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RBG on Mentorship

"Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."

               -Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

There is so much that has been said in the past two weeks about the groundbreaking, equality-driven, iconic, late Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there are too many accounts to cite. That said, one that spoke to me particularly was a Cornell Chronicle article that highlighted the role of mentorship in Cornell Undergraduate Joan Ruth Bader’s (Class of 1954) life, values, and career:

 

“As a Cornell undergraduate, Joan Ruth Bader ’54 was inspired by professor Milton Konvitz, Ph.D. ’33. He was a “marvelous teacher,” she said, who introduced Bader to the scope of human rights as part of the American Ideals course for which he is legendary.” (Cornell Chronicle, September 24th, 2020)

It is no surprise to me that the scholar Joan Ruth Bader was influenced by the “marvelous teacher” of human rights as an “American Ideal” as coined by Milton Konvitz. Mentors in my life have had an equally profound impact on my thinking, life, and career choices. Great mentors shape your vision, remind you of your values, and can serve as a lighthouse of truth and possibility in the proverbial high seas.

So in the late, great, RBG’s honor, this week’s edition of the Hacks Newsletter will provide the greatest hits on mentorship from Leadership and Life Hacks: Insights from a Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur and Executive.

While she now rests in peace, I take solace and inspiration in knowing that RBG’s life and legacy will continue to shine brightly like a lighthouse for our democracy.

Leadership Hack #45

Clarify what you’re looking for in a mentorship… And ask your mentors what they want out of the relationship. First, get clear with yourself about what you want out of this relationship. Weekly lunch meetings? Someone who will take a hands-on role in your career? General encouragement? Then, convey that information articulately and honestly to your potential mentor so (s)he can see if you’re a match.

Your mentor may want nothing in return, or they may solicit your unique insight or skill set. You won’t know unless you ask. This will help you establish early on the “playbook” for the mentorship: who’s getting what from whom. 

Leadership Hack #46

Find someone who is personally invested in your success.  You want a mentor who cares about you on both a professional and personal level, a mentor who can wholeheartedly cheer you on.

Leadership Hack #47

Be conscious of time….and continually thank your mentor for his or her impact on your life. Your mentor’s time is valuable, and he or she is sharing it with you. Be respectful and mindful of that gift. When you say you’re going to show up somewhere, show up. On time.  And a  little gratitude goes a long way. I make a point to thank my mentors often for everything they’ve done for me, whether that’s through a handwritten thank you note or a small token of appreciation (gift) unique to them. These people have affected your life, often in powerful ways. Thank them for it. 

Leadership Hack #48

Showing up matters. Layout ground rules and expectations for your communications, establish parameters, and set clear boundaries with your mentees. Have a candid conversation about these topics so that the mentorship is built on crystal-clear expectations. 

Leadership Hack #49

Be an active listener. The backbone of good mentoring is good listening. Listen well, listen long, and listen hard. 

Leadership Hack #50

Do what you say you’re going to do. When you make a commitment to your mentee, whether it’s to show up at lunch, review their proposal, or write them a letter of recommendation, ALWAYS keep your word.

Leadership Hack #51 

Find someone to make you his or her protégé. This fits neatly into a chapter on mentorship—and it’s all the more crucial if you’re a woman. Your mentor will act as a kind of “coach,” someone who will inspire, guide, and support you by providing introductions and opportunities throughout your life. One connection can change your career trajectory forever.  

Leadership Hack #54

Be the change you wish to see in the world. Gandhi said it best. If you want the world to be a better place, do everything in your power to make it so.


 
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