Mentoring is a two-way relationship in which both participants learn and grow. Great mentors are learners, and there is no greater learning opportunity than to guide others in their discoveries, and discover afresh what we have known and forgotten, and to have the delight of finding out new things through and with our mentorees.
Change characterizes the mentoring relationship. The goal of mentoring is the development of the mentoree into a leader-maker. To achieve our goal there must be continuous learning, growth and change. The very act of mentoring changes and matures the mentor as well as the mentoree. This is the reason it’s so very important to encourage our mentorees to be engaged in mentoring others. Unless and until they are mentoring others the mentoring process is of limited value.
I have a very firm rule for those I mentor – you must be engaged in mentoring others or I will not be able to spend time mentoring you. I think one of Satan’s primary attacks on Christianity is to get leaders engaged in mentoring others who will simply absorb our time and efforts and give little return on the investment because they do not pass on to others what they are learning, and thus fail to grow themselves. Part of our job is to be wise as serpents – in other words, see where Satan is going to attack and avoid those situations. Getting Christian leaders to use up all their time in non-reproducing relationships is a tremendous loss for Kingdom work.
Mentoring is a relationship that matures over time. When we first start the mentoring process there is a lot of education and training going on. As the mentoree learns lessons and practices skills, he or she will engage in teaching and training others. (Knowledge and skill sets cannot be learned until one is teaching and training others.) The process of guiding others increases capacity for leadership. Leadership cannot mature without the making of new leaders. It is through the making of new leaders that we learn more about ourselves, and more about leading as we observe and assist our mentorees in their leadership development.
If the mentoring relationship is working, in a relatively short time the relationship moves from one of mentor/mentoree to coworkers/peers. I have had this happen in as little as one year, but more often, it takes three to five years. If you find yourself stuck in a mentor/mentoree relationship for more than five years, there is a serious problem. Most often, this problem is a matter of the mentoree not reproducing. And this happens because you have made a student instead of a leader.
The nature of leaders is to make more leaders. As a leader makes more leaders he or she matures quickly. There is no better way to grow than in the development of people who can do what you do along with what they already can do. The more people we mentor, the more we are exposed to new ideas, new problems to solve, new opportunities to learn, new relationships, and new successes and failures from which to learn.
When the mentoring process is right, we move from mentor to peer very quickly. If this isn’t happening regularly then we need to evaluate our mentoring relationships. I ask myself the following questions when evaluating my mentoring relationships.
- Is there an agreement in place that outlines the mentoring relationship? (This doesn’t have to be a formal written document, but should be mutually understood.)
- Are my mentorees and I covering all the areas of life that make great leaders?
- Relationship to God
- Relationship to family
- Relationships with community and church (this includes peers and others)
- Relationships related to our call from God
- Relationships related to our job (how we financially support our families)
- Relationship to self (are we developing personally in mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health)
- Is my mentoree mentoring others? (Are you meeting the mentorees of your mentoree?)
- What am I learning from my mentoree, including successes and failures? (If we are not learning from our mentorees, something is wrong.)
- Is there success in both of our lives as a result of the mentoring relationship? (Are we better people because of the relationship?)
- Is the relationship growing and changing?
- What could/should we be doing better to improve the relationship and the outcomes of the mentoring relationship?
- Have I made students or leaders? (Teaching and coaching is so much more easy than mentoring. I can focus on the material or skill sets without concern for now this is being used in leadership development. In true mentoring I have no choice but to know how the information or skill sets being learned are put to use in making more leaders. There is accountability.)
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing mentorees mature to peers. This does not happen by accident. We must be intentional in the relationship, and brutal in evaluating our performance as mentors.
Blessings!David Watson Irving, Texas