I had an amazing experience.
Audience: I had a not so pleasant coaching experience because the coach crossed into religion, marriage and went way beyond work issues. I left the company, but it was really a tightrope for a while until I left.
Colette: Goes back to setting the boundaries
Liz: When I work with people as a coach, it’s very different. I joke around and say I’m relentless as a coach. The mentoring thing is a head and heart thing. You don’t mix money and love. You keep the boundaries really firm with coaching. Mentoring is much more fluid.
Colette: In the coaching world, it’s not about me. It’s more questioning and answering.
Elizabeth: The relationship in mentoring is more reciprocal and giving people a little bit more.
Wendy: Do you want to answer me as a coach as a friend? As a coach, I’ll say you need to hold yourself accountable. As a friend, I’ll be supportive.
Elizabeth: It can be diplomacy, especially in a work situation where there are power lines.
Wendy: I once redirected a coaching disaster relationship. I went to him and said this didn’t work for me. I want you to hold me accountable. I need you to give me my assignments. I ask people right up front: how do you want me to hold you accountable? If it’s not working, you either tell them how to work with you or let them go.
Question: Knowing that I need a mentor, but not doing it because I don’t really connect with anyone per se.
Elizabeth: Do some homework and then some personal interaction. You can practice with a friend so it doesn’t seem quite so strange. It’s very empowering to know that people care.
Colette: I like the way we talked about the approach. It’s that thoughtfulness. We’re all people. We all want to know other people.
Elizabeth: In the culture I was raised in, people were not asked to speak up. We don’t always have practice in asking.
Liz: At one conference, I sat in a room with 1500 people. We never met the speaker, but we liked her and we called her up for dinner. Her plans had fallen through. She said when you speak, everyone assumes you have plans for dinner. I constantly get emails that when someone recognizes me as a person, that’s a remarkable event in my life. So don’t feel strange about contacting someone. It’s how you come up to them. Say I know who you are and I respect your work.
Wendy: If you have a hard time finding a mentor, leverage your friendships and relationships. On my blog, I’ll say if I don’t have five coaches interviewed by X date, I’ll give you $500. That way you don’t need to find a mentor.
Liz: It’s a whole lot easier if you’ve done your homework. Then you feel confident.
Elizabeth: You can have different mentors in different fields. Tell your friend I am going to do this this week and they’ll hold you accountable.
Wendy: It’s really important not to have a friend that’s an enabler.
Colette: You need a person that said you were going to do it.
Audience: Especially if you’re an old-school kind of person, my Christmas card list was the most amazing mentoring list. All of a sudden somebody who had worked with me became a very valuable contact. Look at your parent’s Christmas card list.
Elizabeth: The conversations with extended friends could turn into wonderful conversations.
Liz: Find one person and one thing that you can be mentored on that’s good at the one thing.
Colette: Go to that event with that one person and now it might be live – you’ll have to be accountable.
Audience: I brought a person who’s new to blogging, she understands who she can help and who can help who her.Audience: I discovered things about people I already know that I didn’t know. There’s interesting things that people put on social media sites. I learn things about people that I just didn’t know. Facebook and LinkedIn are other spaces to find people to connect with. I read about how Facebook and Twitter will bring us closer to our friends – giving us that bridge. It’s another way to be able to do your homework.
Wendy: I want to reiterate how much of a powerful mentoring tool a blog can be. You can email a blogger and say you’ve done so much. I love your work. Could you put up a post about ______? Think of a new topic they haven’t covered.
Elizabeth: If there is something in the archives, they can bring it back by popular request.
Colette: I did an article about why I’m not a cookie cutter coach.How do you break-up?
Elizabeth: When you go on pause, then it can be gracefully dropped.Colette: In a professional relationship, you set terms, in mentoring it means relationship.
Liz: Seems like I’ve been mentoring people for a long time. What can happen is that there are some people who can put people in boxes. I have had a relationship started as a mentee then she started mentoring me. Eventually it reached a place where she would not see me as the person I was. The neediness in her personality made me see this wasn’t going to work. I think that’s how you know. If it’s making you feel negative.
Elizabeth: Consider yourself as a mentor and find ways of being there for that person and supporting them.
Other Bloggers who covered the session . . .