I have grown leaps and bounds thanks to my mentors.
I am very excited when I get to write about mentoring. It’s because I have had many wonderful mentors throughout the years and they have certainly contributed greatly to my personal growth, my thought process and have in many more ways than I could count, influenced my thinking and my decision-making.
In short, I have nothing negative to say about the process of mentoring.
Having said that, however, although a mentor can certainly be many of the good things I wrote previously, they can not become everything for us.
Did You Believe In Myths About Mentoring
In this post, I will try to do some “mythbusting” about what a mentor isn’t.
A mentor is not all-knowing
This can be a good news or bad news. Bad news, because I know some people who incorrectly assumed that their mentor is an all-knowing and all-understanding person. Although a mentor is usually understanding and kind, I think it too much to expect for them to be all-knowing. After all, we learn from our mentor based on their experience, not from their knowledge. A mentor that is well advanced in years could probably offer some insights and perspectives from even things that they have never experienced before, but we need to be realistic and should not always expect an answer to all our problems from them.
Good news, because it takes the pressure off us that are currently mentoring someone else. As I have mentioned before, we don’t seek counsel or advice from a mentor because of their knowledge, but because of their experience. We do not have to be embarassed at not being able to answer a question on a certain topic.
A mentor is not a teacher
This may probably an overlap of the previous point but I feel I must drive the point home here. For a certain subject matter that the mentor may be experienced in, he may also be more knowledgeable but that does not mean that we should always follow their methods or their ways. A mentor does not even have to know more. What I believe sets a mentor apart is their wisdom, which is their ability to consolidate and apply their existing knowledge appropriately.
In many occasions, I have seen how my mentor blew me away with their wisdom as I listened to their suggestions, although I know I have read more and learned more in a subject matter.
A mentor is not a coach
This myth is probably the biggest one to be busted. I have sadly seen too many people comparing and equating the role of a mentor with those of a coach. Although both roles are wonderful and is absolutely something I would encourage for every man and woman who wants to fast-track their growth, they are not and can not be the same. Having a coach is wonderful, just as having a mentor is, but one cannot just be a mentor and a coach at the same time. That’s because it is two different thought process.
A coach is someone who, along with having intense interest in your personal development and growth, helps you to discover your own answers by asking targeted, open-ended questions allowing you to see inside your own thought process. A coach rarely, if ever, shares from their own experience but is entirely focused on helping you move along by letting you realise and conquer the self-defeating thoughts and assumptions.
A coach is less instructive and more inquisitive. A mentor, on the other hand, is less inquisitive, and more instructive.
I could write a lot more about what a coach does and doesn’t do, but I will save that for another day.
A mentor is not a decision-maker
When you have a mentor, you may feel comfort and secure knowing that there is someone to whom you could often turn to for advice and counsel. That is great, however, that we may become lazy and begin to let someone else do our thinking for us. I say this for having done so in the past. I am extremely blessed to have many wonderful mentors that I did not often think about my decision before seeking advice from my mentor. I am reminded of this fact by a mentor of mine who mentioned, very aptly, “Experience is not the truth.”
I illustrated this in my earlier post that we need to avoid directly applying someone else’s experience as truth into our situation, which is just like taking someone else’s medication without going through a proper expert diagnosis by a qualified doctor. I learned to not only come to my mentor with questions about my problems, but also possible paths that I could take after doing my thinking about it. That practice has helped me grow my thinking plenty more than it used to be.
In my experience of mentoring others, I have also stopped telling my mentee what to do and instead allow them the independence of thinking for themselves and making their own decisions with only a few insights from me.
It reminded me of an old Chinese proverb that said,
A mentor is not always the source.
The greatest value, in my opinion, that a mentor could teach his mentee, is humility.
In most cases, in my interaction with my mentor, I am always getting plenty of the benefit in the relationship. I get so much of the benefit that I often felt bad, as if I am just drawing the value and almost never depositing any value in it.
John Maxwell, a great mentor of mine, said one day, however,. After saying that, he proceeded to tell us scores of stories of some of his recent embarrassment and failures to show that he is also human and is not performing at his peak all the time. I loved him even more because of his humility.
Another great lesson that I took from that, is that as a mentee, I don’t always have to be the receiver. There are many times that my mentor allowed me to be the giver, humbly asking my opinion in certain matter and have also allowed me to share from my experience.
A mentor is not a pillow
This may be an obvious thing but deserved a special note, just in case.
Have you ever been there? Perhaps you have had a bad day, or that you have not had much luck with work or your business and you are unable to tell anyone, except crying your eyes out to sleep with your pillow? A pillow (or in some people’s case, a dog) is really a man’s (and a woman’s) best friend. It listens, it never judges, and it never condemns. It lets you punch it, bend it out of shape, and even throw it and it accepts the treatment silently. It’s great, because it’s always there when you needed to vent.
Well, your mentor is not a pillow. Your mentor will listen to you, won’t judge you nor condemn you, but a good mentor will always be ready to give you some tough love. A mentor will more often say what you needed to hear, not what you want to hear.
A great mentor challenge you continuously and won’t let you stay where you are. He loves you too much to let you stay the same and not growing.
Which Myth Did You Believe In?
What is your experience in mentoring and being mentored? Is there more things that you believe a mentor isn’t and shouldn’t be? Let’s talk about it.