So this is my second post on mentorship. Mentorship is a form of extended leadership and influence. So in this post a few ideas to challenge your thinking when it comes to mentors, and how you go about qualifying someone you consider putting on your mentor list.
See my previous post. I mentioned last time that many of my own mentors I may not even meet face to face, others are found in my geographical area so I am going to meet them from time to time and actually relate with them more personally. So a couple of principles about mentoring relationships if it’s something you are interested in.
Let’s consider some of the common pitfalls of mentoring relationships. The biggest pitfall is you not knowing what you are all about, and the reason for being in a relationship like this. Remember mentorship is more formal, and the mentor often is older, wiser, and more successful than you. Hence the desire to learn from them.
The biggest problem in finding a suitable mentor, and making the relationship work over time is you! Let me qualify. Your lack of experience, unhealthy expectations, and no system or strategy to manage this kind of relationship is the biggest problem. Let’s also say there may be other problems too.
Another pitfall is a lack of knowledge when it comes to personality types and styles. Knowing types and styles with associated strengths and weaknesses prepares you to put this in context and navigate these relationships.
The last issue on the side of the mentee (the one being mentored) is lack of experience in dealing with mentors, and no idea how to navigate and assess progress and levels of your own satisfaction.
Let’s now look at some issues on the part of mentors which may hinder a productive and fruitful relationship with those they try and inspire and influence. I am going to shoot straight, but hearing this now may save you pain later. I am posing these as questions you may consider.
Do they seem to have a short term focus vs. a longer term focus? No long term strategy with what they are trying to achieve is a problem.
Do they seem to have a short term focus vs. a longer term focus? No long term strategy with what they are trying to achieve is a problem. Compromising principles and values for short term gains versus the opportunity of long term influence and even earning. Acting out of Convenience vs. acting out of godly Character.
Has the person been open to receive from me in the past? Are they open, teachable, and do they possess humility (wisdom)? Relationships are two way streets, even in mentoring. This really is more about attitude than anything else.
Have they in any way acknowledged my gifting, experience and contribution? The honoring principle, and allowing for your help to them and recognizing unique contribution goes a long way. Success very often brings pride, arrogance, and hubris. (Please watch that this never becomes who you are.)
Have they encouraged you, do they believe in you? have they given you a chance?
Are they so focused on their own vision, agenda and mission that few else matters?
Have they ever been disloyal, or dishonest to you, or purposefully deceptive to you especially in the area of money? Could you say this person is a person of character, honesty and integrity, or one of expediency?
Do they have a genuine concern for me (a heart) or are they acting out of mere convenience looking to benefit their own position and pockets?
Do they have a similar personality style to mine or not? Profile them to know who you are dealing with. Every person has certain strengths and associated ways of acting and relating. Get to understand the person you are looking to, even if at first it’s a generic style you can get to know better.
Are they willing to exploit and abuse you for the greater good, their own! Abuse of power and position is rife in our day. So taking a cautious and conservative approach when it comes to selecting someone serves you well in the long run.
Also be real with yourself in terms of what benefit you are looking for. Sometimes you need to invest financially in this process so make sure you remain happy with the return.
Most mentoring relationships are professional in it’s nature and contact, with some maturing into personal relationships. As mentioned assign roles and rate the value or contributions over time.
In conclusion I have had a few interesting mentor experiences, most of which was positive. When dealing with strong dominant types you need to remain less relational and appreciate the person for their effort, contribution and achievement.
If you are relational like myself you need to navigate your own expectations carefully, or get hurt in the process. A good mentor really is worth their weight in gold though, and they can play a tremendous role in developing your life, career, and ministry.