by Carlene Sippola
More Mentoring: The Why and the How
Mentor: a trusted friend, counselor, or teacher, usually a more experienced person.
The word mentor gets its origin from Greek mythology, but its first recorded modern use comes from a book entitled Les aventures de Télémaque, published in 1699 and very popular during the 18th century, in which the lead character was called Mentor. There have been many mentoring pairs throughout history—Oprah mentored by Mrs. Duncan (her fourth-grade teacher), Helen Keller mentored by Anne Sullivan, Denzel Washington mentored by Sidney Poitier, Henry David Thoreau mentored by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harry Potter mentored by Professor Dumbledore, Mitch Albom mentored by Morrie Schwartz, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart mentored by Johann Christian Bach, Cal Ripken, Jr., mentored by his father. The list goes on and on.
A mentor’s job is to teach a mentee through instructing, coaching, modeling, advising, and telling stories, with the stories being about the mentor’s own experiences in business. A mentor/mentee relationship can be formal or informal. It can last a few hours, several weeks, or a few years. As you can see from the above list, the relationship between the mentor and mentee is varied. Your mentor can be a close friend or relative, or someone you don’t know personally who does the kind of work you do.
But no matter what the configuration or duration, most successful mentoring relationships have one thing in common—intentionality. Two people have made a commitment to teach and be taught. One of my mentors was Donald Tubesing, co-founder of the company I now own. On my first yearly review 26 years ago, I told Don I wanted to learn everything I could about running a small business. He made a commitment to teach me, and I was ready to receive his advice, counsel, and coaching. That relationship has been invaluable in my publishing career.
Many organizations use mentoring programs to nurture and grow their employees. They see the value of having less-experienced employees learn from more-experienced workers within the company.
Beyond intentionality, a successful mentoring relationship contains some key components. It has to involve developing and agreeing upon clear goals. And it also has to involve mentors sharing stories of both successes and failures. By giving concrete examples and case studies from their own experiences, mentors establish themselves as relevant and trusted teachers. Some of the best learning comes from what didn’t work.
What’s Already Happening; What Might Happen Next
IBPA is fertile ground for nurturing mentor/mentee relationships. We have a membership that ranges from the very young publisher just ready to launch a first title, to the more experienced publisher who has successfully grown a business, learning from mistakes along the way.
There is so much experience and knowledge ready to be passed on, and there are eager, hungry minds waiting to be fed. The challenge is to find ways to encourage, develop, and enable these mentoring relationships.
Let’s look at what we are already doing. From a global perspective, I guess we can say that IBPA is the mentor and all of its members are the mentees. It certainly is intentional. The purpose of IBPA is to help publishers achieve and succeed, and most members join partly so they can learn and network with other publishers. From personal experience, I know this is working.
But what about one-on-one relationships? IBPA’s annual Publishing University now includes “meet the expert” sessions. These are intentional mentoring sessions that individuals sign up for based on the subject being discussed. Along those same lines, we offer the “speed-date your distributor” session. Both scenarios are very intentional, but they entail a commitment for a one-time meeting only.
My assumption is that many mentor/mentee relationships are already out there among our members. As a matter of fact, I personally saw some start between IBPA board members while I was serving on the board. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way for more IBPA members to establish mentoring relationships?
After all, mentoring benefits everyone. Mentors can strengthen their teaching and coaching skills, establish new and rewarding relationships within the industry, and gain satisfaction from helping others advance their publishing careers. Mentees become more self-confident about their business and more willing to take risks and take on more responsibility, and they establish peer relationships that will serve them for years to come.
What’s the next step? I would like to explore ways IBPA can expand its mentoring opportunities. I would love to hear from you. What is your mentoring story or experience? What successful mentoring programs have you seen that might work for us? Are you interested in these sorts of programs?
As you can probably guess, I strongly believe in the power of mentoring relationships. It’s one of the best learning opportunities out there. By the way, it’s been over 25 years, and not only am I still enjoying my mentor/mentee relationship with Don; we are colleagues as well.
I’ll be waiting to hear from you. You can reach me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.