A simple one page guide to mentoring

Help! I have been asked to be a mentor and I would love to say yes, but I don’t know what to do!

Mentoring another person is one of the greatest gifts you can give. It is an act of service, creating an environment where the person can share openly, deal with issues and grow. Mentoring does not require a degree or high level training (although training can make a significant difference in effectiveness). Anyone can mentor if they are willing to take the time to put some basic principles into practice.

  1. Have an open-ended meeting together to discuss your understanding and expectations of mentoring before committing to the relationship. Not all people ‘click’ together or approach mentoring in the same way. Check you are ‘on the same page.’

  2. Take the time and create the space to listen well. A lot of the best work in mentoring is done simply through listening. In your first session ask the person to share their life story. Share yours in return. Every subsequent session can start off with a 20 minute or so catchup with how the person is going in the various roles they have in life. E.g. Child of God, husband/wife, father/mother, son/daughter, pastor/leader, friend, board member, volunteer, sportsperson, hobbyist, etc

  3. Establish a mentoring covenant. Write down how often you will meet; where meetings will be; how long you will meet for; what you will do if one needs to cancel and importantly, when you will review the relationship (usually 12 months, with the option to commit again). Commit to confidentiality. Commit to be available should difficult circumstances arise. Commit to work with each other for the mentoree’s growth and development. The best covenants are written out, shared and then kept. Most mentors meet monthly, keep these commitments.

  4. Work out some SMART year objectives. Ask your mentoree to write down and share with you 3-5 objectives they would like to complete by the end of the year. These need to be SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-framed). Revisit these objectives each session and work out practical steps to take out of each session toward meeting them by the end of the year. Break growth and development down into steps; knowledge to learn, skills to acquire and practice through exercises, and attitudes to change. E.g. Over the next 12 months, I will develop my relationship with my teenage sons through creating meaningful one to one times for each one, once a month and having two father-son overnight trips away doing challenging things together.

  5. Learn to ask good questions. Once trust has been established you will find it valuable to be able to dig a little deeper with the person to explore issues, discuss patterns and search out ways forward. Good questions are great tools for helping both of you understand issues and work together. Here are some sample questions, make it a habit to collect more.

    1. Name three areas in your life in which you have grown in the last year, how did this growth come about?

    2. What would your wife/husband see as your greatest personal challenges and what are you doing about these? What are the most significant work stresses you face, how are you managing these?

    3. How are your needs for friendship, companionship and intimacy being met (beyond those met in your marriage relationship)? Who are your friends and how are you maintaining these relationships?

    4. Talk about any relationships in which you are uncomfortable, anxious, needing to offer an apology or to let go and forgive?

    5. How much time have you had for renewal, recreation, relaxation and rest within the last week? Is this adequate to refill your emotional and personal reservoir? How is your work – life balance?

  6. Set up honest accountability. A great way to seriously engage change is to have to honestly feedback in the next session what you have done since the last one. E.g. We agreed you would have 3 nights pre-planned in each week for the month at home with your children. Grab your diary and lets have a look at how you went with this? How did it feel to keep this commitment?

  7. Finish Well. If you sense your mentoring relationship is running out of steam, or you have achieved what you together set out to do; finish well, don’t just let the relationship slip away. It is important for both to review the relationship and to share what went well and what was challenging. Celebrate the wins together and be honest about the challenges, then either re-covenant or conclude by agreement sharing what you have learnt.

Tim Dyer – The Johnmark Extension 2013 – www.johnmark.net.mx

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