Some years back I was teaching an adult Sunday school class at a church with a very large congregation. There were close to 100 people in the class. I’ll never forget one man in particular who has since gone to be with the Lord.
Let’s call him Paul.
How To Mentor Someone
Paul was suffering through a painful and malignant cancer, enduring a second or third round of chemotherapy. He wasn’t doing too well but he still had plenty of strength at the time. I believe he knew—deep down—that he only had a couple of years left in this life.
Although Paul had no problems with my theology, he didn’t prefer my methodology (my style of teaching). And so he let me know about it. Quite often, actually.
Soon, thereafter, he began emailing me. He said that I needed a mentor and he believed it should be him. I tried to be as kind and appreciative to him as I could. I explained that a mentor (or life coach) was a great idea, but I also believe that the one being mentored should know something about the mentor first. And, frankly, I knew almost next to nothing about Paul up to that point.
I told him thanks but no thanks.
I explained that his gesture was a nice one but that I didn’t feel the relationship would be a good fit. As we emailed back and forth, I became more and more convinced that my decision was the correct one. In fact, each time I rejected his offer to be my mentor, he got angrier and angrier.
I hardly knew the man but I was beginning to see a lot about him that I did not envy. Towards the end of the string of emails back and forth, he told me that he felt I was prideful. He said that God wouldn’t bless me. I agreed with him that I am, indeed, a sinfully wicked and prideful person (Aren’t we all?). I asked him to pray for me. I also said that it would not be profitable to continue to have conversations about this issue and that he should contact one of the pastors of the church to express his concerns about me and my “issues.”
He agreed, and he did contact one of the pastors about me. However, I never heard about the issue from the pastor himself. A couple of weeks later, Paul left the church. I felt a lot of emotions at the time, regarding the encounter with Paul. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings but I also believed that I handled the situation as best as I could.
When I get to heaven, I’ll find Paul, give him a big hug and tell him that I love him!
What To Look For In A Life Coach
As I look back on the encounter, it got me thinking about the whole idea of a mentor relationship or, as some people refer to it, a Life Coach. I began thinking more and more about questions like:
- What type of person needs a mentor to grow in their personal development?
- How does a person choose an appropriate mentor?
- What leadership qualities make a good mentor or Life Coach?
- How can you tell if a person is ready to be mentored?
- What does a mentor relationship actually look like?
In John Maxwell’s book The 15 Invaluable Laws Of Growth, he writes about this very issue; the issue of influence. The thirteenth chapter is titled: The Law of Modeling. He subtitled the chapter, It’s Hard to Improve When You Have No One but Yourself to Follow.
Maxwell provides a lot of good information for both the mentor and the mentee. At the end of the chapter, on page 224, he offers some suggestions for applying the Law of Modeling to your life. His advice is as follows.
“Think about where you are currently in your career and the direction you would like to go. Look for someone you admire who is two or three steps ahead of you on that same track. This person doesn’t necessarily need to be in your organization. Look for the qualities needed in a good mentor: a worthy example, availability, proven experience, wisdom, willingness to be supportive, and coaching skills. If those are present in this individual, ask him or her to mentor you.
“Before any meeting with a mentor, come prepared with three to five thoughtful questions, the answers to which will help you significantly. After you’ve met, work to apply what you’ve learned to your own situation. Don’t ask for another meeting until you have done that. At your next meeting, begin the sessions by telling your mentor how you applied what you learned (or how you tried to apply it and failed so you can learn what you did wrong.) Then ask your new questions. Follow this pattern, and your mentor will be rewarded for his or her effort and will probably be glad to continue helping you.”
There is much wisdom in this counsel about how to mentor and how to be mentored.
QUESTION: If you have ever been mentored, or mentored someone else, how did it go and what did you learn from the experience? (Click here to leave a comment)
* Image credit: carf (Creative Commons)