Five Mentorship Principles to Hold Space for Others to Succeed

The Employee to CEO Project - Mentorship Community

What does it mean offer mentorship while holding space for someone to succeed?

It means being present for someone who needs you most, but recognizing that they must find their own way. Mentorship means avoiding the urge to fix them or change the path they are on. To quietly guide them through their journey, without judgment or the influence of the ego. To allow individuals to have the autonomy to make their choices and silently let go of control. Acknowledge their uniqueness and respect their differences as you empower them to grow.

Have you ever wanted someone to succeed so badly that you designed their whole life for them? Parents are often guilty of doing this – Dear Lord, I’ve done it too. As mentors, we have to avoid this overpowering trapdoor.

One of the most challenging aspects of mentoring others is avoiding the trap of telling them how to live the life they’re destined for. Each person has to own their path to success, that doesn’t mean we can’t help them as they evolve out of their cocoon, and into the beautiful butterflies, we know they’re destined to become.

In my life I have always been a fixer, I’ve run around fixing other people’s mess to the point where I felt that was my design. It started with my need to rescue my father from the women he married; then I moved on to saving my friends and family. Along the way I came to realize that I could not save them from themselves, I had to become a placeholder and give them the opportunity to reach inside themselves to grow and learn from their experiences.

But as professionals, mentoring others we have to understand the core principles of holding space. A concept that I work at every day. Holding Space means, you’re willing to walk the path with them wherever the journey takes you, without judging them along the way. This lesson is hardest when you want others to succeed. It’s been the most difficult lesson for me to learn.

Sometimes, we have to be willing to accept the frailty of the human spirit as we support others along their path. This reality is particularly challenging for women whose nurturing and judgmental hormones are always in hyper-vigilant mode.

In your role as mentor, coach, or teacher, we will always want to fix people, give them advice, or judge them for not living up to the dreams we had for their life. When you’re holding space for someone, you have to renounce your dream and realize this is their life to live. We have to learn to let it go.

To truly support those we mentor; we have to be willing to help them grow, but not overpower their transformation. Here are the five lessons I learned about holding someone space while mentoring, empowering, and letting go:
  • Don’t take the power to succeed away from others. Success is patterned when we see others realizing their dream; then we are empowered to emulate them. When we take an individual’s decision-making power away, they will feel inadequate and deficient. Don’t use the challenges in your journey to stop the empowerment process in your mentees journey.
  • Check your ego at the door. Mentorship is not about you – it’s about them. No one’s success depends on your intervention! They have to learn to succeed on their own. We can’t will someone to succeed; they have to want it for themselves, and we have to be willing to allow them to evolve.
  • It’s totally ok to let others fail and make their own mistakes. It’s important that we recognize the individuality of life’s path. Each person has to learn, grow, make mistakes, transition and feel empowered to live the life they envisioned. Along the way, they will make mistakes. Unfortunately, we cannot save them from the mistakes even when we see them falling off the cliff. Their failure is not a reflection on you, nor does it mean that you failed at mentorship.
  • It’s a judgment fee zone. What I think isn’t important. Each person has to find the courage to take risks without hearing, “I told you so” – even when we want to scream those words out loud. Give people the permission to trust their own judgment, utilize their intuition and build their path to wisdom one brick at a time.
  • You are a facilitator and guide – don’t overwhelm them with your expertise. The reason you were chosen as a mentor, you are the expert they needed – accept that and recognize you’re here to guide, facilitate and let them fly. Accept the fact that your mentee may not be ready to hear the information you’re relaying – if they’re not prepared to hear you, step aside and allow them to make their choices.

Finally, as mentors, we need to learn to hold space in our lives so we can succeed. As we support others, we need someone to help us. We need placeholders to offer us, unconditional love, give us gentle guidance along our path to success so that we can live the life of our dreams. Remember holding space is something all of us can do for ourselves and each other.

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