My homework for the two weeks after I met with my mentor was to write, draw, envision who I want to be. I don’t think I knew exactly what I was doing, but I started to write. I came up with words such as ‘eloquent,’ ‘better-dressed,’ ‘better presentations,’ and ‘time management.’ I also read some articles on professional development and the articles mentioned a lot of what not to do: complain/whine, gossip/talk about others, etc. This was a good start.
In my meeting with my mentor, I was asked lots of questions. Why do I want to be more eloquent? How am I now that doesn’t match that? What can I do to be more eloquent? He asked many questions to help guide me to find answers for myself, but did not tell me his opinions. As a coach, he did not tell me what to do, how to be, or even ideas of how I can develop professionally. He asked me and helped me find out on my own what it means to me.
My list of characteristics still focused on the details and on what to ‘do’. However, I still need to get to the ‘be’. I told a story of what happened to me that week. I gave a presentation for a group of professionals in another department. They reacted with skepticism to the presentation. I felt I hadn’t done as well with the presentation as I had hoped, especially when the reaction was a negative one. I knew that the topic (in the field of technology) was what the group didn’t entirely accept, but I couldn’t help feeling that they didn’t completely accept me or trust my expertise.
My mentor said something like, “It sounds like you want to be someone who commands respect.” He didn’t mean someone people fear. He just meant that I want to be someone whom people can trust and whose expertise people feel they can trust. He then taught me about respect. To be respected, you have to be respectful. He taught me some principles of how to be more respectful than I already am. Small example: If I am late to a meeting as a result of circumstances beyond my control, how do I apologize for it without dwelling on it? Little case studies like this helped me see how I can treat people I really do respect with the type of respect they will be able to easily identify and feel and trust.