How to be a Good Mentor Part 2

goodmentorpt2In my last post, I shared my thoughts on how to ruin any mentor relationship. The secret is to make the mentoring process all about you, the mentor. Now I want to share what I believe is the cure for this relational ailment. I think the cure is active listening.

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“Listening,” you retort. “How is the secret ingredient (to mix metaphors) something I do all the time? Of course I listen to my mentees,” you exclaim.

Active listening (AL) isn’t the same as what we can called mere listening (ML). There are two main differences between the two. The first is obvious given the name “active listening.” As you can see from the infographic I shamelessly stole from the internet, AL requires a level of engagement with the speaker greater than the level normally reached in ML. For this reason, ML is also known as passive listening. ML is just hearing in addition to good language skills. It’s the focusing of one’s auditory faculties in the direction of the oncoming sound coupled with the ability to understand syntax and grammar. For example, when your mentee says, “I’m having a stellar morning,” you have no problem hearing the sounds she’s making, understanding the meaning associated with the individual words and understanding how those words fit together to communicate a more complex sentence. The whole process can be done without the listener ever engaging the speaker. The speaker engages you.

The second difference between AL and ML, is the content in the minds of the speaker and listener after the conversation is over. In ML, it is possible for the speaker and the listener to have two different concepts or ideas in their minds. Going back to the above example, if the speaker is extremely sarcastic like my mentee Katie, then when she says she’s having a stellar morning, she might mean she’s having a really good morning or she might mean that she is having the worst morning in her life. In ML, both meanings are legitimate. In AL however, the goal is for the speaker and listener to have the same ideas in their minds. More pointedly, in AL, the goal is for the listener to have the same thing in her mind as what is in the speaker’s mind. She wants to make sure she understands what Katie means when she says she’s having a stellar day. This is why AL is active. The goal is complete understanding. The goal is fullness.

This search for completeness is what guards the mentor for making mentoring all about herself. By actively seeking to understand what the mentee is thinking, feeling and processing, the mentor has to get out of herself and get into the mind of the mentee. This isn’t an easy practice to learn. Honestly speaking, I blew two opportunities to actively listen to my staff while writing this blog post! But if you can master it, you will probably have more successful mentoring relationships than failures.

By Leroy Lemar, Executive Director for Serenity’s Steps


How to be a Good Mentor Part 1

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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


Volunteer Spotlight: Carol Warren & Cathy Chrismer

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Every Thursday between noon and 1:30PM you can find best friends Cathy Chrismer and Carol Warren at 1376 Belmont Ave.  About a 20-minute drive from their homes on the north side of Atlanta, Cathy and Carol come bearing lunch – sometimes a creative quinoa salad, sometimes a steaming taco soup.  All are welcomed eagerly by our staff at Serenity’s Steps and the women employed to make paper at That Grace Restored.

Cathy and Carol started volunteering at Serenity’s Steps just a few months ago.  After Mike Warren joined our team as Chairman of the Board of Directors, it didn’t take his wife Carol long to get involved as well, asking her longtime friend Cathy to join her in serving women stepping out of the commercial sex industry.

How do they serve?  First and foremost, by building relationships.  They bring lunch each Thursday and are active participants with the women employed at That Grace Restored in their Lunch & Learn personal development sessions.

Lunch & Learn’s range from watching Andy Stanley’s “Ask It” series video and discussing wise decision making to taking personality assessments like the Myers-Briggs to better understand how each person processes and reacts to situations.  Most recently, we have started Northpoint Church’s Starting Point small group series centered around having honest conversations and answering questions about faith.

Carol and Cathy have built rapport with the women we serve through Serenity’s Steps by simply being present with them as they learn and go through steps to make changes.  They are open and honest about their own struggles, and offer support for each of the women without judgment.

When asked why each of the ladies wanted to start building relationships with women exiting the sex industry, all of whom are younger and come from different personal backgrounds, Cathy answered, “I was doing physical therapy somewhere and I met a woman and a man who were involved with an anti-trafficking organization.  I felt a nudge then to get involved.  Then when Carol and Mike joined the board of Serenity’s Steps they invited me to get involved and I just felt like it was a fit.  I have an urge to fight for the underdog.  These aren’t the young girls getting all the attention in the media, they’re older women.  I want to see them have dignity and to feel that we really care and see them in a dignified light.”

Carol added, “For me what touches my heart is thinking of mothers who can’t help their children.  I think about ‘If I was that mother…what would I do if I had no one to support me?’  I look at the women at Serenity’s Steps who are mothers, who could have aborted their children but didn’t and now they are struggling because of it.”

Both women feel they have not only been able to serve, but have been blessed greatly by the relationships they have built with our women.

“When you care about someone so much, you want to see them heal.  But you have to be patient and give them time and just build the relationship. We get more out of it than the time we give.  We are so humbled and blessed to be around the authenticity of the women and their care for each other,” said Cathy.

Carol added her thoughts on why it is so important to take a relational approach rather than simply giving items or money to meet physical needs for the women.

“There are so many organizations for children, but these women are discarded. Everyone wants to help a teenager or a baby.  Their lives, the cycle has been like this for 30 years for some of them.  To be able to break that cycle is so hard.  You have to have patience and do things a completely different way.  For them to know that we truly care about them we need to spend the time with them.”

To learn more about volunteering as a Side-By-Side Mentor or to view our other volunteer opportunities, please visit our Volunteer page.