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It Takes Two: How to Get the Most out of Having a Mentor

It Takes Two: How to Get the Most out of Having a Mentor

For some reason, the idea of a mentor seems like an old fashioned concept doesn’t it? Some thing that might create mental images of knights and squires, or even Jedi, certainly not something that can work in contemporary working relationships. Sure, maybe your guidance counselor or sports coach was kind of a mentor, but that was years ago…

In education, it is recognized that teaching a student one to one can be more effective than in a traditional classroom setting. Here a teacher can model the teaching to their student instead of fitting it around a group. They can work with their student better. Mentorship works the same way.

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Mentoring today helps you to reach the success you deserve.

More and more businesses are beginning to realize the many benefits of establishing mentor and mentee relationships as a great method of career development, and indeed personal development in their employees. 71% of Fortune 500 companies[1] use some kind of mentorship system in their organisations.

On a personal level, having someone on your back who knows the challenges and pitfalls of a trade or business can help you reach a level of success that would otherwise be harder to achieve. There have been many articles and pieces[2] written about how mentoring can help women and minority employees reach the recognition and success they deserve that may have been otherwise harder out of reach for them.

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Both the mentor and the mentee can benefit from a strong mentor relationship.

It would be easy to think that only the one being mentored will be benefiting from the mentor/mentee relationship. Perhaps, to the more experienced mentor, having to show someone the ropes of a profession might even be a burden. However, with a strong mentor relationship both parties can benefit really well.

Most obviously, fulfilling the role of a mentor can foster great communication and leadership skills that can benefit the mentor long after they stop being someone’s mentor.[3] In this way it is in their best interest to be a good mentor.

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Here’re some hallmarks of a great mentorship.

So, having a great mentor is clearly a hugely beneficial experience. However how can these benefits be attained? What does a good mentorship actually look like?

  • A great mentor will be committed to their mentee, and likewise the mentee will be committed to their mentor.[4] Because of this, both parties will soon get to know the other’s strengths and weaknesses. With this your mentor will be able to push you in a direction that works best for you.
  • Someone who has been around for a while, has achieved success in your field, will invariably know people. People that would otherwise be out of reach to you if you didn’t have a mentor. That old saying “it’s all about who you know” can be pretty accurate. With a mentor, not only do you know someone worth knowing, you know someone who is working hard to make sure you achieve success.
  • A mentor will be able to give you perspective. Its easy to lose a sense of purpose and direction stuck in the old 9-5, the drudgery, the grind. A mentor will be able to show you not only how to get the best results from your current working patterns, but also, by merely being there, will show you where your current path may take you.

Be a great mentee if you want to get the most of your mentorship.

Even if having a mentor sounds like something you might be interested in, it can sometimes be hard to know how to best fulfill your end of the bargain, and what you can do to to get the most out of your mentor. Here are a few pointers to get you on the right track.

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  • Be open to criticism and advice, or, better still, seek out further advice and criticism from your mentor.[5] Without such information, there is little real use in having a mentor, and also improvement, and with it, advancement, is much harder to achieve.
  • Follow up on their advice. It goes without saying that they are your mentor because they have much more experience and knowledge of your field. As such, each piece of advice is a gift.
  • Consider other mentors.[6] Though in this article I have used the singular term “mentor”, it is not unheard of to have more than one. This both takes the pressure (and extra workload) off a single person. It will also give you access to a deeper pool of knowledge and experience (assuming mentors are interested in sharing with you).
  • Don’t pressure them, in particular work on their terms. Remember that they are doing you a service, though they are your mentor, they are almost certainly doing this as a volunteer.[7] If you start to become a drag, or get in the way of their work and their own advancement and goals, (it’s possible they are someone’s mentee too!) then you may soon find yourself without a mentor, or have one who doesn’t care much about you or your success. Both can be deadly.

Reach out to the potential mentors skilfully.

All the above is all well and good, but you want to know how to actually get a mentor. The reality of the matter is, it’s tricky. Firstly: You should consider someone in your business or field that you want to emulate, someone reachable.

