One of the leadership principles we often hear is “Every leader needs to invest in (mentor) a potential leader and every leader needs someone investing in them.” This sounds good, but it can be quite a daunting challenge. Hearing it is one thing but putting it into practice isn’t easy. Several questions immediately come to mind, such as…
- Who should I invest in?
- Who might invest in me?
- Do I just ask someone to mentor me?
- What does it look like to invest in a person?
- How long does this relationship need to last?
Let’s address some of these questions to see if we can take the mystery out of mentoring.
Q: Who might I invest in?
A: If you are leading a group or a team, pray through the people on your team and look for a person who is coachable, willing to serve, enjoyable to be with, and wants to learn. It is best to invest in a person who knows you and has a relationship with you.
Q: Who might invest in me?
A: There is a verse in James that says,” You have not because you ask not.” I have never had a leader turn me down when I have asked if I could meet with them to ask some questions and learn from them. I have set up phone appointments with national ministry leaders and have met with CEOs from several companies. Let me encourage you to make two lists. One is a list of areas where you want to see growth and improvement in your own leadership. The second is a list of people who seem to be strong in the categories from your first list. Next, choose your #1 candidate and ask them for coffee or a lunch and let them know you simply want to pick their brain on a specific area of leadership.
Q: What does it look like to invest in another person?
A: Let me suggest a few options:
- Have an ICNU conversation with the person and let them know that you see several traits in them that make them a good leader. Be specific as you highlight these traits.
- Get to know each other’s story. Spend time over coffee or a meal and share your stories in five-year increments. Include family data, locations where you have lived, key experiences, key accomplishments, high points and low points, and key people who have had an impact on you. Share the various jobs you have had and leadership opportunities. Share your spiritual journey as well. Share your strengths and passions that have developed over the years.
- Discuss specific areas where growth is desired. Make this a mutual mentoring relationship. Model vulnerability and take on the posture of a learner. Learning postures are contagious.
- Once you have discovered some potential areas for growth, explore some resources (a book, a blog, a podcast) that you can read or watch over a set period.
- Ask questions…lots of questions.
- How are you?
- What’s going well?
- What is the biggest challenge you are facing?
- What are you going to do about it?
- How can I help?
- What are you learning?
- Where do you see God at work?
- How can I be praying for you?
Q: How often should you meet?
A: There is no right answer here. Sometimes a season is good. Sometimes a year. You might strike gold and grow a lifelong friendship, but don’t make that the goal. I suggest starting with one meeting, and see if it needs to grow to a few meetings. After a few meetings, assess together to determine if more are desired and needed. Give yourself and the other person off ramps and don’t feel bad about that.
Q: Can you have multiple mentors?
A: Absolutely! I have a marriage mentor, a spiritual life mentor, and a leadership coach. All these relationships are different, but they are all helpful. I suggest starting with the most desired category and then build and add when you have capacity and desire.
Q: How do you say thank you for your time and move on?
A: It is rare to find one mentor for the rest of your life. When a mentoring relationship has run its course, slow the pace down, back off, and don’t be afraid to name the end of a good season. Celebrate the growth together, thank each other for the investment, and commit to being available should a need arise for future support. This is healthy mentoring.
At the end of the day, there is no magical mystical formula for mentoring. The main goal is to connect, be for each other, and learn with each other and from each other for a specific season. Good things happen when you put two learners together. Two teachable people along with the Holy Spirit can create some amazing growth. Be courageous and go for it. You will look back and wonder how you were ever doing life alone.