Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Lessons Learned – Mentorship without a Mentor

We asked others to write about the power of mentoring during National Mentoring Month.  This blog is  from Nick Jaworski, owner of Circle Social Inc, a digital marketing agency that helps recovery centers and other behavioral health organizations connect with patients and their communities to grow their census. He is also passionate about entrepreneurship and community leadership. Nick shares experiences that have helped him learn that mentoring is as much art as science. 

Most people have a mentor in life, a teacher, a coach, a parent, or a manager that they can point to and say, “this person showed me the way.”

I’ve never really had that. I’ve definitely been fortunate to know and work with some great people. But I never really had one person take me under their wing to show me the way. Maybe part of the reason is because I’m stubborn, like to move fast, and tend to seek out answers before they’re given J.

I often set my own goals and then figure out how to get there, but there are many times in my life where I would certainly have enjoyed some guidance. Maybe that’s why I love mentoring others.
My mentoring journey really started in college when I began working with at-risk youth at our local domestic abuse shelter in the children’s group. Since then, I’ve had many mentorship opportunities.
I facilitated the promotion of over 15 of my direct reports to leadership or management positions while working as a Director for Disney in China and most recently mentored 100 startups alongside billionaire investor Tim Draper at Startup Istanbul.

But it doesn’t really matter what I’ve done as much as what I’ve learned. Not really having models to go off of, I’ve certainly made a lot of mistakes along the way and it’s my mistakes I’d like to share, because every mistake is an opportunity to learn and do better. I hope that by sharing some of my mistakes, you can learn to avoid them yourself.

Giving Feedback Is Not Always the Right Choice
-          In college, I mentored at a brand new, project-based charter school. The charter school movement was just getting started and nobody was really sure how to run them. My job was to walk around and engage the high school students in their projects. I enjoyed helping these young adults learn.

One day, I walked up to one of the students and asked her if I could take a look at her progress. She refused. I told her I just wanted to see how things were coming along.

She responded, “Why? So you can tell me everything that’s wrong with it?”

I’ll never forget that response. I realized that the majority of the feedback I gave, and the majority of feedback teachers often give, is critical in nature. We seek to correct to improve, but constantly being corrected is not fun, as anyone who regularly receives critical feedback from their boss knows.

I took two lessons to heart that day. 1) Positive encouragement is a very important part of feedback and 2) not every interaction in a mentor/mentee relationship has to be about correcting perceived weaknesses.

Know Your Audience
-         I was working as the Director of a school in Istanbul where I had just hired on a new teacher who had a master’s degree. I was quite excited as it’s not easy to find masters degreed teachers in Turkey.

Upon watching her first class, my excitement ended. I sat through one of the most boring, jargon-filled lessons I’d seen up until that time.

After the lesson, I spoke with her about my observations both of students’ eyes glazing over as well as my own feeling of boredom during her lesson.

She broke down in tears and sobbed for a full 10 minutes. I was caught entirely off guard. Here was a thirty-something year old woman with a master’s degree, sobbing because of a little feedback.

She quit that day and never came back.

While, ultimately, our school was better off without her, I was stuck covering classes for 3 weeks until we found and trained a new teacher.

I learned that you really need to get to know a person before providing feedback to determine how much they can handle and what kind of feedback they can handle. Education level and age don’t necessarily translate to fortitude.

Also, while I didn’t learn this till much later, I eventually figured out that feedback is best provided by the individual coming to their own conclusions based on objective observations.

Rather than calling the lesson boring, I could have highlighted the students’ lack of interest and asked her to think about why. Then ask what she could do to increase their interest. This way, the critical feedback would come from within and I would not have been throwing a judgement on the observation.
      Keep It Professional
-         This is not a story about me, but something I’ve seen more than a few others do, especially in a managerial role. They become friends with their mentee and share information that should not be shared based on their job roles.

A manager takes an employee under their wing and works to develop them. This also translates into social engagements after work, maybe going to the bar or a café.

