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Mentorship, in its purest form, is simply learning from someone else’s experience. 2020 has proven to be the perfect year to utilize mentorship as a growth & development tool because of the shared challenges like remote work, frequent pivots, work/life imbalance, and time & energy management.

2020 was the year of shared challenges. May 2021 be the year of collective solutions.

Today, I’m reflecting on my top learnings from 2020, and packaging them into mentorship that may be utilized in the New Year.

Learning #1: Regularly challenge self-limiting beliefs.

If you would have told me in January that my professional & social calendars would be sponsored by the virtual meeting this year, I would have said, ” You’re crazy. I can’t operate like that! My message and style do not resonate on video.”

But 2020 forced me to call B.S. on my brain, reevaluate those beliefs, and connect—both professionally & personally through technology. I learned that a powerful message & authentic messenger resonate on any medium.

2021 Application: Regularly challenge the stories in your head. You may have outgrown the narrative.

Learning #2: Borders & boundaries are often “man-made.”

When I shared this observation with a male entrepreneur, he took offense and corrected me with “human-made.” That’s when I knew I was on to something!

The virtual work environment shined a light on challenges that extend beyond cubicle walls or even city limits. For far too long, women have been operating in work environments created by men.

2020 put a microscope on gender inequality in our homes & work when it combined the two. What I learned as an entrepreneur (after the early panic attacks) is that the old rules & players may not be well-equipped for today’s game. We must create the spaces that work for us.

That work will require all of us—both women & our male allies.

2021 Application: Don’t play by yesterday’s playbook. (It wasn’t working that well, anyway!) Next year will require new solutions. Solve for one, scale for many.

Learning #3: Talent development is an organization’s connective tissue.

Prior to 2020, leaders had two main organizational responsibilities: 1.) Create and communicate a collective vision. 2.) Execute accordingly. But as teams retreated to makeshift workspaces filled with distraction, we began to miss all things we enjoy about working together—connection, socialization, creativity, and collaboration—all of which, happened organically when we were in the same space. Culture was being eroded by social distance.

Talent development used to be an annual L&D plan. In 2020, it became the most heavily sought after leadership trait for employee engagement and support. Leaders must make time and space for the development of themselves & the people we serve.

2021 Application: Block out time, space, and energy for you, and your team, to cultivate the skills & mindset for the work ahead.

Learning #4: Busyness is not a key performance, success, or happiness indicator.

My calendar was back-to-back virtual meetings in March. As an introvert, I quickly realized not only was this unsustainable, but it was also gobbling up time, energy, & joy. That’s when I established these boundaries:

  1. No virtual meetings on Mondays or Friday afternoons. The first day of the week is reserved for creativity & strategy. The final hours of the week are dedicated to task management and preparation for the following week.
  2. No virtual introductory meetings. I had to stop inviting strangers into my home! Instead, I scheduled two 20-minute “quarantine calls” on Tuesdays through Fridays for all introductory conversations, giving myself 10 minutes between for follow-up correspondence. I then set up a calendar for those who “wanted to connect” or “pick my brain” to self-schedule.

2021 Application: Consecutive virtual meetings, over an extended period of time, lead to burnout. If we are committed to putting ourselves first, our calendars must reflect it.

Learning #5: Find a playground. Drink from a well. Bridge the gatekeepers.

My business helps organizations build cultures of mentorship by eliminating pairing programs. But the truth is, I would not have made it through 2020 without the inspiration, experience, and opportunities shared by my own mentors & sponsors.

No one will have all the answers in the coming months. In times of uncertainty, I find these three resources incredibly valuable.

  1. Playground – Place to plug into for inspiration, motivation, & fun. Great place to test out a new idea or skill. Look at professional or industry organizations to flex some new muscles or meet a new playmate.
  2. Well – Grounding source of wisdom & experience. Drink when parched. Return as needed with humility & gratitude.
  3. Gatekeeper – Every opportunity is one introduction away. Think ahead. What relationship do you need to build now to shortcut the journey ahead?

2021 Application: Focus on the next six months. Intentionally place inspiration along the way. Soak up insight from those familiar with the travels. Ask for the shortcut.

Learning #6: Enrichment Over Achievement.

Each year in January, I select an intention word for the months ahead. My 2020 intention was “upgrade”. My goal then was to enhance every conversation and relationship through greater mindfulness & appreciation throughout the year.

2020 taught me that it wasn’t an upgrade I desired, but rather enrichment —more impact, greater purpose. Perhaps it’s also a bit of middle-age settling in, but I understand now that my value is not in the clothes I choose to wear to the meeting, but rather the contributions while in the room—virtual or otherwise.

I never would have guessed my most enriching work would be done in yoga pants & slippers while working with my dog at my feet.

2021 Application: Choose enrichment over achievement. Enrichment is an internal metric. Achievement is a goal post placed by someone else.

What did you learn from a year full of uncertainty? What is the mentorship we should consider applying in the New Year?

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  • Stacy Cassio

    Founder / CEO

    Pink Mentor Network

    Stacy Cassio is the Founder & CEO of the Pink Mentor Network. Stacy understands the importance of mentorship because her own career & business have been built on the opportunities introduced to her by mentors. In 2017, Stacy Cassio founded the Pink Mentor Network, Charlotte’s 1st female mentorship community.  Followed by the creation of Pop-Up Mentor, a brand new way to mentor in 2018.  Stacy is dedicating her life to reshaping how individuals seek & obtain mentorship, and helping organizations build cultures of mentorship.  In 2019, her work was nominated for the Athena International Corporate Award for Leadership and Charlotte Inno’s “Opportunity Champion” award.  Stacy also was named a Mecklenburg Times 2019 Phenom.  Stacy’s career was built & fueled by great mentors until she became one.  IG:  @pinkmentornetwork FB: @popupmentor LI:  @stacycassio