Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Power of Mentorship: Finding your inner mentor.

Today I am dedicating this blog to the mentors in my life who model integrity, passion, compassion and authenticity. Who not only climb the ladder of success, but who own their rung.  They are bright,  creative, intelligent,and they lead with passion. 

These women inspired me to be better, and they helped me to define what that meant.  They taught me everything I know, whether they realized it or not, as I watched. And because I was a good student, I listened and learned. What I didn't realize is that some day there would be a test.  

Today is the one year anniversary of that day. So I want to recognize what I learned, and how important mentorship is to all women, regardless of where you work, or who you work for.  

Over my 16 year trek up the mountain, my understanding of leadership and mentorship has deepened. I have come to understand that people worthy of leading and mentoring are those who lead through purpose and passion, not agenda, fear and an iron fist. My mentors demonstrate clarity of thought, and the courage to stand up for what is right.  

A mentor is not necessarily someone you have met or worked with.  One of my mentors is Arlene Dickinson, author of "Persuasion", CEO of Venture Communications, one of the biggest communications companies in Canada. She is also one of the Dragons on CBC's Dragon's Den, and a mother and grandmother.  In "Persuasion", she writes about her own authenticity and coming face to face with values.  She lives in her own truth, and that is what I believe makes her a successful person.  

Authenticity is a powerful word that means to be real and truthful.  It takes courage  and self awareness to be authentic and to live in truth.  Many times the business world pushes us away from our true selves.  We are told we need to be "different" to be successful.  We are told what to wear, how to carry ourselves, when to talk, when not to talk and when to succumb.  

I would agree that a professional image is part of the package but I am not talking about shoes.  I am talking about self respect and respect for others.  Understanding and expecting value is a good place to start. To be taken seriously, we need to take ourselves seriously and understand that value is equal to the amount of money the person is paid.  If you are not being paid, you are not being valued.  (Volunteerism is great, but not if you are going broke).  As I was just telling a young woman today, don't feel bad for expecting to be paid, because if you don't get paid, you cannot finance your present or your future. Part of the package includes mastering the soft skills, like communication, people management and relationship building.  

Whether the issue is money, treatment of people or bending rules, I have learned that it is important to understand where the lines are, what you are giving away with compromise, and to what end. There is a fine line between acceptance and being a team player and abdicating your personal responsibilities and values. 

Think of it as a cliff.  1000 feet away from the edge, decisions that you make are not as critical as you put one foot in front of the other.  100 feet out, you can see the edge of the cliff, and you begin to think more seriously about the steps you take. 10 feet away, every step  has importance. One foot away, the next step is critical. Your heart pounds, your palms sweat. It doesn't feel good.  You are at the edge of the ledge, and you have a decision to make. 

As Dickinson says, these kinds of moments are the ones that we learn from and they usually  hurt. Although they change us, we have the power to own the decision and emerge with the strength that comes from self ownership. She says that if you take the wrong step at that point, regret is likely, but not unrecoverable. 

Today is the anniversary of such a moment when I decided to to live in my own vision of what's possible and what is right.  I joined  Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan  an organization that is dedicated to providing a business culture in which barriers to success, recognition, and advancement of women entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan are eliminated. Thanks to their support and others, six months ago I launched a new company and I have found this group to be invaluable.

Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan offers:
  • Business advisory and support services;
  • Start-up and Expansion Loans, up to $150,000;
  • Training and seminar opportunities related to entrepreneurial skills and initiatives; and 
  • Networking and mentoring opportunities.
Aside from the support, I have met some great people who are starting businesses, exploring new avenues and finding ways of making their work meaningful and purposeful. The other day, I had the privilege of attending my first mentorship circle, and I was in awe of the great people around the table. I remember thinking how great it would have been if I had joined this group years ago.

If you are a woman, regardless of whether you work for someone, or for yourself, you need a mentoring environment that is safe, where there are no barriers to success, recognition and advancement in order to find your inner mentor.  I would recommend Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan.  

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