I love the topic of mentorship. I especially love the topic of protégéship (man, that really should be a word).
I find that most of us – especially my fellow guys – are not highly skilled at tapping into wiser minds.
This is a shame, as Scripture is full of verses stating that wisdom comes from counsel. To name just a few:
“A wise man is he who listens to counsel.” (Prov. 12:15b)
“Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Prov. 11:14)
“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Prov. 27:17)
“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” (Prov. 1:5)
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Prov. 13:20)
Why don’t we acknowledge or heed these commands? I think our pride and ego stand in the way. These devilish drives cause us to make four errant assumptions about mentorship. These assumptions are like roadblocks. They keep us from moving forward into life giving mentoring relationships:
1. We expect the mentor to be perfect in every sense.
2. We assume the relationship must last forever.
3. We fear we must follow every recommendation.
4. We wait around until the mentor selects us.
We know this fantastic strategy guy at work. He can think outside the box, synthesize gobs of information into simple paths forward, and present to management like a champ.
However, he’s not usually on time for meetings. So, instead of diving in and learning his approach to strategy, we just write him off as a slacker and keep our distance.
This approach is usually a defense mechanism employed by our pride. It helps us justify learning nothing from anyone but the unblemished. And, who does this leave as a potential mentor? Exactly. No one.
You can learn just “one thing” from a mentor. The mentor-messiah is a myth. Let’s approach capable leaders to learn, not only accept counsel from the flawless.
When approaching a mentor, you aren’t creating a lifelong pact. You mustn’t be attached to this person until death do you part.
Your engagement may be for three years or only three lunches. When you sense the relationship has run its course, it’s perfectly fine to back off.
Do not keep meeting just for meeting’s sake.
Sometimes we believe that as the protégé, we are signing over our entire life to the mentor. Whatever she says, we must do, without objection. We will become the mindless pawn, she the grandmaster, moving us at will.
This one is delicate, because there is some truth to it. If we are just trying to find a mentor just to validate what we are already thinking, that’s not productive (or developmental).
Yet, we are not signing over our marriage, career, and house to someone just because they are good at what they do. I must submit their counsel to prayerful consideration, especially when it impacts major life decisions.
Strike the right balance. Gain solid input, but do not check your brain at the door.
I strongly believe the protégé has the responsibility to chase the mentor, not the other way around. This is not playground team selection. Do not sit on the sidelines and cry, “He didn’t pick me!”
Chase the gifted leaders. Get on their calendars. Submit yourself to their input and schedule.
Great mentors usually materialize when the protégé approaches.
Let’s rid ourselves of these flawed assumptions regarding mentorship. We have wise guys and gals all around us who we can approach to learn and grow, if only we will ask.
Kent Evans is the board chairman and co-founder of Manhood Journey, and the author of Wise Guys: Unlocking Hidden Wisdom from the Men Around You. Kent and his wife of 20-years live in Louisville, KY with their 4 sons. http://www.manhoodjourney.org
Publication date: May 23, 2016