A mentor has the expertise to guide a person through professional and/or personal issues or experiences that otherwise would be difficult for them to address alone. The mentor must implement broad techniques and be wise to present their instructions appropriately.
Mentors must be committed imparters, Catalyses, and present examples while creating awareness, and many times empower the mentee with the skills and abilities that sometimes they already possess. Yet finding a mentor can be difficult.
Donna Darden, the Founder and President of Perfect Seminars LLC., and author of Mentor of Many (M.O.M) says, “My mentoring comes from my spirit and my experience,” which lead Donna to establish mentoring class in well known corporations. Donna has mentored a variety of people and in her book she exemplifies how the power of “agreement between two people” will master a positive outcome. Below Donna gives advice from what is mentoring to who influenced her to fulfill her destiny.
Stephanie Reed: What is mentoring?
Donna Darden: Mentoring is an agreement between two people where each person involved can gain something from the relationship. The person with the experience you wish to obtain knowledge from will share his /her advice, his/her situations and his/her leadership to you in these area. A good mentor is also positioned to clear the way for you in business, when negative perceptions come his/her way about you, she can even the playing field for you by deflating the negative feedback and sharing more positives about you. A powerful mentor need not say a word other than she is mentoring you and all negative remarks seem to disappear. Don’t get confused that having a mentor in high places is a blessing, because some of the most powerful people in the organization are not at the top.
SR: How did you know you were destined to be a mentor?
DD: I have always had a servant attitude and a passion to make sure young people had a voice as I did not have one when entering the corporate world. I have fallen in potholes and know exactly where each pothole will be placed through painful experience. I want to insure that young people are at least warned that there is a PIG in the road, those that listen will work their way around it. Those that choose not to listen will need to come up with their own plan and for their sakes I hope it is successful. I knew I was destine to be a mentor because I strive to leave everything better than witnessed in my first encounter and I posses the courage to speak the truth when it is not always acceptable in the status quo majority.
SR: Where you trained to mentor or was it your experiences only?
DD: My mentoring comes from my spirit and my experience. I was instrumental in developing a mentoring class while I was employed at Ford Mtr. Co. through the African American Ancestry Network. FAAN, the first infinity group ever formed, and as you may know this organization of over 2600 minority employees set the standard for other companies and nationalities in the business sector to develop their infinity groups. Mentoring is not a one size fits all arena. Different cultures require different information that they can relate to and put into play for the best possible outcome. Being a minority female in corporate America since 1980 when I hired in, I was one of none at the time. Things did not come easy or with pleasure. I learned quickly that I needed as the African Proverb states “An old gorilla does not need to learn new paths in the jungle” I started looking for my Gorilla and just played it forward.
SR: What would you suggest to an up and coming mentor?
DD: You must know your shortcomings in order to give your mentee the best advice and you must build a network to support them with the proper information when you fall short of that advice due to lack of knowledge. We cannot be masters of all, but we can be stellar at several. You must use your observation skills to determine if this mentee is worth your mentoring time, knowing what you share with them will be accepted and followed. You will know your potential candidates by them approaching you, at that time you will need to make them understand, you are not their friend but their mentor and the accountability that the relationship requires on both participants.
SR: Where does your mentoring expertise lie, professional, personal or both?
DD: My experienced was strictly professional, early in my career, and after my time as a graduate of the John Maxwell Leadership Academy and my involvement in the Evangelical Bible leadership training, I am now certified to take references from my past and share them on work life balance concerns and lifelong goals. I enjoy coaching in both realms.
SR: Multiple mentors is an upcoming trend. What are your thoughts on a person having multiple mentors?
DD: Actually, this is not a trend but a step backwards to understanding it takes a village to raise a child. Anyone wanting to develop their best working years should have at least five mentors and they should choose them based on personal and professional gain. A personal mentor /coach is excellent resource where you can share those things that bother and worry you without it getting out at work, Your Boss’s boss is great as they will look in on your progress, a person in human resource is a good selection as personal issues arise in development (someone is blocking you deliberately) and the other two would be at your discretion. One of my long time mentors is a lawyer for example.
SR: Should a mentor set boundaries when mentoring co-workers?
DD: Most definitely and he/she must be certain that what is discussed in confidential. If a breach of shared information in the mentoring occurs to damage the success of either party, the relationship should be severed, that is why it is extremely important for the mentor to be selective in their acceptance to mentor. Mentees must come with something to build upon, not expect the mentor to build the foundation for them.
SR: What benefits have you reaped from giving of yourself and expertise as a mentor?
DD: I have over 23 mentees and all have come from entry levels to become partners in firms, CEO’s of major corporations, Directors of non profits, Diversity Managers of businesses, Vice Presidents at banks and the list goes on. One of my mentees is traveling abroad as we speak for her company making decision for expansions. This has been the most rewarding for me to see a seed grow into a tree and even more rewarding is they contact me regularly through facebook and update me on promotions and also for a little mentoring on next steps. I cannot say how extra special it is to have someone trust you with their life decisions and what you tell them gives them a whole different prospective.
SR: What would you like other mentors and/or mentees gain from reading you book?
DD: Motivation to succeed and that they are not alone. I want them to read the stories and understand that He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world, translated means don’t allow God’s creations to dictate your future, go straight to the creator. To have this book handy to refer to when things just don’t feel right or they are experiencing fitting in. I want them to know when they are going through something Hard and wonder where God is… to remember the teacher is always quiet during the test. The book is your homework to get prepared.
SR: What books or authors have influenced you?
DD: Dwayne Dyer was one of the first that got me thinking about people in general and how they treat each other. Then John Maxwell early in the 80’s taught me how to view difference in prospective and leadership, allowing me not to take it personally, and Les Brown, because of his outstanding ability to overcome his own personal obstacles and rise up with great motivation and kindness. And of course, The Bible, my mother raised me on it and it has held true, just open it and the word will come to you. All of these authors have built the foundation of my success and ability to be positive in the face of adversity not lacking in standing for fair and equal treatment for what we call happiness.
Donna has a MBA, and is a Retired Auto Executive, Professional John Maxwell Certified Teacher, Speaker, and Coach. She is the Founder and President of Perfect Seminars LLC. In her book M.O.M. she provides answer to questions like how do I know I have the right mentor, what do I do with a mentor who was assigned to me but does nothing, how do I fine a mentor, and what can I share with my mentor? She tells real life stories of her mentoring experiences from the work environment to personal issues. If you are having difficulties navigating complexities in the workplace, and the stresses of life, M.O.M. gives “22 impactful words on experienced mentorship.”