Respect, listen, learn

I have had such a great learning experience that really made me reflect on my coaching work.  It all started at a networking meeting, where one of the attendees asked if anyone was interested in mentoring teenage girls as they were approaching their GCSE’s by working with the Girls Network – for more information see https://www.thegirlsnetwork.org.uk/. Initially, I wondered if I would have anything of value to bring but decided to go to one of their information evenings – I was hooked by hearing about all the great work they are doing and so , after attending their training event, signed up as a mentor.  Pre Covid , they held a ‘matching’ event where all the mentors got to meet all the mentees.  Was a bit like speed dating where we all got a few minutes to talk to each other and then moved on, but some of the questions I was asked by the girls were SO interesting – and challenging.  After that, the Girls Network coordinator ‘matched up’ each mentor and mentee.  A series of meetings are arranged for the year’s programme and I was really looking forward to getting to know my mentee better and working through the mentoring programme with her.  Then lockdown happened and we had to move to just email conversations. The year long programme is just coming to an end and, as part of that, all mentors are asked to reflect on their experience. Doing that, I realised I might have started off by thinking what I could bring to my mentee but she gave me so much more; a fresh and innovative approach to thinking about the future, bringing such joy and hope into difficult situations that really showed her aptitude and resilience, and being full of excitement to take on whatever life throws her way.  She was also very considered (and informed) about what was happening elsewhere in the world and good at expressing her opinions.  Did she need support?  Certainly, in some areas she asked for ideas and for me to share my experiences as well to help her develop and that was where she said to me that it was important she showed respect, listened and learnt – even if it was to say that something wasn’t quite right for her. Seeing how the Girls Network has supported young women is inspiring but has also really given me some great learning for my future work as a coach and mentor.  I can’t wait to work with the next cohort and see what other learning experiences there might be for both of us.  If this has inspired you and you are interested in seeing if you can provide support (they are always looking to increase their pool of mentors from a wide range of businesses), then please do check out their website and see the work being done.