The Making of a Modern Menternship.

December 18, 2022

The Making of a Modern Menternship.

May 29, 2023

She Said: Laura

It was October, 2018, I was invited to listen to Chip Conley, who had just released his book, Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder in New York City. I resonated with Chip’s message, so purchased a copy of the book and one word in particular stuck out to me.

“Mentern”

I am a coach and consultant. My business, Unfolding, explores how we can intentionally shape our lives around what matters most; and finding a balance between striving and spirituality. It is built on the value of growth, learning and stretching into what is almost always uncomfortable, but ultimately leads us to greater joy and fulfillment. My deepest commitment, and passion, is learning.

I was fascinated, and excited, to hear that Chip’s recommendation was for us, modern elders, to embrace the opportunity to show up as both mentor AND intern in our lives and work. To offer our wisdom (work and life experience) while at the same time seek to learn (from those closer to the newest, cutting-edge information). The outcome would be mutual learning and our own growth, creativity and innovation.

I was inspired, so I did what I have done all my life. I took the recommendation and decided to go out there and find myself someone with whom I could share my wisdom while simultaneously seeking to learn from. However, as a sole practitioner also working in a small boutique consulting firm with a team of only 6 people at the time, I wasn’t sure where I would go to find someone to participate in a menternship with me. Until I was introduced to one of my colleague’s former students, a Yale grad, and fellow coach and consultant named Sebastian Little. And my life has never been the same.

He is the same age as my oldest son (28), and while quite different, our relationship is not only extraordinary, but something I cherish. We share our successes and challenges with each other; openly and honestly, personally and professionally.

I will admit, I sometimes feel a little pang of jealousy. He is young, charismatic, super smart and on a path to tremendous success…and at a very young age. At the same time, he offers me all kinds of creative ideas and inspires me to think bigger and in new ways. He is also growing and learning, gaining his own wisdom every day.

My time with him is one of the things I look forward to most.

He Said: Seb

In 2019, Laura Campbell and I were introduced by a mutual colleague who connected us with the old adage “I know you two will get along :)”. We booked time for a customary phone call, did our LinkedIn research on background and relevant experience, engaged in a delightful call, and of course, made the pledge to stay in touch.

Sound familiar? Yup. It’s the base formula for every ordinary professional connection. It’s not bad. It’s just ordinary.

As an only child raised by my mother and grandmother, I was habituated to respect the experience and authority of the generations that came before me. This was reinforced in my experience as a collegiate athlete - “Coach, who’s older, knows all and calls the shots” - and assumptions as a young professional - “gray haired leadership equates to wisdom and competence”.

However, there was something energetically different about Laura. She was open to learning, collaborating, and approaching our conversation as an equal partner. At the end of our chat, SHE expressed interest in continuing the dialogue and seeded the idea of a menternship, a term I had never heard of. She mentioned the Modern Elder Academy program she had participated in and how she viewed me as a peer to learn from, rather than just extend a helping hand. I agreed.

Our exchange left me feeling seen, valued, and grateful.

A few months after we met, I was faced with (what felt like) the decision of a lifetime. I was in the process of considering two job offers and reached out to Laura who joyfully agreed to meet and support my decision process. We met, and a few hours later, I walked out of Laura’s office armed with a tattooed white board and more questions than answers to “what path should I take?” Little did I know, I had been in the presence of a coach - a powerful one - that presented me with frames, questions, and her own stories that made a point without ever over-giving advice.

Again. I felt seen, valued, and grateful.

Above all, my relationship with Laura has been an invitation to unfold and a mirror to my growth. She has been a supportive and safe space for curiosity, exploration, and collaboration on whatever life presents and a model for mentoring and menterning in my own life.

Below are what we have found to be three key pillars for designing your own empowered Menternship:

Make the ask: Establishing a menternship requires seeking out a person who is willing to co-create a relationship through mutual sharing and support. Making the ask requires having an open and honest conversation about what you each hope to gain from the relationship; it won’t work unless both of you are a clear “yes”.

Open all lines of communication: Menternships are a co-created relationship. Setting the stage for open and honest communication (and clarify preferred medium for communication), aligning on how you both want to show up in the experience and inviting mutual information-sharing, curiosity and feedback will help to establish how you will engage and connect.

Be Vulnerable: Menternship can be uncomfortable for both parties. The modern elder has to be open to learning, receiving feedback, and accepting that wisdom is not always the same as, but no more important than new knowledge. For the experience to be meaningful, it will have to be vulnerable. Vulnerability from both parties will lead to deeper trust and connection, and a greater ability to learn and grow.

We invite you to stretch yourselves, and consider exploring how to bring a menternship into your life.

Laura Campbell is a Catalyst and Guide for high-achieving women, executives, entrepreneurs, and innovators as they reimagine what’s possible, commit to what matters most, and get clear on what needs to change to make it happen. Sebastian Little is a Leadership + Performance Coach who operates his own coaching and consulting practice where he partners with high-performing leaders and teams to optimize culture, close performance gaps, and unlock leadership potential.

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