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Mentorship Roles 3

Mentoring promotes growth. A mentor is committed to helping you realize your life purpose. It is someone perceived to be significant influencing your development and providing both motivation and accountability. Dr Myles Munroe in The Burden of Freedom contends that freedom depends on the ability and willingness to assume responsibility and accountability. He[1] holds you accountable for the things that you have set yourself to do. A mentor ensures that you do not shirk away from responsibility. A mentor does not seek to use and exploit you as cheap labour but seeks to build you.

A mentor provides a model for you to follow. Noted American psychologist, Albert Bandura after extensive research concluded that modelling is the greatest form of unconscious learning, and most human behaviour is learnt observationally through modelling. He validates the Apostle Paul who declares imitate me as I imitate Christ. So a mentor models the way of life. He does not just preach but walks the talk. He allows you to peep into his life to see his strengths and weaknesses – to see him struggle to fulfil his purpose and destiny. We learn more by observing behaviour and become more of what we see. It is one thing to read about a principle but another to see that principle lived out. God could have said I want people to be born again and become holy. But he said I want Jesus to go down to earth and model the way of life I want people to live. Jesus did not only die on the cross but he also modelled a godly life. That is why the Bible teaches us to imitate him. Mentors model what they teach.  As a mentor you cannot say do as I say not as I do. Your protégé should be able to see in your life the principles you teach. What qualifies a mentor is the ability to assimilate what they are teaching into their walk and lives. As one preacher pontificated, “I do not practice what I preach but I preach what I practice”.

Mentoring helps you reach your goals more efficiently and effectively. It accelerates your progress through a network of relationships and resources. Mentoring has a force of leverage in it. If you don’t have the needed resources and wisdom for the achievement of your goals, you seek out a wise mentor who compensate for your shortcomings in these areas. As the Bible says, “He who walks with the wise is wise”. A mentor can link you with the needed networks or resources as he sees fit. It accelerates your progress through releasing to you a network of resources and relationships. However it is not prudent for an emerging champion to manipulate mentoring relationships in order to access the mentor’s networks. The mentor has a right not to release his network resources to his charge until he is comfortable with him.

One time I was discussing a business transaction with my pastor and he graciously opened a door for me to be assisted by a Christian banking CEO who is not even a member of his church. I had immediate access to that banker’s office and help. Here is somebody who heard my story and risked credibility for me. That is releasing a network of his relationships for the benefit of the people being mentored.

In starting your business sometimes you need someone else’s credibility for the bank, suppliers and customers to trust you. Let me illustrate: Banking does not depend on your collateral for you to access loans.  It depends on relationships.  If you think about it, one of the problems that the current central bank governor has had with the curators in recovering the monies that were lent out is because they forgot that basic principle. The bank owner may have given three billion dollars to someone basing his decision on a relationship. He can pick up the phone and call back that money and the borrower will return it because he respects that relationship. Remove the banker and put a curator who has no relationship and the collection of funds becomes difficult. Then you have an increase in non-performing loans. Cunning borrowers might say to the curator, “Take me to court because when you do I can agree to pay back over five years at the prescribed interest rate”. Relationships are critical.

Mentors reduce the risk of leadership failure by holding you accountable – by checking on you and asking you the hard questions.  In the case study in the previous chapter both Paul and John Mark failed before they even started. Paul could not be accepted by the apostles. John Mark had been written off. But it was the mentor who helped them face their weaknesses and walk their way into destiny. Many business ideas also fail to materialise because the entrepreneur has no mentor to help him navigate the murky waters of entrepreneurship.

Mentors tolerate the brashness and mistakes of others in order to see potential develop. They are not intimidated by the brashness of upstarts. They see the gold behind the brashness and are patient, knowing that time and experience are needed for maturity. We see that with Barnabas when he works with John Mark. John Mark had failed. He had run away from ministry but that brashness and those mistakes did not discourage Barnabas.

