Friday, January 27, 2012

Mentoring--Lessons Learned

I am not a "professional" mentor. Just someone that authentically cares for people and tries to help where I can. My notes below are a personal reflection after having worked with a few people.

Teach by Example: The greatest lesson a mentor can provide is his own example. This is the lesson the mentee’s parents should have given. It is the lesson that all his (or her) “elders” should have given. But due to the times we are living in, sadly many today have not learned even the basics of wholesome living.

Be Patient: Sometimes the mentee does not want our help. These times may be growing periods for them. They want and need to “go it on their own.” Don’t take it personal or assume they have rejected you permanently. In time (sometimes a very l-o-n-g time), they will come around again. Always welcome them back. However, you do not have to tolerate mistreatment. Make it clear that there are rules in relationships.

Bonding: Though strong bonds can form between a mentor and his protege, it is always wise to let the mentee to take the initiative to make that bond. Coming from the mentor’s side, it can seem odd and awkward and put unnecessary strains on the mentee who needs to focus on their own growth and not another complexity.

While the bond may become close like family, it is never good for the mentor to become short tempered with his new friend, as if they really were family. What happens more often than not is that the mentee becomes hurt, taking the attitude, “You have no right to treat me that way. We aren’t really related.” Even if that sentiment is not verbalized, it could be internalized.

In most all cases, no matter how close the relationship becomes, what the mentee wants from the mentor is to continue to draw strength and insight. What will always appeal to the mentee about the mentor is their unselfish and calm direction.

Professional Distance: When the mentee makes bad choices or chooses to end relationships, the mentor needs to remember what the initial purpose was--providing help. Yes, mentors are human; yes, mentors have feelings too. But as mentor, the focus should always be the needs of the one we are helping.

With the aforementioned under consideration, the mentor also needs to look out for their own interests. There are people in this world that view those who authentically care for others as weak and something to prey on. As a mentor, I need to remember that sad fact. No matter how much I come to care for the person I am assisting, I need to watch for the signs of “being used.” Those include being asked for financial aid; being made to feel responsible for their (the mentee’s) actions; being befriended too quickly; and others.

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