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Mentors: They are Not Who You Think They Are

Buzzword: Mentor

Definition: 1. an experienced and trusted adviser, 2. advise or train (someone, esp. a younger colleague), 3. an influential senior sponsor or supporter.

Most business experts and success-gurus will tell you that you cannot exist, successfully, in business or in life without a mentor. In its standard definition, “Mentor” and its counterparts mentoring and mentorship can take on many forms and be actively at play in many facets of our lives, professionally, personally, and passionately.

I am the owner a new start-up company ReallyOrganizedNow(RON).  It is a small business with, what I believe, a great potential to grow into a big business.  RON provides professional organizing services to its clients, primarily women and young families and small business owners. RON de-clutters and restores order in an otherwise disorganized home or office space. My clients often feel overwhelmed by their spaces and the effects it has on their minds, bodies and overall wellbeing. I absolutely love what I do.  I find them solutions to living stress-less.  I find myself having to wear many hats as an organizer, consultant, coach and mentor.  Mentor? How so?

In my life and in my career, one thing I have learned is that anyone can be a mentor and that everyone has been a mentored at some point but just haven’t realized. When I was a child my mother would often tell me to come into the kitchen to watch her cook or bake.  It was always a “watch and learn” session with the occasional “pass me that” or “get me this”.  During those sessions, I was happy to be part of the process but at the same time thought “when am I going to get to do that”.  Well, I soon grew into the age where I got my wish and had to do it for myself. I may not have thought that I had gained much by watching but as it turned out I had learned far more than imagined.  And now, I know that my mother was my first mentor whether she intended to be or not.  You see a mentor is someone who advises and trains and influences you in achieving your goals.  They assist with getting you from point A to point B with experience and know how.

When I look, back I realize that many of my teachers in grade school and high school were very much my mentors.  I learned from their experience and their specialized knowledge.  I remember in grade 3, I had a teacher who sort of took me under her wing, (well back in the day I guess I would have been considered a teacher’s pet). I completely loved her.  First off she was one of two Black teachers in my grade school, so I was so glad to be in her class.  Second she always made me feel like a valued contributor to the class.  She was no-nonsense, but fun.  She always engaged all the students, but very early on she must have seen something in me that encouraged her to build a relationship with me that was respectful and inclusive.  She encouraged me daily to do my best and strive for more. I was often the one called on in class to lead or execute a task and of course I was often given the honoured task of “cleaning the brushes”.  She was someone who I trusted. She taught me how to be confident.

Time moves on and you continue to grow and learn.  Then you become an adult, working, building a family and a career and you realize that this thing called life is way bigger than you originally thought.  It comes with some high-priced demands and a truckload of responsibility.  You are excited yet anxious because you don’t know if you are “doing it right” or if you are “working at your best”.  You find yourself having a lot of questions and soliciting answers from your family and girlfriends who have been down this road before.  When I was raising my kids (actually, I am still raising them) I was fortunate to have some incredible personal mentors who happen to be trusted friends from all walks of life. They offered my advice and guidance from their own experiences.  They offered suggestions and put me in contact with organizations and health practitioners. They offered tips of on “the best place to” buy diapers and food and household items that would aid me in building a happy healthy family.  In turn I did the same for them and other mothers I knew.  I have been on both sides of the coin. Mentor and mentee.

Have mentors in my personal life has been essential. You need people who you can bounce ideas off of.  People who can give you a “thumbs up”, that you are doing well and you are on the right track. Mentors are awesome people and have far more important role that they realized.

Mentors are important in your development. If you are lucky to have the right type of mentor you find yourself achieving goals better and faster all the while maintaining a focus with clarity and confidence. The role of a mentor has taken on a whole new profile and value today.  In the professional arena, mentors have become so well-respected that many business leaders attribute their success to having one and being one.  I’ve been fortunate in my career and working life.  Starting in retail, I built strong relationships with my co-workers and managers.  I remembered one of my co-workers, at the time, a woman who was a mothering figure to me.  She would give me pointers on serving the customer, coaching me on educational options and inspiring me with her smile.  I had female managers that walked tall, stood strong and lead confidently.  Many mentored me closely and many mentored me indirectly.  Their actions spoke louder than words.  I was a student of their awesomeness.

When I left the retail store level and moved into the corporate sector I saw the effects of mentoring.  How it leveraged your opportunities and how it was often, unfortunately, reserved for a chosen few and desired by many.  By now you know that many people of position have been coached into those positions.  In the workplace a mentor can be a person or persons, but it can also be the company itself.  A person as a mentor is much more obvious, but what many don’t realize is that the culture, policies and programs that a company offers, holds many of the attributes of a real live person.  The bulk of my corporate career has been in Payroll, HR and Benefits.  I had first hand access to exactly how a company can grow, nurture and support its employees.  The company I worked for was quite sound in achieving that. I entered Payroll as a clerk, then administrator and eventually supervisor and acting manager.  My growth was steady and quick. I was only able to achieve this because my direct reports saw my potential and the company’s culture supported it.

