Newsletter 608 – Update on Having a Mentor and Being a Mentor

mentoring 4Do you ever get tired reading or hearing about mentoring? It’s no news that professional organizations, business and academic communities, innumerable churches and countless youth leaders all emphasize mentoring and have mentoring programs. Each knows the value of a person with experience and skill sharing with those who are beginners or less advanced in their life and career journeys.

Harvard Business Review (April, 2015) shows the value of CEOs and other leaders having mentors where age differences are less important than differences in expertise and experience. Earl Creps’ 2008 book Reverse Mentoring expresses what many mature leaders already know: we can mentor younger people but should never underestimate the power of being mentored by next-generation people who can teach us. Consider the kids who teach their elders the intricacies of social media and other technology.

The HBR article discusses mentoring from high profile CEOs but reports research on why these same leaders often need and profit from being mentored by experienced leaders, sometimes including those in a different field of work or with cultural perspectives that differ from their mentees. On occasion someone asks how I seem to keep a younger, forward-looking attitude. Primarily it’s because of the bright, emerging, innovative younger people (students especially) who essentially mentor me even though we rarely use that M-word. Consider this, based in part on the Harvard research:

  •  Why should successful leaders seek to be mentored? Everyone can benefit from fresh perspectives that come from role models of any age and experienced guides who stimulate new approaches, ideas, and perspectives.
  • What are the benefits of being a mentor to others? Research shows that mentors often experience fulfillment, the satisfaction of having a personal impact, and the benefit of learning from their mentees.
  • What seems to be the best and most preferred approach to mentoring? It’s is not working through guidebooks, telling mentees what to do, or even asking good coaching questions. The method preferred by both parties is storytelling; mentors sharing from their own experiences including triumphs and failures. For many years I’ve talked weekly with a younger psychologist-friend who says he has learned most from watching me deal with disappointments and set-backs.

Are you involved in being mentored as well as being a mentor? What are some of your experiences and observations? Do you need or have a mentor? Please comment.

  1. “Not working through guidebooks, telling mentees what to do, or even asking good coaching questions.”
    Agreed! However… for church multiplication in cultures that value rote learning and that willingly submit to elders or patrons, mentorship often looks more like coaching: following guidelines, keeping rules, practicing skills, memorising content, and passing on approved teaching.
    That is, leaders follow the Paul-Timothy practice of 2 Timothy 2:2, “entrust what you received to faithful folk who do the same with others also.” Of course, good stories remain a main method.

  2. Mentoring involves the re-shaping of perspectives… thru a shared pilgrimage…. where pertinent principles are gleaned and applied. Hence, the value of story-telling!

  3. I am now in California mentoring about 14 leaders in Counseling. After 2 days of sharing stories how I work with severely traumatized people, I have now with each of them a personal interview before ending with an other day together and returning to Austria. It is such a good experience to see the reactions of mature people and hear how they love to ´hear my stories´. It fits neatly in your description Gary! Thanks!

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