It’s hard to believe that I’ve been mentoring for almost 18 years. Unofficially, I began mentoring my sophomore year of college when I interned with my church’s youth department. Within the first few weeks, I connected with six youth that eventually become “Leroy’s kids.” I still keep tabs on all of them. While i’m still mentoring youth, I also mentor everyone from people interested in starting nonprofits to transgendered adults who have been crippled by abuse, shame, and negligent.
Over these last 18 years, I’ve learned quite a few mentoring best practices. Most of the positive methods will enhance your mentoring while most of the negative ones will hinder it. But there is one mentoring method that is absolutely guaranteed to make your mentoring relationship fails gloriously. It creates a kind of mentoring vertigo in which you think you are doing a stellar job but you are actually on your way back down to mentoring terra firma. How so? Consider the following scenario:
You are at the office on Thursday afternoon and you get an email from Eddie who is a friend of Katie. Eddie told Katie that he was desperate for a mentor and Katie recommended you. You close Eddie’s email, sit back, and basking the feelings or honor and value. “Somebody wants me,” you tell yourself with pride. You then sit down and ask yourself how can I make sure Eddie gets the best of knowledge. You schedule your first session at the trending coffeehouse around the corner. When the Eddie arrives, you launch into stories from your personal and professional life. You smile as he fills his journal with your platitudes, folk wisdom and cliches. Eddie leave the meeting so excited to have chosen you and you sit back thinking, “I am really something else.”
But notice what you didn’t do. Not once did you stop to ask if any of what you were sharing was in the least bit relevant to Eddie’s needs. You made mentoring all about you. You felt great. Eddie felt great. But Eddie may not have been helped at all. As a mentor, your greatest responsibility is their personal and professional success. If they do not succeed, then to some extent, you are not a good mentor.
Please stay tuned for Part II …..
By Leroy Lemar, Executive Director for Serenity’s Steps