My late mentor and first pastor, Stanford Chirema – the gentle giant, demonstrated this trait. When we were young we were very zealous. We would do crazy things. What we lacked in knowledge and wisdom we compensated for with zeal. I have learnt since that zeal without knowledge may have disastrous consequences. We would pray for the sick and have sessions of exorcism in the streets. We would tell him these stories and he would just smile. When we had grown a little he came and showed us the right way of doing it. Had he corrected us prematurely, because of the zealousness we exhibited, he would have destroyed our spirits. Maturity and wisdom come with time and experience. So a mentor is patient and tolerant.

Based on a larger picture perspective a mentor gives strategic counsel. He has the vision and ability to see down the road and suggest the next step that a mentoring partner needs to take. Two years ago I told Prof Simba Sibanda how I had turned down an offer to lecture for Nottingham Trent MBA programme. Prof Sibanda is an unassuming intellectual powerhouse that is making waves in developmental consultancy in Africa. He chided me and counselled that I should rescind my decision. Now I see his wisdom because it helped prepare me for my work with Celebration College. I was short-sighted and had not considered that I would be involved with management development. He gave perspective to my decision making process. Thank God for sound mentors.

When Barnabas recruited Paul for the work at Antioch it’s because he had a broader perspective. He realized that Antioch would stretch and expand Paul’s gifting. Paul did not know about Antioch but Barnabas linked the two because of his ability to see the larger picture. When left to ourselves we develop scotomas (blind spots). Scotomas imply that we fail to see the periphery or recognize the importance of certain things. Have you ever worked at an accounting problem for days failing to balance the books? You unsuccessfully try different angles. Finally you ask someone else to look at your work and they immediately pick up the error. Suddenly it’s so obvious. What held you back was a blind spot or scotoma. In your business, scotomas blind you to issues which every one else notices but are reluctant to tell you for fear of victimization. A mentor can assist you past your blind spots.

A mentor must have what you need. Someone cannot impart to you what he does not have. You cannot have somebody who does not have character or who is at least not working at building his own character, teach you on character.

Because of the importance of relationships a mentor should have an ability to cultivate and treasure relationships. Somebody who easily walks out of relationships is not a good mentor. In the mentoring process you will step on each other’s toes so you need somebody who is committed to cultivating and nurturing relationships. Nurturers prize and nurture relationships.

He is willing to take a chance on you. A mentor makes certain investments of time, energy, time, trust, emotion and other resources in the person they are mentoring.  They risk their credibility by trusting you.

[1] In thisarticle I use the pronoun “he” in a gender neutral sense such that it includes both male and female. I find the use of both he/she difficult to manage in reading a script.

Mentorship Roles 2

There are crises you encounter in life, where you need a non-flattering mentor to speak the hard things. You receive his words because that mentor has established enough credibility and vested interest to confront you without breaking the relationship. You know he has your best interest at heart. Many times we allow unqualified people to flippantly speak into our lives. Relationship qualifies a mentor to speak into your life in critical times.

Not everybody has a right to confront you. Not everybody has a right to speak into your future. During crisis, you need a mentor as an anchor. If you don’t have a mentor – someone you can trust, someone who can stand as a road rail between you and cliff edge – you are in trouble.  As a leader you will face mind-numbing crises.  It maybe moral failure. It may be challenges about life. Challenges about where to go from here. It may be complex decisions between “good” and “good” but with vastly different consequences. It may be difficult strategic decisions about your business or career. Crises are normal to life. It’s only those people who are committed to you over a period of time whom you can trust with your very life at these critical times.

Mentorship is relational. If there is no relationship you cannot really claim to be a mentor to somebody. It maybe only a minimal contact relationship. But in reality and in its full manifestation there must be a solid relationship. The relationship ensures that you listen to the person. A relationship allows vulnerability on the part of the person being nurtured as well as opening his mind to counsel.

Viewed from another perspective, mentorship provides a brain to pick on and a shoulder to cry on. It’s a push in the right direction. It is like having another set of eyes to see the world with. We see the world not as the world is, but as we are. Who I am shapes the way I see things. That’s why you notice that until you have made a choice to buy a BMW you do not notice the BMWs. The moment you buy that pink dress then you notice that almost everybody else has that pink dress. Mentorship allows you to see the world from at least two viewpoints. This widens your perspective and brings objectivity to the way you view the world. A discerning mentor benefits from the viewpoint of the person being nurtured. Wise mentors view the process as a mutual learning experience.

