Ana Isabel Ferreira

Ana has been a Toastmaster since 2010, ACB and ALS, rising to PQD and District Director; she is also a founding member of the Invicta club in Portugal and now mentors senior members. She has some strong views on mentoring in Toastmasters.

Mentoring should be mandatory,” says Ana, and she should know. As a psychologist and trainer to business people in communication and stress management, her past experiences benefit from having someone to turn to when her work needs an outside perspective. The profession requires therapists and psychiatrists to be supervised by a more experienced practitioner, which makes perfect sense, says Ana.

But she feels that even this does not go far enough. She shares her experiences and ideas on how Toastmasters mentoring could take a whole new dimension with David O’Regan, VPPR of Thessaloniki Toastmasters and member of the District 109 PRM Team from 2019 to 2020.

We develop communication independently; then, we must do it together.

Who was your first mentor?

“My first boss was my first mentor. One develops communication on your own, but mentors help us communicate better. We often assume others perceive things the same way we do, but mentors can help us understand this better. They help us choose the right words, which impacts how our message is received.”

Should mentors be selected or assigned?

“My first Toastmasters mentor was assigned. I preferred to choose, but it was more important to begin the process and learn. Mentoring should be a key part of the Toastmasters experience.”

Do you have to like your mentor?

“Yes, at least there needs to be something you can relate to or admire about the mentor. They must be a role model, at least in the Toastmasters environment. They must be someone who can bring out the best in you and help you to define and achieve some goals.”

What are the difficulties of being a mentor?

“Holding your thoughts and not being judgmental, it is important to bring the best out of your mentee and not hijack them. It’s like a parental relationship; you cannot expect them to do what you want but do what is best for them. One of the hardest things about mentoring is to fall into the trap of thinking that because you wouldn’t do something your mentee shouldn’t, it may be a good lesson for them or an opportunity to develop.”

Mentoring is especially important in the leadership modules.

How can the mentoring process be improved?

Mentoring is crucial in Toastmasters. It should be mandatory for all members, especially with Pathways. Mentors should be mentored, too, and leadership mentoring is often overlooked. Immediate feedback is received for speeches rather than for leadership tasks.

Mentors help you bring these ideas out of your head and see how they impact others.

How should a mentoring relationship begin?

“Mentor and mentee should begin by defining the terms of the relationship. Goals need to be set, and the frequency of meetings agreed. Having a clear objective is fundamental to successful mentoring.”

Can a mentor be younger than the mentee?

“Maybe? However, it is important that what the mentor provides to the relationship is clear. If the mentor offers particular experience, age is not a concern.”

Who should be responsible for communication, mentor or mentee?

They should both take responsibility for maintaining the communication and relationship. The mentee needs to learn to ask for help, and the mentor needs to keep the mentee motivated to continue the process.”

How much has your professional life helped with your mentoring?

“I am always working with people in my training, and my work as a psychologist gives me an insight into how people work, but all members have some part of their work that applies to Toastmasters. That mixture of professional experiences gives Toastmasters its value to its members.”

Thank you, Ana Isabel, for sharing your insights into Mentoring with us.