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Mentoring excellence: How to foster inclusion by jointly bridging differences (#144)

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Jean Latting
May 9, 2024
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Lisa Fain speaks with Jean about the growth potential for mentors and mentees when they truly speak with, listen to, and respect each other’s personhood.


Jean interviews Lisa Fain, head of the Center for Mentoring Excellence

Jean 1:55

What is mentoring? How does it differ from coaching and therapy?

Lisa 2:14

Mentoring is a developmental relationship that is reciprocal. It is about the development, the improvement, or the interest of the mentee’s skills, knowledge, or development. There's three characteristics that define a mentoring relationship.

Learning is the purpose, the process, and the product of mentoring. Mentors grow, and mentors gain sometimes as much or more than mentees gain. There's the reciprocity. And then the third factor is co-creation.

Lisa 9:36

Learning is what's in common with mentoring and coaching. What is not in common is this idea of reciprocity.

You don't have the reciprocity in a healthy therapy relationship, the therapist is there for the exploration of the client.

Lisa 13:56

Nobody owns difference. Everybody owns difference.

I'll just use you and I as a visible example, I'm a White woman, you're a woman of color. Does that mean that you're different from me? Or that I'm different from you? No, it means that we are different from one another, the differences lie between us. You are not responsible for that difference, and I am not responsible for that difference.

Jean 16:06

Quoting from Lisa’s book: an effective mentoring relationship requires that each partner understand something about the other's generational context, and yet not make generalizations.

Lisa 16:30

Now you have four or five generations working together in the workforce.

The assumptions that we make based on people's age about them is both harmful and also erroneous, in the sense, we have to remember that even by generation, we have different experiences, and certainly this intersectionality of identity impacts that even more as well.

Jean 18:55

Why does this subject matter to you?

Lisa 19:54

When I was an exchange student, I started to think about the impact of culture on difference. Growing up in the States, I was from a very individualistic culture, going to Australia, which was at the time a very collectivistic culture.

Later when I was in the workforce as an attorney, I did pro bono immigration work. I said, I think we need to start thinking about having just greater representation in this workforce, both to create opportunity but also to represent who our consumers are. And they said, well, can you kind of figure that out for us?

I started to look into what does it mean to create a diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative in an organization? They gave me a chance as the DEI leader.

Lisa 27:30

The most frustrating thing about working in the DEI field is that everything feels like a drop in the bucket. You have great conversations, or you hold great roundtables, or you have amazing events, and people are excited, “Yeah, we will do it.” Then they go back to their silos, and crickets.

Jean 29:17

You discovered that growth and learning comes not with interacting with sameness but interacting with difference.

Lisa 29:55

Relationships involve getting to know one another. It involves real curiosity. Seeing you as a human being with whom I want to have a relationship, that starts to create some accountability for change and that gets super exciting.

Lisa 33:01

We are accountable to each other to get to know one another, we are accountable to each other to make this relationship work. The only real way to do it is for me to see you and you to see me. But the seeing actually happens through dialogue. It's not a surface seeing, it's seeing the whole of somebody.

Dialogue is a deeper conversation, it's generative, there's learning in dialogue, there's sharing in dialogue, there's trust and psychological safety in dialogue.

Lisa 37:39

Our women's group at work had wanted a mentoring program. It just so happened that my mother had founded Center for Mentoring Excellence in 1992.

She's talking about the importance of these developmental relationships. I had this moment of connecting the dots, saying this passion for mentoring… because mentoring ultimately is about how learning in a relationship context can have such an impact in creating inclusive environments,

Lisa 43:30

People think the mentor's job is to be the sage on the stage. A good mentor is a guide on the side.

As a mentor, your job is to see me as a mentee with my own needs and perspectives that may be different from yours, and your right path is not my right path.

Your job is not to protect me, your job is to push me. Your job is to help me stretch, to help me grow, to help me learn in my own path, not in your path.

Jean 49:51

What is the takeaway from this conversation?

Lisa 50:05

Mentoring is an incredible vehicle for mentors and mentees to really move the needle on creating a more inclusive and equitable workforce in society, that's thing one.

Thing two is not just to seek out those relationships, but to create a sense of urgency in yourself for bridging differences as a tool for making a difference.

We are an incredibly divided society, right now, we are not seeing one another.

If you care about this divided society, if you care about creating a world that is infused with kindness and accountability for your fellow human beings and making some dent in the universe across this polarity, there's nothing more urgent to me than having these kinds of conversations.

Lisa Fain headshot

Lisa Z. Fain

CEO, Center for Mentoring Excellence

Lisa is the CEO of the Center for Mentoring Excellence, an expert in mentoring and inclusion, a global speaker, and an executive coach. She works with organizations of all types and sizes to create more inclusive workplaces through mentoring. Previously an employment attorney, Lisa was formerly senior director of the diversity and inclusion function at Outerwall Inc. (former parent company to automated retail giants Redbox and Coinstar). She lives in Seattle, WA.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Have you had any mentoring experience, either as mentor or mentee? How would you improve on it now?
  2. What is the urgency that she describes? What can you do?

Conscious Change skills
covered in this vlog

  • Build effective relationships
    • Engage in powerful listening
    • Develop skills in inquiry and openness
    • Learn how to give, receive, and seek feedback
  • Bridge differences
    • Address underlying system biases
    • Learn to recognize dominant/nondominant dynamics
    • Sustain chronic unease toward exclusionary behaviors
  • Conscious use of self
    • Accept responsibility for your own contributions
    • Seek to understand others’ perspectives
    • Focus on others’ strengths
    • Recognize your power and use it responsibly

#ConsciousChange  #Mentoring  #OwnDifferences

Coming July 9th!  Available for preorder:
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Leading Consciously

We are a leadership development firm that helps people and organizations create resilient, sustainable, multicultural, and inclusive settings. The ability to lead consciously can help you gain true awareness and earn the respect and trust of others.  

It’s the assumptions we have about people’s lives that are the biggest obstacles to growth, awareness, and success. We help you understand how those assumptions are preventing you from becoming the best you can be as an organization, an inclusive leader, and a person.

Let’s start a conversation. Email us at jeanLC@leadingconsciously.com