Have you ever thanked the people who have mentored you?
It’s a question I ask when I do mentor training, as there are so many people who have mentored others and they often have no idea how powerful their impact was on someone’s life.
What is a mentor? This, too, is an important question to ask, so let’s consider some definitions.“A mentor is defined as a ‘trusted counselor or guide’. Thus mentoring is a relationship by which a person with greater experience and wisdom guides another person to develop both personally and professionally.” (Oregon Mentors)
“Mentoring is a structured and trusting relationship that brings young people together with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement aimed at developing the competence and character of the mentee.” (MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership)
“Mentoring is a purposeful conversation that offers a safe, supportive place to tell one’s story, achieve greater clarity, solve a problem and get feedback from a more experienced, wiser colleague, friend or family member.” (Sharing Wisdom; Robert Wicks (Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Victoria, British Columbia)
“Mentoring is a lifelong relationship, in which a mentor helps a protégé reach her or his God-given potential.” (Bobb Biehl)
“Mentoring is not a matter of skills and behavior; it’s a matter of the heart. The heart of mentoring is to help people to reach their fullest potential in life … It’s a journey that requires great patience, persistence, and perseverance. It also is a relationship that often endures for a long time – even many years – because when the mentor and the mentored engage in a life-to-life exchange, they learn and benefit from one another.” (David Stoddard)
So, when Grant (not his real name) approached me to guide him through his final year at school, as he had hopes of becoming an ‘elite’ athlete and obtaining a sports scholarship to a University in America, we became involved in a mentoring relationship that developed through the year and saw him overcoming some tough challenges, having uncomfortable and honest discussions with me and acknowledging that this relationship was one of the significant reasons he made it through to the end of the year and had a number of offers from American Universities on his desk to choose from.
What was key for me was following a number of steps to establish this connection with Grant.
David Stoddard lists six reasons why mentoring is such a powerful concept in his excellent book, The Heart of Mentoring, Ten Proven Principles for Developing People To Their Fullest Potential.
- Mentoring is a journey that requires perseverance – one time Grant accepted a challenge and then did not see it through? “Are you not up to it, Grant?” I asked him. He responded and returned a week later to tell me he had undertaken the challenge and was already seeing the difference.
2. Mentoring includes helping mentoring partners to determine their priorities, uncover their passions, and honestly address their pain – “What are your priorities, Grant? How can I help?” Grant made all the decisions. I guided where necessary.
3. Mentoring concentrates on the needs of the one being mentored, not on the agenda of the mentor – “This is about you, Grant, not me.” I have no idea how many times I made that statement.
4. Mentoring focuses on changing people from the inside out, not the outside in – “What have you learnt about yourself during the past two months, Grant?” “What have you learnt from this activity?”
5. Mentoring involves the spiritual side of a person, not just the physical, mental, and emotional aspects – Grant and I had a number of discussions about the spiritual side of life, as he asked me to share my thoughts and beliefs. he knew about my faith, but I never forced any thoughts and believes on him.
6. Mentoring is one of the best ways to have a significant personal impact on society, even for generations – “How will you give back to society, Grant?” “I have decided to do some coaching of younger players.”
David Stoddard makes the point that, “The people I know who are getting the most out of life – and putting the most back into it – are those who are committed to this mutual mentoring process. This is where true fulfilment lies. Indeed, I have found that this is one of the greatest joys you can experience.”
I echo David Stoddard’s words, most especially because I have established some meaningful relationships with the many young people I have mentored over the years, as well as with my many mentors – wonderful memories to take into retirement.
Thank you to the many people who volunteer their time to mentor young people especially.
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.