When you think of the relationships in your life, you’ll probably think about parents, siblings, maybe teachers or bosses that had a positive impact in your life. There might also be people who had a negative impact – bullies or the mean old guy who lived down the street who shook his cane at you and told you to get off his lawn.
How many of those people were in your life because you wanted them?
We do get to make choices about some of the people in our lives – our friends, our spouses or significant others, and our mentors.
I’ve been fortunate that my first mentor relationship was of my choosing. This woman was a few years older and smart – she didn’t say yes right away. She wanted to know what I expected- what I wanted from a mentor. Was I looking for someone to tell me what to do?
No, I wasn’t. I was looking for someone who had more experience, more life behind her, and could advise me about choices and opportunities. I trusted her – she had values she was committed to and I respected that.
For the next 15 years, we had a wonderful friendship – one that I will always treasure. As circumstances in my life changed, we drifted apart. But this week – 20 years later – we reconnected and it was like no time had passed. We’re both a lot older, but I still feel that connection to her.
On the other hand, I was talking with a young woman who had started in her first post-college professional job. She was assigned a mentor. It was a disaster. The young woman was fairly certain that her mentor was uninterested in her career and she had serious doubts about her mentor’s competency. She was right – the mentor was demoted a few months later, but not before undermining the new employee’s self-confidence and happiness in the job.
In Toastmasters, the emphasis on mentorship has become a major component of Pathways. The classic program had some information about mentorships and encouraged them, but not like we’ve got now. Whereas it was almost optional – and many clubs didn’t have any organized program – now mentoring is vital.
Because Toastmasters is based on a very practical program – and by that, I mean you’re going to work, not just study the theory or philosophy of communication – and we don’t have instructors – we learn from the work that our peers do. It’s relational and demonstrative… it’s the difference between a class and a club. This is the basis for the push to build more mentor/protege relationships in the clubs.
The material in the Pathways Base Camp explains a lot of the mentor/protege relationship. You may be assigned a mentor. You might be asked if there is someone you would like to be your mentor. I think the point is that you have a mentor who can
- show you the TM meeting ropes
- encourage you to give your first 3 speeches
- help you fill club meeting roles
- comment on your speeches or
- be your first evaluator.
What do you bring to the relationship?
I have a friend who functions as a mentor/coach. (Yes, I know they’re different things, but he prefers to be called a coach.) I used to wonder what I brought to the relationship. It seemed pretty one-sided for a long time – until he reached out to me to fill a role that needed to be filled in the next 24 hours. It was my turn to serve his needs after a couple of years of him constantly helping me. The role of protege isn’t always the lesser role – it’s a stepping stone to try new and bigger things.
Maybe what I did wasn’t that important. I’m sure he could have found half a dozen other people to step up. But I remain grateful for the chance to give back to him.
The protege brings value to the mentor.
As I’ve said in a previous podcast – the new member (or protege) provides a tremendous value in evaluations. A new perspective has great value to speakers.
Especially if the mentor is far ahead of the protege in the path, it’s often important for the mentor to remember the struggling first steps. Or those molehills to her which are mountains to the protege. The protege also can bring cultural or experiential points of view that the mentor never had. And… let’s be honest here… mentors get a lot of joy from watching their proteges succeed.
One of my Toastmaster mentors called me recently. She needed to modify a presentation for a new audience and said that I am her mentor now. It nearly brought me to tears. I’ll never stop thinking of her as my mentor and dear friend, but to think I can give back to her something she needs is very precious to me.
The most important thing a protege brings to a Toastmasters club is the excitement they bring to the club. We won’t have the same old-same old meetings with new and enthusiastic members.
The Toastmasters Mentoring Speech Project
Your speech assignment is to discuss a time when you were a protege.
From the Introduction to Toastmasters Mentoring Checklist:
Write and present a 5- to 7-minute speech about a time when you were a protégé. Share the impact and importance of having a mentor.
From the Evaluation Form: Introduction to Toastmasters Mentoring
- The purpose of this project is for the member to clearly define how Toastmasters envisions mentoring.
- The purpose of this speech is for the member to share some aspect of a previous experience as a protégé.
I first thought that was an odd choice – shouldn’t a mentoring speech be about being a mentor? But it started to make sense. You’re going be the protege – the mentee, as it were. To tell a story about being mentored will put you in a more receptive state of mind, right?
This is one speech where you have to tap into your personal stories. And while I hope you’ve never had a poor mentoring experience, those do make for good stories. At the same time, if you’re doing your second Pathway, this speech is a bit problematic. After all, how many stories about being a mentee do you have?
How to Repeat the Mentoring Speech
Since this podcast is supposed to be for beginners, why am I talking about repeating a speech? Why don’t you just repeat the speech you gave before?
Because you’re a different speaker now. Look, if you want to go back and find that speech you wrote and redo it, that’s fine. There’s no rule against repeating speeches, as we see in Level 1 Project 2. But you’ve probably completed a lot more speeches. You’ve learned more about speech construction and delivery. That old speech might not suit you anymore. I’ll go out on a limb and say it doesn’t suit you anymore.
I’ve tried to repeat my favorite speech a few times. It was my 3rd speech in Toastmasters and despite the fact it’s about my favorite book The Count of Monte Cristo – a book filled with sword fights and swooning women – that speech, that speech, oh… that speech. I should have left it alone. There’s no redeeming it. I could write another one about the same topic and it would be a far better speech because of all I’ve learned in the years since.
It doesn’t suit me any longer. Let me encourage you to look forward. Which isn’t to say you can’t reuse old stories – absolutely you can. But write today’s speech for today.
Your look at Toastmasters Mentoring
One way to look at this speech assignment is to present how Toastmasters envisions mentoring. That’s how I did my 2nd mentoring speech. I focused on the difference between a coach (the one who directed me in how to repair a broken ceiling fan in my new home) and a mentor (the one who encouraged me to try to do it myself.) It ended with one of the best puns of my entire speech life. There were groans, I tell you. Groans. It was perfect.
By explaining the difference between a coach and a mentor, I was able to tell my story about being mentored without repeating myself. The story of my ceiling fan would not have filled a Table Topic, but by combining it with mentoring, I built a speech that I’m truly proud of. That may be a great way to go.
I’m looking at doing my third Pathway this year. That means another Mentoring speech. I have no idea what I’ll do… yet. Give me time. I need to come up with another great joke to end it.
Next podcast, we look at what I think are the 4 essential speech projects in Level 3.
"Mariachi Snooze" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/