Friday, 4 March 2016

Athena in disguise

Steven Spielberg beautifully summarizes mentorship with the following,

"The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”

Amazing... So, how does one attain such a connection and more importantly once you have it, how do you maintain it?

These questions led me to take a look at one of my own mentor/mentee relationships. The one I have with award-winning film and television producer, Liz Levine.

This Gemini winning, co-founder of Random Bench Productions has over a decade of experience in the film and television industry. As one of her mentees, I benefit greatly from her guidance. However it’s interesting to note that Liz tells me mentoring benefits her as well.

“It’s inspiring to watch people grow and accomplish their dreams. In turn, that inspires me to keep working hard on my own!”

There are two broad types of mentoring; formal and informal. I met Liz formally, through her Creative Accountability Program (CAP); a program in which participants focus on creating measurable goals and effectively managing their time, leading to increased clarity in their TV and film careers as well as in their personal lives.

When I started the program I felt immediately safe and welcomed by Liz. I trusted her and could see that she was genuinely interested in helping us realize our full potential. She seemed to instinctively know when and how to push each of us.

“I think we all have those moments in any breakthrough where we resist.” She says, “A big part of mentoring is about pushing people through that moment of resistance.”

We all need a little push now and then. Us humans always have. Mentorship is an ancient practice, it’s roots lost in antiquity. The word itself was inspired by the character of Mentor in Homer's Odyssey. The goddess Athena takes on the appearance of the old man (‘Mentor’) in order to guide and encourage young Telemachus.

Not having goddess-like abilities myself, I can only offer some tips below from a mentee’s perspective. Although, I have begun to fall into mentoring others a little bit. I think once you’ve been on the receiving end, it behoves you to pay it forward. Athena, is that you in there?

Like I said, here are a few tips from my mentor (Liz), her mentee (me) and possibly Athena.

Start with genuine curiosity and openness

Liz tells me, “The best way to build a connection between any two people is genuine curiosity.”

“I have a genuine want to understand what it is that motivates people, what makes them tick, what they want out of their lives and how they have gone about trying to get that.” she says.

“I think that being open and honest with these questions in conversation is the best starting place.”

Givers gain 

Be generous with your mentor. Think about how you can be of help to them. In my experience, “How can I be of help to you?” is by far the best question to bring to the table. It sets you apart.

Show Appreciation

It’s important to take time to thank your mentor for all their doing to help you. Time is precious for everyone, do not take it lightly when someone gives you theirs. That said…

Remember your value

When I ask Liz what she looks for in a mentee she tells me that…

“First and foremost, it’s about talent. Much of my business is based on the ability to identify talent and beyond that to identify the personality that is going to be able to withstand pressure and let that talent shine through. I’d say it’s about instincts and there isn’t really a list of qualities.”

What I take from this, is that if they’ve taken the time to meet with you, their instincts are telling them that you have talent and are worthy. I say, trust that.

I hope parts of this post are helpful to you as you find and foster a good relationship with a mentor. May we all be given the opportunity as Spielberg says, to create ourselves over and over again and may Athena be there in some form or another to help guide our way.

*Special thanks to Liz Levine for her time and insight. 
*Additional thanks to Christine Bissonnette for inspiring this post and her editing wizardry. 

- J

*J, I love the insight and wisdom you impart in this post, this loveliness of recognition about who has helped you and how to help others is part of why I love working with you. - M

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© M&J
Maira Gall