Monday, June 7, 2010

What is Mentoring? (Part Four)

We've just looked at traditional definitions of mentoring, more modern definitions, and some biblical considerations for mentoring. This wrap-up post on 'What is Mentoring?' will try to integrate some key ideas from these.

The Mentoring Group has an excellent archive of articles. They define the two key goals of mentoring, whether in pairs or groups, in a way consistent with the approaches I've described previously:
  1. Set important development goals and
  2. Build competence and character to reach those goals

In fact, I think these common factors are much more important than the differences in various processes: mentor vs mentee initiated, groups or pairs, the longevity of the mentoring relationship, or who's driving the bus. Here's my working definition for mentoring that is an umbrella for a number of equipping relationships.
"Mentoring is a intentional relational process in which one person invests in the life of one or more others to help them grow in areas important to them by helping them focus effort in these areas and grow in competence or character necessary for progress."
Mentoring, in this broad sense, may occur informally or formally, in pairs or in small groups, through a variety of methods including the sharing of resources, insights or experience (as in traditional mentoring), by asking powerful questions (as in coaching), by systematic instruction and modeling (as in discipling or teaching), or by guiding the way (a guide or counselor). Effective mentoring may occur between an experienced/older person along with a less experienced/younger person, or among peers. In a mentoring relationship there may be one identified as the primary 'mentor' and one as the primary 'mentee', or these roles can be dynamic as each one seeks to help the other(s) in the relationship grow in competence or character.

Spiritual mentoring is mentoring in which the Holy Spirit is actively involved and in which the goal is ultimately to see another person grow into who God has designed them to be. As we are all, without exception, in need of growth as disciples, spiritual mentoring should be marked by humility, a servant's heart, and a willingness to learn from the other person(s).

The key components to mentoring are that it is...
  • Intentional - growth does not readily occur without a desire to grow, willingness to dig beneath the surface, and willingness to actually do something to change when an insight has been shared or discovered. In addition, there must be some purpose/direction/mission towards which a person seeks to grow, or a challenge they seek to overcome.
  • Relational - mentoring is an inherently relational process that requires mutual respect and trust.
  • Transformational - if there is no change in attitude or ability, and no progress made in a desired direction, there is no mentoring occurring.
The modes and methods of mentoring, and the choice of who to involve in a mentoring relationship, should be determined by the needs of the mentee and how they will be most likely to grow in the desired area of competence or character. This is true whether the relationship is initiated by the mentor or the mentee. The mentor is more likely to lead (in terms of initiative and in specific outcomes) in discipling or in teaching a skill. The mentee who is comfortable with owning their own personal development and learning, and/or has clear goals, is more likely to manage the relationship, whether that involves coaching, or seeking a peer mentor or a more experienced guide. The different approaches of Campell  (mentor handpicks a small group and main topics), Zachary (mentee driven, learner's agenda, serial one-on-one), or Paul's with Timothy (discipling and leadership development initiated by mentor who sets the agenda and passes on a fixed message) are valid mentoring approaches, as each is highly intentional, highly relational, and seeks life transformation.

It is possible to grow in 'mentoring skills' which are useful in a mentoring relationship (or even informally when no such relationships is recognized). These skills include: careful active listening, encouraging, inspiring, helping another person see reality, and providing feedback at a level and in a way appropriate to the trust and respect present within the relationship. It is also possible to develop a 'mentoring culture' in which the value of mentoring relationships is broadly promoted and understood, and where the 'default' is for leaders to be involved in mentoring. How? Ah, that's a great question! It's one I hope to think about and discuss for the next few months. I'm no expert, so share your thoughts and comments!

No comments: