When I was young I used to dream that I would meet either a karate expert or a multi-billionaire through some random chance meeting. He would notice me, see the diamond within my rough exterior and throw himself at my feet for a chance to ‘teach me everything he knew’. I’d begrudgingly accept his offer of a lifetime of servitude and he would begin to unravel the mysteries of life, business , self-defense & women to me over coffee every Tuesday for the next 30 years.
Well, I’ve made it through 38 Winters so far and I’ve yet to be offered any such deal. I have, however, had the opportunity to be mentored periodically over the years by some amazing leaders, so I figured I’d share a basic framework if you ever shared the same dream of being intentionally mentored.
Mentors are a rare find. But I believe they are so recluse simply because they’re seldom asked. I’ve been asked to be a mentor several times in my life…. Some were successful experiences while others, not so much. None were wasted.
While it is wise to learn from experience, it is wiser to learn from the experiences of others. If you honestly desire to have another person pour into your life I would keep the following five factors in mind. This is not a formula for success but, rather, guideposts to ensure a more productive, fulfilling experience for both the mentor & the mentee.
Find a Mentor-
There are certain people in life that we simply ‘connect’ with for lack of a better word. Note, I did not say ‘get-along’ with or share common interests with. Right now there are individuals in your life who have already landed precisely where you are aiming. They’ve paid the price. They’ve earned the scars. If you don’t currently admire someone in this regard you probably have a humility problem.
Your first step is to identify who that is in your life now and write down what exactly you would want from them if you had the opportunity to be mentored by them personally.
I advise you at this point to take the cloak of mystery off of whatever you imagine this process to look like. Remove the movie roles depicting mentorship right now because you’re life lasts longer than 2.5 hours! Oftentimes, mentorship simply looks like a weekly/monthly appointment over coffee (YOUR treat) where you interview them about their past experiences and share what your desires & actions have been. The mentoring process & specifics will evolve over time, but not if you keep putting it off and never begin!
Get their Permission-
Mentoring is not a simple task. It requires you to become vulnerable and allow another human being (potentially a future competitor) to inspect your past, present & future. It is one thing to invite someone over to your home…it is quite another to allow them access to the most personal places of that home. Not all leaders are ready or willing to take on this task. It is vital that, if their answer is ‘No,’ you are ok with that.
If you have your expectations clearly outlined & eloquently articulated (ie Find a Mentor) however, they will be more apt to work with you. A mentor’s time is valuable, always treat it as such. Knowing exactly what you want and having a plan automatically separates you from the pack.
Settle on the Conditions-
A mentoring experience is not a marriage. It is wise to clearly establish when/where your mentoring sessions will be held. Further, I highly advise this relationship to have an agreed upon start & end date. The longevity does not matter near as much as the fact that there is an agreed upon completion to your requirement of them.
During my time in ministry I adopted a policy early on where volunteers would commit to a ‘season of ministry’. Oftentimes, I find that leaders make the mistake of volunteering for something that does not have a clearly established end date. Doing so then requires a person to do one of 2 things…1. Quit aka Fail OR 2. Burn out and become bitter.
Establishing an agreed upon stop date allows both of you to assess the effectiveness of the relationship & extend it if you wish.
Also, be absolutely certain you share the same values as your mentor. They will be guiding you and offering advice with the expectation (not the condition) that you will be following through. If you see the world through different lenses in regards to ethics & social mores your relationship may not end well.
Set up Camp-
Requesting someone to open up their life to you is no small thing. It is absolutely vital that you always take the role of respectful student during this process. A mentor is not merely a “head nodder.” If what you are looking for is encouraging affirmations & pats on the back then just keep regularly visiting grandma and collecting ‘likes’ on Facebook by posting all the amazing things you’re gonna’ do…one day..ya’ know…in the future. Mentorship is all about honest feedback & correction. If you are the type of person who goes ballistic whenever someone disagrees with you on social media then mentoring may not be for you quite yet. While you certainly will never be required to do everything exactly as your mentor requires I would suggest you do almost everything. An honest question for you to ask is simply this:
-If I trusted this person enough to be my mentor in the first place why won’t I just step up and trust them now?
Possible answers: You chose the wrong mentor OR You don’t want to be where they are in life as much as you once thought you did which is fine. You’d rather correct course now when you have less ocean between you and the port you set sail from.
Serve your Mentor-
If you are looking for greatness or success in life you will find the answer wrapped in verbs and sincere gratefulness: Find a way to serve the many!
In my years of ministry, as a father, husband & full-time network marketer I have found that people love to be appreciated & served. What this looks like in your particular mentor/mentee relationship will be different as it is in every relationship you currently have, but it will be just as vital. Some very basic acts of appreciation should include but not be limited to:
-Show up on time every time
-Confirm your appointment 24 hrs in advance & communicate any delays that may occur
-Take notes of what they share EVERYTIME they speak
-Pay for their coffee/dinner
-Give them credit whenever you post or share something they shared with you
-Give them a gift at the scheduled end of your mentoring experience
Keep in mind, that every mentoring experience is unique. To rely solely on the ideas above would probably result in less than stellar results.
Have YOU experienced a time when you were mentored or were a mentor? What was your experience like? Why do you feel it was successful or unsuccessful?