“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” – Steven Spielberg
I recently had the opportunity to mentor a young professional in the plastics industry, and allow me to share with you how rewarding it was! Organized within the PLASTICS Industry Association through FLiP (Future Leaders in Plastics), I was assigned a young leader who had been close to the plastics industry for many years. However, much of this experience came as a child growing up with a parent who owned a business servicing the plastics industry. While the plastics industry was always a part of her world, she was fairly new to the business engagement side as a young adult.
Always Start with Why…Why Would I Mentor?
Many leaders use the rhetorical statement, “I’m so busy”; which becomes even more amplified when you own a business because you are never in “off-mode”. Why in the world did I think I could find discretionary time for a stranger to share my best practices in the plastics business arena? It had everything to do with giving back, sharing knowledge and feeling good about the process of seeing the confidence of someone take shape.
Much like my own Vive teammates, I take pride in being a stepping stone in someone’s path to success. As a plastics industry professional for almost three decades, I have miles of field experience to share. Right from the beginning, I was willing to:
- Maintain the professional relationship even after the FLiP activity ended
- Build her professional network with introductions
- Share my experiences to broaden her perspectives
- Support her goals from the standpoint of accountability
- Offer advice from the mistakes I have made
- Be her advocate and cheerleader
Setting a Stage for Success
Like most things in life, when a strategy in place, the result is a more successful outcome. As we launched our mentor/mentee relationship, I asked a vital founding question; “What do you want to receive from this mentoring program?”
With a sense of purpose, we agreed to a plan of approach. All of our meetings were in a virtual format. While we both would have preferred that our meetings take place in person, this was not possible being a state apart and with our country in the middle of a pandemic. I can only imagine how much more valuable and more fun our time together would have been if we could have met in person. Therefore, we designated an hour once a month and used the following platform of questions:
- Personal/professional updates (whatever depth the mentee cared to divulge)
- Issue processing (mentee challenges were shared and steps towards a resolution were offered)
- Professional goal for the month (as a mentor, I was able to be her advocate for accountability)
- Get-to-know-you inquiry to keep our dialogue fun and light-hearted (usually a “would you rather” question)
Some of our meetings did not fill the entire hour, and sometimes they went over. The most important aspect was to allow for a casual, free-flowing conversation, allowing the time to be consumed as it was meant to be – the conversation was always about the mentee and her goals.
The objective was never about what I wanted to gain from the mentor relationship, and I never wanted to put her in a position where she became my sounding board. We kept the time designated for her professional growth. To continuously speak in meaningful ways for her, I would pause to check the pulse of the value being received from our sessions to determine if any pivots were necessary to make the engagement more effective.
How Did We Measure Success?
Looking back to the purpose for why we entered this activity together, we both found it easy to identify whether objectives were met. For me, being a mentor did not just feel like I was helping someone; it meant I received a life-long friend. Even though the program had concluded, we have established a trusted connection to where she is comfortable addressing any current challenge. With me, she knows she will get a thoughtful, objective response, which are healthy characteristics from our mentor/mentee relationship. Hopefully, I have mentored her to a positive level, that she will consider being a mentor herself one day!
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