The global banking crisis, big business bankruptcies and the share market plummeting, has hit some people hard. It can be easy to succumb to the doom and gloom of the media or become overwhelmed by events. This is when a mentor may step in with words of wisdom, a reality check or a huge challenge.
Having taken a multi million-dollar hit to his business, one CEO thought his business might not survive the latest impact of the global crisis. Telling his mentor what a terrible day it was and suffering the pain of possible failure, he expected sympathy. Instead, his mentor pushed a shift in thinking with a series of sharp questions: How many days have you been in business? How many terrible days have you survived? You have survived the loss of a loved one and rebuilt your life. Was that without pain? After that knee reconstruction, was getting back into sport without pain? Take another look at this situation, how might it just be the best thing that ever happened? There is always an opportunity for the astute during a downturn.
The mentor’s comments were not just spin, hype or motivation. There is truth in the saying: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Who in life cannot look back on an event that was terrible at the time yet shaped a better future? We are inspired by the para-olympians, stories of ordinary people who have done extraordinary things after suffering adversity and everyday heroes who act in the moment of catastrophe. In times of crisis a mentor will remind us of these simple truths.
On a bad day, a mentor will provide empathy rather than sympathy. A mentor will listen and allow you to ventilate your natural emotional response to events. They are non-judgemental and will understand how you feel about your circumstances but a mentor won’t play the pity party game.
A mentoring conversation is not about glossing over, dismissing or ignoring events, pain or emotion. On the contrary, the mentoring conversation allows you to confront issues, process disempowering thoughts and feelings and choose a new response.
The mentoring conversation focuses on stimulating reflection and action. Using questions that stimulate thinking your mentor will challenge your thinking to overcome blame, shame and negativity. They will help you put things in perspective, consider a different point of view and ultimately choose a way to move forward.
Ironically, the current economic situation provides a metaphor. The direct cause and effect of the financial misadventure in sub-prime mortgages is only part of the picture. It is the crisis of confidence in the financial market that may cause a ripple effect to grow into a tsunami. It is how people feel, what they think and what they do in response to any event that produces the real outcome. Panic or despair will exacerbate any crisis.
Likewise in life, it is not what happens to us but our reaction to what happens that produces results. Mentoring enables you to process thoughts and feelings and choose a response. A mentor’s cool head and a warm heart, skilful listening and powerful questions are the reasons why mentoring works.