There are mentors, and then there are people who step up in a more intentional way to make a profound, lasting impact on our lives.

Lou is one of those people for me. I was a 22-year old graduate student working full-time in student services. I was green (not in an environmental way) and somewhat sheltered.

Lou was a colleague in the department, and for whatever reason, she took it upon herself to help me out. How did she step out of the bounds of mentorship into a game-changing relationship that catapulted my growth?

Her intent was pure. Sure, my doe-eyed perspective sometimes irritated Lou. But I always knew that underneath her gruff exterior, her goal was to help me, always. She had no hidden agenda, and she didn’t even get too invested in whether I took her advice or not. She offered it freely with no strings attached.

She gave it to me straight. Direct isn’t the right word. Lou was “in-your-face,” blunt, often profane and unapologetic. She didn’t just NOT beat around the bush. She never saw the bush in the first place. The payoff for me? I never had to figure out what she meant…it was crystal clear.

Lou pursued my growth, even when I didn’t want to listen. In spite of my inexperience, I thought I had certain things figured out. Lou took the risk to teach me life lessons that I needed to hear, and she managed to break through my naivete. Typical conversations of this type started with, “Listen, I am going to share some stuff I wish someone had told me.”

Lou was imperfect and self-aware. I learned as much from what Lou did badly as I did from her positive example. The ultimate lesson was that I didn’t have to be perfect. I just had to be honest with myself and others and then commit to getting better every day.

It was reciprocal. Over time, I had an impact on Lou as well. She valued my insights and ideas, and our relationship evolved to that of colleagues who supported and challenged one another.

Lou’s lessons have stuck with me for over 30 years, and I see now how her purposeful influence was a central catalyst for my professional growth. While unorthodox, her style was uniquely “Lou” and just what I needed at that time in my career.

How can you shake off the confines of the traditional mentor role and be that enriching person for someone? You’ll change their life and probably yours as well.


Contact Humanergy to find out more about coaching and mentoring.

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