For our second installment of “Why I Mentor,” we talked with Charity Tyler, Executive Director for the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation, who shared her favorite parts about mentoring.
When did you become a mentor?
Charity: I think becoming a mentor happened organically. As I grew, the women I worked with grew too—first when I was coaching Coe’s cheerleading and dance teams, and later as a direct supervisor of young women in the workplace.
I’ve always enjoyed helping people succeed, and have done whatever I could to share my knowledge and encourage others. I think one of the first times I realized I was a mentor was when an assistant accepted a position with more responsibilities within a different organization. We both cried, and she thanked me for what I had taught her. Looking back, I saw the professional and personal growth she exhibited while working with me. It was eye opening for me that I had helped her in that process.
What lessons are important for you to share with a mentee?
C: At home, my mother raised me to ask a simple question, “So what, now what?” It was meant to stop the ruminating and find the solution or the next step. No pity parties allowed; let’s get to work.
I “grew up” professionally in a high-feedback environment. I was regularly coached on what needed to happen and/or change in order to meet expectations or goals. I’ve always taken the same approach with women who have worked alongside me whether in a work or volunteer situation.
I feel the best thing someone can do for a mentee is to listen before sharing. It’s not about what you as a mentor want for someone else; it’s about what that individual wants for themselves. What is their goal or aspiration? At that point, it’s about helping them learn and grow to find the solution or identify that next step. Whether it’s throrough encouragement, resources, modeling, or advice, you must be willing to follow the mentee’s lead when providing support. It’s the mentee’s journey and they have invited you along for the ride.
What’s your greatest takeaway from your time as a mentor?
C: I’ve learned a lot from others I’ve mentored. Many times, lessons have been about communication and emotional intelligence. Understanding how to guide someone in a way that will be most meaningful to them has more impact than simply going through the motions in my own comfort zone. Sometimes, direct communication is not the best way to provide feedback—modeling the behavior or providing soft suggestions are often more effective, depending on the person.
What qualities do good mentors share?
C: The best mentors are those who are willing to give themselves. People are different, so a willingness to share information, give time, or offer tangible support is valuable for both the mentor and the mentee. I believe all people have gifts, but not everyone has the ability to communicate those gifts or to bring out the best in others’ gifts. It’s almost like match-making or playing cupid with one’s potential. Finding that “fit” is magic for everyone.
I think being courageous is also important. Courage manifests in many forms, and understanding that mentorship isn’t for the faint of heart or mind is important. Courageous conversations can be impactful, but they can also break someone’s spirit. The art of learning when and how to have those conversations often comes through failure or heartache. This is when the mentor turns into the student and must be brave enough to look inside to grow and change themselves.
What’s the most rewarding part about mentoring?
C: I love watching women grow and move closer to their goals and dreams. Knowing that I might have played a small role in someone else’s journey is both humbling and rewarding. Whether it’s teaching a new employee how to prioritize responsibilities, helping a woman achieve that next-level career opportunity, or guiding someone through the art of salary negotiations—it’s an amazing feeling to watch her goals achieved and dreams realized.
What advice would you share with a woman who is thinking about becoming a mentor?
C: I would offer that not every mentor/mentee experience is successful. It takes heart and guts from both parties to make things work. It takes time…lots of time and patience. It takes honest communication paired with an open-minded willingness to experience and try things that might cause discomfort for both parties. Mentorship is also one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever experienced, and the pride and joy in seeing others you care about succeed is priceless.