Mentorship is important for both personal and employee development, with roughly 97% of people saying a mentor is valuable and 55% believe mentoring can help them succeed. For businesses, 67% report an increase in productivity due to mentoring and 55% of businesses felt mentoring had a positive impact on their profit. So, how then can we give and receive such mentorship in a way that is beneficial to both parties?
Let me proclaim the story of a great mentor. Those of you who are regular readers have heard me talk about various family members and I personally enjoy sharing the lessons I have learned and how they influence the way we live, work, and play. My mother-in-law Rosemarie Smedley lived a great life and she lived it well.
If I must pick one thing about her—beyond her kindness and generosity—that was just as important, it was her view of the world. She tried to be happy as often as possible and was loved, kind, and giving. I learned so much from our daily conversations.
I am saddened to say this past week she passed away and my husband Dave and the entire family had to say goodbye to a very wonderful woman. And while I am very sad, I had to say one final farewell, I was incredibly happy my sister-in-law and I were able to be with her for the final week of her life and give her the care that she needed to pass away the way she wanted and in the home she wanted. Her wish was to die at home and eventually be with her best friend, her husband of 56 years William Smedley. And I am confident we gave her that wish.
How many people can say they had a life well lived at the age of 97? My guess, not many! But Rosemarie Smedley did. Do not get me wrong, it is not to say it did not come with some heartache. My amazing mother-in-law lost two sons.
But those two losses do not compare to the death of her greatest love of her life Captain Smedley. Their love was, and is, never ending. I could not help but respect the way she took care of my father-in-law. Nothing made her more content than to be a supportive wife and confidant. That’s why she pampered my father-in-law so much. But in her mind, she didn’t indulge him enough.
It’s funny though, this is a man who flew 747s, but couldn’t operate a microwave, because she coddled him by cooking all his meals and serving them to him on the couch. She cleaned and ironed all his clothes and accommodated his need for two pocket shirts, which are almost impossible to find. She scoured the planet for them. Remember there was no internet back then. She would bring him a cup of coffee in the morning or at night when he was reading a book just to see him. Even after 56 years of marriage, she missed that.
As mentors and mentees, we have a wonderful opportunity to gain experience and soak up advice. We must share, beyond talking. We need to listen. Here at Connected World, we talk about the future of work, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), women in technology, and what it takes to be a better employee. We need to understand the type of person to determine our ability to show empathy and compassion.
My mother-in-law taught me all of this through example. She was always happy and cheerful. She was encouraging, talking about all her children and her other in laws in a positive light. She made us all feel important and bragged about all 23 grandchildren and all eight great grandchildren. She avoided taking sides and listened—never getting in the middle of anything. Even when she had an opinion, she didn’t voice it. When asked, she gently pointed out what would matter to us and what did we want to do. She always made it seem like it was our idea.
One policy that is very applicable in business is she always had an open-door policy, inviting everyone to visit and encouraging us to do the same. I have always had an open-door policy for my family, employees, and clients. We never get upset when people quickly visit. In fact, we welcome it.
Much like an executive or manager in a company, I listened to her and followed. I learned from her lessons and her years of experience. She was older, wiser, and taught me much through example. That is what I want to be for my children. What made our relationship work is that I realized her role in my life, and I never tried to overstep. I recognized times changed, but always took the wisdom of what still stays the same. As a mentee, I was extremely comfortable taking a back seat.
Like a business, it is essential to have a clear view of your role in the family dynamics and be visible and essential when called upon. What’s more, families are important just like in a meeting. Everyone needs to know the role played and how relevant you are in every discussion and when you are providing emotional support.
During the week before mom died, she divulged more stories with my sister-in-law Betty and I, and we laughed with her a lot in the wee hours of the night. I talk about one memorial moment on The Peggy Smedley Show.
Sometimes we think we have the answers and sometimes it’s better to listen. There is always more to learn. Don’t be competitive, be supportive.
She wanted me to remind all her grandchildren if you would not want your grandmother to see you doing it, don’t do it. She stressed that all her children need to focus on today, not tomorrow, and to live life to the fullest today. She wants everyone to be happy and enjoy life now and find the things that make you happy. We talked about that a lot. She loved. She laughed. She inspired. And she loved a good joke. While Rosemarie was not my biological mother, I could not love her any more. I am already missing our everyday calls.
Mom, thank you for giving me the privilege of being with you in the final days and hours. You hold a special place in my heart because of all the memories that we share. But most importantly you had the opportunity to leave this place the way you wanted it.
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