Mentors vs. Champions

Mentors vs. Champions

Give me a show of hands: how many of you have mentors?  Lots?  Peachy.

Now, give me another show of hands: how many of you have champions?  What?  None?  We gotta fix that. STAT.

Mentors offer support, they tell you stories, they pass along wisdom.  They teach you things. They are terrific.

But, champions.  Oh, champions invite you to opportunities, they put your name into consideration, they open doors.  They take an active role in helping you make things happen.  

A mentor might tell you to learn to play golf because the skill will advance your career.  A champion will invite to complete the foursome when he knows at least one of the other players has a job for which you should be considered.

Women tend to be relationship driven, and nothing says support like one-on-one time.  On the other hand, the “Old Boys Club” works because it is built around group socializing.  The club is always growing, the circle is always expanding.  There is always another foursome to complete.  Men have evolved into natural champions, while women have become aces at mentoring each other.

You see where this is going.  Both men and women get support, but men are championed more often and promoted more quickly because they have a different set of propulsion engines powering them.

So, how do we change this?  It starts by understanding that mentors enter the relationship, whether formal or informal, with good intentions.  They don’t necessarily know how to be champions, don’t necessarily know that they should be champions, and don’t necessarily know that they aren’t already being champions. This is where you come in.  It’s easy to evolve a mentor into a champion; all you need do is ask.  

Remember, mentoring is still a good thing.  It’s a very good thing.  It’s part of the equation, just not all of it.  Value it, give gratitude for it, pay it forward to others. Then, research the hell out of your mentors.  See what boards they are on, friend them on social media, stalk their calendars and if you see that they are expressing interest, on the host committee, or attending an event that is of interest to you, reach out to them and ask if they have an extra ticket, or if they think it might be worthwhile for you to attend.  The odds are that they’ll help get you in, and then, if you give them indication of the specific people or the types of people you’d like to meet while there, they’ll take a few minutes and make the introductions.  In doing this, you will harness their interest in helping you past the role mentor and squarely into that of champion.

Mentoring, as you see, can be relatively passive on both sides of the equation.  Championing, on the other hand, requires work: your work.  Put in the work, and the energy and interest already expressed from your mentor naturally becomes jet fuel, propelling you through newly opened doors.

Now, go write some thank you notes.


Laura Gassner Otting
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