As a working female who knows all too well the pace and juggle of balancing the needs of four busy daughters with the mid-career portfolio demands of building a startup, speaking engagements, active mentoring and board directorships, time is the core currency I trade in these days.
There are only so many hours in any given day, and the opportunity cost of time ill-spent down an email black hole or in zero-outcome meetings mean I've become more binary about how I will and won't spend my business time.
I choose to work with people and on projects that align to my purpose, and that solve for problems that really matter. It means the work can dial up and down as the projects demand, and it also means I therefore have to know when to flick the switch to family.
But like many women of my generation raising businesses and babies, finding true balance can be a challenge.
Sometimes the mix is just right, other times all wrong. You wing it anyway, and remind yourself that balance isn't static, and life is a continuum of change within which we chart our course, adjusting sails along the way where we need to. Some days are rough and tough, others blue-skied and calm watered (personally and professionally).
But in the mix of busy, I have, and always will, carve out time for mentorship. Because bringing up businesses and babies is not an easy juggle, and to make it work I have relied on the active mentorship of generous, intelligent women to help me navigate the way.
Because I have lived the benefit of having other women empower and mentor me, I believe in paying it forward. Daily, I still draw on the power and knowledge well of my collective circle to stay afloat, accelerate my opportunities and make strategic career choices. In fact some of the best business decisions I've made were shaped with mentors.
Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will To Lead has a dedicated chapter called Are You My Mentor? and in it she explores the idea of mentorship, and how to find the right mentors for your personal and professional stage.
Some of her key points about mentorship are that at its best it must be:
1. AUTHENTIC: Healthy and effective business relationships take time to nurture and develop, and most often arise organically from real human connections where there is inherent mentor/mentee chemistry, authenticity and generosity. Find mentors who understand who you are, what your values, vision and purpose are, and who will then bring people into your network who share this, too.
2. RECIPROCAL: Mentorship cuts both ways, and provides both parties with the opportunity for growth, transfer of knowledge, personal learning and professional extension. The mentor can sharpen and shape their leadership style through mentee feedback, and the mentee can also provide “grassroots intelligence” on industry insights, market intel and internal culture (access the mentor would not otherwise gain). In turn mentors can push you to your limits, challenge your thinking, strategically connect you to key stakeholders, champion your cause and actively market you and your business to amplify your message/vision.
3. ACTIONABLE: Mentors and mentees must commit to progress, and measurable outcomes. In order for both parties to benefit most from the relationship, mentees must create actions around advice dispensed, embed key learnings, and then circle this back into the learning loop with mentors.
4. AUTONOMOUS: Great mentors don’t cut the path but light the way. The greatest learning for mentees is learning by doing, even if it means failing and floundering a few times before charting the right path. Taking autonomous steps but knowing you have someone to bounce off when the going gets hard can be just the support you need to realise your potential and better achieve your goals.
Some of the most successful women I know have attributed active networking and mentoring to their success, saying that by putting themselves out there, finding their tribe and building a trusted group of people around them, they have achieved far more than could ever have done on their own.
If you’ve been thinking about becoming a mentor or seeking active mentorship as a mentee, there are now multiple organisations, digital platforms and online communities offering professional and personal coaching services if you’d like a hand to get started rather than reach out to your existing networks. Everwise, Mentorloop, Inspiring Rare Birds, Business Chicks and Mogul are just a few.
SHE MENTORS - SUMMER NETWORKING PARTY
Inspire9, Richmond, Wednesday November 1, 6.00pm-8.00pm