Rediscovering the Joy of Mentoring

Mentors enrich our lives.

The meaning of words is fluid. Common words get hi-jacked and used in ways disconnected from their original meaning.   ‘Mentor’ and ‘mentoring’ fall into that category. 

Non-mentors dilute the term mentor when they formalize it. Thrilling words like mentor become stale when they lose their mystery. Formality sucks the life out of mentoring. Mentoring is natural, vibrant, and organic, not ritualized, obligatory, and ridged.

“Poor Faulkner, does he really think that big emotions come from big words?” Earnest Hemingway

Big words don't inspire big emotion. Image of Earnest Hemmingway

What Mentoring isn’t:

It isn’t coaching. . . 

It isn’t strategic planning. . .

It isn’t management. . . 

It isn’t goal setting. . .

It isn’t action steps. . .

What Mentoring is:

It is an informal, one on one relationship. . .

It is for an undetermined amount of time. . .

It is the merging of spirits. . .

It is an invitation to view the future. . . 

It is ‘fathering’ or ‘thumb-printing’. . .

Rediscovering the joy of mentoring:

“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well, I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” Denzel Washington

Successful leaders seldom make good mentors. Results driven people usually aren’t interested in investing the time one-on-one mentoring requires.

Chances are you didn’t seek the mentors in your life. They sought you. They saw something in you! It has everything to do with chemistry and the opportunity to build joyful one-on-one relationships.

“Self-awareness - understanding our own motivations, our strengths and challenges - is the key to getting ready to mentor.” Lois J. Zachary and Lisa Fain. Image of a gentle person.

Engage in mentoring:

“Self-awareness – understanding our own motivations, our strengths and challenges – is the key to getting ready to mentor.” Lois J. Zachary and Lisa Fain, “The Mentor’s Guide.”

All good mentors:

  1. Listen with openness and curiosity.
  2. Welcome two-way conversations.
  3. Care deeply.
  4. Don’t obsess about results.
  5. See over the horizon.

The heart of mentoring:

“Mentoring is something that almost defies description.” Stephen Gibb

Mentoring is a merging of spirit and aspiration, not a list of tasks. 

Author, Dr. Scott Peck, in, “Golf and the Spirit” best describes the important aspects of mentoring when he says, “The mentor finds the student not the other way around.  It’s a demonstration of unconditional love. The best mentors resist the temptation to teach, rather they empower. The relationship is informal, casual, and often doesn’t last very long.”

Mentoring makes life richer for everyone. Image of aged journals.

If you eavesdropped on someone honoring their mentor, you would hear them say:

  1. You believed in my talent and my purpose.
  2. You gave me a chance.
  3. You encouraged me.
  4. You helped me identify things that hold me back.
  5. You pointed me in the right direction.
  6. You prompted me to do better.
  7. You made me feel worthy.

Action Steps:

#1. Reflect:

Think of those mentors in your life who didn’t give you an official invitation, they simply invited you to do something.  Call three of them. Thank them and express how that mentorship benefited you.

Keep a journal of the specific things that were beneficial in those relationships.  

#2. Act:

Identify three people who you have good chemistry with and invite them into a mentoring relationship.

It doesn’t matter how you contact them. Mentoring is so powerful nobody cares how you deliver the invitation. A text message will do.

Approach 1:

Say, “I see possibilities in you that no one else sees. Others saw things in me I would like to apply those things to your life. This will be costly, but not monetarily. There’s no agenda. There’s only exploration and discoveries. You can expect informal conversation that causes you to adjust your compass. When are you available to begin?”

Approach 2:

Invite someone for coffee and start mentoring them before you ask permission. Just do it. At the end of the conversation, ask them if they would like to get together again.

Have you had a mentor that changed your life? Give them a shout-out below.

What makes for good mentoring?

Still curious: The John Wooden Way: 5 Lessons (Plus What if Your Mentor seems Wrong)

This post is a collaboration between Dan Rockwell and Stan Endicott.

Note: I relax my 300-word limit on weekends.