Vital Voices & Vision: Mentorship: Influence with Care | New Jersey Theatre Alliance

Vital Voices & Vision: Mentorship: Influence with Care

I was once asked to make a presentation on preparing your estate with the emphasis on how to approach it all with your immediate family, preparing them for your death. Got your attention? Yes, this is about mentorship. I realized as I was pulling this presentation together that the ways I present them both are similar: Informal, unceremonious ways of approaching each topic.

The more I thought about mentoring, the more I realized my approach is all about relationships. The prep for death was about already established relationships that will physically end with our demise, but with lasting benefits for the intended individuals. Now, today it’s about mentoring, about establishing relationships that hopefully allow for growth and longevity in the careers and life of the intended individuals and possibly lasting relationships with both individuals.

There are sometimes confusion between a mentor and a life or career coach. I want to put the differences out there for us right up front so we can move on to the meat of mentorship. While coaching is driven by performance, mentoring is driven by the development of the mentee. This can mean development of career, interpersonal skills, and/or professional network. Mentors want to see you grow. Coaches also want to see you grow, but they will measure your growth on performance-based outcomes.

Life Coaches: 

1. Usually have short-term, formal relationships with the client.
2. Helps the client learn how to achieve goals.
3. Challenges the individual while providing support for immediate issues.
4. Use structured methods to guide behaviors and outcomes.

Mentors: 

1. Are a treasure-trove of knowledge and life experience.
2. Guide and support the mentee or protégé through personal growth and understanding.
3. Generally maintain an informal and long-term relationship with the protégé.
4. Are generally less active while “holding the space” for the protégé, i.e. listening, sharing ideas, problem solving.

We all know that Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. Normally this is in a certain area of expertise. Mentors are usually more concerned with awakening the person’s inner potential for learning and action, as opposed to helping them achieve specific results.  However, there could be discussion along those lines, especially if the mentee is being mentored by someone in the same organization, business or profession.

While there is such a thing as formal mentorship programs ….I will focus here on informal mentorships. Informal mentoring relationships usually develop spontaneously and are not managed or specifically recognized as a mentoring relationship within a larger organization. A mentor reaches out to a mentee (or vice versa) and a relationship develops which benefits the mentee's professional development.

My mentorships have all come about informally. The first one I will discuss is with me as the mentee. I had been hanging out with some impressive guys while partying in the DC area. One turned out to be a former director of compliance with the EEOC, Vice- chairman of the Democratic National Committee and was a retired vice-president of the American Can Company of Greenwich, Conn. I was trying to make it in the arts field in Norfolk, VA at the time and having difficulty climbing the ladder. I was pumping him to death for guidance and he was providing it. Mentorship was not in my vocabulary back then in the early 80s. One day, he dropped the bomb on me that I was his mentee and added, “I do not expect you to take all my advice but if I feel you are not taking enough advantage of my expertise, I will drop you”.  Enough said! Needless to say, I paid apt attention 89.5% of the time.

Mentors don’t give up all the answers or tell you what to do. Instead, they guide you to the answers with problem solving and the use of metaphors and story-telling. The role of a mentor is all about effectively passing on knowledge and experience. The relationship may develop out of a specific need by the mentee around a task or situation for guidance, support, or advice. The mentoring experience can prove not only beneficial for all involved, but also lay the groundwork for a lifelong professional relationship.

The Four Stages of Mentorship:

In the initiation stage, two individuals enter into a mentoring relationship. For informal mentoring, the matching process occurs through professional or social interactions between potential mentors and mentees. This stage is the period when a potential mentee proves him- or herself worthy of a mentor's attention. Both parties seek a positive, enjoyable relationship that would justify the extra time and effort required in mentoring.

The cultivation stage is the primary stage of learning and development. Assuming a successful initiation stage, during the cultivation stage, the mentee learns from the mentor. Two broad mentoring functions are at their peak during this stage. The career-related function often emerges first when the mentor coaches the mentee on how to work effectively and efficiently.

The separation stage generally describes the end of a mentoring relationship. The relationship may end for a number of reasons. There may be nothing left to learn, the mentee may want to establish an independent identity, or the mentor may send the mentee off on his or her own the way.

The redefinition stage, both mentor and mentee recognize that their relationship can continue but that it will not be the same as their mentoring relationship. If both parties successfully negotiate through the separation stage, the relationship can evolve into a collegial relationship or social friendship.

Fortunately, I am still in touch with as many as 20 of my mentees from as far back in the late 80s forward. Of them there are four who have surpassed me in their careers and now I look up to them and even partner with them on projects or ask for assistance from time to time. I am proud to say that all of my mentees now serve as mentors to others. I encourage it……and I hope you do too.

Onward, together!

"In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. You must care. You don’t have to know how many square miles are in Idaho, you don’t need to know what is the chemical makeup of chemistry, or of blood or water. Know what you know and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with.” – Maya Angelou


About the Author: 

Chase Jackson: Chase is a non-profit arts administrator with over 30 years in the field. Throughout Jackson’s career, she has conceived, produced and presented diverse multi- disciplined programs with audiences as intimate as 50 to grand slam events attracting 1.5M. Her mantra is, “I use the arts as a motivational, educational and economic development tool as well as a tool for cross cultural communication and interaction.”

Jackson graduated from Elizabeth City State University with a BS in Accounting and worked for 15 years as a comptroller for a government contractor and in banking. During that time she also volunteered in the arts community which proved to be more intense than her nine to five. Chase juggled her full time jobs with the founding of two nonprofit organizations: the Natchel Blues Network (a blues music society) and AFR’AM Fest (African American Arts Festival). Add to that, producing the Ghent Arts Festival (200+ visual artists) and Norfolk’s Harborfest (3-day event with 8 stages) from 1976 to 1987. All four events featured national recording artists representing music genres from classical to blues. Chase realized in 1986 that she needed to switch careers and did so following earning a Certificate in Arts Management from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. She easily moved into the arts full time with a position at Cultural Experiences Unlimited yet still volunteering and organizing three annual festivals.

Chase serves on the advisory committees for the NJ Historical Commission’s Revolution NJ. She is a member of the NJ Arts and Culture Administrators of Color Network and the Non Profit Professionals of Color Collective. An accomplished storyteller, producer, director, and actor, Jackson is also employed as an actor with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Comskill Program, which provides training for doctors and nurses in patient empathy, sensitivity, and discretion. Chase is founder of ChaseArts (chasearts.net), a producing/presenting organization which has produced plays in Cape May, Atlantic City and Philadelphia.


About Vital Voices & Vision

This blog series is intended to be a platform for members of the New Jersey Arts and Culture Administrators of Color network to share their creativity, expertise, and thoughts. Are you a network member and would like to contribute to this series? Please email Deonte Griffin-Quick, Manager of Programs and Services, at dgriffin-quick@njtheatrealliance.org.