New Brunswick, NJ– Mentorship changed my life. It helped me survive the streets and escape the poverty and the seemingly inescapable cycle of drugs, crime, prison and death that traps young people, especially African-American boys. Over the course of 44 years, many men and women have played crucial roles in my development at various stages.
From little league baseball coach Tom Fields, to elementary school teacher Karen Ligouri, to casino magnate Arthur M. Goldberg, each in their distinct way left indelible impressions that contributed to my rise from public housing to public service and beyond through mentorship. Set forth below are10 key insights about mentoring from a mentee’s perspective that have enabled me to experience transformative mentoring relationships.
Vulnerability: The first step to establishing an effective mentoring relationship is to slowly expose humanity weaknesses so that the mentor can focus his or her efforts to better equip the mentee for independence and success. Let your guard down so your mentor can build you up.
Adaptability: To maximize the relationship, a mentee has to be willing to adjust to changing circumstances even if they pull the mentee away from his or her plans or take the mentee out of the mentee’s comfort zone.
Accountability: To gain the respect and admiration of a mentor, the mentee must account for his or her actions, good or bad, with the mentor who’s in a superior position to judge the mentee’s actions, provide encouragement or initiate correction.
Responsibility: To demonstrate the willingness to learn and lead, the mentee should take charge of the relationship by doing things within your control and sphere of influence. Chances are the mentor has something the mentee wants or needs, so the mentee has to show initiative and own development of the relationship.
Reliability: To respect and honor time of the mentor, the mentee must perform under routine, hostile or unexpected circumstances to increase the confidence of the mentor that the mentee will be there and ready when opportunity knocks. No mentor wants to be embarrassed by a mentee.
Confidentiality: To add value to the mentor, become a safe place for the mentor to share ideas, thoughts and feelings about things that are top of mind but not public. The mentee must be trustworthy to move beyond a surface relationship to real depth that energizes both mentor and mentee.
Invisibility: To acknowledge the time and other demands placed on mentors, the mentee must know when to retreat. The mentee must learn the art of being felt and heard but not necessarily seen all the time. Mentors are humans and sometimes need a break because it takes time and effort to invest in relationships. Knowing when to fall back will make the mentor want to spend more time with you.
Credibility: To enable a mentor to provide optimum exposure to a mentee, the mentee must demonstrate, among others things, the all the points above, which will assist in the development of integrity, expertise or authority in certain matters, and personal charisma or dynamism that causes the mentor and other to responded to the mentee in positive ways.
Creativity: To demonstrate enthusiasm for the relationship and the benefits derived, the mentee should think outside of the box to discover new ways of interacting with a mentor. For example, one of my mentors liked to lift weights, so we met in the weight room and talked while we trained.
Opportunity: To show genuine appreciation for the mentor’s investment, the mentee should look for openings to publicly and privately display the mentee’s gratitude for the relationship. It makes a difference.
Author, motivational speaker and award-winning businessman, Vaughn L. McKoy, JD, MBA is a corporate lawyer and executive at an energy company in Newark, New Jersey. Mr. McKoy also served as a federal and state prosecutor, respectively. Currently, McKoy is also an active Board member and very involved with the development of his former hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. McKoy was a scholar-athlete and received his BS from Rutgers University, his JD from Rutgers Law School, Newark and his MBA from NYU Stern School of Business. His new book, Playing Up, can be found on VaughnMckoy.com as well as on Amazon.com and other fine booksellers. He resides in New Brunswick, NJ with his wife and children.
- By Vaughn L. McKoy, JD, MBA