The objective eye of a mentor tempers the decisions you make allowing you to manage your blind spots. A mentor notices the discrepancies between your espoused values and the values you live out. These are your real life values. And he shows you the gap between who you say you are and what you are in real life. As a mentor reflects back to you who he sees you to be, you work at closing that gap. That helps in values assimilation. Integrity means an alignment between your espoused values and the ones you live out. Leaders are the embodiment of their espoused values.

Mentors provide honest feedback. A mentor looks you in the eye and says that although people are singing your praises there is this weakness in you. “Because I seek your greatest good I hold you accountable and will not let you to get away with it. I love you so much that I will not leave you the way you are. I will not pretend”. The Bible says “as iron sharpens iron, so does a man sharpen the countenance of his friend”. When everyone is faultfinding and criticizing, he shows you your strengths and successes. A mentor is so sensitive that when you are down and everybody is criticizing, he holds up and reflects to you your successes. He affirms you and thus brings balance.

Mentorship Roles 1

Mentors teach emerging leaders to value knowledge. When a mentor acquires knowledge he is keen to pass it on to others. These are people who read a book and say, “I read this book and think it would be useful to you”. They are releasing information and resources to you. A mentor is a source of information who gives books, CDs, DVDs to his charge.

Mentors provide wisdom. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. A mentor applies the truth of the gospel or principles to life in a way that works and makes sense. Tolias was a zealous church pastor who almost destroyed his marriage through neglect as he focused on church work. His wife became bitter and resented the church. She was contemplating divorce. Due to these difficult marital challenges Tolias almost compromised his marital vows. After much prayer and discussion I counselled him to close down the church and focus on his family. When the church closed down I had an appointment with Tolias’ wife who narrated a harrowing tale of neglect and a sense of frustration. I met the former pastor and assisted him in handling the crisis. A year later I relocated but kept contact by e-mail. After about three years of languishing in the wilderness and working at his family issues, he made an international call to inform me that his marriage had been fully restored. In fact he was calling to let me know that his wife had proposed that they move their family some 800 km and be involved again in ministry. The application of wisdom saved his marriage and restored his ministry. Zeal puts career and ministry ahead of family. And yet the biblical record states that faithfulness in marriage and family qualifies a man for church leadership. How we often commit the error of transposition!

A mentor is not only a mirror but also a commentator. He provides a mirror for you to see who you are and then commends on it. Mentors provide an informed point of view. I see people seeking counsel from people who are ignorant about the context within which they are operating. Often people like that are looking for someone to endorse and justify what they have already set out to do. They do not want to go to people who know the context – who can give informed counsel. A mentor has to be someone who understands your business, or the context in which you are operating and can speak from an informed position. A corollary is that informed counsel will only be available if the mentor has been provided with true and accurate facts. Sometimes a mentor may need to seek confirming evidence to the story of the emerging champion before providing counsel.

Sam was a young man I had helped deal with past moral failures. Some four years after his rehabilitation, he called to inform me that he was facing charges of sodomy. He claimed that these charges were malicious and false. I was concerned because of the precedence of previous moral failure. I did not know whether to believe his assurances or not. I suspended judgement and told him that I would call him later. Since he was in another town, I called his pastor and discussed the issue with him. After some investigations I concluded that indeed this was a frivolous allegation. I called Sam a day later and informed him that I had done some background check on the facts and believed him. Initially he was incensed that I did not believe him and had to investigate issues. However I believe that to be able to give informed counsel to an emerging leader I need to be correctly informed and convinced of his situation. I supported him through a five month court case and gave counsel on how to handle the situation at work during that time. Eventually it was proven in court that the accuser was an extortionist whom he had refused to give in to. I have learned from previous mistakes that it is important to give informed counsel. Investigate the issues if possible. Do not be quick to provide comfort, support and counsel. You can easily become a partaker in another man’s sin. Get the facts. It is right and good for you and your mentoring partner. Get the facts right before you offer counsel.

