Are You Hurting Others in Your Mentoring?

In the busy world in which we find ourselves, I get concerned with the lack of authentic mentoring that goes on. Are we doing enough?

We are asking this question in our own church. Who is going to raise up new leaders and how is that going to get done? What should the strategies be in this age of the Millennials? What are they looking for?


The new paradigm of leadership

Michael Hyatt, one of the engaging leadership gurus that helps shape my thought, tags himself as Your Virtual Mentor. He shared an insightful quote about the leadership of the past versus the leadership of the present. He stated…

The leadership model is shifting. We are in a transition between what I call Leadership 1.0 and Leadership 2.0. These represent two paradigms or even styles of leading and fall out largely along generational lines.

Baby Boomers represent Leadership 1.0 with it’s hierarchical, top-down pyramid where the bottom line is the bottom line. Millennials present Leadership 2.0 with its relational, flat-world perspective that values transparency, authenticity, and shared outcomes.

Mentorship and immaturity

So, is that happening in your sphere of influence? I have to admit it is a challenging one for me. The pressure of the now often dims the view of what lies ahead, and mentoring the leaders of tomorrow are definitely in that view of what lies ahead.

The idea of mentorship feels good – it seems to be what should be natural both in life and in the workplace. But sometimes mentoring may be avoided because one does not want to be perceived as immature and therefore need the help. The truth is, though, that we get hung up when we talk about immaturity and its role in mentoring. 

In a westernized Christianity of “I’m OK and do not need any help because everything is going just great,” mentorship becomes a lofty topic but not one that becomes an everyday practice. Immaturity has such a negative stigma about it.

Immanel Kant made the comment:

Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s intelligence without the guidance of another.

Immaturity can be associated with character but we also need to remember it has another definition, and that is simply lacking the skill sets to successfully navigate an area of life. It does not have to mean childish; it can also mean young or inexperienced.

So having said that, what are millennials looking for? According to an article by Sienna Zampino, Millennials desire multiple mentors, both those that are older and those that are peers.

It is the feeling of community or the “It takes a village…” mentality.

Just look at how advice is sought among millennials: 

They have grown up with the notion that one must constantly seek the advice of another, and social media has put this notion on steroids. Millennials live in a world where once you post a picture of a potential purchase on Instagram, which then gets copied to your Twitter feed and Facebook page, advice and comments flood in within seconds.

Millennials are also looking for reverse mentoring, where there is not just a one-way influence from the mentor to the mentee but a two-way shared influence between both parties. The mentor shares input with the mentee; the mentor receives input from the mentee.

Defining the mentoring process

Probably one of the most impacting quotes I have heard about mentoring occurred during a podcast that I was listening to in the car. It so grabbed my attention that I had to make a mental note of it to write down later. And here it is…

I do, you watch. I do, you help.

You do, I help. You do, I watch.

And then the hope is that they then reproduce that in another’s life.

In an information-driven, technology-saturated society, sometimes mentoring can look like the following:

I tell, you listen. I tell, you listen. You didn’t listen, I get frustrated. I tell, you listen. Now, you do. Any questions?

This is not the true essence of mentoring. 

If it is teaching, there must be doing. If there is preaching, there must be modeling. 

6 insights of mentoring

There is a wonderful progression to the mentoring quote above that I would like to break down.

  1. It is incremental and not a “here is the start and there is the finish…now go.”
  2. It fosters a safe environment. There is room allowed for mistakes and growth.
  3. Ownership moves from solo to shared to solo. There is a gradual handing off that results in success for the one being mentored.
  4. There is trust built between the mentor and mentee. And trust allows vulnerability. And vulnerability allows authentic learning. Think of your own growth in sanctification. Growth is best when we simply believe God is who He says He is (trust) and allow Him fully into our broken lives (vulnerability).
  5. Exponential growth can happen because the process is reproductive. This method does not demand that the mentor have to exist longterm for the mentee to be successful.
  6. There is no “I’m king because I own the knowledge” thinking. The mentor serves, and in serving builds a better, longer-lasting kingdom than his own.

To be honest, the church has not done a stellar job of doing this among its own. And so we see the younger generation falling away and pursing others things than Jesus, we see leadership existing only among a certain age group or gender, and in a large congregation, individuals feel alone.

How can this be? Perhaps we need to step back, view the landscape, and recalibrate our thinking in the responsibilities we have…

with those in our churches.

with those in our workplaces.

with those in our families.

with those in our sphere of influence. 

I’d love to hear from you — please leave a reply below.  Thanks!

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2 thoughts on “Are You Hurting Others in Your Mentoring?

  1. Thanks for the article! Do you have any thoughts on how to help someone take ownership as mentioned in number 3? This is something I’ve been trying to figure out as I work with college students.

    • Thanks so much for your question, and it is a good one. And my apologies for the late response on this!

      I heard a good statement from a podcast I recently listened to: “Too often we recruit to need instead of vision.” That statement really resonated with me because too often I am guilty of that. Ownership does not happen when a task is presented before a person, college student or not. Ownership happens when a compelling vision is presented. Vision stirs to action and vision stirs to ownership.

      I do not know your specific situation but it would be worthwhile for you to perhaps really think through your own vision in working with college students. WHY do you do what you do in working with them? As you work with them, WHY is it important that you own something first? And WHY is it important that THEY own what you are wanting them to own? And with my statement, I am not being critical of you, as I do not know your situation, but just putting out some suggestions.

      Motivation (i.e. ownership) hinges on answering that WHY. If you get a chance, watch this video by Simon Sinek. He does a masterful job of explaining the why vs how vs what.

      It is titled “How great leaders inspire action.” When I taught in the college classroom I showed this video to my future teachers. What Sinek describes is a lost art. I think this will motivate you to some helpful thought. Let me know. Thank you so much for the question and reading my post! Always appreciated.

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