Wednesday, September 25, 2013

4 Misconceptions About Mentors

For anyone who wants to grow and mature in some area of their life having a mentor is incredibly useful.  Mentors are people who are further down the road you want to walk down, and thus, they can speak life and wisdom and guidance into your life to help you continue moving forward.  I have learned a great deal from the mentors in my life and meeting with them has led to some incredible maturing as a leader, pastor, husband, and father.

However, not everyone has great mentoring relationships like I have had.  In discussing this with others I have noticed some common misconceptions about mentor relationships.  Avoiding these misconceptions will help you to have a much richer, more fulfilling mentorship experience.

1.  A mentor should pursue a relationship with me.

I have learned it is the job of the mentee, and not the mentor, to pursue the relationships.  Mentors usually have high demands on their time from many people.  They are leaders busy leading, and to be honest, they probably don't have you on their mind 24/7.  Too many people are offended that their mentor doesn't reach out to them.  Well, that is not the job of the mentor.  If you want to connect and grow it is your job to pursue the relationship.  You have to initiate the contact, be flexible in scheduling the meeting, and be the one asking the questions.

2.  A mentor should become a close friend.

This is closely correlated with the first misconception.  The difference is that mentee's usually don't fall into this trap until after a successful mentor meeting.  Imagine meeting with a wise person who you seem to get along well with.  It is very easy to believe that person feels as enamored with you as you do with them.  The truth, however, is that it isn't likely.  The relationship you're dreaming about probably won't happen.  The best thing to do after a great mentor meeting is to say thanks and then go put your learning into practice.

3.  A mentor should be thinking about how to make me better.

While it's true that a mentor meeting should help you learn and grow, too many people put too high an expectation on the mentor to fix the mentee's problem.  A better way of looking at things is to look at the mentor as a resource for resolution, not the savior of your situation.  Mentors are busy people who can be a wealth of information and encouragement, but I can promise you they are not spending all their time thinking about how to make you better.  Meet with them, glean what you can from them, thank them for their investment of time and development in your life, and then walk away expecting nothing more.

4.  A mentor should have all the answers.

Remember, a mentor is your help but not your hope.  Mentors are not perfect.  They have warts and issues and problems themselves.  Having a mentor meeting will not solve all your problems.  Too many times I walked away from mentor meetings feeling down because I expected the meeting to solve all my problems.  I expected my mentor to know exacted what to say and how to fix my issues.  When that didn't happen I got discouraged.  Instead of giving you all the answers, mentors should encourage you by giving you ideas, sharpening your plans, offering some guidance, and sharing their experiences.
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