Mentors can be viewed as coaches preparing their protégé to win the battles of life.  They act as sounding boards providing the emerging leader with an opportunity to test ideas and intuitions before they become agendas and attitude. One of my fundamental principles is that once it appears to me that someone asking for counsel is already committed to a certain course, then I withhold counsel. Counsel should be sought before an emotional commitment to a certain course of action. Otherwise the protégé is no longer open to counsel.

Mentors nurture curiosity. They are door openers not door closers. There are some people who always close the door in your face. You say I want to do this, they say it won’t work. You say I am thinking of this, they say it won’t work. But mentors are possibility and option thinkers. They challenge you to explore the unexplored. They expand your imagination, rather than stifle it. Mentors learn to ask great questions.

Succession Planning and Mentorship

In Africa one of the major challenges is that of succession planning. There is so much controversy around it. Despite the fact that the well known dictum clearly states – there is no success without a successor, many churches, business and political organisations still leave the issue of succession to chance. However leaders who are concerned about leaving a legacy will not allow the important matter of who carries on the baton and takes over their mantle to chance or political infighting. These leaders deliberately create a leadership pipeline that has intentionally mentored and groomed people who can easily fill in the shoes of the leader if he departs the scene.

Many on the African continent prefer to have the decision of who succeeds them to be settled after their death. Unfortunately it means you cannot help shape the person who should be perpetuating your legacy. In businesses if the leader recruits from outside it means he is admitting to leadership failure. He is conceding to the fact that as a leader he failed in one of the primary functions of a leader which is developing other leaders.  A new comer from the outside is likely to change things and nullify a lot of what this predecessor has done. He has no commitment to continuing the legacy of his predecessor. Whereas a protégé will build upon the foundation laid by his mentor. This is how legacy is perpetuated. Leaders do not leave your ;legacy to chance. You can mentor and raise up your successors so that they continue to build on what you have done. This allows for trans-generational impact.

A purposeful leader will deliberately take some young generation candidates and mentor them so that they can easily fill in the top post once the leader is gone. The other issue is that ideally succession should happen while the primary leader is still alive so that he can act as elder statesmen and counselor to the next generation. In both business and politics this assures that the elder statesmen will be able to provide a steadying hand to the new leader as he learns how to run the show. It is therefore negligent of a leader to allow chance to produce his successor.  Mentorship therefore allows for a smoother transition of power.

Mentorship allows a leader to pass on his values, philosophy and worldview to the person that he is mentoring. By passing on these the leader ensures that his values and philosophy will live on in the organization.

The Bible records numerous successions which went on well due to mentorship. Examples are Elijah and Elisha, Moses and Joshua, Abraham mentored Isaac, Samuel mentored David, Paul mentored Timothy etc. A classic modern day business example is Jack Welch who mentored about three potential successors.  Although only one was chosen to lead GE, the other two both went on to become powerful CEO in other organizations.

It is clear that we need to intentionally mentor and raise the next generation of leaders to allow for smoother transitions as well as longer lasting impact. A mentored successor will have assimilated the organizational culture and therefore is unlikely to change it radically. I would encourage introducing new leaders from the outside if the organization is failing and new ideas are needed. If the organization is well run and doing well i.e. if the leader was successful, then he should allow the transition to happen from inside.

If yor succession is well planned and potential succesors are mentored to prolongs your leadership influence.

Mentorship and organizational induction.

John joined this vital and vibrant church. He felt refreshed during the worship experience. He loved the teachings. He felt God while within the church service. However after the service he felt like an intruder. Coming from an unchurched background,  he could not understand the language and the unspoken values of the church. When he tried talking to people he seemed to always violate some unwritten rule of the church. He just did not feel like he belonged. After a few months of being lonely within a crowd, he left the church.

Organisations can easily become too exclusive and inward looking because by nature people tend to lock out those who are new or different. Organisational culture can serve as a deterrent to new members. In business lingo a strong organizational culture may serve as an entry barrier.  Introduce a new person to a business and suddenly he feels out of place while the insiders of the organization are also uncomfortable with the stranger.  Once the stranger arrives, conversations change and become measured.

