Deepening Your Relational Impact Through Mentoring
Over the past 15 years, I’ve been deeply impacted by a handful of mentors. Their role and influence in my life is remarkable to think about. They shaped who I’ve become in profound and countless ways. As I’ve reflected on the innumerable conversations, relationships, and experiences that these women and men have facilitated or ushered into my life, I have found myself longing to capture what they did, how they did it, and even why they did what they did. As a result, I’ve relentlessly sought to identify and extract the principles and practices that have made them profound mentors. What’s emerged are a few realizations, or what I would even call revelations, about transformational mentoring.
One revelation involves recognizing how different each of these mentors were. But more importantly, realizing the power of knowing your own mentoring style, embracing your strengths and your limits, and then investing in others in ways that fit who you are as a mentor. Looking back, yes these people were focused on guiding me in ways that served me best, but they all did this in a way that fit their own uniqueness, temperament, personality type, expertise, etc. There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” mentoring style. And even if there was, it isn’t really what proteges need. They need a variety of kinds of investment. And they also need mentors to be authentic to who they are, available and accessible, as well as vulnerable, courageous, humbly, and candid.
For those of us who desire to identify your mentoring style, here are seven mentoring styles that relate directly to significant mentors that I’ve had in my life. And then if you want to learn more about effective mentoring, I invite you to check out my new book, The Protege Playbook (Missio Publishing, 2014), which dives deeper into what makes effective mentors as well as what one needs to embody the spirit of a protege. Each one of us longs to live a life worthy of the calling God has on our life. Each one of us longs to make a real difference in the lives of others. So I invite you to get a copy of this book, to make a small investment of time to plunge into a very important conversation with eternal significance.
But for now, here are seven unique mentoring styles to help you assess and then empower your mentoring efforts.
The Wise Sage – a maven or expert, someone with great knowledge in one or more fields. They know how to pass on their knowledge in a humble and helpful way, in a way that inspires and moves people to action. The danger is becoming a “know-it-all”, which no one is really drawn to, so stay humble and keep being a learner no matter what you accomplish or become an expert in.
The Opportunity Giver – a person who invites and challenges others into opportunities that stretch them beyond their comfort zone. They do their part to create experiences for proteges to step up or step into doing something new or to challenge them to take a risk. It’s a task or opportunity that they know will stretch the other person and they encourage them to step out in faith.
The Informal Discipler – a person who almost appears like they aren’t mentoring anyone, but behind everything they do, they are strategic, intentional, and focused on who they’re spending time with and what ways they’re seeking to guide another. They are highly relational, mostly informal, but extremely intentional.
The Example Setter – a person of integrity and character in every aspect of their life. They speak loudly and inspire others deeply by who they are. This is a person who isn’t necessarily as vocal or verbal, but still has deep impact because of their character essence. They invite others into their life and remain as accessible as Google so when a protege wants to ask a question or find something out, they’re always there waiting to serve them.
The Coaching Mentor – a person who pushes others, helps them set goals, and ultimately envisions them with a different and better vision for their life. They steer others with intention and focused guidance. People open their lives to them and receive clarity about who they are and where their life is headed. These coaching mentors are often phenomenal question askers and listeners.
The Spiritual Director – a person who actively and intently listens to the stirrings of God’s Spirit and seeks to help another person make sense of God’s activity. People recognize them as spiritual authorities, and posture themselves to be guided by them into hearing God’s voice. These mentors help others not only hear and recognize God’s voice, but challenge them to respond to it. They help others remain attentive and responsive to God, reminding proteges that everything goes back to a person’s relationship with Jesus.
The Caring Counselor – a person who cares for another deeply and knows how to help them through tactful and timely advice-giving as well as offering appropriate perspective on self, others, God, and ministry. People feel genuinely cared about, and like that they have a fellow pilgrim walking with them through life. Empathy and abundant, lasting love is a mark of this kind of mentor.
The Focused Activator – a person who stimulates the spiritual growth of another person, stirs them to take action with their spirituality, sparks them to learn what it means to follow Jesus Christ and to walk closely and consistently with God. They focus on activating the creative spirit that lives within other people but lies dormant. They may seem impatient, but their charging ahead and pushing can actually be what others need to catalyze their passivity and charge them to take personal responsibility.
So what’s your mentoring style? Take some time to reflect on different mentors you’ve had that may fit some or all of these styles. Also, reflect on ways that can help you live more freely and fully into your own mentoring style.
And again, for more learning about being a more effective mentor, check out Protege: A Missio Playbook.