As the relationship moves more from mentor/mentee to friends, the manager starts to divulge some of their own challenges with other employees. Well, this inevitably gets out as the mentee often does not have the professional wherewithal to withhold that information.

The office turns into a place of politics, gossip, and perceived or real favoritism. It’s never a good situation.

There also may come a time where the mentee, for whatever reason, is not working out. Suddenly, they’ve become a problem employee. But taking corrective action becomes very hard, because a friendship has developed.

These are tough situations. We obviously want to work with people we can consider friends. But my opinion is that there must always be a level of professional distance.

Learn to Let Go
-         I’m a passionate person and truly believe in helping others. This can lead me to giving people too many chances or letting slides in performance go on too long before taking action.

There are numerous times in my career where I would see performance turn south with an individual. One such time, we had an employee I was trying to develop into a leadership role. He had been very enthusiastic starting out.

But he never quite exhibited the traits we needed to move him to the next level. He started to feel that it was taking too long for him to advance, so, unbeknownst to us, he started looking for a new position. He found one and was offered a significant increase in salary, but he was under a strict non-compete that we would not let him out of.

As he’d been working with us for quite some time, and had originally shown a lot of promise, I kept trying to work with him and get him to reset expectations on how fast he would be able to advance.

Well, as you can imagine, things continued to go downhill and, then eventually, he just didn’t show up for work one day. In retrospect, once his attitude soured, I should have just let him go, but it was hard as I’d invested a lot of time in him from the beginning and we’d been through numerous challenges together.

However, it wasn’t worth all the negative energy that ended up not just affecting me, but other members of the team as well.

Over the years, I’ve become much better about just ripping the band-aid off when necessary. It’s not a benefit to you or them to continue a relationship that has soured.

One of the things I truly enjoy about mentoring is that it’s an opportunity for you to learn as much as the mentee. They often say that teaching something is the best way to learn it, and I’ve definitely found that to be true with leadership, which is often much more art than science. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Pure Gratitude

“She’s like my big sister.”
“He has a servant’s heart.”
“She’s always striving to be better, and always laughing.”
“She perseveres through whatever life gives her.”
“He showed me how an attitude can be infectious.”
“She’s dedicated to getting a full-time job.”
“Thank you for being my friend.”
“I have no family. You have been my family.”
“She never gives up; she always comes up with a remedy.”
“She has an amazing soul.”
“She has a steady patience and courage, which serves her family well.”
“It’s a privilege to be in her life.”
“I have to take care of me to be my best me. I can’t let illness keep me down.”
“If my arms could reach across this room, I’d hug all of you.”

These were real statements from nearly 20 mentor-mentee couples at our November 2017 Recognition Night. Every pair was equally grateful for their relationships and as you can see by the last statement, even thankful for the entire group.

Thank you Trusted Mentors for helping spread such love, gratitude, and selflessness. You and all the awardees deserve a hug for every day of this giving season.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Wish List for New Office

Every move comes with needed updates and our upcoming office move is no different.  As you look at Black Friday specials, consider how you can help Trusted Mentors have a fully functioning office. Here are a few of our needs  (and all donations are tax deductible).  If you plan to get an item, let us know and we’ll take it off the list. 
42-55” TV for conference room  
HDMI cable for TV
Mini fridge
Water dispenser (top loading)
Office supplies: paper, card stock, pens, etc
Coffee cups (6-12) and drinking cups (6-12)
Shallow side tables to hold items in meeting rooms (2)
Shelving for the storage room (48"W x 84"H x 24"D) 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Remembering Craig Neef

As many of you know, our operations director Craig Neef passed away suddenly in late October. Losing Craig was a tragic shock for all of us.

A lovely Celebration of Life service was held on Nov. 5 in Westfield, and we’re grateful for those who shared memories of him and for all those who attended. It was so inspiring to hear from the mentees and mentors whose lives he touched. In addition to his family, Trusted Mentors’ staff and board members, many of our partner organizations – including RecycleForce and Indiana Department of Corrections  – joined us to celebrate Craig’s life.

