Mentorship Matters: A Dallas Lean In Experience

On the morning of August 11, I attended a Lean In event organized by Dallas Lean In and Hilti. The event invited several industry leaders to share their experience with mentorship. The keynote speaker, Rafael Garcia, and panelists, Bart Kohnhorst, Damian Fernandez, Lisanne Glew, and Silvia Siqueira formed such a diverse panel that their discussion on mentorship proved to be a great learning experience for people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Bring diversity into mentorship

“You background has a huge influence on mentor-mentee relationships.”
- Rafael Garcia

Diversity was one of the most talked about topics in this Lean In event — be it the diversity in gender, race, culture, language, and countries of origin. The speakers shared their experience in finding mentors and mentoring others from a different background. They all agreed that you should not limit your potential mentors/mentees within your cultural backgrounds. When it is a challenge to find people just like you, why not take a risk and reach out to someone who’s not necessarily like you? Spend some time to learn about each other’s cultural heritage, and think about how you can relate to that. For mentees, your courage is the key to reach out to people who are different from you. For mentors, showing an interest and understanding to your mentee’s background stories is an important first step.

Lean In Speakers

Diverse types of mentorship

The diversity not only lies in the mentor and mentee’s backgrounds, but also lies in the types of mentorship you can find to improve yourself. Traditionally, when we think about a mentor-mentee relationship, it is often one-on-one and from a senior to a junior position. However, the speakers shared a list of alternative types of mentorship that should be considered.

Peer to peer mentoring: Mentorship is not necessarily vertical. You can learn a lot from your peers as well. Meanwhile, you can be a mentor to your peers in the areas that you excel in.

Group mentoring: Mentorship doesn’t have to be an one-on-one experience. If you thrive in group chats and activities, why not try to set up a mentoring group? Confucius once said, “if three of us walk together, at least one of the other two is good enough to be my teacher [三人行,必有我师].” Perhaps a mentorship interests group can give you more insights than from an individual.

Informal mentoring: Mentorship doesn’t necessarily start with the question “will you be my mentor”. For some people, casual coffee chats are more comfortable than intense mentorships.

Mentoring programs: Be sure to check out the local organizations. Some of the organizations offer official mentoring programs for people in their early career stages. The mentoring programs usually are more committed than other forms of mentoring, and the programs also bring transparency into what is expected in a mentor-mentee relationship.

Self-mentoring: Maybe you’re already a rock star! Congratulations, you can mentor yourself! Like all the mentoring methods, the first step to start a mentorship is to self-access, so that you know what you want to get out of from a mentorship relationship. This is particularly important for reducing self-bias when mentoring yourself. Once you have a good understanding of your skills and goals, you can become your own mentor — join organizations to promote your own visibility and talent; become active volunteers in various events to expand your network; really take ownership of your mentorship and push yourself as if a great mentor will do.

Virtual mentors: In this day and age, you can find inspirational people everywhere. No need to limit your mentors to a physical space, it’s time to expand the mentorship into the virtual world. You can read about them and learn from them as if they are you virtual mentors.

“Who you spend time with is who you become.”- Bart Kohnhorst

Despite the array of mentor types, some themes remain consistent. First and foremost, self-assessment is the most important step to take before approaching anyone for a mentorship. The relationship between mentor and mentee is primarily driven by the mentee. As such, a mentee must have a clear idea of what he or she wants to get out of this mentoring relationship.

“Mentorship works best when we work as ourselves.” — Silvia Siqueira

Bring authenticity and confidence into a mentorship is the key to build trust between mentor and mentee. If you can’t be yourself comfortably around someone, then the chances are that person is not a good fit to be your mentor. Both mentor and mentee need to work together to build a safe space for the mentorship. For example, show respect to personal boundaries and establish confidentiality when sharing stories.

“You can start giving back today, even if you don’t have anything to give back to your mentor.” -Damian Fernandez

Giving back is the way to ensure a mentorship is mutually beneficial. It’s true that not all the mentees can add value to their mentors in terms of professional development. However, there are other ways you can give back to your mentors or to the community in general. Keep in mind that even a mentor is not an expert in absolutely everything, your perspective on certain events can be great insights for your mentor. In addition, think about the ways you can contribute to the communities you’re involved with and make sure to let your mentor know that “you inspired me to do this”.

“You want a bucket filler, not a bucket dipper.” -Lisanne Glew

A bucket filler is someone who fills you with energy and positivity, and a bucket dipper drains the energy from you. When looking for a mentor, you’ll naturally want someone who energizes you and supports you. In addition, when searching for a mentor, you’ll also need to pay attention to that person’s reputation and how that could influence your personal brand. The panelists suggest to set up some ground rules in mentoring, so that both the reputation of the mentor and the mentee will be protected.

All in all, finding a mentor is in its essence, to find someone you can “listen and spark” (Silvia Siqueira).

Event Swag

Here are a list of tips for mentors and mentees included in the “Mentorship Matters” event.

  1. Demonstrate interests in mentee.
  2. Be relatable and build rapport.
  3. Focus on positives rather than limitations.
  4. Avoid interruption.
  5. Be available to keep your appointments.
  6. Hold your mentee accountable for commitments and goals.
  7. Avoid venting to mentee.
  8. Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of your mentoring.
  9. Bring authenticity to mentorship.
  10. Be an active listener.
  11. Be a leader in your mentoring relationship.
  12. Be a student and learn, not simply getting answers.
  13. Research resources and discuss your findings with your mentor.
  14. Conversation is key.
  15. Use what you learn and apply your learnings.
  16. Embrace solutions and be open to alternative approaches.
  17. Own your future.
  18. Welcome new ideas and constructive feedback.
  19. Learn from real-world experience from your mentor’s strategies in the past.
  20. Enjoy the experience.

Event links

Originally published at on August 27, 2018.