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Mentoring – A Two-Way Street

“Having mentored for years, Laura has studied Catherine Kram, David Clutterbuck and Norman Cohen’s works on the very subject. She has been trained by The Princes Trust, and delivers workshops on the subject too. She has mentored sixth-formers, CEOs and the hard to reach unemployed. None of which makes her perfect; every single relationship is different. With her speech entitled A Two-Way Street, please welcome Laura McHarrie”

A twoway street is a metaphor for a situation in which both sides must put forth an equal amount of effort to achieve a desired result.

District Director, Madam President, fellow Toastmasters, I get as much out of mentoring, supporting and helping others as I hope they get from me.  It’s a real pleasure to share what I know, not only does it make me feel useful but it helps my recall and reinforces my memory. God knows, I so need help with that!

I’d like to share with you what I believe to be three important aspects that make mentoring a two-way street. They are: Respect, Attention, and Trust. 

I mentioned in my last speech that I was keen to get going on the Pathways mentor programme.  Rosie Barfoot volunteered to be my first guinea pig (ops I mean mentee).  When I mentioned I’d like a volunteer, she retorted.  Great!  Let me tap into your Pathways experience!  Well, I did ask!

Right from the start, I loved the structure of the Pathways mentoring programme.  For years, Toastmasters have been crying out for a mentoring framework.  I’m not saying it’s a perfect platform but it gives a simple structure to help support fellow Toastmasters to reach the goals they want for themselves.  I respect that.

1.  The thing is – Respect is a two-way street—you have to give it if you expect to receive it.

Rosie is a more fluent a speaker than me and is remarkably creative in her storytelling.  We bring different skills to the table.  Whilst Rosie thinks creatively, and gets bored with my detail,  I love detail and find her imagination exhausting at times.

However, over the years, we have spent many a coffee manipulating who might make the best President, and others in the Leadership team as the self adopted nominations committee.  When we put our heads together we make a better action team than either of us does individually.  But we do have to pay attention to each other.

2.  The thing is – Attention is a Two Way Street. … Many people think that listening is simple, but it actually takes skill and practice in order to perfect it

Depending on Rosie’s frame of mind and her aptitude, sometimes I’d need to tell, sometimes to show, sometimes to watch and sometimes to just let go. It’s a fine line between each action that I can determine only if I pay attention.  When you know your stuff and time is tight, it is all too easy to ‘tell’ people what they need to know rather than let them discover it for themselves. 

Rosie, however, prefers action learning so we spent quite some time ‘sitting with Sally’ battling the nuances of ‘EasySpeak’ and ‘BaseCamp’.  A number of times there were things that I knew we covered that she’d forgotten.  Catching those dropped balls without recrimination is important. Just being there allowed her to trust I was watching her back and was there to support if she got lost.

3. The thing is – Trust is a two-way street

I’m not talking about confidentiality here – that is a given, what I am talking about is being open and honest.  The secret is vulnerability; being authentic, sharing real stories that relate and inspire.  

It is true that it takes time to build trust.  Rosie and I have had plenty of time to open up our windows and doors to honest and transparent communication.  But that doesn’t mean that Rosie felt comfortable confessing her ludditeness with technology. Me? I had to remember to step into Rosie’s shoes and share how I felt way back when..

Being a mentor is a humbling yet empowering experience. We all have something to learn, and – we all have something to give. Yet we tend to undervalue our experiences, the knowledge we possess and how it can help others.  We also underestimate the confidence it builds in our own ability to communicate and lead well.

So I leave you with a final thought – When you are about to cross that two-way street – do stop, look both ways and listen because there’s a lot of magic in mentoring to watch out for!

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Objectives:
Work with a protégé to complete a project.  Assist the protégé in setting goals and developing a plan for completing his or her project. Use the forms included in this project to set goals, plan, and give and receive feedback. After your mentorship, deliver a 5- to 7-minute speech at a club meeting about your first experience as a Toastmasters mentor and what you learned from it.

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