Secondly: Do not, I repeat: do not ask them to be your mentor if they’ve never heard of you.[8] Unfortunately this is the hardest part, but it makes sense. If they don’t know you or are not on their radar at least. Then you’re just a stranger.

Thirdly: Find ways you can help them out, this could be something as simple as retweeting their blog a bunch of times, or it could be something as complicated as getting them new work or clients (if that applies). It’s always a great idea to network in whatever situation or business, so at the next company party or mixer, totally attend and see where things go.

Reference

More by this author

Arthur Peirce

Lifestyle Writer

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Last Updated on September 30, 2019

How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

Minutes are a written record of a board, company, or organizational meeting. Meeting minutes are considered a legal document, so when writing them, strive for clarity and consistency of tone.

Because minutes are a permanent record of the meeting, be sure to proofread them well before sending. It is a good idea to run them by a supervisor or seasoned attendee to make sure statements and information are accurately captured.

The best meeting minutes takers are careful listeners, quick typists, and are adequately familiar with the meeting topics and attendees. The note taker must have a firm enough grasp of the subject matter to be able to separate the important points from the noise in what can be long, drawn-out discussions. And, importantly, the note taker should not simultaneously lead and take notes. (If you’re ever asked to do so, decline.)

Following, are some step-by-step hints to effectively write meeting minutes:

1. Develop an Agenda

Work with the Chairperson or Board President to develop a detailed agenda.

Meetings occur for a reason, and the issues to be addressed and decided upon need to be listed to alert attendees. Work with the convener to draft an agenda that assigns times to each topic to keep the meeting moving and to make sure the group has enough time to consider all items.

The agenda will serve as your outline for the meeting minutes. Keep the minutes’ headings consistent with the agenda topics for continuity.

2. Follow a Template from Former Minutes Taken

If you are new to a Board or organization, and are writing minutes for the first time, ask to see the past meeting minutes so that you can maintain the same format.

Generally, the organization name or the name of the group that is meeting goes at the top: “Meeting of the Board of Directors of XYZ,” with the date on the next line. After the date, include both the time the meeting came to order and the time the meeting ended.

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Most groups who meet do so regularly, with set agenda items at each meeting. Some groups include a Next Steps heading at the end of the minutes that lists projects to follow up on and assigns responsibility.

A template from a former meeting will also help determine whether or not the group records if a quorum was met, and other items specific to the organization’s meeting minutes.

3. Record Attendance

On most boards, the Board Secretary is the person responsible for taking the meeting minutes. In organizational meetings, the minutes taker may be a project coordinator or assistant to a manager or CEO. She or he should arrive a few minutes before the meeting begins and pass around an attendance sheet with all members’ names and contact information.

Meeting attendees will need to check off their names and make edits to any changes in their information. This will help as both a back-up document of attendees and ensure that information goes out to the most up-to-date email addresses.

All attendees’ names should be listed directly below the meeting name and date, under a subheading that says “Present.” List first and last names of all attendees, along with title or affiliation, separated by a comma or semi-colon.

If a member of the Board could not attend the meeting, cite his or her name after the phrase: “Copied To:” There may be other designations in the participants’ list. For example, if several of the meeting attendees are members of the staff while everyone else is a volunteer, you may want to write (Staff) after each staff member.

As a general rule, attendees are listed alphabetically by their last names. However, in some organizations, it’s a best practice to list the leadership of the Board first. In that case, the President or Co-Presidents would be listed first, followed by the Vice President, followed by the Secretary, and then by the Treasurer. Then all other names of attendees would be alphabetized by last name.

It is also common practice to note if a participant joined the meeting via conference call. This can be indicated by writing: “By Phone” and listing the participants who called in.

4. Naming Convention

Generally, the first time someone speaks in the meeting will include his or her name and often the title.

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For example, “President of the XYZ Board, Roger McGowan, called the meeting to order.” The next time Roger McGowan speaks, though, you can simply refer to him as “Roger.” If there are two Rogers in the meeting, use an initial for their last names to separate the two. “Roger M. called for a vote. Roger T. abstained.”

5. What, and What Not, to Include

Depending on the nature of the meeting, it could last from one to several hours. The attendees will be asked to review and then approve the meeting minutes. Therefore, you don’t want the minutes to extend into a lengthy document.

