Seven attributes of an effective mentoring relationship

1. Effective mentoring is built on the credibility of the mentor and the confidence of the mentee in the value of the relationship.

While it is true that not all effective practitioners or leaders make good mentors, it is also true that a mentor must have some significant life experience in the area in which they mentor. If a mentor is working with leaders, there must be considerable reflective experience of leadership upon which a mentor draws. If mentoring is more in the area of spiritual formation, the mentor needs to have walked a journey with God. Mentoring is somewhat different to counselling in this regard. No one expects a counsellor to have personally faced all the psychological issues with which they work. With a mentor, there is an expectation that enough life experience has been acquired, integrated and reflected upon to give the mentor credibility to adapt this to build into the lives of others. A mentee needs to develop the confidence out of life sharing that they will grow through the relationship.

Questions for reflection:

1. What elements of your own life experience do you draw upon most in mentoring?

2. What elements of your experience might you be able to integrate more fully into your mentoring?

2. Effective mentoring includes insights, learning and resources gathered from a variety of disciplines which are synthesised and applied to the growth of a mentee.

Effective mentors understand they are ultimately equipping an individual with knowledge and skills related to personal growth and development. This happens within a spiritual context of conviction, prayer and the transforming power of God. Effective mentoring draws on insights from psychology, leadership development, spirituality, theology, human resources and in relation to church leadership, also aspects of organisational theory. Mentors that make a difference tend to collect a wide range of tried practical growth tools that contribute to a mentee’s self and organisational awareness (evaluative processes) and also their acquisition of personal and leadership skills (growth resources).

1. Which disciplines do you commonly draw on in gathering resources and tools for use in mentoring?

2. Which areas might provide opportunities for you to develop a wider range of resources?

3. In an effective mentoring relationship, both mentor and mentee maintain a commitment to creating the spiritual, personal and psychological space in which the relationship can flourish.

Mentoring is a significant spiritual and emotional investment in another person. Some mentors do not allocate the time and energy required for the relationship to really flourish. At other times, the mentee might not fully commit their own time to their growth and personal follow through. A covenant is important in clarifying the commitment involved in mentoring for both mentor and mentee. This relational commitment needs to include face to face meetings, which may be augmented but never entirely replaced by telecommunication and the internet. There is no substitute in mentoring for looking another person in the eye and sitting with them as they reflect on a key issue.

1. How well to I allocate the time, spiritual and emotional energy required for effective mentoring?

2. How do I ensure that my mentees engage in the relationship with a level of commitment that fits my own?

4. Effective mentoring has clarity around process. It articulates clear agreed objectives as part of the mentoring and a shared understanding of the mentor’s and mentee’s roles in working together towards them.

Unlike other forms of relationship, mentoring works to clear agreed objectives which are developed by the mentee. This gives the relationship focus and intent. It creates a level of accountability for both mentor and mentee. When the focus is on steady movement toward agreed goals, the role of the mentor in resourcing, equipping, encouraging, and holding the mentee to account is accepted and clear. Similarly the responsibilities of the mentee to work on skills, grow in awareness, report on implementation and reflect on learning also become accepted and clear. There is value in both mentor and mentee keeping notes on where the development process is up to and what the next steps are. The objectives give an overall shape to each individual session and keep it intentional and on track. Objectives also provide the basis for evaluation of the relationship.

1. If you were to analyse the content and process of your last couple of mentoring sessions with each mentee, how would the time and energy spent on the various aspects of mentoring reflect the priority of and progress toward your mentee’s objectives?

2. How does the way you mentor and the time you spend on different dimensions of mentoring indicate you may have informal or hidden objectives to which you are working in your mentoring relationships?

5. An effective mentoring relationship provides a safe place for openness, honesty and reality in leadership and ministry.

Leadership and ministry are lonely places. There is also certain persona that is projected by congregations onto many in Christian service which makes it difficult for Christian leaders to find a place where they can be honest and open about their struggles and challenges. Mentoring, because of its understanding and confidentiality, is one of the few places where someone can begin to disclose what is happening under the surface and give permission for a mentor to ask some of the hard questions. While people in ministry often hear lots of criticism about their ministry, they typically have very few people who challenge them meaningfully and speak thoughtfully from a supportive perspective into their lives. The high trust relationship of mentoring provides a good non-systemic place for disclosure and deeper life work. It is an important opportunity which does not tend to occur inside a denominational structured supervisory relationships.

1. Considering your mentoring relationships, how do you create the space for open and honest conversation around key life issues?

2. How do you respond both personally and also within your mentoring relationship to disclosures of struggles and challenges in the lives of Christian leaders?

6. For mentoring to be effective, there needs to be time given between sessions for critical reflection, analysis and consideration of the situations and issues mentees face.

Good mentoring involves more than what takes place in one to one sessions. Effective mentors often have insights, reflections, learnings and questions about situations mentees face that come up at other times. For the mentor, it might be while you are reading, at a conference or preparing for another form of ministry. It is important to have easy ways to organise, collate and prepare thoughts and materials for use in a coming session or, in other circumstances, to send to a mentee between sessions. It is of value between sessions to do some intentional reflection and follow up as well as some careful preparation for the coming session.

1. What follow up do you do after each session? What preparation do you undertake before each session with a mentee?

2. How do you go about organising materials and reflections for your mentees between sessions?

7. In an effective mentoring, the mentor continues learning, growing and engaging in personal development as a mentor.

Mentoring skills are never static. An effective mentor needs to keep reflecting on his or her skills and practices as a mentor. Mentoring is about ‘who you are’ as a person, as a ‘child of God’ assisting others grow. Part of the integrity involved in helping others grow is continuing to grow yourself. This is true particularly in self reflection, spiritual formation and reflective practice as a mentor. Once the basic concepts and skills are in place, it is important to stretch one’s practice and thinking by being exposed to learning experiences which cause deeper reflection and critical thinking. There is value in pushed out of one’ comfort zone to explore important ideas and wrestle with different aspects of mentoring practice. The intentional collecting, editing and writing of resources for mentees is always important learning.

1. What was the last new learning experience which has been integrated into your mentoring?

2. When did you last gather, edit and integrate a new resource into your collection of resources for growth?

3. What is the most important mentoring skill on which you are currently intentionally working?

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