The subject of mentoring is quite personal to me, because I am involved in it, both as a Mentor and as a Mentee. Having been in both ends of the relationship, I have seen and experienced mistakes others have made, and I have also realized some mistakes which could have been avoided and made the mentoring relationship better.
It should be foremost in the mind that a mentor is usually sought out because of an area of their life appeals to the mentee, and not necessarily the life in its entirety. The mentee is attracted to that area, and hopes to build that part of their life.
For instance, anyone who knows me knows I love Priyanka Chopra, and yet it doesn’t mean I want to be an actress or a singer like her. I would probably want to be strong like her, having broken the shackles the society tends to hold people down with. I also appreciate her natural flow in life and how she seems to achieve things in ease. Those are examples of things I like about her; I may not like all her movies and some other things about her, but I surely like her.
The same goes in the mentor- mentee relationship. There are areas one may want to excel in, and looks for a mentor, and the mentor will serve as a guide in building such area. Two things should be taken note of; serve and guide.
A mentor is to serve and guide the mentee into their own greatness.
The aim of this blog post is to show an alternative to some way of doing things which mentors can imbibe, and to also alert potential mentors of things which should be avoided when dealing with a mentee
There are many definitions of mentoring and all of them may be right in some way. The most common, among the definitions of a mentor is, ‘an experienced and trusted adviser, someone who serves as a guide or counselor or confidant; someone who you can give your ideas to without fear of them being stolen.’ In a nutshell, a mentor is a lamp, showing the path for someone. It is on this very note that most mistakes come from.
Personally, my best definitions of who a mentor and what mentoring is that by Shawn Hitchcock which says that, “a mentor empowers a person to see a possible future and believe that it can be obtained,” and that by John C. Crosby, “mentoring is brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”
A mentor is usually hired for different reasons, and that is not the focus here, neither is the focus on who a mentor should be. The focus is on how mentors and prospective mentors should act and mistakes they should avoid.
Another reason I wrote this blog is because of what Simon Sinek said that “A mentor is not someone who walks ahead of us, to show us how they did it, but a mentor walks beside us to show us how we can do it.”
I believe that is the whole objective of mentoring.
I am aware that not all mentors make these mistakes, but having worked with people for the last 18 years, and having needed mentoring and also being a mentor, I have seen these mistakes happen over and over again. I have worked with people and this in a way talks about my journey when it has to do with mentoring.
A mentor is usually tempted to see the mentee as being below him on all or most levels. This is a destructive thinking pattern, as it brings a condescending feel to the relationship, and may not allow the flow of positive impact. Because you are needed doesn’t make you better, and if this is not realized from the onset, the mentor may get shocked as the relationship advances. The shock may also lead to a feeling of adequacy if the mentee is discovered to have enviable gifts or potential.
Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall, the good book says. The reason you are chosen as a mentor is not because you are better, rather it is because you have some admirable traits. Walking and working with the thought that you are better will only make you lose respect, first in the sight of your mentee, and then others. Nobody likes a proud person, not even another proud person. Realize that each person is on their own journey through life, and occasionally our paths cross, but that doesn’t make anyone better off than others. You are to show the light for them at that point in their journey, like teachers who see students come and go and still teach. Different people go on to become great because of the effect of these teachers. Their selfless service is what makes the world sometimes better than it would have been. Mentoring is also a selfless act.
Your mentee needs your guidance, your support and your insight, but as a mentor, you are not to transform them into a copy of yourself. You as a mentor shouldn’t be pushy. Allow the mentee learn what they need from you, but don’t force your beliefs, principles and values on them. They are their own persons, with unique thought patterns, mindset and visions, turning them into a version of yourself will only make them a copy of you, instead of the original version of themselves you were supposed to help them discover. In the end, you would have failed as a mentor.
A mentor inspires, enlightens, advises, encourages, but he doesn’t force implementation; neither does he demand a particular path of action. It is not your place to do that, as you are not a dictator. They couldn’t have hired you to be that. They hired you to shine their path with light, and not enforce a direction to them. This changes the relationship from that of the mentor-mentee to that of a controlling person to his subordinate, and seeing you were hired, it throws the relationship into a deeper kind of confusion. Don’t enforce anything on your mentee. Just advise and guide.
Yes, while you are working with the mentee, some growth is expected, but don’t take credit for all growth and forget that the mentee had a brain before you came along. The mentee is the one learning, and we know that efforts are what bring results. So give the accolades to your mentee for the efforts put into the process which brought about the growth and achievement. You can be proud of your mentee and the strides gained, because it is about the mentee, and you were doing your job, but don’t take credit for the effort of your mentee.
This assumption has led to the withdrawal of many would-have-been mentors. They sometimes have no idea why they were hired, and instead of finding out by asking questions or carrying out research, they jump into conclusions which are usually wrong. There is nothing wrong in being a stepping stone, by the way, but before you decide, find out exactly what your mentee expects from you. Find out what you are supposed to give them, because in truth, mentoring is all about giving and investing in the mentee.
We have seen mistakes which tend to be made, now we also get to see how to avoid those mistakes, tips which would help us be better mentors and fulfill our dreams of making the world a better place, one mentee at a time.
When you get hired as a mentor, do your research to know why exactly you were hired. This avoids you jumping to conclusions and helps you know what you should focus on.
No one can belittle you without your permission, so don’t allow inferiority complex ruin a potentially great relationship. You are complete in yourself, just as your mentee is complete too. Be aware of the greatness within you which is not dwindled by another’s greatness.
The universe finds a way to repay, so give. The help you offer will surely find its way back to you in some way. Your work might be spread by word-of-mouth or some other way, or not, but you will get your full reward for your labor of love.
It is one thing to make a research and discover why you were hired, and it is another thing to keep that reason in sight. Keeping it in sight puts boundaries and preserves the respect between you and your mentee. Always remember why you are a mentor and work in that path.
Coaching teaches us that everyone is full and complete in themselves, having their own potentials for greatness. So with each person being unique, there is no reason to think your mentee is anything other than complete. Everyone is travelling a different road, and we shouldn’t compare one another. No one is below or above anyone.
Making a decision to be the best mentor there is, will go a long way in affecting your decisions and behavior in the relationship with your mentee. If you want to be a mentor, be the best there is. But if not, decide and stick to something else. Be the best of who you are. Decide.
As many people say, “a truly great mentor is hard to find, difficult to part with, and impossible to forget.” You should be that kind of mentor!
David Stoddard in his book, The Heart of Mentoring, shares that the heart of mentoring is getting the most out of life. Getting the most out of life isn’t about how much you keep for yourself, but how much you pour into others.
While this is absolutely true, it also happens that when you shine the light for someone, you also see the path clearly.
As I said earlier, I wrote this post from experience of being a mentor and a mentee. In mentoring, the mentor helps the mentee see within and discover the path to greatness, and I hope all the mentors out there realize that we are called to inspire others, and let our impact be positive.
Let’s mentor right.
I’d love to hear from you, kindly share your experience with mentoring below.