Human Resource had an essential role in developing a Career Succession Plan for every employee and encouraged cross-training within departments. When I became the Payroll Supervisor 4 years into working for the company, I was not considered “ready” for the role, but I put in my bid, made my proposal and gave all the reasons why I thought I should be given the position.  My direct report, the VP of HR, pitched to the CFO on my behalf and thankfully he said yes.  That was a great moment for me.  Once I took on the role, I was assured that there would be supports in place for me should I need them.  I was given the room to self-direct and manage and was offered “an open door” invitation by the executive team.  Now, one of the reasons why I was so confident that I actually could do the job was because of the mentoring I had received in the previous years from my manager.  He taught me a lot about staying calm in the swings of chaos, he taught me how to “stand firm” on the things that I believe in, how to stay on deadline, and how to deliver great customer service.  His tutorship, allowed me to develop my own strategies and style in service delivery.  He gave me room to succeed and room to fail, all the while being positive and encouraging.  When he moved on and I took over his role, I did my utmost to promote the same type of mentoring qualities to my staff.  And based on some of the feedback I’ve received from them, I’m pleased to say that I have made an impact.

Most recently, I met up with one such previous staff, now friend, for lunch and we caught up on family, work and life.  I expressed to her what a pleasure it was working with her and how proud I was of her current accomplishments and she expressed back “well, you were a great teacher. I learned everything from you”.  I was a little stunned. I knew we had a great working relationship and a clear admiration for each other, but I did not realize how much of an impact I had made.

Today, I am an entrepreneur, building an idea into a dream and a business.  These are exciting times and challenging times.  It comes with many rewards as well as sacrifices.  There is no pressing time, than this time that a mentor is desired and prized.  I may know a lot of things, but I certainly don’t know everything (I should really be admitting that).  Being is business for yourself is not as glamorous as it sounds. It’s even less glamorous if you doing it with limited financing, steady competition and a distracted marketplace.  Again, I have had opportunity to partner up with mentors that support and encourage my drive to build my dream into a reality.

I enrolled in a Self Employment Program to help get some basics on getting started, writing a business plan and enlisting a mentor.  The course proved to be an eye-opener and a test in perseverance.  I stuck with it and as a result I’m currently up for an Entrepreneur of the Year Award this year and partnered up with a mentor that offered her marketing expertise. We connected once a week for six weeks. During that time, she put me through some exercises that helped me identify who I am and what my branding was. She was brilliant and effective. She listened well and gave constructive feedback, “no holds barred”.  I liked her pace and tone and attitude. She was positive.

But, she was not the only mentoring force at play in my entrepreneurial quest.  Many of the other women that I was fortunate to connect with while in the program have been incredibly inspirational, motivational and pivotal in keeping me focused and driven to succeed. They help me.  I help them.  We coach and support each other.  They remind me that I’m not in it alone.  Being able to call on either one at any given time to sound off or brainstorm or gain perspective has been invaluable.  I am thankful to know them and have them in my circle.

Mentors are not who you think they are.  They are not always where you think they are.  You don’t always choose them, they often choose you. Mentors are a two-sided coin with the other side being a mentee.  You see, most mentors have also been mentored, so they know the impact that it can have a building a business, a career, or a life.  Mentors cross the lines of professional, personal and passion.  I like to think of them as bookends, they help prop you up; they meet you at a beginning and follow through to the end.  I’ve had and continue to have valuable interactions with mentors in my life.  There is no one definition or of a mentor. The key attribute, I believe is having someone who believes in the power of YES.

Rose Nixon, is Your “Anything” Organizer, Chief Professional Organizer and Principal Owner of ReallyOrganizedNow(RON), A Professional organizing company that brings Mindful Solutions for Stress-Less Living.  Rose knows that Life can be stressful enough without having the added burden of Disorganization.  Rose also knows that when you’re Organized you Smile more.  You are more pleasant to be around.  You enjoy people, places and things with greater ease, comfort and focus.  Rose helps active women and families find solutions and support to Stress-Less and Live More. She helps them BE ReallyOrganizedNow. Are you ReallyOrganizedNow?  Rose Nixon is an active volunteer in her community, offering support to several causes and organizations.  She is a business owner, aspiring blogger and author, and an ambassador of creative expression.

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