Our hearts and prayers remain with Craig’s wife and soul mate, Gloria, and their family and friends. Craig will be remembered as a powerful spark in the remarkable growth and formative years of our organization, and will never be forgotten. Our executive director Jeri Warner relayed Craig’s response when she thanked him following five years of service to the organization: “I love every minute of it,” he said.

Well, Trusted Mentors loves you back, Craig. Until we meet again.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Trusted Mentors Gala 2017

Our 2017 Gala treated nearly 150 guests to a neon-colored, polka-dotted, and leather-lovin good time. Emcee and RTV6 news investigator Rafael Sanchez lead our Miami Vice Back to the 80s Party with his bright beach suit while Goodwill’s Shontavia Atkinson’s impressive ‘do won the big-hair contest.

Most importantly, Trusted Mentors’ mentor and ex-offender Reggie described how Trusted Mentors allows him to inspire his mentee Domini to live in a more constructive and faith-oriented way. Overall, our generous and thoughtful guests helped Trusted Mentors raise $33,000, ensuring Trusted Mentors continues to provide trained, volunteer mentors to people coming out of prison, at risk of homelessness, and aging out of the foster care system. With this selfless support, Trusted Mentors’ success rates like 90% of mentees in the re-entry track do not re-offend, are made possible.

We hope to see everyone at 2018’s Hawaiian Luau night!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Trusted Mentors night at the Indians!

Play ball! Summer nights at Victory Field are always a treat. Especially when we get to acknowledge the hard work of our mentors and mentees. Our August 22nd Indians game Recognition Night allowed almost 60 mentors and mentees, staff, and board members to mingle and celebrate accomplishments. Also, we were honored to have special guests interested in getting involved with Trusted Mentors join our event. Everyone enjoyed the pizza and had fun cheering for the Tribe!

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people standing, crowd and outdoor

Congratulations to our mentor and mentees and we can’t wait to recognize more milestones at our next Recognition Event in November.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Finding Me Again: Why I joined the Trusted Mentors Board
By: McKenze Rogers, Trusted Mentors Board Member

“He’s like my father, brother, uncle, friend, cousin, teacher … everybody all in one.”

Too tall for the microphone stand, this young adult mentee hovered over the mic as he addressed the 40 people attending Trusted Mentors’ 2017 Winter Recognition Night.

“I never knew my dad and I’ve never had any brothers …”

His voice started to crack slightly and his certificate, still clutched in both hands, began to shake. He grabbed the microphone stand to steady himself.

“So that’s why my mentor means so much to me ...”

Turning his head to face his mentor standing next to him, he took a deep breath.

“He is my only family.”

The mentor-mentee pair immediately embraced. I felt myself smile while my heartbeat seemed to echo in my ears. My impassioned, physical reaction to this mentor-mentee’s story was such a welcomed, refreshing feeling; and one I didn’t realize I had missed so much until that moment.

I had spent the last six months dissatisfied with my sales job, feeling like I had to take, take, take from people all the time. And having adopted my 1.5 year-old-son from Colombia, South America in the same year, I had pulled away from my volunteer commitments to ensure I could be a devoted working mother. Without a doubt, it’s a miracle being a mother and my family will always come first, which is why hearing over a dozen mentor-mentee pairs at Recognition Night express their sincere gratitude for being in each other’s lives made me realize that I wasn’t the best mom I could be. Because I had stopped doing one my favorite things - making an impact through mentoring - I was feeling out of place. My family and community deserved better.

Recognition Night confirmed for me that I needed to work with Trusted Mentors, one of my top three Board membership choices from the “Get on Board” event, which is held annually in November at The Children’s Museum and features 100 local organizations looking for Board participants. Putting time toward marketing plans and actions that ensure more people know about Trusted Mentors and how mentoring benefits our community fits my professional and personal passions exactly.

Bottom line, I realized being a part of Trusted Mentors’ leadership would help me teach AND SHOW my son the value of mentoring, what I believe is the ultimate form of volunteerism.

McKenze at the Fresh Start Bike Tour
Want to learn more about how Trusted Mentors is making a difference? Contact us at info@trustedmentors.org.