I just wrapped up and 8 week small group that ended with a session on “How to Find a Mentor.” I approached the subject a little different by presenting the common mistakes people make when doing so. Here are 5 mishaps you don’t have to make when you are looking for a mentor:
1. Ask someone, “will you be my mentor.” This question puts your potential mentor in an immediate awkward situation. Realize what needs to be considered by the other person when asking this question. Are you worth the time investment? Do they have the time? If so, what will be the return on their investment? Do they know you enough to enter a mentoring relationship?
A much better approach is to ask how could you possibly serve them and learn from them and their organization. Maybe there are volunteer, apprentice opportunities you could take advantage of.
Michael Hyatt says this about finding a mentor:
“If you have one in mind, start by building the relationship—just like you would anyone else. Don’t lead with ‘Will you be my mentor?’ That’s like asking someone to marry you on the first date.”
2. Don’t bring anything to the table. I was invited to be a part of a group of experienced consultants. Never having met most of them before I made sure to bring some resource that would show them my heart for leaders and encourage them. I brought a book and gave them free access to a leadership membership site I helped build. When you show up with something in your hand to the table it communicates your values immediately opens up opportunity for faster connections. These simple gestures have led to the beginning of great relationships. When you don’t bring anything to the table you often don’t get invited back. If nothing else pay for breakfast or lunch.
3. Refusing to learn from someone younger than you. The person does not always have to be older than you to mentor you. A friend of mine, Earl Creps, wrote a book on this subject called Reverse Mentoring. In his book, Earl takes up the topic of how older church leaders can learn from younger leaders who are more conversant with culture, technology, and social context. I believe God releases special grace when older leaders open their heart to learn from younger leaders. I have discovered even in my current context that experience usually comes with age, but influence is not limited to age. Anyone can influence you positively if you are teachable. Refusing to learn from someone younger can leave you stuck right where you are at.
4. Not valuing your mentor’s time. Be on time, Be prepared, come with questions, put your phone away, take notes, and don’t try to impress your mentor with your knowledge. Come hungry to learn and listen. Give them you’re full attention.
In Brady Boyd’s book, “Addicted to Busy” he tells a story of an incident that happened when a young man asked him for some pastoral coaching:
“Ten minutes into the requested breakfast meeting, I regretted having said yes. The young man who had asked for the get-together—he needed some pastoral coaching, evidently—was sitting across from me at the diner, and now, there at the restaurant, with my full attention pointed his way, he had the gall to check his smartphone what seemed like every sixteen seconds. He checked it while I was ordering my meal, he checked it just after he ordered his meal, he checked it while I answered his questions, and he even checked it while he asked them. Unless the guy was waiting on word of an organ transplant—which I quickly learned he wasn’t—his lack of focus was totally unacceptable. My irritation quickly birthed a fury that made me cut the meeting short, and I bolted.”
Bottom line don’t waste anyone’s time if you can’t give them your undivided attention.
5. Having Unrealistic Expectations. Approach a potential mentor with the mindset that this is the only meeting your are going to get. Be appreciative the first time you meet, like it will be the last time you meet. This is a privilege and an honor that the person would take time out of their demanding schedule to meet with you. Being grateful will keep you from being unrealistic. Remember, no one owes you anything, but you owe it to yourself to have an attitude of gratitude about anything the person gives you.
By mentioning these 5 mishaps I hope it will prevent you from making the mistakes many people make when it comes to finding a mentor. I have found that building a relationship with your mentor always precedes what you receive from a mentor. Make the investment and don’t expect something from someone without first expecting something from yourself.
What are some other pitfall you have experienced in trying to find a mentor?