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The One Mentor Myth

I was recently a featured guest for a conversational webinar about mentorship hosted by WeLearn. It was a great webinar, and I loved sharing my thoughts and hearing from others about their experiences and views on developing mentorship relationships. The first question Sean asked me was how I approach developing mentor relationships. I explained that I start by determining what mentor category I am looking to fulfill because I have at least three types of mentor relationships, and I recommend others develop as well.

Here are my three mentorship categories and how I define them:

1. Functional Mentor:

The functional mentor is the person doing the type of work you either are currently doing or would like to do. Most importantly, they are exceptional at what they do, and you'd love to sit at their feet and learn. For example, one of my mentors is a fantastic eLearning designer I met in the Articulate eLearning Challenges community. When I became a solo eLearning manager, my visual design skills needed to improve. I wanted to create beautiful courses like hers, so I asked if she would mentor me. With her guidance and practical advice, my skills quickly improved. I have another functional mentor that was instrumental in helping me find the right tools for my limited eLearning budget because she had also been a solo eLearning team.

2. Leadership Mentor

This person embodies the competencies and characteristics you admire and would like to emulate in your leadership role. For example, how do they manage conflict? How do they persuade people? How well do they make decisions? How do they make people feel? I was once part of an organization's management institute, and they said that we had to pick a mentor at the director and above level. I immediately honed in on the chief marketing officer, even though I worked in the education division. I loved how she engaged with people across teams and was always direct without demeaning or alienating others, and her staff loved her. She was an absolute Godsend when I was promoted to senior manager. She gave me invaluable advice on managing challenging employees, addressing performance issues, and communicating with the C-Suite.

If you think about it, you will agree that your career ambitions are multi-dimensional. Can one person truly offer you guidance for all the various facets and phases?

3. Aspirational Mentor:

This person has the career and reaped the benefits that you hope to sow in your career. They have the talents, wounds, and wins; they are now at the mountaintop or the "there" you wish to reach. The "mountaintop" is different for everyone, and only you know what that might mean for you. Also, it might change because we are (hopefully) constantly evolving. Regardless, having a mentor relationship with someone who symbolizes what you want to accomplish is hugely beneficial and rewarding. They can offer you guidance and advice on your trajectory toward the pinnacle. My aspirational mentor manages to be an incredibly successful business owner AND a kind, generous person and leader. He has a thriving business and personifies the values he champions. This is a challenging recipe to conquer, yet he has done it; I'm watching, listening, and learning.

When we talk or read about mentorship, it often suggests that one person should check all the boxes. I disagree. Finding a one-size-fits-all mentor is rare and, dare I say, not ideal. If you think about it, you will agree that your career ambitions are multi-dimensional. Can one person truly offer you guidance for all the various facets and phases? Perhaps, but it's not wise to limit yourself. Treat yourself to several mentors with diverse perspectives, talents, and goals to help you become a more well-rounded expert.

What do you think about these categories? Do you only have one mentor? Tell me what you think in the comments. #professionaldevelopment #mentorship #learninganddesign



Hey, I'm Kandice

I'm a learning expert with tons of experience managing, designing, and developing learning programs as a solo learning leader. I love sharing my ideas and thoughts on how I do it and manage to enjoy it...most of the time. 

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