“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” — Denzel Washington
Don’t sleep on the wisdom of elders. Seriously, if a knowledgeable elder is willing to sit down, be transparent, and kick knowledge – you should always be willing to listen. Whatever challenges you’re facing, whatever you’re going through – None of it is new. It’s just new to you.
From personal to societal, every issue that we’re grappling with today has already been faced by the generations that preceded us. Think of how much ground could be gained from taking the time to learn from the triumphs and failures of our elders. That’s why mentorship is so important. It’s a huge opportunity to transfer knowledge from one generation to the next, but these exchanges are only as effective as we allow them to be. With that in mind, check out these 10 tips to maximize your dual generation mentorship:
1. Show Genuine Interest – Surface-level advice can be given and received without really knowing a person, but in order to be an effective mentor or mentee, you really need to get to know your partner on a personal level. What motivates them? What challenges are they facing?
2. Be Flexible – Your mentor may have grown up at a different time, guided by a different set of social norms. Perspectives and terminology might differ, but as long as the dialogue is constructive and honest, you’re on the right track.
3. Be Open – If there is a communication gap between the young and the old, it’s not without reason. Too often the wisdom that comes with age is accompanied by critical, judgmental undertones that ultimately surrender effectiveness in condescending delivery. Conversely, the arrogance of youth can sometimes be a barrier to receiving valuable insight. In dual generation mentorships, mutual respect and reciprocation are key.
4. Keep it REAL – The most impactful conversations are the open and honest ones. In mentorship, it’s not about rattling off a list of do’s and don’ts, it’s about sharing the process of how you arrived at those conclusions -that’s how lessons are internalized.
5. Be Transparent -Effective mentorship demands a certain level of vulnerability and setting aside of ego. If you’re not willing to be transparent, the value of the relationship will be limited. Authenticity always resonates.
6. Share Stories Not Sermons – Skip the clichés and played sermons. Don’t tell your mentee what to do, tell them what you did or didn’t do and the results of those decisions. That’s where the real value is. Narrative is the best teacher. Your mentee wants to hear about the crazy, careless decisions that earned you that wisdom.
7. Remember, It’s Not About You– Few things are more fulfilling than serving others. If you’re a mentor, it’s important to take periodic inventory of why you’re in this mentorship relationship. Are you here to feel good about yourself or are you genuinely invested in the growth and development of your mentee? If you’re a mentee, understand that this is a give and take relationship. If the advice of your mentor leads you to a win, let them know. Shoot them a text, tell them “thank you.” A little appreciation goes a long way.
8. Listen – Advice isn’t always necessary. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen. This should be a safe place for mentor and mentee to vent and air their frustrations. What is shared in the circle, stays in the circle.
9. Know What You Don’t Know– Perfection does not a perfect mentor make. It might be tempting to assume the ‘know-it-all’ role, but you don’t know it all. No one does. If your mentee has a need that you aren’t equipped to meet, let them know, or refer them to someone else. As a mentee, there’s no need to try to impress. Admit what you don’t know. Mentorships are most effective when both parties bring their real selves to the table.
10. Set Clear Expectations – What do you hope to get out of this relationship? How much are you willing to give? Is this a formal or casual mentorship? How often will you talk? Set clear expectations from the onset to hash out boundaries. A lot can be gained from people who have lived and seen some things. Wisdom is an invaluable commodity. No matter what stage of life you’re in, someone has already been there, and although no two experiences are exactly the same, if there is knowledge to be gained and pitfalls avoided through the imparting of wisdom, by all means – be open!