Things Mentors Provide That Help People Succeed


Before Make Possible was Make Possible, our creators held a Needs Based Assessment workshop with around 50 participants. People were split into teams and discussed a series of questions about ‘mentorship’ and what it means to them. They were then invited to present their findings to the whole group.

Each group was comprised of people from different cultural, educational and professional backgrounds and they represented everything from post-secondary students to retired professionals.

I stared at this collection of words that they had created and noticed that the words started grouping themselves into categories, which outlined needs of people who want to succeed at something.

Here’s what I found:

We need direction – guide, coach, advice, and counselor

Maybe we have a goal, but often we need help developing an identifiable path that facilitates our movement towards that goal. A good mentor has the gift of 20/20 hindsight and so is able to provide guidance either through illuminating the way for someone, or assisting in creating their own road less traveled.

We need support – sounding board, believes in you, help and listening

We do not live in a vacuum. When we have an idea, or a plan, it is helpful to have someone to run it by, someone who will provide us with encouragement, assistance and approval. People are social creatures and we derive much of our energy through interaction with others. Positive interaction with mentors is key to moving forward.

We need context – life experience, role model and wisdom, and strategic ideas

Hey, sometimes that idea or plan we concocted is not the greatest or most timely. Our mentors are here to provide historical information, social and political context, and information that we couldn’t possibly look up online. Knowing our playing field will help us make informed decisions.

Most of all, we need to believe in ourselves. This is something that comes from within, and I find that a positive and supportive environment can do wonders for our self-confidence. So, in situations where that environment does not automatically present itself to you, it’s up to you to seek it out. And the best way to do that is to find mentors.

There was one last word that came up in the Needs Based Assessment. It was a bit of an anomaly: fun. I see fun as an overarching feeling that revolves around all of the needs mentioned above. In order to make the most of mentorship, fun is essential. Stuart Brown explains this concept in an amazing TED Talk called “Play is More Than Just Fun”, check it out. It has been proven that play and fun improve our ability to learn and remember things, so please make sure that you enjoy what you do, and find a mentor who is a joy to be around. In addition to being good for you, later on, it will be easy to pay it forward and become a great mentor yourself.