The 7 Truths of Mentoring

Photo by Pacific Office Interiors on Unsplash

When we published The Encouragement Manifesto, we had in our minds a simple core idea about helping other folk write their stories. Not literally — though we have spare words for anyone who needs some copy — more in terms of inspiring people to bring their ideas to life. Encouraging folk, in a very practical sense. Giving generously.

In the second part of our #fiftyfivewords project, we have committed to offering 55 opportunities for people to grab a share of our encouragement.

Some folk want a few words written for them; something about their small business that they can’t say themselves. We have done a bit of that.

Some folk want to swap notes by e-mail about a specific challenge they face or idea they have had. They just need a little bit of encouragement to nudge themselves over the starting line. It has been lovely to do that too.

Then there is the writing block moment. That frustrating time when the words literally just will not flow. The ideas are there. But the words aren’t. We can help with that as well … sometimes, just reading our take on your idea is all you need to unlock the floodgates until you are awash with words.

When we put the call out we thought there would be a handful of folk who wanted some words, on paper … a pen picture, a guest blog post, maybe an article for a website they curate. Wow, there have been lots of those!

We also hoped to find some folk who might need a sounding board for their ideas; an ear to listen, someone to share their own experience. We hoped there would be some folk who needed a different perspective brought to long-standing conundrums … or a voice to reassure them than they can live their dream.

It turns out we already have half a dozen folk who need just that sort of thing.

With the Zoom and Google Meet calls on overdrive, we are calling these:

‘The Encouragement Sessions’

Having spent a good few days preparing and a good few hours delivering, this much we now know:

  1. The mentor should be focused on what they put into it, not what they take out.
  2. The mentee does the work; it is about their dreams, their ideas … and finding the encouragement, support and experience to call upon when it is needed.
  3. “… a mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself …” (Oprah Winfrey)
  4. The more you prepare, the more value a session delivers. The look of surprise and reassurance on the face of a mentee when you reel off the exact numbers of followers they have on each social media platform is worth it; knowing what day they send out their newsletter and what was in the last couple; remembering how far they have come since your last session, and reminding them of that … it is not about the information itself, it is all about the amount of time and attention you are investing in helping them shape their story.
  5. A mentoring relationship should be time-bounded. An ‘encouragement session’ can endure.
  6. As a mentor, when you are tempted to talk, listen more … and listen … and listen again.
  7. Did I mention, listen more than you talk?

Mentoring has — at its heart — some structure, some formality, a ‘contract’ between two people who have agreed what needs to come out of the relationship. It is for a moment in time; 6 months, a year. Whatever is agreed.

You can learn to be a mentor; train yourself for the role.

Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

But how about if what is needed is something looser. Informality. But trust-based. Unstructured. But timetabled. Not about objectives and targets, but all about the context within which they are tackled. A sounding board, not an echo chamber. Supportive challenge. But underlying positivity. Encouragement-based.

That’s what The Encouragement Sessions feel like.

Barrie Thomson is an inveterate scribbler of words, the narrator of the feastsandfables story. Incorrigibly positive, he is the architect of The Encouragement Manifesto and curator of interesting and inspiring content for the Feasts + Fables newsletter



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