We are our support networks

Amy Bartlett

Mentorship and coaching are both a science and an art, and the unique relationship formed in this kind of work lies at the intersection between the personal and the professional in a myriad of ways. There are lots of articles and advice about how to be a good mentor, so this post is not meant to replicate all of the great advice out there. Instead, it is an invitation to reflect on the ways that we all support each other in our personal and professional transformations.

While I spend a good chunk of my flexible time doing what I would call ‘mentorship’ during the week– both giving and receiving– it is not something I talk a lot about on a personal level. If I am formally volunteering for an established mentorship program or organization (as I do for Global HERizons and G(irls)20 for example), I will make a point of being public about it, tweeting about the opportunity and encouraging others to get involved if they are interested. But that is usually the extent of it. Because while I strongly believe in the power of good mentorship and coaching, when it comes to sharing details about the specific mechanics of support or the direct experience of these relationships (including the myriad of ways that I experience ‘mentorship’ informally with different people in my life), frankly it feels weird to talk about the experience outside of the small co-created bubble we have built together. Maybe I am not good with boundaries, but when we both show up equally to embark on this journey, formal mentorship or coaching often feels less like a formula to follow and more like a context-driven-friendship-on-steroids. I know this isn’t the traditional way of thinking about it– particularly in the professional world– but the reality is that, to be truly meaningful, even the most staid professional coaching relationship demands showing up for people in a pretty substantial, human way. Whether we are meant to be talking about board governance and female leadership, exploring career transitions, dealing with a bout of anxiety, brainstorming a new personal project or navigating a complex workplace: the conversation inevitably veers into exploring personal feelings of doubt, confidence, uncertainty, fear and relationships, all of which shape the way a person experiences themselves and others in the world. In my experience, it is in this layered exploration of the interaction between the public self and intimate self where real growth and transformation can happen.

Whether it is labeled as coaching, mentorship or something else entirely: being intentional and making time for each other, having a shared understanding of your goals, all while also creating space therein to casually (or intentionally) explore how both people are feeling and experiencing their lives– this to me is what supportive and transformative mentorship/friendship/relationship is in a nutshell. The semantics don’t matter to me– but the experience of communion, safety and connection does.

The science of a coaching or mentorship relationship shows us how intentional support and connection can help people grow personally and professionally. However the art of coaching is very human, in all its variety and vulnerability. I invite you to reflect on some of the experiences you have had supporting others and receiving support as you have made your way in the world. What ‘coaching’ experiences stand out for you? Leave a comment below, or get in touch with us to learn more about our coaching services!