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Giving AND Receiving Through Mentoring

July 27th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Ask any successful senior leader, executive, or entrepreneur and chances are they’ll attribute at least part of their success to one or more mentors they had along the way. Ask any of their mentors who got more out of the experience, and chances are they’ll tell you that as mentors they got back as much or more than they gave.  That has certainly been my experience.

Years ago I joined an organization, Mentoring Circles, to mentor women entrepreneurs around developing processes, business acumen, and leadership.  I was invited to join the Board of Directors – which I did – and continued to mentor.  I got so much out of it. Not only was it thrilling to “give back” by helping other women identify, plan for, and achieve their goals,  it was an incredible learning experience.  Through mentoring I gained more insight into people, learned from different perspectives, and built a number of cherished, long-term relationships.

In my last blog I talked about some ways to achieve wellness. Giving back is one of those ways. And mentoring is a way to give back. Is there someone who has reached out to you for advice? Or someone you’ve noticed who has great potential yet needs some guidance on how to navigate the organization to get the recognition and opportunities they deserve? Consider volunteering to be their mentor.

Now don’t get me wrong. Good mentoring relationships don’t just happen instantaneously.  There needs to be mutual trust, willingness to learn (in both directions), and commitment to the partnership (meeting on a regular basis, open and honest communication, follow through, etc.) As a mentor, you need to be:

- Available and accessible

- A coach and advisor

- An effective listener

- A confidant and sounding board

- A role model

- A friend and ally

- Willing to learn from your mentee

To get the most out of the mentoring relationship, your mentee needs to be:

- Committed to the mentoring process

- Clear about goals and objectives

- Proactive in scheduling meetings

- Prepared and accountable

- Receptive to feedback/advice

- Open and honest

- Willing to learn from you

It’s important to have some structure around the partnership. I recommend that you commit to a 12-month partnership and then reassess. That will give you time to really get to know each another. Also, establish goals and timelines at the outset.  Regular meetings are essential – schedule them several months in advance and commit. If you find one or the other of you keeps missing or rescheduling, it’s time to have a serious conversation about the level of commitment. It’s also very important to be open and honest when things aren’t working. Sometimes they don’t. If this is the case, a growth exercise – for both of you – is to figure out how to end the partnership in a positive way.

Does your organization have a mentoring program? Or have you been a mentor? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience. Please comment.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill

Till next time,







Communication, Development, Mentoring, wellness


“Connecting” Your Way to Wellness

July 13th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Earlier this month I was in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. with seven girlfriends I’ve known since high school. We call ourselves the “Jersey Girls” and over the years we’ve shared good times and bad, countless phone calls and visits, and lots and lots of laughter.  In fact, I still laugh out loud every time I think about all the fun we had. It was soothing, it was inspirational, it fed my soul. Oh, and did I mention it was fun?

I’m sharing this because in this hectic and often harsh world of ours we often forget the importance of doing things that contribute to personal well-being. Things like connecting with yourself by knowing and doing the things that feed your soul. Connecting with friends who care about you and accept you just as you are. And connecting with others by volunteering your time or expertise.

I was at a point where I needed some downtime. And having allowed myself to take it, I now feel smarter, more energized, and much more prepared to face whatever I need to.  I highly recommend you do the same.

Here’s how to “connect” your way to wellness:

Take care of yourself first.  You can’t pour from an empty cup. Just like you need to put your oxygen mask on first if you’re flying with a child, you need to take care of your health, your rest, and your basic needs in order to be able to do what you need to do for your family, your job, whatever. Know what soothes you and do it!

Connect with friends. And make it in-person connections versus posting on their timeline. Facebook and email give us the illusion that we’re keeping in touch, but nothing beats the in-person, eyeball to eyeball, love-the-sound-of-your-laughter kind of connection. Trust me. This one’s a priority for me.

Schedule a 3-hour window with no meetings.  Do your days turn into meeting mania?  Schedule a block of time where you are unavailable and can focus uninterrupted on work you need to get done, or just spend some alone time to reconnect with yourself.

No meetings after 4 pm on Friday. This should be a no-brainer, and yet there are those who still schedule, or call impromptu, meetings at 4 pm on a Friday. Change that by just saying no. Obviously there are times when it’s an emergency need. But for the most part, it’s just poor planning!

Be “present” with your family…and friends. When you’re with your family and friends put the phone away. Email, text, and the newsfeed can wait. Your loved ones want to see your smiling face and not just the top of your head. Put the phone away and allow for a real connection.

Give back – to your team, to your community, to your favorite charity, to others. Doing good for others helps you feel better about yourself and may improve your health. In a Canadian study, 85% of volunteers ranked their health as “good” compared to only 79% of non-volunteers.

Now start connecting!  You’ll be glad you did.

Till next time,


Health, Life, People, wellness