Capturing everything that people say verbatim is not only unnecessary, but annoying to reviewers.

For each agenda item, you ultimately want to summarize only the relevant points of the discussion along with any decisions made. After the meeting, cull through your notes, making sure to edit out any circular or repetitive arguments and only leave in the relevant points made.

6. Maintain a Neutral Tone

Minutes are a legal document. They are used to establish an organization’s historical record of activity. It is essential to maintain an even, professional tone. Never put inflammatory language in the minutes, even if the language of the meeting becomes heated.

You want to record the gist of the discussion objectively, which means mentioning the key points covered without assigning blame. For example, “The staff addressed board members’ questions regarding the vendor’s professionalism.”

Picture a lawyer ten years down the road reading the minutes to find evidence of potential wrongdoing. You wouldn’t want an embellishment in the form of a colorful adverb or a quip to cloud any account of what took place. Here’s a list of neutral sounding words to get started with.

7. Record Votes

The primary purpose of minutes is to record any votes a board or organization takes. Solid record-keeping requires mentioning which participant makes a motion — and what the motion states verbatim — and which participant seconds the motion.

For example, “Vice President Cindy Jacobsen made a motion to dedicate 50 percent, or $50,000, of the proceeds from the ZZZ Foundation gift to the CCC scholarship fund. President Roger McGowan seconded the motion.”

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This vote tabulation should be expressed in neutral language as well. “The Board voted unanimously to amend the charter in the following way,” or “The decision to provide $1,000 to the tree-planting effort passed 4 to 1, with Board President McGowan opposing.”

Most Boards try to get a vote passed unanimously. Sometimes in order to help the Board attain a more cohesive outcome, a Board member may abstain from voting. “The motion passed 17 to 1 with one absension.”

8. Pare down Notes Post-Meeting

Following the meeting, read through your notes while all the discussions remain fresh in your mind, and make any needed revisions. Then, pare the meeting minutes down to their essentials, providing a brief account of the discussion that summarizes arguments made for and against a decision.

People often speak colloquially or in idioms, as in: “This isn’t even in the ballpark” or “You’re beginning to sound like a broken record.” While you may be tempted to keep the exact language in the minutes to add color, resist.

Additionally, if any presentations are part of the meeting, do not include information from the Powerpoint in the minutes. However, you will want to record the key points from the post-presentation discussion.

9. Proofread with Care

Make sure that you spelled all names correctly, inserted the correct date of the meeting, and that your minutes read clearly.

Spell out acronyms the first time they’re used. Remember that the notes may be reviewed by others for whom the acronyms are unfamiliar. Stay consistent in headings, punctuation, and formatting. The minutes should be polished and professional.

10. Distribute Broadly

Once approved, email minutes to the full board — not just the attendees — for review. Your minutes will help keep those who were absent apprised of important actions and decisions.

At the start of the next meeting, call for the approval of the minutes. Note any revisions. Try to work out the agreed-upon changes in the meeting, so that you don’t spend a huge amount of time on revisions.

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Ask for a motion to approve the minutes with the agreed-upon changes. Once an attendee offers a motion, ask for another person in the meeting to “second” the motion. They say, “All approved.” Always ask if there is anyone who does not approve. Assuming not, then say: “The minutes from our last meeting are approved once the agreed-upon changes have been made.”

11. File Meticulously

Since minutes are a legal document, take care when filing them. Make sure the file name of the document is consistent with the file names of previously filed minutes.

Occasionally, members of the organization may want to review past minutes. Know where the minutes are filed!

One Caveat

In this day and age of high technology, you may ask yourself: Wouldn’t it be simpler to record the meeting? This depends on the protocols of the organization, but probably not.

Be sure to ask what the rules are at the organization where you are taking minutes. Remember that the minutes are a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said at the meeting.

The minutes reflect decisions not discussions. In spite of their name, “minutes,” the minutes are not a minute-by-minute transcript.

Bottom Line

Becoming an expert minutes-taker requires a keen ear, a willingness to learn, and some practice, but by following these tips you will soon become proficient.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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