Mentorship is a powerful tool to allow a new comer to be inducted into an organization whether it is a church, a business or just a social club. By creating mentorship relationships with new comers it allows them a soft landing into the new environment. The organizational mentor will explain the idiosyncracies of the organization, will answer questions that are embarrassing to ask publicly, will help the new comer to adjust and be accepted by the others. The mentor can help with enculturation by helping the new comer to assimilate and internalise the culture of the organization. Organisational mentors will assist the newcomer to navigate the murky waters of organizational politics. An organizational mentor will introduce the new person into newer relationships thereby widening his circle of friends.

I remember joining a new organization where during social outings I would spend more time to myself because the organization seemed full of cliques and I could not tell whether I was welcome into any of them. Any attempt to speak to some of the veterans, brought embarrassment as I could not be sure whether I was welcome into the closed clique. It appeared like I was disturbing a certain level of intimacy that had developed within the group. Could I be trusted? I was beginning to consider myself a misfit within the organization when one of the leaders took me under his wings and introduced me to people. Once I had the cover of this leader, I was now accepted into the fraternity. The mentor walked me through the formal and informal power centres within the organization. This greatly helped my assimilation and induction.

It is therefore critical to ensure some form of organizational induction through a “buddy” to new comers. Churches and organizations lose people who are interested in their cause due to lack of proper induction. Mentorship can and will help reduce this loss. It leads to retention of members. It has been proven that a key to retention of members within an organisation is a strong network of informal social relationships. Mentorshipsbuilds a strong web of informal relationships which help produce a sense of identity and belonging.

Churches and businesses could mobilise, deploy and retain new skills faster and longer through organisational mentorship.

Mentors Are Dream builders

  • Paul the Apostle had a definite encounter with the Risen Lord and was commissioned with an assignment. His assignment became his dream which would lead to the attainment of his destiny. Persistent efforts to fulfil your dream will draw you closer to reaching your destiny. However soon after the dream came alive when it was still its infancy, the apostles in Jerusalem rejected him and his dream. Then Barnabas – the Son of Consolation came along side him, believed his dream and helped build and buttress Paul’s dream. Barnabas used his credibility with the others to have Paul accepted into the fellowship and this secured Paul’s dream. Mentors are dream builders and not dream killers. Barnabas did not focus on Paul’s challenges and credibility gap – but simply helped him focus on the fulfillment of that dream. When a mentor joins you along the journey, your speed towards destiny is accelerated.
  • The mentor helps the protégé to dream bigger. Many so called coaches are experts at killing dreams and showing how a protégé’s dream cannot be realised. Mentors are meant to be possibility thinkers who see opportunities and nurture curiosity. Generally mentors access the dreams of their charges when they still are in seed form and are still very fragile. It is therefore critical that mentors help nurture those dreams until they are strong enough to withstand any attacks on the dreams. Mentors need to handle protégé’s dreams with care and confidentiality so as to protect those dreams at their most vulnerable stages.
  • Jack Canfield says “It doesn’t take any more time to dream a big dream than it takes to dream a small dream. Big dreams attract big people. Small dreams attract small people”.
  • But I say “Great people inspire great dreams. If you want to dream big, associate with greatness”. As a mentor you need to encourage your charges to dream.  Inspire them to greatness.
  • Mentors focus on building the protégé’s dream not their own dreams at the expense of the protégé. Mentors are dealers in hope. The speak hope, courage and persistence in the protégé to enable him/her to keep pursuing the dream. They see the dream realised and they paint the picture of successful execution of the dream to the protégé. Mentors are merchants of hope. Inspire the dreams of your protégés because as they fulfil their dream you extend your legacy.
  • Barnabas assured his transgenerational legacy by building Paul’s dream. Are you a dream builder or a dream killer? If your mentor always finds ways that your dream can not come to pass – then you may need to review the relationship. Mentors are cheerleaders.
  • Your protégé’s dream is the pathway to his destiny as well as your key to perpetuating your legacy.