I started being a Mentor in October 2015, with the purpose of facilitating my mentee’s adaptation in Denmark. During our first session, we agreed that the goal would be to get a job in Copenhagen, and we set the milestones to get there. A couple of months ago he signed a two-year contract so, it terms of achieving the set goal, the collaboration was successful. However, in a mentoring process, evaluating the journey only in terms of reaching goals is, by far, falling short. And the journey can be as enriching for the mentor as it is for the mentee.
My key learning has been about ‘dancing in the moment’, about letting go of rigid plans and structures to trust the mentee’s inner resources and grasp what spontaneously emerges during the sessions to walk towards the agreed end.
There is a ruling principle in mentor-mentee relationships: the mentee has all the resources he needs to direct his life. The mentor’s role is to untap them. However, there is certain tendency to feel that ‘you know better’, at least in terms of processes and structure. I must admit this was my case. I had the conviction that my mentee had to adjust to a timeline I estimated was the right one. However, he did not fully agree and pushed deadlines further than I wished.
The main reason why he pushed deadlines was that he was feeling out of his comfort zone and, therefore, would show some resistance on some tasks. How could I bring back his inner confidence? I prepared my best set of ‘powerful questions’ about his past experiences, the roles that he had undertaken, his set of skills, his values and what mattered to him. None of these questions seemed to be provocative enough.
Here is how I learned about the importance of dancing in the moment and letting go of structures. We were casually chatting about how his suitcase got stolen when he arrived in Denmark. ‘That’s bad luck’, I said. ‘Bad luck?’ He replied. ‘I don’t know what that is! I am a lucky man!’ There it was. That was his deep conviction that, no matter the circumstances, he would reach his goal.
That conviction fueled him to keep searching for his chance. To keep networking and improving his English. To keep talking to as many people as he could about jobs he could do. Beyond deadlines. That was the motivation that needed to be untapped.
“One sometimes finds what one is not looking for”. Fleming, after discovering penicillin as a result of a different experiment
Written by Isabel García Taberné, volunteer mentor